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2015: A Spice Odyssey

Spice Route Map

Several years ago I had a vision.

I was standing on a powder-soft beach with the waves gently lapping against my feet. A wooden pier stretched out into the calm, crystalline waters. In the distance a schooner had its sails furled, and the vessel cut a graceful figure against a ridge cloaked in tropical rainforest. Read more

Batukaru: beauty and the bugs

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The rain fell in thick sheets, drumming against our bungalow’s tiled roof and ricocheting into the darkness. Outside a persistent swarm of insects flocked to the lamps hanging off the wall. “We have to go to bed early tonight,” Bama warned. He had turned out the lights on the upper floor and locked all the windows throughout the building, for we were under siege. Read more

The Balinese forest kitchen

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“They call me ‘goat’ because I pick from all the plants but don’t know how to grow them.” Iluh says this, laughing, as we stand beside a tall green hedge behind the kitchen. It is a slow afternoon at Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, hidden in the shadow of Bali’s second-highest peak, and Bama and I are on an impromptu tour of the gardens. Read more

Menjangan Island: trash and treasure

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The dive guide looked at me in alarm. “January? That is not a good season for diving in Bali. He held a map of the balloon-shaped island, and with his other hand he brushed its upper portions. “It’s rainy season; storms come from the north, and the sea has a lot of trash… sometimes guests complain about all the rubbish – we say sorry, sorry, but what can we do?” Read more

Bali’s secret sanctuary

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The rambling, stony trail beckons us deeper into the forest. Three identical wooden gateways stand straight ahead, pure Japanese in their simplicity, the green and gold patterns on their rough-hewn columns evoking the hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa shoguns. But this is Indonesia, and instead of a perfectly manicured landscape of framed views, Bama and I are about to discover a different kind of serenity. Read more

Reflections on a Hong Kong hike

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There is an old Chinese idiom which expresses a person’s unbreakable ties to their family, hometown, and ancestral land: “Falling leaves return to their roots”. Read more

Behind the scenes at Plus Ultra

Snorkelling off Menjangan Island, Bali

You may have heard of a ‘Blog Hop’ that is currently making the rounds in our community. I was kindly nominated by one of my favourite bloggers, Madhu from The Urge To Wander, to take up the challenge and pass it on to one or two others. Read more

Kiasu nation

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Improbably wedged between two larger neighbours, Singapore is a country keen on superlatives: world’s biggest aquarium; world’s best airport; world’s fastest walkers. The city-state is constantly primed to adapt and innovate, seeking out that extra competitive edge over its rivals. But the relentless drive for achievement also translates to what Singaporeans call kiasuism. Read more

2014: a year in review

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Looking back on the past 12 months of travel, the feeling I get is one of thankfulness. It has been chock-full with experiences and memories that will stay with me for a very long time. Read more

The sword master’s son

West Sumba_1“It’s easy,” Tinus says.

He grips a sword in one hand and a scabbard in the other, swivelling his wrists in a fluid, effortless motion. “First you will practice on a banana tree, then you can cut open a coconut.”

Of all the things I had planned to do at Nihiwatu – hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, perhaps even a cooking class – I never imagined a Sumbanese sword lesson would be on the cards.

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