Head in the clouds vs. feet on the ground: best ways to travel

Anyone who knows me well, or at all, really, will attest to the fact I am a great traveller. I don't mean to boast; I use 'great' in reference to the degree of my enthusiasm. I mean that I have a huge urge to be often on the move, and regularly struggle hard to keep [...]


Beijing is shrouded in a pore-clogging, snot-blackening blanket of horrific pollution. And has been for days. It hangs over the city, blocking the view in every direction, permeating every inch of space. The "fog" blurs the edges of buildings, casts an eery light in daytime and, at night, neon street lights and car headlights alike bleed [...]

A sweet, sour, bitter, spicy life

In Chinese, there is an expression: 酸甜苦辣 Pronounced: Suan, Tian, Ku, La It literally means as Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy and translates as the joys and sorrows of life.  I love this phrase. It is true to life anywhere in the world. But it seems to lend itself particularly well to life in China. As my Chinese tutor explained to [...]

Bones Will Crow

Desert Years Tin Moe Tears a strand of grey hair a decade gone In those years the honey wasn’t sweet mushrooms wouldn’t sprout farmlands were parched The mist hung low the skies were gloomy Clouds of dust on the cart tracks Acacia and creepers and thorn-spiral blossoms But it never rained and when it did [...]

Taungbyone Nat Pwe

We slowed down as we passed a group of people collecting on the streets, shaking large silver bowls at us, rattling whatever was in it already. Were they collecting alms? Sitting astride a motorcycle, I leaned forward to ask my driver and thought better of it. No, they were not monks. People danced as they [...]

Snow Days

Last Friday, a first blanket of snow covered Beijing for a few hours. I was safely tucked away, out of the cold, in a classroom on the third floor, overlooking the university's playing fields. The more curious of the class peered out of the windows at the heavy dollops of snow coming down past the silvery trees [...]