“Seung seung” I say. Slowly the elephant lifts her front leg and waits patiently. Her huge brown eye looks steadily into mine. I can’t quite believe it but my elephant is giving me a leg up! These beautiful, intelligent animals can learn up to 150 voice commands. The mahout nodded and reached for my hand. Placing my foot on the elephants leg I was hoisted onto her bare neck, her skin warm and spongy against mine. We move slowly and deliberately, gently rocking from side to side as she lumbers through the jungle.
The countryside in northern Vietnam is mind-bogglingly beautiful. Shimmering green rice terraces, rustic little villages, soaring peaks shrouded in curling mist. Chances are these are the images that drew you to travel in Vietnam in the first place. There’s just one small problem…the gateway to this stunning landscape is Sapa, a soulless tourist trap riddled with pushy street vendors where huge hotel blocks are going up at lightening pace. Crowds of selfie stick wielding tourists pour in by the bus load and jostle for position despite the uninspiring streetscape while horns blare incessantly in competition with the local traders for your attention. You buy from me! You buy! Read more
Grey clouds gather above Sihanoukville harbour. We’re told it will be a rocky ride by our captain as we board a wooden boat that has seen better days. As the harbour disappears behind us, beers are passed round and the soundtrack from Titanic blares from the on-board speaker. “It’s the captain’s favourite” one of the crew tells us between bouts of laughter, as we lurch violently from side to side. That was the start of the most hilarious and terrifying boat ride we’ve ever experienced.
Our eyes met across the dusty red road. Neither of us moved. It was a sunset stand off. Man versus beast, or rather cow versus girl. But I was in his territory here, deep in the Cambodian countryside surrounded by vivid green rice paddies. So with a conciliatory nod I skirted around him and continued on towards the crimson horizon.
That was the moment I fell in love with Cambodia. Read the full post