Food in Japan


A visit to Japan is a gastronomic delight.  It’s even more of a treat when you live in a meat-and-potatoes place like Germany, where abendbrot — bread and butter with cold cuts and cheese — is considered a brilliant supper innovation (‘It’s like breakfast…. without the muesli…!’). I particularly miss the availability of fresh fish living in an inland city like Berlin. We get freshwater fish...

David Eimer: Cultural survival in China’s borderlands


David-Eimer – Photo by Gilles Sabrie David Eimer is the author of the critically acclaimed The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China, and A Savage Dreamland: Journeys in Burma. He was a Beijing-based correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph from 2005 to 2012, and the Southeast Asia correspondent for the Daily Telegraph between 2012 and 2014. You can also find his...

Rangoon 2: Attacked in the Night


As I wrote in the prior blog, I still don’t know how I found the “guesthouse” where we spent that first night in Rangoon. At first it seemed like a great value. But in the end we got more than we bargained for… It was a small place owned by Indian traders, on the second floor of a decrepit colonial building lost down a forgettable side street. We had to trudge up a dark...

Burmese Days


  Of all the places I traveled in Southeast Asia, I liked Burma the best. It was by far the most traditional country in the region. It was free of Thailand’s 7-11’s, paved roads and fast food. Free of Vietnam’s scams. And it lacked that uncomfortable undercurrent of violence and broken psyches that seemed to blight Cambodia. Burmese people were quiet and kind. Old men in the...

Baybee Don’t Fence Me In!


I read an excellent book about Mongolia a couple weeks ago by Jasper Becker, called “Mongolia: Travels in the Untamed Land.” Becker was a Western journalist based in Beijing, and one of the first to cross the border from China when Mongolian communism fell apart in 1991. The book covers many aspects of Mongolia, from obscure bits of history to the observations of other earlier...

Freedom’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Say


This is the eighteenth and final instalment in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here One “special request” we filed with our minders was to be permitted to walk into Pyongyang unescorted, perhaps as far as the railway station and back. Much to our surprise, they said it was possible. They had already added several of the places we asked to see–a grocery...

Cracking Up in the DPRK


This is the seventeenth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here We said goodbye to our brave military escort at the DMZ, thankful that they’d protected us from the imminent danger of American attack. We made one last stop on our way back to the capital, just outside Kaesong city. It was reputedly the tomb of an early Korean king and his Mongolian wife, but as with...

North Korea—The DMZ Too


This is the sixteenth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here Our presence on the wrong side of the frontier caused a mild scramble among the South Korean forces. Frantic radio messages were dispatched. Binoculars were trained on us. Reinforcements jogged over to take up positions half-concealed by the corners of buildings, where they conducted a whispered conference and...

Coming Down Hard in the Demilitarized Zone


This is the fifteenth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here The highlight of my time in North Korea—the moment that made all the badgering and propaganda worthwhile—was our visit to the Demilitarized Zone and the truce village of Panmunjom. This thin line bisecting two worldviews is the last Cold War frontier, and the world’s most heavily defended border. The...

Propaganda Gets Me Down


This is the fourteenth in a multi-part blog on North Korea. You can find the others here The Arch of Triumph commemorates North Korea’s liberation from the Japanese occupation at the end of World War Two. It looks an awful lot like the Arch in Paris, but of course Pyongyang’s Arch was deliberately built to be 3 meters taller… North Korea doesn’t acknowledge the Pacific War...


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