Tag

asia

Holi-daze in Hell

H

Surrealism supplanted reality the moment I landed in Pyongyang, North Korea. In front of the airport terminal, beneath an enormous painting of Kim Il-Sung, a long line of women in traditional dress chanted “Welcome Pyongyang!” as they pumped their fists in the air. At the airport I was paired with an “escort” who wouldn’t leave my side the entire time I was in the...

Death on the Mass Interment Plan

D

  Half an hour by motorcycle outside of Phnom Penh. A peaceful spot by the riverside. A place where fat lazy bees buzzed, and where crickets sawed songs in the grass. A dirt pathway wound through this scene. I followed it until I met with the overgrown pit of an exhumed grave, its sides eroded like elderly gums or the caved-in face of a hobo. There were dozens of them, choked with stagnant...

A Postcard—Teaching ESL in Japan

A

The tortured sounds of the alphabet song drifted across the lobby for the fifth time that day. From the next room, rising above the muffled voices, I heard, “Teacher, what does it mean, ‘feces’?” I sighed and rubbed my eyes, fighting sleep. “What is…. what is surprise?” Tomio, the pudgy bald Japanese salaryman sitting across from me, jiggled a leg beneath...

A Postcard from the Taklamakan (2)

A

Desert travel blurs all time sense. I don’t know if it’s the hypnotic motion of the camel or the endless monotony of the scenery. The mind works on two levels simultaneously. The automatic level is watching the route, choosing a path, adjusting for balance. The other level is flowing along rivers of memory, through labyrinths of thought, reliving past events and acting out future...

A Postcard from the Shan Highlands

A

    A thin mist broke over pale green rice fields in a wet hill-wrapped bowl in the Shan Highlands of northern Burma. An ox chewed its cud. Smoke rose from bamboo huts on the fringes, and longyi-clad men swung slow-motion sickles in garden plots. From over the next hill came the plaintive cry of the train from Mandalay, winding laboriously from village to village, overloaded with...

A Postcard from the Taklamakan Desert

A

Endless dunes shimmered beneath a heat haze. We wound around them at a plodding camel’s pace, roped together in a caravan that evoked images of Silk Road trading expeditions. Sand blew up and swirled into my eyes; it crunched between my teeth and coated my lips. I pulled my broad hat down low and tied a bandanna across my mouth and nose. Beneath a long sleeved white shirt my arms were...

A Faded Image Where The Land Lies Wild

A

Sunlight slants through verdant jungle and illuminates a simple white painted tomb on a hillside overlooking the Nam Khan River. Someone has hacked back the growth to open a view of the smooth brown waters, but vines are encroaching yet again. A square brass plaque, tarnished by constant moisture, reads simply “Henri Mouhot 1826-1861”. Mouhot is credited with “re...

A Postcard from Mongolia

A

    Camped in a valley of rolling green hills that look manicured like a golf course, patched with pine forest. The only sounds are the wind as it sighs through the trees, the grunt of grazing horses, and the baa-ing of a flock of sheep. The slow scratch of my pen on paper drowns them all out. The white gers of herdsmen dot the hillside across the valley. Next to one, a pale blue...

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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