Elephant No. 24: Hoi An, Vietnam

This elephant with its beautiful tusks comes from a slanted relief in front of a Chinese temple in Hoi An, central Vietnam (though you may also notice the red elephants on my trousers – it’s actually actively difficult to find loose trousers out here which AREN’T decorated with elephants!).   (more…)

Elephant No. 19: Georgetown, Malaysia 


I found this magnificent elephant in the Khoo Kongsi clanhouse in Georgetown on the island of Penang, an incredibly elaborate temple of ancestral worship built by some of the Chinese community in Penang. Modern Malaysia has many citizens of Chinese ethnicity who emigrated from Southern China in various periods: the Khoo clan mostly arrived in the 19th century and were some of the most successful Chinese in the area, hence the amount of money they were able to spend on this very ornate temple! The elephant and its rider is one of 36 “Celestial Guardians” painted on the inside of the central hall, 18 on each side. Each guardian rides an impressive steed like an elephant, a lion, or a dragon, and each has its own unique weapon. All, like this one, look pretty fierce.  (more…)

One month away

Today marks one month since I left London, on Saturday the 4th July. It’s strange because in some ways it feels like it has all gone past in the blink of an eye – and surely it was only yesterday that I was sitting in the garden in Stockwell having a delicious breakfast before leaving? The longest I had ever been away before this trip is 5 weeks, to Peru; now, a month doesn’t feel nearly long enough to visit anywhere at all, so I’m even more glad that I’ve managed to find this 6 months (and possibly more) to go travelling.  (more…)

7 Beijing Quirks

As we come to the end of our two weeks in the Chinese capital, this is a selection of some of our favourite quirks of Beijing:

1) When you enter a restaurant, you are handed a menu and then the waitor asks what you want before you have even opened it and they look annoyed if you try and actually read the menu to choose a dish. This makes food ordering kind of stressful as you only have about 30 seconds to choose something! Also your plate/cup/bowl arrives wrapped in plastic to show that it is clean:  (more…)

Beijing – First Impressions

We’ve now been in Beijing for just over a week and are starting to settle in. The city is HUGE – with a population of 25 million it’s just under three times as big as London. This leads to giant motorways running through the city and people just everywhere. We take the metro a few times each day for getting to language classes and seeing sights and it is an exhausting experience – the metro system itself can’t be faulted as there never seem to be any delays (cough cough London underground) but there are just so many people trying to get everywhere that the trains are packed closer than the London rush hour, but all the way through the day and on every line. What would be nice, too, is if the metro maps corresponded with what metro lines and stations actually exist, which doesn’t always seem to be the case! Crossing roads is another interesting experience – I feel we get through quite a few life or death moments each day as there are so many lanes to get across and no one takes any notice of the lights. (more…)