Wakatobi: The Mantra

When crazy islands came calling, we were crazy enough to answer.

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Belitung: Put This on Your Map

  A blip on the radar, another island lost in the Java Sea, a speck of Sumatra skipped over by guidebooks and travel agents, and the weekend haunt for a thousand tight-lipped Indonesians in on the secret—welcome to Belitung.   There are only two chances you’ve heard of this place: if you watched a 2008… Continue reading Belitung: Put This on Your Map

Phnom Penh: Capital Punishment

All I wanted from the city was a chicken sandwich.   I had spotted them before, our first time through here—a juicy bit of bird, well-marinated and sizzling off the grill, stuffed into a fresh baguette (thank you French colonists of bygone years), and topped with exotic salsas and herbs. It’s Cambodia’s answer to Vietnam’s… Continue reading Phnom Penh: Capital Punishment

Phnom Penh: S-21 and Killing Fields

  They come in the muggy night and disappear before dawn. Muffled voices down the hall, a brief scuffle, boots on the stained stairs and a swaying electric light—and that is all. That is the last you will see of him.   Your neighbor.   The skinny guy with glasses and yellow teeth, the one… Continue reading Phnom Penh: S-21 and Killing Fields

Angkor Wat: The Big One(s)

They come from all continents, cameras dangling from their sun-screened necks, sunglasses flashing, and hat perched atop their sweated mop heads. Yes, we are hopeless victims of the Angkor maelstrom, a couple more tallies to the thousands for the day, two more pair of flip-flops on the trail, another couple bikes in the parking stall.

Most come here, though, just to see where Angelina Jolie’s breakout hit Tomb Raider was filmed.

Cambodia: Buses to Siem Reap

It’s hot here in the dry season, and arid as Arizona in a drought.  All the jungles I thought I’d find were browned and withered, reduced to scratchy shadows of their former selves, dried husks baking in the sun, snakeskins left to crinkle in the heat. The land waits rains. We, on the other hand,… Continue reading Cambodia: Buses to Siem Reap

Amed: Bali’s Next Honeypot?

“Where are you staying, Mister?”   Our inquisitor sat serenely on his motorbike, sarong dancing in the breeze and cigarette smoldering in his lips.   I’d been here twenty minutes, hiked one kilometer down a lonely road, and already he was the tenth person to ask me this. I paused for a moment to adjust… Continue reading Amed: Bali’s Next Honeypot?

Kawah Ijen: Fire on the Mountain

Blue flames everywhere – and not small ones either. We’re talking flames to cover a house, to dwarf a crowd, to light up a forest in flames fit for a gas stove, fit for a steel-cutting torch,  fit for a Bunsen burner. Fit for anything except a huge, stinking pile of rock on top of… Continue reading Kawah Ijen: Fire on the Mountain

East Java: Bromo’s Maw to Ijen’s Ghosts

“Right now,” I sighed, “right here, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dinosaur strut around that corner.” Everyone nodded in agreement. “I mean, seriously: a Stegosaurus, or a Brontosaurus, or… or something. Or at least their ghosts, you know. At least their ghosts are here. “For sure, at least their ghosts.” By now they… Continue reading East Java: Bromo’s Maw to Ijen’s Ghosts

Bunaken: Reef Master

Bunaken: Reef Master Andy gripped my hand even harder. The plane rocked, steadied, and dropped lower for its final approach. Our third attempt at a final approach, to be exact. After two last-minute botched approaches, to be even more exact. The first went like this: we sped over mile after mile of runway from a… Continue reading Bunaken: Reef Master

Kei Islands: the low down

  Guidebooks say it’s got the best beaches in Indonesia. Bloggers say maybe the best in Southeast Asia. The map says it’s a few specks of islands tucked away under Papua and out in the deepest sea Indonesia’s got to offer.   They call it the Keis, and judging by the lack of online chatter,… Continue reading Kei Islands: the low down

Pulau Rhun: snorkel the microcosm

People do strange things to see fishes. Take, for example, our snorkel group. We dragged a reluctant captain from his slumber on the rainiest morning of our stay, loaded up his oversized canoe with fins and tubes and masks, threw in a little fried rice and smattering of fruit, and set out across the widest… Continue reading Pulau Rhun: snorkel the microcosm