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Endings and Beginnings – Basho and Cesca return home from their adventures

Endings are actually beginnings too. This is what I told myself as I sat in the tiny, oh so tiny, room in Osaka. It’s […]

Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, green tea and finding inner peace

I have written before about travellers wanting a point to it all, to travelling. In part this is perhaps seen as them wanting to […]

The Zen Gardens, Our First Days in Kyoto

The bullet train pulled smoothly and serenely into the station, totally belying the speed it had demonstrated when blistering through the Japanese countryside.

As I […]

Chan Buddhism, Daoism and Zen – Journey through the East

Writing an article about Zen is almost a contradiction in terms. That is unless I simply leave the rest of it blank…

Just a finger, […]

Mount Fuji, Tokyo and the 200 mph Bullet Train

I wallowed comfortably in the exceedingly warm waters, the balmy mountain air was cool and smelled of the rich wood my surroundings were constructed […]

Tsukiji Fish Market, Adventures in Sushi and the Edo-Tokyo Museum

4am in Tokyo, Japan trickled around and we were ready to go. We skipped breakfast and headed down to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market.

It […]

Tokyo: Akihabara, Asakusa and Shibuya

Tokyo, like Beijing and especially like Delhi, is a city that one could spend a lifetime in and never feel a sense of completion. […]

Arriving in Japan

I have always looked at maps of the world and wondered if they skew perspective. America appears massive while Australia and India are diminished […]

The Purpose of Travel

We often take arriving at the destination to be the purpose of travel. Taken in this way the journey itself is not the point, […]

Beijing and the Great Wall – Our final days in China

“So,” said Cesca loudly and clearly, just as I was drinking from a water bottle, “What’s all this about China and Tiananmen Square?”

I almost […]

China’s National Treasures – Pandas and the Terracotta Warriors

Everyone loves Pandas and at the Panda Conservation Centre near Chengdu, China is probably the best place to see them in the world.

Watching them […]

Mount Wudang and the Meaning of Life

In China, Daoist temples atop mountains are so numerous that there must be something about these high places that answers a longing for cliff edges […]

Tiger Leaping Gorge & Lijiang

Flanked by several enormous mountains, Tiger Leaping Gorge is top contender for the deepest gorge in the world. The upper road of the gorge […]

Yaks for tea and Tibetan Temples. Living the high life in Shangri-la

“You have to imagine,” said the man in broken English, “that this…” he gestured his hands at the view in front of us, “big lake… flood wide and deep… great water!” He broke into a wide toothy smile.

There was a pause as we considered this.

“But… not at the moment,” Cesca eventually prompted.

“No!” the man said vehemently, still smiling and shaking his head.

“At the moment it is just a dry field full of Yaks”.

The closest Yak stopped chewing and looked up at us, as if responding to the sound of its name.

[…]

China: Li River to Shangri-La

At one point in our journey I actually advocated to Cesca that we skip China. That she didn’t listen, and talked me round, proves clearly that I don’t know everything and Cesca has some great ideas herself.

Oh, boy were my eyes going to be opened!

Entering the country via a large bus with lay down seats was fun. It rattled through the night towards the modern city of Guilin and the Li River.

[…]

Hong Kong : The Most Photogenic City in the world

Certain cities in the world are instantly recognisable from hundreds of classic movies that have been set there. No one could mistake Paris, New York or London on film, but for me the most recognisable city of them all is the great bay of Hong Kong. I grew up on a strict diet of Hong Kong movies: from Jackie Chan cop thrillers to John Woo gangster flicks. The Hong Kong cinema actor Chow Yun Fat was considered by my friends and I as the coolest guy in the universe, bar none, thanks to his incredible performances as Ken Gor and The God of Gamblers. With these memories, I felt like I knew the city off by heart even before I visited there. I had a mental map already in my head that included combinations of scenes from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon and the, unintentionally, hilarious Jean Claude Van Dam 90’s action fest Double Impact. It was no doubt the sort of distorted mental map that everyone has when they have watched too many movies: all warped distances and colours. Larger than life could ever be.

I knew, of course, that reality would bring me down with a bump. Surely, no city could be exactly as it is portrayed in the movies?

I prepared to be disappointed.

[…]

Gandhi

Very little survives a man’s death. I have commented before that most of the “Great’s” from history did not write much down for themselves and Gandhi is no different. For while he did write many letters (all available online) he did this not because he wanted to leave lessons for you and I to follow or to build a movement around, but simply because he didn’t have a telephone. If you are looking for published books then you only have one to find; his autobiography “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”.

I have a copy of it, I picked up in Mumbai, and it is not what you might expect.

[…]

The day I met the Buddha, and killed him

Delhi. Many people say they have “done” Delhi, but in all honesty they haven’t. They have perhaps done the tourist parts of New Delhi, or maybe spent some time in an Ashram there – which amounts to the same thing: a tourist experience. Delhi is so large to be beyond being “done” should you spend a lifetime there.

For one thing there are 16 million people living in Delhi and 249 thousand in New Delhi (the capital of the capital). This makes Delhi the 8th largest metropolis in the world (we will visit the largest towards the end of these journals), and once something gets that big you know that no two stories of visiting it will be the same. Each will be a “slice of life”, a “moment in time” and a “vision” of the city. Also, like other gigantic cities, it is more than possible to leave with a very un-favourable impression. Walk down the wrong street or pass by the wrong district in any major city and you may not come out the other side alive, but perhaps in Delhi of all these places are you risking coming out a different colour.

That is because coming here during the Hindu festival of Holi, white and vulnerable, must make you a serious paint target as if you are running the gauntlet of 16 million amateur Jackson Pollacks’. That’s what first went through my mind when we arrived on the train, our last train journey in India.

[…]

Shimla mountains and a happy meeting

Breaking out of the Backpacker Bubble in India

Jaipur, the Kalka–Shimla Railway and onto Shimla

I sat on the balcony and considered the view. The remote 7800ft high mountain town of Shimla flowed over the hills in front of […]