The Cranky Barbarian's

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Beneath the surface

It’s hard to write about Vancouver. Officially, it has been named one of the most liveable cities in the world, even through skyrocketing property prices (thanks to foreign speculation and buying), with a huge and impressive backcountry of British Columbia backing it up. An hour’s drive northwards brings you to Squamish, a haven for outdoorsy types. Drive east and you’d still be hard-pressed to escape the beautiful scenery that encircles the entire place. In Vancouver itself, there is a multitude of fascinating neighbourhoods that hold their own ethnic enclaves and by extension, the cuisine on offer is as varied and authentic as the immigrants themselves who bring a wealth of...

Day-tripping to Whistler

The Travel Companion (TC) and I debated long and hard about renting a car in Vancouver, even if it was only for a few days. Public transit has always been encouraged and what people say about Vancouver being a ’small’, walkable city is to an extent, true, unless you’re staying out in the suburbs and not Downtown. In the end, we compromised (isn’t this always the case?) and rented a small, white pimple of a VW Golf—easy to handle, though guaranteed to give you performance anxiety as larger cars and trucks breeze past on the highway—because we wanted the freedom of exploring Vancouver’s suburbs while doing a day trip to...

Kuala Lumpur for the lazy traveller

The usual 3-day itinerary in any place typically involves a clever mix of time-saving routes and an assumption of boundless energy that will enable any intrepid visitor to cover a key number of sights. In short, a brag-worthy itinerary for a short but exhausting period of time that you can confidently say to anyone ‘I’ve visited this place and have seen the top x number of things I should see in it’. Doing this in a place as dauntingly large as Kuala Lumpur is a difficult task to plan. Doing 3 days over a festive period (Chinese New year) with many Chinese shops (and areas like Chinatown) is impossible. But...

Getting enough (passive) income to travel

I think this post was inevitable, even if the title makes me cringe. But there comes a time when you start to wonder if your blog can start to make money for you. Or you start thinking about ways you can keep an income going while still seeing the world. I first started out blogging on an old (but free) WordPress account as a way of keeping people who were interested in what I was doing updated, until I became dissatisfied with the sloppy way my own posts and pictures were laid out. But to say that I bought my own domain, researched WordPress themes and paid for hosting was merely...

Eating in Siem Reap

Khmer cuisine is a curious thing, as it sits on the crossroads between Thai and Vietnamese dishes, though the dishes are slightly more sweetish, minus the stomach-burning heat yet still bursting with flavour with the abundance of herbs used in each one. Steven, our guide for the local food tour that we are taking of Siem Reap—and an ex-Scottish chef in a previous life—thinks that the cuisine in this region generally evolved at the same time, only with slight but distinct regional variations as national boundaries changed over the years. The tuk-tuk we pile on goes around the corner from where we stay and into a fairly large shop where...

Templed Out

Coming to see the Angkor temples was my primary objective in visiting Siem Reap and doing it during the cooler months from November – March sounded like a bloody good idea. Unfortunately, it seemed as though the whole world thought the same thing. Still, the best thing you can do is to plan…and plan well, just to avoid jostling shoulders with the huge crowds of Chinese tourists as much as possible. There are several ways to go about it: hire a tuk-tuk for a day or go with a tour operator, though choosing which one is probably imperative. A good guide makes all the difference and the stories he tells...

When the dust settles in Siem Reap

Siem Reap’s – quite literally meaning ‘Siamese Defeated – name is a (smug) testament to its history of conflict that Cambodia has always been embroiled in one way or another. And it isn’t a place that the travel companion (TC) and I actually envisioned visiting at all. But the idea the Angkor Wat Complex simply grew too big to contain. Knowing that the year end week-long holidays offered the opportunity to do just that, we booked our tickets still feeling uncertain, and that was that. If November – April is Cambodia’s driest and coolest period, the day we arrived proved the contrary. The sweltering heat and humidity meant the insects were...

When travel becomes lacklustre

It isn’t often that I feel dissatisfied after a trip, but a recent 5-day one to Khao Lak had wrong written on it from the very start. I’d planned to dive in the Similan Islands, taking advantage of the early diving season, but a sinus-infection (along with a doctor’s warning not to do it) meant that I was on the verge of cancelling the entire trip, only to go ahead the last minute. The hotel I was in was overwhelmingly stocked with Germans; my room had a variety of insects and bees in it and the deck chairs reserved the whole damn day with towels on them, while their owners remained...

Dollars & Sense: 10 things to note when budgeting for a trip

The problem of trying to figure out how much cash to bring on a holiday is something that typically doesn’t have a good solution. Overdo it and there’s so much excess cash that sometimes tempts you to spend it on things you don’t need just so you don’t have to convert them back to your own currency. Under do it and you’ll be searching out another money exchange counter in no time, which frankly, wastes precious time. When I used to do bi-annual 2-week trips to Europe about a decade ago, I went on a strict budget and told myself that no matter what, this fixed amount – do or...

Dweebs in Doha

Doha reminds me of Dubai a decade or so ago: a city expanding and changing at a frenetic rate as migrant workers and expatriates flock here to construct its lofty ambitions in the dust and sand. It’s also a hard city to love, with horrendous traffic and red lights that last up to 3 minutes and a plethora of dust pollution swirling at your feet each time you walk. I found myself mostly ignored by men and tried not to feel insulted that many of those who walked around in thobe dishdashas—whether working in the souq or the museum—chose to speak over me and directly to TC instead, when gender...