We all float on

We float. We float all afternoon under the warm rays of the sun, paddling furiously like puppy dogs every time the sun slips behind the peaks of the mountains. The river winds on and on for days, and we are pulled along by its currents, by our alcohol-induced laughter. Every time a rock nears us, jutting out from the watery world below, we work together to avoid the inevitable onslaught of bruises, of losing someone to the powers of the river. But it happens. We lose someone. Their tire whisked away in the swirls of the current, only to wash up on a big, old rock, planting them there like a sun-basking mermaid. Pretty soon though, they rejoin our island of multi-cultural tires, each one carrying along a different country, a different face. From above, we must look like a miniature world. Each tire island representing a different continent, all brought together under one magnificent moon.

We are there to float. We are there to have fun. For two hours we drift into the setting sun, sipping our homemade concoctions. We sing songs from all around the world and grab onto strangers’ hands and ankles so that we can stick together. We don’t know each others names, but that’s totally fine. We give free foot massages instead, and talk about life and love and laugh so much our tires almost do somersaults, flipping us underneath. These carefree days are the most beautiful. The days where you can float down a river billions of miles from home with absolute strangers and not feel weird about it. In fact, if anything, it feels completely and utterly normal. You float. You greet. You cheers. You turn to the person in the tire next to you, smile at them, then throw your head back, letting your hair tickle the surface of the river and you just laugh. Life can be so random. One moment you are sitting in a café by yourself, the next you’re floating down a river, declaring your love for all these people you just met. Friends forever with your tubing family.

You will probably wake up the next day in a hungover haze, but you’ll be happy. Happy you had the chance to encounter all of these people from different worlds. To float with them on a beautiful river, twirling and swirling through the currents and the calm. And when you really think about it, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? We float through moments, through years, with strangers who become family, friends, lovers. Most of the time it’s calm, but there’s the occasional current of chaos that we need to overcome in order to be able to float on again. But that is life, so let’s just enjoy the ride. The crazier the adventure, the better I say!

Imaged sourced from here.

On Spontaneity

This year has been one of the most spontaneous years of my life. I like to believe that I’m quite a spontaneous person in general, but yesterday as I booked a flight ticket for TODAY, I thought to myself, wow, who even are you?! Two weeks ago my Mum got offered a trip to China for work and she jumped at the chance. Because I’m going home to Scotland for Christmas next month we thought we’ll just wait until then to see each other. However, over the weekend I started thinking how can I possibly not go visit my Mum when she is in the same country as me? China is huge, but still. So yesterday I woke up, came to the office and immediately booked a ticket. I GET TO SEE MY MUM TODAY! Wow, that feels so surreal and amazing. It’s even more exciting because normally what I love about travelling is the anticipation and planning that happens before a trip. This time though, I have no time to plan. That makes it all the more awesome because I have no expectations and I don’t have to wait. I am flying today!

My Mum has been to Beijing and Xi’an so far, and today we will meet in Chengdu in Sichuan province. I have been there once before in 2012 for my friend’s wedding and so this time I will get the chance to finally meet her little girl Tekla, who was born 3 years ago. My Mum has quite a busy schedule, but it’s all fun stuff, such as visiting the Big Buddha in Leshan, going to the panda reserve, frolicking in ancient villages and experiencing the local spicy hotpot cuisine. I can’t wait to see all of these place with her and I can already imagine the amount of hysterical laughter that will ensue. China never fails to amuse and every adventure is guaranteed to be hilarious.

Also, seeing my Mum is just what the doctor ordered. It’s so special for us because usually we only see each other twice a year when I go back to Scotland. Lately I’ve been feeling a little tired and uninspired, but after I get to see my Mum who oozes calm, everything will be wonderful. I just know it.

It’s funny because last week my work spontaneously took us on a weekend trip to Hunan province. It was freezing but beautiful and just the kind of typical adventure you’d expect from China (more on that story later). Anyway, after I got back, I told myself and everyone around me that I won’t be going anywhere until Christmas, and yet here I am, a mere week later and I’m already flying off somewhere else. Haha. Well, that is life and what better way to spend it than to grab every opportunity that comes flying your way. I know I won’t look back when I’m an old poor lady and regret that I used my credit card to pay for this trip because I ran out of money from ‘too much travelling’. Most likely I would regret it if I didn’t go! And so, here I go again, off on another adventure which I’m sure will be filled with funny stories, cute pandas and lots of magical moments with my Muma!



p.s. Have you ever spontaneously booked a flight? Have you ever just turned up at the airport and chosen a random destination? I would love to do that sometime!


The storm after the calm

Thick, like day-old coffee, my head feels fuzzy, but I know the words are in there somewhere. They float around my mind so freely and yet when I come face to face with this big, blank screen I just freeze and close the tab, close my eyes. I’m tired. I can’t remember what it feels like to just sit and have no place to rush to, and yet wasn’t I just sitting on a beach a mere two weeks ago with nothing to do but read my book and watch the waves? Why then, does it all feel like a dream? Like it never actually happened? When I reached Singapore after eight days of blissful relaxation in the jungle and on the beaches of Bali, my friend commented on how ‘zen’ I seemed. Calm. Still. Content.

Now, with a cup of black coffee sat in front of me (only my third coffee in my entire life!), I frantically try and find that girl. The one who woke up smiling with the rise of the sun, the one who fell asleep to the sound of the waves and the beat of the drum. The one who had no worries, only dreams and opportunities lying just around the corner. Is she hiding under the autumn leaves, or has she disappeared forever? Was she just a figment of our imagination? Is it actually possible to feel that calm? I crave it. The restful nights, the soft dreams, the sunshine, the fruits, the patience that never lingered, was always present. I crave it all.

This fog will lift soon. It always does. And in those lighter moments, when this haze miraculously evaporates, I will feel calm again, even amongst the beeps and horns and lights that vibrate throughout this city everyday non stop and all night long.

for the love of seasons

Dusty little tangerines lie next to rosy-cheeked pomegranates, and as the moon falls deeper into the sky, the fruit man pushes his cart away and all the fruits slip and slide and socialise. I walk quickly home and sneeze once. Maybe someone is thinking of me? Superstitions aside, I must say though, I really do believe in this mercury retrograde malarky. Weird, unexplainable things keep happening. A foot-bridge in Shenzhen just collapsed, an apartment/office block went up in flames, my colleague is stuck in America because of some silly visa procedure changes, my phone deleted ALL my photos, my computer randomly shuts down whenever it pleases, I hear people fighting more often and my nose is a waterfall. But come October 9th, when mercury is no longer in retrograde, everything will go back to normal, right?

This too shall pass and autumn is here, so at least we’re not dripping sweat all over the city anymore. I love the slight chill that is becoming more present and the way the morning light coats the trees in a rusty shade of bronze. Everything seems softer and there is a warm, romantic glaze settling over the tops and tips of the buildings on my street. Is it strange that I’m getting excited for winter already? I like wearing big, cosy cardigans and being able to see my breath drift up into the air. I guess once a Northern Hemisphere baby, always a Northern Hemisphere baby. Seasons make the world go round, and mine too. I always struggled in South Africa where everything was reversed. My June birthday was spent shivering and the run-up to Christmas was a sticky, stifling bubble of heat. It’s nice to mix things up a bit once in a while, but oh my, for me Christmas should be a little snow globe.

Before I adorn my winter coat though, I will first embark on a tropical adventure to Singapore and Bali. Seriously, I love Chinese public holidays. This will be my first solo trip in a long time, so I’m really looking forward to having no plan and just going to wherever the rice paddies lead me. I want to swim with turtles on Gili Meno and read my book next to the green fields. Just looking after my wanderlust, you know? She is extremely greedy and is already mischievously plotting the months ahead, and I have to fulfil these needs she has, because she is feisty! Sometimes she books trips without me even realising…Well, at least for Oct, Nov, and most of Dec I won’t be going anywhere. There are some exciting projects taking place in Shenzhen that I’m a part of, and so during those months my wanderlust will be taking a backseat until I whisk her off to Scotland and Ireland for Christmas. Yay!

This year has been a whirlwind. Actually, this month has been a whirlwind, hence the lack of writing here. I just haven’t had time, or maybe I’ve been lazy? I’d say both. Chiang Mai was just what the doctor ordered, and in between climbing up waterfalls, eating the most delicious home-cooked Thai food you’ve ever tasted, getting massages and talking non-stop with old and new friends, there was even time for a road trip to see the incredible White Palace in Chiang Rai and the creepy, but cool Black House. It passed so quickly, and feels like forever ago, even though it was just a couple of weeks back. The fun didn’t stop there, as only a few days later my best friend popped up to China to say hello for the weekend and an early morning hike with a dip in the ocean quickly led to a moonshine-fuelled night and a hazy day spent under the dusty sun in cafes. And I get to see her again in two days in Singapore. I feel lucky. Sometimes there is no time to sleep, but that’s OK because then there is more laughter, more memories, and I have all winter to hibernate under my mountain of books.

Last weekend I didn’t really go anywhere. Those weekends are fun too. The ones where you lie in bed until 2pm just doing nothing but dreaming, smiling, reading. There might be a sneaky trip to a rooftop that doesn’t belong to you to take some photos, but otherwise you will probably stay in bed looking at the clouds, listening to music and hugging. That’s when you know summer is coming to a close, when hibernation takes a hold of you and there’s no escaping those cosy claws. Embrace it. It’s good to just rest.

Singapore and Bali await, so see you when mercury is flowing forward again. Be safe and go kick some backward mercury butt!




Photo by my lovely friend Olya.


As the evenings get a little darker and the mornings a little cooler, my body struggles to adjust. Leaves start to change colour and my hips begin to ache. I am tired and no amount of hiding beneath the covers with my head buried in a book or a blur of dreams can pull me out of this mini hibernation. Impromptu planking sessions that slowly turn into child’s pose beneath my desk give a temporary boost of energy, but it quickly fades and I fall back into my inbetween-seasons slump. It’s the city life. It doesn’t bode well with the changing of the seasons. You can’t smell halloween on the horizon and there are no conkers trickling along the path at your feet. Leaves fall and turn a shade of gold, but there’s no crunch to them like there is back home, in the countryside. Oh man, I miss fresh air. Yes, I know I sound moany right now, but sometimes you just need to acknowledge your feelings and be honest with yourself. I miss nature. I kid myself that I can survive in an urban jungle, but I’m not sure I really can. Panic crawls around in my insides when I’m squeezed onto a bus with hundreds. Car fumes and nicotine swirl around the air and creep into my lungs. I am actually beyond craving the smell of wet grass and clean rain drops, I need them in my life right now.

A few weeks ago I had a massage for the first time in about a year and the lady was shocked by all the knots in my back. No amount of kneading could untie them, and deep down I know the only way to get rid of them is to run through an emerald field with no other people around me. That’s when I am myself, when everything slides away, when the stress rolls back to the city and I am left, light and free, in nature again, where I am supposed to be.

And it’s all my fault. The knots and the grey hairs and the heart palpitations. I brought it on myself by choosing to live in a city. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret it for a second. I love the convenience of life here, the buzz, the opportunities. But most of all I love it because I know it won’t be forever. I know that sooner or later I will slip back to a simple village life where the only sounds will be the wind blowing through the trees and the waves flirting with the seashells lying on the beach.

We are seriously crazy to live on top of each other in cloud-tickling towers, with our neighbours so close we can hear their every breath, but we choose to do so, and so let’s rather be content with it and find ways to enjoy it. And I must admit, it is pretty handy to be able to be awoken by my neighbour’s alarm clock every morning. I guess this city life does have its benefits…

But really, let’s get back to the root of things- to nature. The smell of the forest and moist earth. Mud caked on your shoes or even better, between your toes. The wind in your hair and salt on your lips, fresh from the sea. An elephant just around the corner, not behind a cage, and cats roaming the alleyways like kings. Strangers smiling and laughing, just because. Mid-afternoon monsoons that cleanse away all the dust and stress you brought with you from your urban jungle. Let it all go.

It’s gone.

And on that note, I am off to frolic and flirt with nature in Chiang Mai tomorrow.



p.s. Any tips on dealing with Urbanjungleitis, as I like to call it?

Five Years Time

“Oh well in five years time we could be walking around the zoo with the sun shining down over me and you…”

Or…you could still be living in China.

You blink and take a few trains, too many planes, and before you know it, you’ve been here for five whole years.  For 1,825 days, give or take a few, you have been frolicking on this Asian soil. A journey that began on a swelteringly hot day back in August 2010 with a broken-down bus in a city called Guangzhou. Fast forward five years with a skip to the south of that city and a hop to the right and you are smack bang in Guangzhou’s little sister Shenzhen. I would like to say I have spent the entire five years in one place, but that would be an absolute lie. I have mainly been in China (mainland) but there is of course my ongoing love affair with Taiwan and there was a brief but beautiful fling with Hong Kong. Oh, and there was a moment last year where I questioned why on earth I wasn’t living in Japan? I always do wonder if my university in South Africa had offered a Japanese course, would I find myself living in that quirky Murakami world instead of crazy China? I will never know, but hey, I could always move to Japan some other time…

Five years in Asia. Five years with my head bursting at the seams with all the new words, new cultural quirks, new places, new faces. Five years and thirteen Asian countries worth of stamps, memories and love. Five years older.

And I am nowhere near done. I don’t think I will ever be done with a place that has been my home. It will always be my home even when I’m not actually living there. My ears still twitch whenever I hear a South African accent and I haven’t lived there for five years. I see Scottish flags everywhere, even in the clouds and whenever anyone mentions Taiwan my eyes light up and my heart beats a little faster. I feel at home in Asia where it’s always a little warmer, where people show their gratitude through a bow or an ear-to-ear smile, where incense coils burn in mysterious corners and float along the alleyways, the dust settling on the red lanterns that hang from every eave. Monks swim by in the rush hour crowds of suits and old people play on the swings. The pungent scent of durian pierces your senses and there is no escaping stinky tofu. It will chase you down the chaotic streets and sooner or later you will end up chasing it. Things you could never imagine enjoying will become normal. You will swap your coffee for matcha tea and you will master chopsticks like a ninja. Oh, and you will most certainly start dreaming in the local language, and maybe you will even begin to use your feet to trace Chinese characters on your sheets while you sleep. It’s a weird and wonderful land here. It’s hard to actually comprehend five years worth of Asian adventures. This blog is also five years old if you don’t count the thousand mini interludes that I took from writing…

Well anyway, here’s to the next five years and wherever they may happen to take me. For now though, I am here. And no, there is no ‘five year plan’. I’m not sure they really pan out the way you want them to anyway because if I look back to my first day in China, I certainly didn’t think that five years later I’d still be living here. But that is life. It’s always surprising us. Just focus on being happy and spreading that happiness around wherever you happen to be, and the rest will fall into place.



Taiwan, 我想你

Yesterday I was lying in bed reading and I suddenly got a pang of nostalgia for Taiwan. As I turned the page and tried to focus my mind back onto the words, memories and images of Taipei kept popping into my head. I messaged my old room mate to tell him I missed him and that was when I realised: it was exactly three years ago to the day that I moved to Taiwan. My heart knew. Oh my, how time flies. And yet it’s funny the way my heart still longs for that land like no other. I’m not joking when I say I must have a bit of Taiwan inside me. Surely my great great great grandfather was Taiwanese or something. He had to have been. Is it natural to have such a strong connection with a place that isn’t your home?

Whenever anyone mentions Taiwan, my heart instantly beats faster. I truly love that island. The year that I spent there was one of the most special times in my life. It’s probably the last time I will have been so free. My days were spent cycling on my dusty, pink bicycle, to and from class. My mind was submerged in a world of Chinese characters constantly and I began to struggle to formulate coherent English sentences. I felt so at home and yet so far away too. And the connections I made with people, the friendships, they were real and filled with so much understanding. Not only was my brain undergoing a mental transformation to fill it with as much Chinese as it could possibly fit (occasionally throwing out the odd English word or two that it no longer felt the need for),  my heart was also on a journey too. I was growing, and faster than I could have imagined. There were mornings when I would wake up and panic. I was 25, single and back in university. Then I would get up and remember that I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was exactly where I wanted to be, where I needed to be. There is no way that Taiwan and all its lovely people crept into my life for no reason. I was in my place and it felt more than right.

I miss it so much. I dream of moving back and navigating those old, familiar alleyways on my pink bicycle again, but sometimes it’s not the same when you go backwards. Things change, people move on and part of me really believes that it was that one year in particular in Taiwan that was magical. It was the people I met at that time, the journey we embarked on together that made it so special. There’s only so much hopping back and trying to recreate the good times that you can do before you realise that everything is as it should be. You can go back as much as you want but you can never get those exact same feelings in the exact same place back again. They were unique to the moment, and no moment is ever the same.

Taiwan will always be my magical land. Since that year I have been back three times and all were as enchanting as the first, but they were different. And I accepted that. I know I will live there again one day. I know that deep inside my heart. And it will be a totally new and different experience, and that is OK. As much as I loved my year in Taiwan, I wouldn’t want to try and repeat it anyway. It was perfect in all its highs and lows, and I will forever cherish every single second of it.

Taiwan, I miss you.




A staycation at Hui Hotel

Lately I’ve been craving exploration but without the stress of actually having to go anywhere. There’s only so much escaping into fictitious lands I can do before I actually have to take a trip for real. Back in May I went away four weekends in a row. To Shanghai, Xiamen, Hong Kong and Singapore. All of these weekends were so much fun, but I got absolutely burned out afterwards. The amount of time spent actually travelling to these exotic locations (OK, except Hong Kong because that is only one hour by boat) added up pretty quickly and I can’t say it was stress-free (hello China flight delays!!). So that was when I had the wise idea to go on a ‘staycation’.


(Image sourced from here)

Originally I thought about the new Hilton Hotel in Shekou, a mere 10 minute cycle from my apartment, but the idea of being able to see the area I live from the hotel rooftop felt a bit silly, so I decided to venture further afield to the deep, dark core of the city- Futian. Whilst browsing hotels on Trip Advisor, I stumbled upon Hui Hotel. A fairly new, boutique 5 star art and design hotel with a rooftop bar overlooking the lush Central park. What more could you want? After seeing a sneak peek of their quirky room designs, and their egg-shaped bath tubs, I was sold. There’s something about a huge, soft, white bed and a bubble bath that I just love about hotels. I like the way you can slip into a hotel room and become anonymous. However, I dislike the way most hotels are designed very plain and boring. That’s why I was immediately attracted to Hui Hotel because their design is so unqiue. The hotel reception is dotted with surreal sculptures and in the entranceway they have a vertical garden growing up the wall. They have a very long coffee table filled with bird cages with real birds inside. When we asked where the swimming pool was located we were happily surprised to see that it is actually tucked right behind a long glass window, level with the floor of the check-in desk. So as we swam up and down the pool, we’d occasionally see a curious hotel guest kneeling down to take a photo of the quirky pool. All of the doors in the hotel are camouflaged with the walls so at first glance you can’t even see the door to the bathroom or to your hotel room.


We were fortunate enough to receive an upgrade to one of their premier rooms. It was beautiful! My favourite part was the way the roof sloped down to the wall in a curve and that our window was a floor to ceiling one. It was raining quite heavily and because our room jutted out from the front of the hotel, we could hear the rain beating down and it felt like we were in a hut in the jungle. Also, the beds are extremely comfortable. I could sink in and stay for days. I loved the little random things they added, such as a bowling pin in the corner and the LED clock on the wall.


The hotel offers two dining options- a traditional style Chinese restaurant on the first floor and a Western restaurant on the eighth floor. We tried the Western restaurant and while the food was just OK, the view was incredible! It almost felt like we were in New York as we were overlooking Shenzhen’s Central Park. After dinner we chilled in The Library Bar, and it had so many cool architecture and design books to browse. It felt so relaxing to sit on the sofas surrounded by books, whilst being served cocktails from the bar. Unfortunately due to the rain we never got to experience drinks at the rooftop bar, but the next day, Howard (one of the friendliest hotel staff I’ve ever come across!) gave us a small tour of the roof and it was amazing! I will definitely go back on a weekend to experience drinks with a view high above the city.



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The spa is also so beautiful and ‘zen’. We had incredible massages to end off the lovely weekend on a soothing high. I actually didn’t want to leave this hotel. I felt like I’d disappeared into a world of calm, far away from the dust and stress of the city. The coolest part of the whole weekend was that within 20 minutes I was home again. So the usual post-holiday blues didn’t really have time to catch me in its claws. There was no travelling time, no rush to catch a plane or a train. I just floated home in the back of a taxi, the faint scent of the eucalyptus oil lingering on my post-massage skin.


Thank you Hui Hotel, you were magical! (This post was not sponsored, I just really loved this hotel a lot, and you will too, so check them out here.)



p.s Have you ever been on a staycation? Isn’t it wonderful?!

“But I want to see the real…”

“But I want to see the real China.”


What do we even mean when we say we want to see the ‘real’ China? Or the ‘real’ Scotland? What you are seeing right now, in this moment, is the real China, or the real wherever you are. I often hear people complain about how westernised China is these days (I am also guilty of this on occasion) and how it’s just not what they expected it to be. Well, sorry to break it to you but why would it be any other way? The whole world is developing at an absolutely crazy rate, so why should China or Thailand or India be any different? I too, would love it if everyone in China did Kung Fu and wore qi paos (traditional Chinese dresses) and only rode bicycles. But sadly, life goes on. Cultures develop and adapt and borrow from other cultures. People still practice tai chi here, but it’s usually outside Walmart, which is nestled between a Starbucks, a KFC and a McDonald’s. There is the odd bicycle or two sprinkled amongst the rush hour traffic, and occasionally you might be lucky to see someone adorning the classic qi pao dress. Of course there are places in China where you can go to still catch a glimpse of Chinese life as it always was, but those days are fleeting. Trends catch on. Everyone wants a car and to try a hamburger. Personally I just want a bicycle and a bowl of brown rice, but that’s because I grew up with cars and hamburgers. We always want what we don’t have, don’t we? I want to cycle along a river filled with bamboo rafts and stop at a pagoda for a cup of green tea, then continue on my way to the bottom of the mountain to dabble in a spot of Kung Fu. Meanwhile, my friend Lily from China wants to go to Starbucks and drink coffee, then head to the mall and buy the latest iPhone. Then she might get her hair dyed light brown and consider whether she wants pizza or a steak for dinner. And on it goes.

Everyone, the world over, is totally free to decide which cultures they want to flirt with, which languages they wish to learn and which countries they want to travel to next. But we must just keep in mind that they might not be exactly what we had anticipated. More often than not, there will be a McDonald’s standing high and mighty at the end of the street, but there will also be a friendly little local restaurant tucked just down that alleyway. Go there! You might be lucky enough to meet some lovely people who can restore your faith in the fact that there are still some people who care enough about preserving their unique culture and sharing it with any curious visitors to the area.

So, when you arrive in Shenzhen or Tokyo or Edinburgh or Cape Town and things aren’t quite what you expected, don’t panic! Rest assured there will be some hidden gems that will be positively oozing ‘China’ or ‘Japan’ or ‘Scotland’ or ‘South Africa’. But also, keep an open mind. Don’t expect everyone in Scotland to be wearing a kilt and talking with an accent so strong you can’t even make out one word. You will come across it, but not around every corner, and that’s what makes a place so interesting. You come in with a narrow view of what a place will be like, filled with kilt-wearing, haggis-eating redheads and you should be pleasantly surprised to see that there is more to Scotland than meets the stereotypical eye. We all embrace modernity and development, even if we pretend that we don’t. We want to sit cross-legged with the monks at the temple, then run back to our air-con’d rooms and check Facebook. We want to eat with chopsticks to prove that we can, but we also want to eat pasta sometimes too. We want it all. And that’s OK. In fact, that’s the key, embracing all aspects of a culture, both old and new, and enjoying everything that a country has to offer.

Don’t blame China or wherever you are for trying to keep up with the rest of the world. It would be nice to be able to live in a small, traditional Chinese temple house, but the reality is: that just doesn’t work in the big, bustling cities. And thus it is, we live in skyscraper apartment buildings and commute by bus instead of horse and cart. So, the next time you travel somewhere remote and get upset when you see that giant  yellow ‘M’ or people wearing jeans instead of robes, just remember: we are all moving forward together, and only we can be responsible for preserving and maintaining our unique cultures and languages so that they don’t disappear off the edge of our beautiful earth, never to be seen again.

On that note, I am a proudly Scottish girl who absolutely loves the country I was brought up in and even though my accent is ‘messed-up’ (as people like to remind me on a daily basis) and I have lived abroad for almost a decade, I am still Scottish and always will be. However, I also speak Chinese and I need to drink a bowl of Japanese Matcha tea every morning, and I left a chunk of my heart in South Africa and sometimes I think I might actually be Taiwanese I love it that much, and soon I am going to travel to Myanmar and I know there will probably be a Starbucks in every city, but that’s totally OK. Because I respect that if I want to embrace a whole assortment of cultures, then so too, does Myanmar, and that includes coffee culture. Plus, just because it’s there, doesn’t mean I have to give it the time of day. I will happily cycle on and hopefully get lost on some magical road from days gone by.

Hypocritical? No. Like I said before- keep an open mind. Don’t compare the place you’re visiting to history books and travel stories from centuries ago, but when you do have a close encounter with a part of the culture that you hadn’t imagined still existed, remember to enjoy it and be respectful of that special moment, because they are rare.



p.s. Have you ever travelled somewhere and felt disappointed because it wasn’t what you expected? Ah, but that is life. Just try to find the positivity and enjoy whatever experience you are having, because really, you are lucky to just be experiencing it in the first place.

Here comes the sun

I don’t see the point in doing things half-heartedly, and so when sunlight poured into my room this morning I took that as a definite sign that summer is well and truly on the doorstep and I slipped my sunglasses on and now I am sipping on a coconut, blasting summer tunes from years gone by and feeling pretty happy that it’s warming up around here. Blue sky sunny days are a rarity in this part of the world (cough, China, cough) and so we must take full advantage. If that means blinding all your colleagues with bright sun beams by opening all the blinds, do it. Soak up that vitamin D because you never know when you’ll get your next dose and throw an ice cream or two into the mix as well, because that is what summer is all about.

Spring lasted about a week here in China. Just as quickly as the streets were lightly showered with a sprinkling of raindrops and baby pink blossoms, the sun appeared and dried it all up. Now the roasted chestnuts of winter have been replaced by boxes of irresistibly sweet mangoes and the Chinese girls have whipped our their trusty umbrellas to shield them from the freckle-inducing rays. I’m partial to the odd freckle, and so now it will be my daily routine to skip up to the balcony at exactly 4pm to indulge in a little freckling. I’d say ‘tanning’ but well, I’m Scottish and the closest my milky skin will ever get to a tan is when all my freckles join up to form beautiful constellations. And thus it is, dot by dot, freckle by freckle, I spend my summer days.

I used to hate the sticky feeling of a freshly applied layer of sun lotion, but now I love it. In fact I often put it on even when it’s cold and there is absolutely no sunshine, just because. Because of the delicious scent that catapults me back to summers growing up, and also because I am getting old and nobody likes wrinkles. Seriously. Even if the warm rays can’t penetrate the hazy polluted skies here, I’m still lathering that lotion onto every single surface of my skin. I want to be forever young. There, I said it. And skin cancer is also very much a reality. And people will sniff you as you walk by and instantly feel like they’re on holiday. Everyone’s day is made.

I want to go on holiday. I don’t mean travelling which I do way more often than my bank balance can handle, but I mean really go on holiday. To an island in Indonesia or the Philippines that is filled with banana trees and coconuts, where the waves trickle along the shore to where my toes are buried in the sand. I want to read a book a day and eat my bodyweight in fresh fruit. I want to do nothing. I rarely do nothing. I actually don’t think I’ve ever really been on a holiday like this. I thought it would be the kind of trip that would bore me, but when you live in China and have to zigzag through a gazillion people a day just to hop on a bus with another billion, you start fantasising about places with NO people. So, maybe that’s what I’m going to do sometime this summer. Run away to a deserted beach and come back smelling more coconuty than an actual coconut.

In the meantime though, I can at least apply my ninth application of hand lotion for the day, so perfectly labelled ‘my coconut island.’

Are you dreaming of summer too?