Walkabout

Jonathan Ward records his intrepid travels across Asia.

Mountain Roads

The road wound away from the Mekong and went on through parched savannah grass, stands of dry trees and the thatched huts that had been abandoned after the growing season. The land was empty and patches…

Vientiane

My ticket to Vientiane was still good and I decided to use it. I felt drawn to but distant from the youth all around me, come across the world to laze about happily and chase each…

Vang Vieng

I was planning to ride through the mountain roads in the center of the country, so when it was time to leave Luang Prabang, it was time to leave fast. I decided to throw my bike…

Luang Prabang

I wandered through the little town amongst the orange-robed monks and jagged temple roofs. Fish was frying on every corner and women made baguettes and wrapped them in banana leaves. I found an old mansion with…

The Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

I got up in the morning with the cold dawn, and Len and I rolled the bike out of the garage where the family stored some wooden carts and the red Spiderman motorbike. Len wrote his…

Luang Namtha, Part Two

The next morning I looked my map over and decided to ride to the Thai border. I wasn’t planning to go into Thailand for quite some time, but from the Lao border town I could take…

Luang Namtha, Part One

I shaved in the morning for the border crossing. Shorn, I look about seventeen and very harmless. Borders always gave me a strange feeling because almost all of the foolishness you hear about regarding foreigners in…

The Road to Laos, Part Two

Back on the road, I stopped eventually to set up a clothesline along the trees with a piece of rope that Amira had given me and I let my clothes dry in the sun and read…

The Road to Laos, Part One

We hitch a ride on a tractor; the driver is an eleven-year-old girl. A couple from Hunan is in the back, holding a baby. They’ve come to visit their brother, who has married a Dai girl…

Xishuangbanna Walking Journal

Diaries from a week of village walking in southwest China, before moving onwards to the Laotian border. December 24, Village for the night; stilt house, thatched roof—inside the TV is on. American entertainment salary countdown. Tom…

Xishuangbanna

The bus pulled into a lot in the darkness and I got on my bicycle and rode into the town. It was warm and breezy. I was close to Laos and within a few days I…

Kunming

I woke up as the train pulled in and stepped out onto the platform in the grey morning light and into a heavy rain. Peasants from the provinces had been getting on and off as the…

Baise

It was the biggest city in 500 miles—prefecture-level—which meant that its administrative responsibilities extended into the surrounding counties and countryside. The bus ride went through golden autumnal hillsides and I sat next to a boy my…

The Road to Baise

I had spread my maps over my desk every night and studied them. Laos was still 1,000 miles away and I planned to be there by the New Year. The several days spent in the hospitality…

Liuzhuo

The countryside gave way to swathes of industrial gloom. Red brick factories with broken windows glowed with pale light and belched endless rivers of smoke into the sky. The lights of the towns went on in…

Yangshuo

The town was all cobblestone walks and red lanterns that hung from wooden eaves. But this ancient façade was a restoration and an inevitable turn took me to the city’s main drag down by the docks.…

The Train to Guilin

The train pulled out in the darkness and I watched the slow roll of office buildings and neon signs move past my window. Across from me, a small plain woman was on the phone with her…