When sailing in Europe, you have to slap yourself every once in a while to make sure you haven’t stumbled into a cliché. Lying on a warm deck, with the waves of the Mediterranean lapping against the hull and the cliff-top villages of Amalfi drifting past the starboard bow, it can all get a little surreal.
Using a few simple techniques, this fine gentleman has blown minds the world over with his ability to pack a month’s worth of gear into a carry-on suitcase.
John McLeay’s love affair with Asian food began with the crunch of a fried grasshopper from a Thailand street stall in his early twenties. Ever since, he has travelled the lands of Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, China and Vietnam, learning the secrets of the region’s delicious yet delicate balance of flavours.
It’s easy to feel the world is a shrinking place. Journeys that used to take months now happen in the time it takes us to watch Godzilla and eat a microwaved meal, and we have more information in our pocket at any time than the sum total of human knowledge for the last three thousand years. In such a world it’s easy to think there’s very little mystery left, very little tradition or magic or authenticity.
Shakespeare once said, ‘The sauce to meat is ceremony; meeting were bare without it.’ Basically this translates to, ‘Festivals, they’re pretty cool, eh?’ And those Elizabethans really knew how to party, so I’m inclined to agree with his opinion. Ceremonies and festivals are the cultural glue that binds us as people.
Ordinary is one of those things that creeps up on you unawares. Before you know it you’ve been brushing your teeth with the same brand toothpaste you were three years ago. You recognise every step of the commute to work, and at the café around the corner they simply ask you for ‘Same old same old’. Days start to blend into one another like porridge, and before you know it you’re bogged down in the ordinary. Even the word sounds heavy and repetitive, with cousins like bored-inary and snore-dinary slotting in just a little too easily.
What is it about Asia that throws up strange and unusual places to rest your head? It’s as if there’s some inaudible signal being broadcast causing architects and hoteliers to try and one-up each other in a race towards the weird and wonderful. Hey, I know, let’s make them sleep in a giant elephant! No, why not in tiny cubicles stacked like sardine tins! It’s like Lewis Carol and Gaudi decided to get together and start a small interior design business.