Collision of worlds: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Discover a Thai town abuzz with culture, history and eccentricity.

HOME to 250,000 people, Chiang Mai has more life than a city with 10 times that number of inhabitants.

No longer treated by travellers as a sleepy backwater en route to the hills, the town steeped in local Lanna culture is booming. Travel and leisure has helped Chiang Mai climb up the ranks as one of the world’s top cities.

At the heart of the north-western town ringed by highways and hills stands the old, moat-lined walled city. One ex-rodeo rider resident I know, who roves the area’s maze-like streetscape by bike, says Chiang Mai is so rich that you never exhaust its potential. Read more at the Star..

Tiger town: Nha Trang, Vietnam

WILD tigers once roamed Nha Trang which, today, is growing fast in step with Vietnam’s roaring “tiger” economy. The noise of circular saws chewing through cable is unnervingly common.

Still, the seaside town has maintained its charm.

Despite the furious pace of construction, the lush, fog-capped mountains surrounding Nha Trang remain visible. This place lies on Vietnam’s central coast at the mouth of the Cai River, 412km northeast of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). As applies to seemingly every other Vietnamese town, the easiest way to get there is from Saigon.

Read more at the Malaysia Star..

Karma and karaoke

I wound up at cool Can Tho out of a desperate need for peace.

Frantic Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon in the old days), where a friend of mine lived, was driving me mad, so I pored over an electronic map and researched what towns in southern Vietnam might be lively but mellow. It’s a criterion that few towns fulfil.

Can Tho beckoned. Read more at the Malaysia Star



Sex and Zen: Asia’s naughtiest night spots

Forget about Asia’s sappy romantic honeymoon islands. Asia also hosts some of the world’s most luridly lively party zones that make for a heady brew of hedonism.
Such a concept might not be to everyone’s taste, in which case, you’d be advised to steer clear and perhaps stop reading now. But otherwise, come on a tawdry tour of some of Asia’s steamiest districts — neon hives of vice haunted by hookers and dubious characters with names like “Fletch the Letch”. Read more at ninemsn.

Frontier Fever: Mae Sai, Thailand

THE plan was to visit Myanmar. But, as they say, “Man proposes, God disposes.”

During the four-hour ride to the Thai border town of Mae Sai from Chiang Mai, I become fixated with my passport visa’s inky date and feel conflicted. The plan is to cross the border with my travel buddy, a moustached former rodeo rider and Vietnam vet with a thing for the border town’s equation on the north side, Tachileik.

But only six more days on my Thai visa remain. A kind of greed, a visa vice, sets in. I cannot face “wasting” those precious days by crossing the border today. So I decide to bail – shelve Myanmar – and stay in Mae Sai, which sits at Thailand’s northernmost tip. Read more at the Star…

Chase the dragon: Halong Bay, Vietnam

A sudden beam of light illuminates our coach and sparks a debate. Camera flash or lightning, we wonder on the way to Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam’s Qu ng Ninh province.

Steady rain I associate more with Ireland than Indochina smears the w indows. But we can still see signs praising the “marvellous beauty” of the Unesco site.

Routinely lauded in travel shows, Halong is a three-hour drive from the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. Read more at the Malaysia Star…