New Orleans or ‘the Big Easy’ as its locally known, is a fascinating city; full of life, colour, character, history, beautiful jazz, blues music, food ( even alligators!) and we experienced all of these in our short time there. Before you enter the city, you know you’re somewhere different. Passing a succession of long bridges, looking down all you see are swamp waters and these are miles around you. Like many big US cities, NOLA, as it’s also referred to, is split into districts, with the famous French one, being the most popular. It encompasses everything great about NOLA. Street after street there are restaurants all offering local cuisine, including creole, jambalaya and gumbo dishes together with fried fish platters, rice, beans and it’s famous Po’boy sandwich and sweet beignet pastries - I can confirm that all these dishes are delicious!! Almost on every corner you hear the sounds of a trumpet or trombone, the thrashing of drums and the twangs of a double bass coming from the many bars. I’ve never heard so much live music and this doesn’t include the street musicians who perform so brilliantly for just a few dollars. Moving into the Garden district, you are overwhelmed by the beautiful homes, many are mansions. These where originally owned by plantation owners who made a lot or money in the 1800’s. It’s also home to many film and tv stars, though no famous faces were seen this time! I’ve been to a lot of US cities and many feel the same as the next one. New Orleans is different. It’s remarkably friendly and the locals, who come from many backgrounds, welcome you with sincerity - its comparable to a local village atmosphere but on a huge scale - it definitely does have the famous southern hospitality that I’d heard about and I’m so pleased we were able to pay it a visit.
My vision of Malaysia was that it would be very similar to Thailand - however I couldn’t be any more wrong! From the moment we negotiated through the manic Thai border, you could see this was a country that was much more developed than its neighbour and that Thailand was a memory. Almost instantly you sensed the better roads (or rather fewer potholes!!), quality housing and you could see the difference in the locals, who just appeared to have a better quality of life. It is still a crazy, hectic way of life but it all just seems to fit, like one crazy jigsaw!! It appears to be home to many Asian cultures; malay, chinese, thai and indian and this is reflected in the foods on offer, of course it’s mostly street food on offer, which appears that everyone eats. Penang was the first stop - renowned for it’s love of food - this didn’t disappoint. George Town where we stayed was my favourite part of Malaysia purely because it was so diverse and the heritage sites were so apparent - I felt like I was stepping back in time. What hits you immediately is the architecture styles - from colonial buildings to old Chinese shophouses to modern skyscrapers to Indian temples. This is definitely an eclectic mix but definitely a reward for the photographer in you!! Getting lost in the old heritage town was my favourite part and I found it very sad to say goodbye to this gem. I spent 4 weeks travelling through Malaysia, which included getting a, across very rough waters, a catamaran to the idyllic Lankawi Island, the very modern Kuala Lumpur and down to the traditional region of Johor, before making my way to Singapore. I absolutely loved Malaysia and everything about this unique magical country. I was very sad to leave but I most definitely intend to return.
Thailand was my first real experience of Asia and Asian culture! A lot of my friends had been to Thailand and they loved it so naturally, I couldn’t wait to be there and experience it for myself though we were ‘flash packers’ and not quite backpackers!! The only way I could describe my experience in Thailand is that it was crazy busy, with very lively nightlife, very friendly people and some absolute immaculate beaches where you could just zen out ! Bangkok is a fascinating city with a lot of history and great respect is paid to their Royal family. It was hard work but we did make our way to the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Phan’gan and eventually into Malaysia. It was monsoon season when we visited, which meant daily heavy rain showers, so a lot of the picturesque and pristine beaches at times they looked sad, although when the sunshine would come out the beaches would come alive again! Now, one thing I loved about Thailand apart from the exotic and tropical landscape was the food …. Thai food is so delicious and full of flavour. Eating street food is a big part of Asian culture - some of my fav Thai foods was Pad Thai, Green Curry, Red Curry, Tom Kah Kai and Tom Yum Goong. To sum up the Thai experience in a few words; friendly people, spiritual, exotic and fantastic food, tropical beaches, monkeys, backpackers, temples & mopeds(!) - it’s a place I can see returning in the future