My first diary entry of 2023 - the Land of Smiles - exploring the ancient and wild places of Thailand.
Egypt, like so many thousands before me, has captured a piece of my soul. I would travel here a hundred years if life gave me time. Gold, dust, shattered statues, pillars of light in shaded halls, ribbons of fading paint cling to grooves in chiselled walls; so remote, so close. Old colonial buildings slowly falling into ruin, bustling streets, cacophony of noise, cogs of human industry grinding against the ephemeral glitter of life.
"...And now your eyes see it... layers of memory are ushered away to reveal kingdoms tasted in dreams long ago... Canyons of orange and beige roll down into empty dells of rust and bone; dusted staircases and shattered statues licked with gold. Pillars of alabaster split the horizon and strange mountains rise like chiselled breasts, mocking the sky. Kingfishers glide across braided ripples of copper and blue; crown of Ramses emblazoned by the fire of a sleepy star. Finally this land reaches out a hand to you, as time itself stops... a secret mark passed from the heavens kisses your brow. You have held all of this within your heart from the earliest days of boyhood. Even you had forgotten! This magical place. Land of kings, sand and stars. Your dreams upheld, an offering to the righteous sun; arms quivering. Swollen and full, you gasp. This is really happening. You are really here. The inner river finally reaches the outer shore; all tributaries aligned with the wide arms of the great valley..."
It's a name so famous, so simple and evocative, its mere mention re-calling a plethora of timeless moments from that story, the Greatest Story ever told. Like Jerusalem this place to me was mythical, and surely didn't exist up to the present day. I've always been the kind of person to search beyond the myth, peer closer into the fabric of things... always searching, seemingly always finding.For a person who professes to value very few material things, I seem always to be acquiring, growing in the richness of life experiences, connections with people and places far and wide, and the deeper reality of being human.
☩ ירושלים Even the very name fills me with a certain hope, a lightness; an awe. Heckles spontaneously prick up all over my body every time I think back. A place of deep fascination for me since I first knew it existed at all. And yet, somehow, I feel it's always been with me. He [...]
I felt very free in Mysore. A beautiful city. They call it the City of Palaces. I remember vividly watching the glorious domes and arches and spires whirl-by around me as we sped through, in and out of people, cows, cars, tuk-tuks and market-vendors. Travelling around a city in India, come day or night, on the back [...]
Oh, the colour, the spirit, of India! Honestly, the sort of things I got away with in India would be impossible in Europe; and trust me, I've tried to crash weddings in England... and failed. Bangalore is a city of colours and flavours, and I was keen to taste as much as I could. I made [...]
On trekking Hidden Trails, Eating like a Nomad, and a Meeting with Saint George at the City's Secret Chapel... Let me take you now to Athens, Capital of Greece, the very centre of an ancient empire so influential, so mysterious, so captivating, its name and traditions have spread to each corner of the Earth. Not only is [...]
On Infiltrating the Vatican City, and Chasing Roman Skies... It was a hot, bright and sunny May day when I stepped over the boundary of Rome, and entered the smallest country in the world - the Vatican City. It wasn't my first time in the Vatican, I'd spent many an hour wandering through those white, [...]