A kingdom in mourning
I stepped off the train from the airport into a sea of black: the people of Thailand were in mourning after the death of their beloved king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, the previous week; a period of morning that will last a whole year.
The royal family of Thailand is highly revered, and Thailand's lèse majesté laws - laws that make it illegal to "defame, insult, or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent" - are some of the strictest in the world. In 2015, a man was sentenced to seven years in jail for making a sarcastic online comment about the king's dog.
Bhumibol Adulyadej was one of the longest-reigning monarchs in history. His death, and the transition of power, could become a turning point for a country ruled by a military junta and long been divided by rival political factions. The significance of arriving in Bangok, the most popular travel destination in the world, at a time of such political and cultural importance was not lost on me. It really puts travel in perspective when, as an outsider, you witness a moment that will surely become a marker in a country's cultural memory.
Journey to the centre of the universe
When I was a kid, one of my most beloved books was A Complete Guide to 981 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I vividly remember flipping through its well-worn pages, dog-earing the sites that particularly fascinated me. Angkor Wat was one of them.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
The Kingdom of Cambodia dates back to at least 4000 BC, and very little is known about its prehistoric era. I read in a travel guide that one way to sum up the nation's long and rich history is "the good, the bad, and the ugly." The early years of civilization culminated in the vast Angkor empire, which went unrivalled for four centuries of dominance. In the 13th century, however, the "bad" kicked in,
"When you are a white, socially powerful person travelling overseas and you're describing the people you meet in simplistic terms, you elide the reality of their lives and turn them into Disney sideshow attractions there for your entertainment, rather than human beings going about their daily lives."