The Word – Talking about Laos

I MAY HAVE BEEN SOMEWHAT greener and less grizzled when I first came to South East Asia over a decade ago, but I still prided myself on being pretty clued-up about the world. Unlike my schoolmates, I managed to keep my eyes open as Mr. Mitchell droned on in Geography class and my ensuing knowledge of obscure capitals, mountain ranges and rivers made me a force to be reckoned with when it came to collecting the blue wedges in Trivial Pursuit. Despite those years of teenage diligence, however, I have to admit I was dumbfounded when I arrived in Bangkok for the first time just prior to the millennium. My then- girlfriend, who had been travelling in the region for three months, confronted me with a ready-made itinerary.

The Word – Golden Oldie

“THIS IS MY FIRST INTERVIEW FOR A magazine so I am very excited,” says Ngoc Thy before unleashing a cackle from behind plumes of her own cigarette smoke. Watching the 63-year-old singer mug and pose for our photographer with practised panache, it is hard to believe she has not been exposed to the full glare of publicity before. She certainly isn’t camera shy. “I’ve got nerve and I am experienced,” she says. “Sometimes in Vietnam you can have difficulties if you have a strong and individual personality. But everyone who sees me perform accepts me and likes my music. I am not scared of anything and I will not give up.” The fact that Thy clearly does not intend to exchange her microphone for the proverbial pipe and slippers anytime soon will not come as a surprise to anyone who has seen her strut her stuff. The singer ’s twice weekly performances at the bohemian enclave of Yoko café-bar in District 3 make for compelling viewing in a city short on visceral live performers. Her powerful yet versatile pipes can…

The Word – Chinese Whispers

“Are you sure you took down the right address?” asks my companion as we pull into the parking lot beside an insalubrious looking Chinese restaurant. I did, but I was starting to doubt the veracity of the magazine feature I’d had translated naming this as one of the top spots in Cholon. the façade featured disconcerting cartoon likenesses of various animals – including a lurid- green dismembered turtle – while the filthy tablecloths, strip lighting and hatchet-faced waitresses inside made it as welcoming as a sauna in the sahara. “Let’s skip it,” I whispered as we backed gingerly towards the door. Journalism, like any other profession, involves good and bad gigs. Landing the task of scouring saigon’s Chinatown for the best edibles from the Middle kingdom fell squarely into the former camp, at least on first review. In past lives I have rewritten old reviews of dubai restaurants within a day of pitching up in the Middle east and compiled themed lists of eateries in cities I have never visited. This was a far more palatable task. I live in…

The Word – Murder on the dancefloor

Although I like to think of myself as being of reasonable intelligence, I’m happy to admit that I’m not the quickest on the uptake when it comes to acquiring new skills. This borderline autism has bitten me on the backside on various occasions down the years. I was denied my rightful role as leader of the Auchtermuchty scout pack due to my inability to grasp the nuances of knot-tying, a string of catastrophic failed experiments caused me to ditch chemistry at the earliest possible juncture, while the ghost of abortive learning experiences past has followed me all the way from Scotland to Vietnam, manifesting itself in my thus far pathetic attempts to pick up the local lingo. Perhaps I should have guessed then that my three lesson taster at one of Saigon’s top DJ schools would leave me no closer to being a master of the decks than I was when I made mincemeat out of my old man’s expensive stylus by subjecting it to a strenuous workout from the bargain bin of my local vinyl emporium. Nevertheless, I approached…

Vogue – Lana Del Rey

感觉轻松愉悦对 Lana Del Rey来说是件非 常重要的事情,但也就在 她这一年半来风驰电掣 般的成名期间,一些评 头 论 足 也 让 她 忧 心 “。 我 真不知道为什么,我能够 引起这么强烈的公众反 应 。”2 6 岁 的 歌 手 ,对 自 己 获得的世界性荣耀与受到的关注,感到由衷的困惑,并为随之而来的批她参加的知名电视节目她参加的知名电视节目 《Saturday Night Live》的 现场演出,NBC晚间新闻 主播称其为“SNL史上最 糟的音乐表演之一”,有人 甚至给她安上了一个“只能呆在录音室里的歌手” 的 标 签 “。 我 真 的 很 厌 倦 这些。”Lana Del Rey的一 番表白虽然略显消极,但 她淘气般的眨眼和微笑 却让人怀疑她的鬼马心 事是否真如其言。无论如 何,她的鲜明态度为她吸 引来全球上百万的爱慕 者,他们被她音乐世界里 的迷幻和哀伤深度催眠。 几年前,她曾经以真 名Lizzy Grant推出过一 张专辑,但那次起航并没 有 获 得 成 功 ,幸 运 的 是 , 全世界最终在2011年的 夏天爱上了Lana Del Rey 这个充满拉丁风情的新 名字。那首清冷忧伤的 《Video Games》,被著名 杂志《The Guardian》评 为2011年年度最佳单曲, 歌曲编排就像一股来自 其他世界的超凡脱俗的空 气 ,肆 意 流 动 ,而 充 满 讽刺和常常自我指涉的 歌词,既激进又黑色。而 人们更多的注意力则在 音乐录影带上─ 完全 由她创作,使用了梦幻般 的拼贴技术,融合纯真和 怪 力 乱 神 。M V 在 全 球 网 络世界上轰动一时,同时 也宣告了一颗超级新星 的冉冉升起。

Tiger Tales – Cat Ba Island

There’s something primeval about Cat Ba a ferry from Haiphong or Halong City. If you are traveling independently, the hydrofoil from Haiphong is by far the most convenient rest of the year. Island. Emerging from the emerald waters of Halong Bay like an overgrown version of the thousands of limestone karsts that jut vertically out of the ocean, the island is an adventurer’s paradise of craggy jungle-clad peaks, freshwater swamps and coastal mangrove forests. Just 50 kilometres from the booming northern port of Haiphong, the island is a popular destination for Vietnamese tourists. At other times of the year, however, it makes a marvelously peaceful alternative to joining the steady flow of traffic headed directly from Hanoi to the interchangeable tour boats that patrol large swathes of Halong Bay. WHAT TO DO The karst-studded waters and the verdant hills that slope down into the sea are so beautiful that you would be forgiven for opting to spend your entire time here just marvelling at the stunning scenery, but those who eschew the life of a lotus-eater are equally well catered for.

Tiger Tales – High as a Kite

Try… glurggrowlglurg… moving your shoulder… glurgsputter…to 70 degrees… glurg.” I find it hard to digest instructions at the best of times, so I’m not sure why I thought I would be able to process them while snorting up mouthfuls of the South China Sea. I am in Mui Ne, a coastal resort town in south-eastern Vietnam, trying to get to grips with kitesurfing, an activity that in just a few years has gone from niche pastime to mainstream sport – practiced by everyone from Virgin Group head honcho Richard Branson to Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The premise is simple: fasten your feet to a wakeboard or surfboard, harness your body to a giant kite and then hang on tight as the wind propels you across the sea at speeds – for those skilled enough – of upwards of 60km/h. Jumps can reach as high as 15m. As a novice, I didn’t expect to scale those peaks. Neither, however, did I predict that I would spend much of my time perfecting an impression of a drowning rat. As…

Tiger Tales – On the Birdie Tail

As I pull in to the driveway of Vietnam Golf and Country Club, on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, the beautifully manicured fairways and greens are bathed in an irresistible glow. I am about to start a golfing odyssey that will take me thousands of kilometres through one ofthe most alluring countries in the world. I have long been aware that South-East Asia possesses some sublime golfing real estate. In Thailand, you can barely take a short tuk-tuk ride without stumbling on a course while Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and even the Philippines also have a wealth of top layouts. Vietnam, however, is an unknown entity to me. The liberal in me is slightly uncomfortable with the appropriation of the wartime route used by the North Vietnamese to move troops and supplies to sell a pastime well-known for being somewhat bourgeois. However, at the same time I cannot help but salivate at the prospect of playing fairways that wind through jungle, between shimmering lagoons and along the shores of the South China Sea. Vietnam’s tragic recent history only adds to the…

Travel and Leisure – Chow Down in Cholon

From as far back as its 17th-century origins as a Chinese refugee settlement, Cholon—Saigon’s Chinatown—retains the ornate pagodas, shops and restaurants bearing Chinese characters that betray the area’s long link with the Middle Kingdom. Its culinary identity, meanwhile, also remains highly Sinicized with a profusion of roasted meat stores, stalls and restaurants proffering classic Chinese dishes. The catch: a whopping lack of infrastructure makes it a challenge to explore. But anyone seeking a comprehensive overview of food in Vietnam’s southern hub will want to check out its bustling street life and array of dining options. Here we offer guidance to navigating the mayhem and finding the best spots.

Travel and Leisure – Vivid Vientiane

STAY. The leafy avenues that spread back from the Mekong play host to Vientiane’s grande dame, the Settha Palace Hotel (6 Th. Pang Kham; 856-21/217-5812;; doubles from US$140), which has been keeping guests in colonial splendor since the early 1930’s. The brand-new Ansara Hotel (Quai Fa Ngum, Ban Vat Chan Tha, Hom No 5;; 856-21/213-5148; doubles from US$90) is a worthy addition to the city’s boutique stays. Rooms are simple yet stylish, with in-room laptops and a free (non-alcoholic) mini-bar. We love the lush tropical garden at Lani Guesthouse (281 Th. Setthathirat, Ban Haysok; 856-21/215-639; lani-guesthouse. com; doubles from US$35), as well as the clean rooms, traditional Lao architecture and wallet-friendly rates. Away from the city center, the Green Park Boutique Hotel (248 Th. Khouvieng; 856-21/263- 0623;; doubles from US$125) draws guests with chic, wood-floored interiors and romantic private balconies. SHOP.Showcasing the work of Lao Coco, an association of home-grown artists and artisans, T’Shop Laï Gallery (Th. Wat Inpeng; 856-21/223-178; laococo. com) is a great place to pick up contemporary furniture and handicrafts by an emerging generation…