I have to admit, it's been a long time since I've been to Asia. After spending a couple of months travelling on public transport through Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore in 2010, my friend Ailsa and I couldn't resist returning a couple of years later to explore some of Laos and Vietnam. I love this colourful continent, with its amazing food and totally different culture, but it seems a long way away at the moment.
It's nearly two years since I left Calais. The refugee crisis is less of a deafening scream, swallowing my other thoughts. Now it is more of a solid lump, a quietly judgemental resident
in the side of my mind; we are cohabiting the space and doing a somewhat reasonable job of getting on with another sort of life.
This isn't about my head though; this is about the group "Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced People". Observant readers will have noticed their link at the bottom of my site and anyone who follows me on social media was probably bored of hearing about them years ago.
"You don't even have a smart phone Katie! You haven't checked your voicemail for three years! Why do you care so much about refugees having phone credit?!" I hear you protest.
Let me tell you why it is so important for refugees to have phone credit...
Painfully brought to the public's attention by the genius series Blue Planet II, plastic pollution has been a hot topic this year. As bloggers, photographers and general Planet Earth enthusiasts, it's easy to present the places we love as we wish they were; to crop out the ugly parts or direct our cameras elsewhere. This collaboration is an attempt to rectify the rose-tinted vision we have often portrayed. Nowhere is left unaffected by the plastic plague.
Jason has been living in China for almost as long as I've known him. I don't think he intended to be there for so long, but something about Beijing has obviously reeled him in. I first asked him if he would do an interview for me, about his life there and photography, on the 3rd of January 2015; between the two of us, we have managed to string it out until now... I think it was worth the wait. I particularly love his photos of lights and rain in the darkness and for me, his answers are a rare insight into a idea I once considered for myself. We cannot be everywhere and do everything in the same lifetime, so it's good when our friends can be some places for us. I hope you enjoy the read.
Having spent quite some time ranting about the refugee crisis, I wanted to write about something else close to my heart, incredibly
important, but not yet personal enough to make me shake with rage.
Covering almost three-quarters of the Earth, holding 97% of our water, producing almost half of our oxygen and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, I can't exactly overstate how important oceans are to our planet's survival. Despite being vital to our economies and way of life, gone are the days when it was possible to believe the deep blue sea was simultaneously an infinite wealth of resources and an invulnerable dumping ground.
After over a year's waiting and saving, I'm soon setting off on another adventure. I couldn't be much further from travel burn out right now, but somehow this sprung to mind...
Trying to loop through the North of Thailand, floating along a portion of the Mekong, through Laos and down the entire length of skinny Vietnam in just a few weeks, had turned into somewhat of an ordeal. Vietnam is a beautiful country, with some of the most impressive sights in South East Asia, but after spending around one hundred hours trying to sleep on hard train benches, sweating on endless busses, occasionally getting shoved and ordered around by unfriendly men and fighting off moto drivers, the continuous traffic noise and incessant beeping was beginning to grate.
This collaboration of magical camping spots has taken an embarrassingly long time to put together, but I can't help but feel proud of the result. With some of my traveller idols, friends and even family involved, it's hard to decide if I'm more excited by the contributors or the places they have written about. If this doesn't persuade you that you don't always want to sleep with a roof over your head, then I'm happy to keep the wilderness for myself.
Langkawi is actually a string of over a hundred islands not too far off the North-West coast of Malaysia. We only visited the largest of them, Langkawi itself, but with long, sandy beaches,
jungle coated mountains and a rich variety of wildlife, it had everything I'd hoped for in a tropical paradise without the fringing of lobster sunbathers.
Although the coastline is stunning, we spent the majority of our time exploring the island's green interior.