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Little Wander



I wrote my way around the world for a year with my photographer husband, four year old daughter and six month old son. Fourteen countries. One book in the pipeline. No regrets.


Find some samples below and read the full story here


Bang. The deep baritone boom of the cannon tells us another one's bitten the dust, and sends a vast flock of pigeons flapping into the sky. The military drum starts up again and the soldiers in their sharp suits and brimmed hats march past, leading the sorry line of buffalo on their last grim walk. Durbar square is awash with saris in red and pink and gold, clashing garishly with the scarlet blood pooled at our feet. The sick line the road with cupped hands and bandaged stumps. The hawkers hawk hard, hot pink clouds of candy floss floating above their stalls. A little girl in her best satin party dress smiles from behind her dust mask. River yawns and flirts with someone over my shoulder.


Food. The new religion.

The celebrity chef of Chiang Mai is not someone with a worldwide chain of restaurants or a TV show, but a woman with a single market stall, known by all as the Cowgirl. She may have only started wearing her signature stetson to stop the fluorescent stall light from half-blinding her with its brightness, but it has become her signature as much as the khao kha moo she serves to the adoring queues at the Chang Phueak night market.


To you or I, that dish means pork leg simmered low and slow in a mother broth that's essentially been cooking for years. It's served on a plastic plate and a bed of rice, that rich broth flooding through the pure white grains. You can add an egg, soft-boiled, peeled and quivering. Some pickled mustard greens to take the edge off the richness, maybe a spot of chilli sauce to perk it up. But that's it. It's all she makes. A meal for the four of us cost about three pounds. And it is unmissable.


Temple tripping

It was as though we’d landed on another planet, or at least been parachuted into a hallucinogenic music video. Like the lovechild of Pink Floyd and Cbeebies, the only thing this temple lacked was subtlety.


Great chestnut horses reared up against rainbow columns. Pale pearlescent birds spread their elaborate tails into the corners of the building. Turquoise dragons belched out chains of tiny people along their tongues. On the ceiling, snake-draped gods and big-breasted goddesses met in the middle, flanked by giant octopuses and disembodied Mick Jagger lips. There were butterflies and babies and laughing cows. More was more and anything went.


Fritter critters

You can spot them a mile off, wandering the streets around Warorot market, clutching the creatures slain on wooden skewers. Their prey is on show in clear plastic bags, some missing a tail or an ear, their owner's appetite having got the better of them. These are the people who know that if you want animals for breakfast in Chiang Mai, you're going to have to get out of bed.


Waiting for Goddess

The Kumari Devi is the most important living goddess in Nepal. And unlike a princess, you’re not born into it. A goddess has to earn her title and it’s anything but simple. The Kumari is a girl, chosen from the Newari caste between the ages of four and puberty. She has to have the right star sign. The right tooth shape. The right eye colour. She must never have bled. Once all thirty-two requirements have been met, the potential candidates are put through a process involving buffalo heads, dancing men and a dark room. The girl tough enough to remain calm in the face of this ordeal becomes the Kumari. She moves into the palace, family and all, only emerging a few times a year for ceremonies and festivals.

When she has her first period, she’s done.

A normal person once more. An ex-goddess.


Full moon for families

Brits abroad, falling out of bars, eyes glazed and staring. Thumping techno. UV body paint as lurid as the vomit that decorates the asphalt. These, sadly, are the things Koh Phangan is famous for today. So we got some funny looks when we said we were heading to the home of the original full moon party with two young children. To be honest, I think I gave myself some funny looks too. After all, we have very different kinds of sleepless nights these days and Calpol is our drug of choice.

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