Hanshin Tigers : three years of Japanese baseball obsession

Hanshin’s 2009 Season


September Reports

1日 - WIN vs Yakult (H), 6-1 – Solid Offensive Performance
2日 - WIN vs Yakult (H), 9-4 – Assured Victory
4日 – WIN vs Hiroshima (A), 2-0 – Nohmi and Fujikawa Shine
12日 – LOSS vs Baystars (H), 4-2 – Frustratingly Poor Fukuhara
15日 – WIN vs Yomiuri Giants (A), 5-3 – Heroic Eleventh Innings Victory!
16日 – WIN vs Yomiuri Giants (A), 7-6 – Truly Outstanding Form
17日 – LOSS vs Yomiuri Giants (A), 4-2- Kubo Fails, as does our Offense

交流戦 – “Kouryuusen”- Inter-League Games (May 2009)

19日 - ソ 1 神 1 A Wasted Opportunity (*Report*)
25日 - 神 2 ロ 3 Failure Of The Relief (*Report*)
28日 - 神 4 西 6 Missed Chances (*Report*)

April 2009

3日 - 神 5 ヤ 2  First Game of the Season! (*Report*)
7日 - 神 11 広 10  Best Game Of The Season? (*Report*)
8日 - 神 8 広 2   Kanemoto Power – Three HRs (*Report*)
9日 - 神 2 広 4    A Narrow Defeat (*Report*)
15日 - 神 2 中 9 Mayumi Needs To Learn (*Report*)
16日 - 神 4 中 3  Tigers Back On Track (*Report*)
17日 - 横 1 神 5  Andoh keeps the Baystars at Bay (*Report*)
23日 - 中 1 神 4 Epic At Nagoya Dome (*Report*)
28日 - 神 8 横 4 Arai Back In Business At Muscat (*Report*)
30日 - 神 3 横 2 Anniversary Victory! (*Report*)

Pre-Season Preview

Hanshin Tigers 2009 Season Guide!

Hanshin’s 2010 Season

2010 Season Review (pre-Post Season)

2010 Fixtures and Results (Official Website)

2010 Post-Season Games

16th (Sat) – Hanshin Tigers 1 Yomiuri Giants 3

17th (Sun) – Hanshin Tigers 6 Yomiuri Giants 7

Round Up of Match Reports 2010 (in chronological order)


26th – Tigers 7 Baystars 3 (Opening Day)
27th – Tigers 4 Baystars 3 (Johjima Sayonara HR)
28th – Tigers 3 Baystars 4 (First Defeat)

30th – Carp 3 Tigers 6 (Day for our Foreign Players)
31st – Carp 4 Tigers 6 (Another Solid Victory)
1st – Carp vs Tigers – RAINED OFF


2nd – Dragons 6 Tigers 5 – (Great Start Before Ultimate Disappointment)
3rd – Dragons 3 Tigers 2 – (Messenger Blows It)
4th – Dragons 6 Tigers 1 – (Meltdown)

6th – Tigers 5 Giants 4 – (Kanemoto HR in Narrow Victory)
7th – Tigers 0 Giants 3 – (Outplayed)
8th – Tigers 5 Giants 8 – (Also Outplayed)

9th – Tigers 3 Swallows 8 (Blunders Abound)
10th – Tigers 5 Swallows 1 (Johjima Manrui Home Run)
11th – Tigers 7 Swallows 3 (A Solid Win)

13th – Giants 7 Tigers 9 (Nohmi Disaster, Epic Comeback!)
14th – Giants 2 vs Tigers 3 (Kubo’s Win)
15th – Giants 5 vs Tigers 2 (Fossom’s Solid Debut, But Not Quite Enough)

16th – Yokohama vs Tigers – RAINED OFF
17th – Yokohama 7 Tigers 3
18th – Yokohama 4 Tigers 8

20th – Tigers 5 Carp 0 (Kanoh Returns)
21st – Tigers 1 Carp 2 (Pitchers Duel…Maeda Kenta Wins)
22nd – Tigers vs Carp – RAINED OFF

23rd – Tigers 7 Dragons 1 – Fossum’s Victory
24th – Tigers 3 Dragons 1
25th – Tigers 5 Dragons 8 (Andoh Falls Apart)

27th – Swallows vs Tigers – RAINED OFF
28th – Swallows 3 Tigers 9 – (Kubo Wins It, Home Runs Aplenty)
29th – Swallows 4 Tigers 5 – (Tigers Do Enough)

30th – Tigers 4 Giants 3 – (Toritani Sayonara Hit!)
1st – Tigers 9 Giants 4 – (Unstoppable Offense)
2nd – Tigers 8 Giants 7 – (Top of the League!)


3rd – Dragons 5 Tigers 0 – (Shimoyanagi Is Poor)
4th – Dragons 6 Tigers 2 – (The Drought Continues)
5th – Dragons 1 Tigers 9 – (Finally A Win!)

7th – Tigers 10 Hiroshima 6 – (Murton and Johjima Grand Slams)
8th – Tigers 8 Hiroshima 11 – (Stanridge Pitching Disaster)
9th – Tigers vs Hiroshima

Yes, it’s time for silly uniforms all round as Inter-league 2010 begins!

12th – Hanshin Tigers 2 Nippon Ham Fighters 4 (Poor Management, Poor Play)
13th – Hanshin Tigers 4 Nippon Ham Fighters 8 (Outclassed)

15th – Hanshin Tigers 3 Rakuten Eagles 2 (Beating Iwakuma)
16th – Hanshin Tigers 3 Rakuten Eagles 7 (Losing To Ma-kun)

18th – Softbank Hawks 2 Hanshin Tigers 4 (Extra Innings Victory)
19th – Softbank Hawks 3 Hanshin Tigers 9 (Poor Defeat)

21st – Okada Buffaloes 10 Hanshin Tigers 6 (Return Of Fukuhara)
22nd – Okada Buffaloes 5 Hanshin Tiger 3 (Buffaloes Sweep The Series)

23rd – Rained Off
24th – Hanshin Tigers 5 Lotte Marines 4 (Sayonara Victory)
25th – Hanshin Tigers 8 Lotte Marines 0 (Batting Prowess, Standridge Does Good)

26th – Hanshin Tigers 1 Seibu Lions 3 (Not Good Enough)
27th – Hanshin Tigers 1 Seibu Lions 6

29th – Nippon Ham 2 Hanshin Tigers 4
30th – Nippon Ham 2 Hanshin Tigers 3

1st – Rakuten Eagles 3 Hanshin Tigers 2
2nd – Rakuten Eagles 3 Hanshin Tigers 7

4th – Hanshin Tigers 6 Okada Buffaloes 2
5th – Hanshin Tigers 4 Okada Buffaloes 9

6th – Hanshin Tigers 9 Softbank Hawks 2
7th – Hanshin Tigers 3 Softbank Hawks 3

9th – Seibu Lions 2 Hanshin Tigers 1
10th – Seibu Lions 4 Hanshin Tigers 8

12th – Lotte Marines 2 Hanshin Tigers 4
13th – Lotte Marines 9 Hanshin Tigers 8


18th – Yokohama vs Tigers – RAINED OFF
19th – Yokohama 3 Tigers 7 (Two Home Runs, Kubo Hits)
20th – Yokohama 14 Tigers 6 – (Fossum Has A Bad Day)

22nd – Hiroshima 7 Tigers 13 – (Shimoyanagi Stutters, But Offence Wins It)
23rd – Hiroshima 4 Tigers 9 – (Another Strong Show)

25th – Yakult 4 Tigers 9
26th – Yakult 4 Tigers 2
27th – Yakult 8 Tigers 4

29th – Tigers 11 Dragons 5 – (Brazell is King!)
30th – Tigers 1 Dragons 2 – (Narrow Defeat)
1st -Tigers 5 Dragons 1 – (Late Showing Wins It)


2nd – Giants 8 Tigers 10 – thrilling victory for the Tigers!
3rd – Giants 2 Tigers 8 – Tigers heap more pressure on the Giants
4th – Giants 10 Tigers 2 -Fossum flops

6th – Tigers 6 Swallows 1 – Standridge throws a complete game
7th – Tigers 3 Swallows 2 – Sekimoto HR and good relief wins in
8th – Tigers 6 Swallows 10 – Andoh meltdown saves the Swallows

9th – Tigers 6 Baystars 5 – Kubo falters, Uemoto runs to victory
10th – Tigers 3 Baystars 4 – Baystars shade it
11th – Tigers 7 Baystars 3

13th – Tigers 6 Giants 7 – Lost in overtime
14th – Tigers vs Giants – RAINED OFF
15th – Tigers vs Giants – RAINED OFF

16th – Swallows 3 Tigers 1 – Frustrating loss
17th – Swallows 5 Tigers 9 – Tigers power through
18th – Swallows 4 Tigers 11 – Giants lose in the 9th, Tigers win convincingly

19th – Tigers 2 Hiroshima 0 – Supreme Standridge shutout! (and Aniki HR)
20th – Tigers 5 Hiroshima 4 – Toritani sayonara home run victory
21th – Tigers 4 Hiroshima 7 – Tigers can’t recover from early Uezono collapse

27th – Tigers 5 Yokohama 2 – Tigers go top of the league!
28th – Tigers 6 Yokohama 3 – Another victory

30th – Tigers 3 Dragons 2 – Kubo powers us to victory
31th – Tigers 5 Dragons 5 – Dragons hang on in longest league game of the season
1st – Tigers 8 Dragons 7 – Tigers maintain with a champions win


3rd – Yomiuri Giants 6 Hanshin Tigers 2 – Disappointing Dome defeat
4th – Yomuri Giants 4 Hanshin Tigers 8 – Hirano and Messenger shine
5th – Yomiuri Giants 9 Hanshin Tigers 1 – Kubo collapse

6th – Chunichi Dragons 4 Hanshin Tigers 1 – At least Brazell gets a home run
7th – Chunichi Dragons 4 Hanshin Tigers 1 – Deja vu
8th – Chunichi Dragons 10 Hanshin Tigers 0 – From bad to worst

10th – Hiroshima Carp 7 Hanshin Tigers 6 – Fifth successive defeat, improved performance
12th – Hiroshima Carp 6 Hanshin Tigers 10 – Back in business!

13th – Hanshin Tigers 6 Yakult Swallows 9 – Disappointing Tsuru
14th – Hanshin Tigers 4 Yakult Swallows 3 – Tigers hold on
15th – Hanshin Tigers 9 Yakult Swallows 6 – Kanemoto power!

17th – Yokohama Baystars 8 Hanshin Tigers 12 – Fujikawa (the other one) HR
18th – Yokohama Baystars 2 Hanshin Tigers 11 – Lin and Brazell two HR’s apiece
19th – Yokohama Baystars 4 Hanshin Tigers 10 – Third double digit score

20th – Yomiuri Giants 12 Hanshin Tigers 5 – Comic pitching failures
21th – Yomiuri Giants 8 Hanshin Tigers 3 – More failure
22th – Yomiuri Giants 3 Hanshin Tigers 0 – Failure, failure, everywhere

24th – Hanshin Tigers 4 Hiroshima Carp 5 – Another defeat
25th – Hanshin Tigers 22 Hiroshima Carp 8 – Hiroshima taken apart
26th – Hanshin Tigers 1 Hiroshima Carp 6

27th – Yakult Swallows 6 Hanshin Tigers 1
28th – Yakult Swallows 2 Hanshin Tigers 9
29th – Yakult Swallows 5 Hanshin Tigers 12


31st – Hanshin Tigers 13 Yokohama Baystars 1
1st – Hanshin Tigers 10 Yokohama Baystars 3
2nd – Hanshin Tigers 6 Yokohama Baystars 3

3rd – Hiroshima Carp 5 Hanshin Tigers 4
4th – Hiroshima Carp 8 Hanshin Tigers 3
5th – Hiroshima Carp 5 Hanshin Tigers 11

7th – Hanshin Tigers 1 Chunichi Dragons 0 – Standridge triumphs against Chen
8th – Hanshin Tigers 1 Chunichi Dragons 10
9th – Hanshin Tigers 2 Chunichi Dragons 2

10th – Hanshin 4 Yakult 7
11th – Hanshin 2 Yakult 3
12th – Hanshin 5 Yakult 0

14th – Yokohama 6 Hanshin 3
15th – Yokohama 7 Hanshin 5
16th – Yokohama 1 Hanshin 2

18th – Hanshin 1 Giants 0
19th – Hanshin 4 Giants 6
20th – Hanshin 4 Giants 2

21st – Chunichi 3 Hanshin 0
22nd – Chunichi 1 Hanshin 0
23rd – Chunichi 1 Hanshin 6

25th – Hanshin 8 Hiroshima 3

28th – Hanshin 5 Yomiuri 7
29th – Hanshin 3 Yomiuri 1
30th – Hanshin 3 Yokohama 4


1st – Hiroshima 5 Hanshin 0
2nd – Hiroshima 4 Hanshin 11
3rd – Hiroshima 2 Hanshin 7

5th – Yakult 4 Hanshin 17
6th – Yokohama 0 Hanshin 5
7th – Yokohama 2 Hanshin 0

Hanshin’s 2011 Season

Opening Day Victory: Hanshin Tigers 7 Hiroshima Carp 4

Standridge Shines: Hanshin Tigers 2 Hiroshima Carp 1

A New Star is Born: Hanshin Tigers 3 Yomiuri Giants 2

Travel: Portugal

My only previous experience of travelling in Portugal was a family holiday to the Algarve when I was about ten years old. But Portugal has much more to offer than package holiday beaches. This time I ventured north, to Lisbon, Sintra, Coimbra, Tomar and Porto, during a ten day trip that took in port wine, beaches, fantastic architecture, great food and wonderful hospitality, all at prices that would be hard to beat in other southern European destinations.

Lisboa (Lisbon)


The main highlights are listed in the Lonely Planet’s Portugal guidebook (I have to say however that this is one of the worst LP guides I’ve used – mistakes abound in opening times, and poorly written (I think Regis St Louis is responsible for the annoyingly off-the-cuff, chatty style)).

Definitely visit Belem for a half day that takes in a famous pastry shop (Casa Pasteis De Belem), a monastery (Jerónimos, closed Mondays) and a free modern art museum (Berardo Modern Art Museumclosed Mondays). Check out the winding roads of the Alfama, ride on Tram 28, and if you like fish and other sea creatures, visit the Oceanario (which has cute sea otters!). I found the Bairro Alto a bit overrated – there’s a lot of bars with cheap booze, but is that really enough to recommend this area for nightlife? Maybe for some, but we didn’t find any bars with much character. For souvenirs, visit A Vida Portuguesa, and Conserveira de Lisboa for Tricana tinned sardines. There are port wine shops everywhere, and to be honest the range and quality is on a par with what’s available in Porto, so buy in either location.

In terms of slightly less well-known sights, I’d definitely recommend the Museu do Oriente. We went on a Friday, early evening, when entry is free, and practically had the museum to ourselves. It has a fantastic, well-displayed permanent collection of items focusing on Portugal’s colonial presence in Asia, and Asian gods. Be sure to visit Ginjinha, a bar that serves a sweet cherry liqueur in plastic cups. There is the original bar – which closes at 10pm – and another slightly further north, which stays open later. We stayed in the central area around Rossio metro which is extremely convenient.


Tram 28 in the Alfama, Lisbon.

The only day-trip that I made from Lisbon was to Costa da Caparica. The weather wasn’t ideal, but this didn’t stop me having an enjoyable cycle along the coast (you can rent bikes from Bike Iberia). The unexpected highlight was the ferry stop of Trafaria – which I reached from Belem. It had a lot of crumbling buildings and disused fishing boats, and provided ample photographic inspiration. On sunnier days the beach at Costa da Caparica must be beautiful, so do visit if you can.


Disused fishing boat in Trafaria


We visited three restaurants in Lisbon. First was Petiscaria Ideal, where we had a range of sharing tapas including octopus, cuttlefish in ink and crispy pork mini-sandwiches. This was probably the weakest of the three restaurants – slightly overpriced – but still enjoyable nonetheless. Next up was Cantinho Lusitano, an extremely popular restaurant that should definitely be booked in advance. We had a range of interesting tapas here, including thin strips of beef in a mustardy sauce, pork sausage, goats cheese in honey and cod croquettes, and received excellent service. Finally we visited Churrasco da Graca, the most ‘local’ of restaurants which specialises in extremely good value portions of spatchcocked, grilled chicken, and large pieces of codfish. One of the best desserts in Portugal is the slightly-salty, rich, Portuguese chocolate mousse that can be found everywhere.


The Alfama at night

Lisbon was an enjoyable place to spend a few days. It’s an easy city to get around, thanks to the tram and metro systems, and has a lot to offer in terms of food, museums, architecture and day-trips. Despite being a capital it has an almost provincial feel to it, which makes it even more agreeable.


So, Sintra. This highly-recommended destination close to Lisbon is extremely popular. But in truth … it’s a bit boring. I can see the appeal for the over-sixty market, but if you’re in your twenties or thirties you could probably limit your visit to a day trip from Lisbon. The town is extremely small, and there are some good walks. But the real highlight for us was getting the bus west to the coast, to the beach of Praia da Adraga with its seafood lunch – the best meal we had in Portugal. This consisted of amêijoas de bulhão pato (clams in garlic) and camaroes (prawns), followed by grilled sardines, and washed down with vinho verde. Again the weather could have been better, but the beach was no less dramatic and beautiful because of this. We also had one fantastic meal at Restaurante Dom Pipas in Sintra. We ordered the acorda de marisco, and were presented with a bowl of brown sludge. Yet it turned out to be one of the most fantastically flavoured seafood stews I’ve ever tasted, full of mashed bread, garlic, coriander, and juicy seafood.


Praia da Adraga


The Convento de Cristo in Tomar is probably one of the most spectacular places in Portugal, certainly more impressive than Sintra. Founded by the Knights Templar, it’s a beautiful, mysterious and magical place that gets less visitors than Sintra – thus affording me the opportunity to take this photo with no people in! It’s well-worth a day-trip from Lisbon, or a few hours stopover if you are heading north from Lisbon by train anyway, like we were.


The spectacular Convento de Cristo, Tomar


Yet another Portuguese town on a very steep hill, Coimbra is the student centre of the country and the fourth-largest city after Lisbon, Porto and Braga. It’s an appealing overnight stop on the way north/south, and a good place to experience a distinct form of fado, Portuguese melancholic singing.



Porto from the Dom Luis Bridge

The city of Porto sits on two sides of a river valley. On one side, the colourful buildings of the city stretch across steep hills. On the equally-steep other side, technically a different municipality called Villa Nova de Gaia, there are numerous port wine lodges. Joining them is the Dom Luis Bridge, a spectacular creation from the man behind the Eiffel Tower.

In Porto the sun finally came out! But this wasn’t the only reason I preferred the city to Lisbon in the end. It’s an enchanting place, light on ‘must-see’ sights but a beautiful place to stroll, sample port and take day trips to nearby beaches if the weather is good. We skipped the recommended modern art museum because it was out of town, and opted to stay in the city, do a walking tour and visit a photography museum instead.

We also jumped into the port-tasting, with visits to the Graham’s, Taylor’s, Sandeman and Ramos Pinto port cellars. All four had something special to offer, but if I had to choose one to visit it’d probably be Taylor’s, despite this also being the most touristy. I’m a big fan of port, and brought two bottles back with me – a Niepoort ten year tawny and a bottle of Ramos Pinto Lagrima. Other highlights from tastings included the Graham’s 20 year tawny and Taylor’s 10 year. Do a tour in one port lodge, and then skip it in the others and head straight to the tasting room.


Porto, with Villa Nova de Gaia in the background

From Porto you can take a train south that stops at several windswept but beautiful beaches. We went to Espinho, and also to Miramar and walked along the coast to Aguda. I’d recommend the latter, which is quieter.


Beach between Miramar and Aguda


We tried three restaurants in Porto. Ora Viva was a bit disappointing considering its popularity, with an underseasoned and underflavoured seafood stew and a slightly sorry-looking portion of grilled octopus. Andor Violeta hit the spot on flavours if not on hearty quantities – it’s a more refined restaurant that nonetheless had the best octopus I’ve ever tasted – succulent, juicy and perfectly cooked. Finally, for a special occasion we visited O Paparico, one of the top restaurants in Porto. It didn’t disappoint, with starters of cod fish ceviche with corn bread and salmon roes and a veal terrine with port wine sauce and fennel, and then a beautifully roasted piece of veal as a shared main course.


Dom Luis Bridge at night

Overall I loved Portugal – it has a fantastic variety of food, some beautiful cities, wonderful port and fantastic beaches – everything you could want from a European holiday, at very reasonable prices!

To see my portfolio pictures, visit http://stevesayskanpai.portfoliobox.me/portugal

To see pictures of some of the food mentioned in this article, plus more pictures, visit http://latesttrip.tumblr.com/

Ten Travel Highlights

Inevitably the more you travel the harder it gets to pick ten places that you enjoyed travelling to the most. A myriad of factors form together when making these decisions – the place itself, the people you were with, the time you were there, chance encounters, random generosity, a magical sunset, a moment of clarity or calm. Travel is a subjective experience and no two trips to the same place will ever be the same experience. Nonetheless, the following is a list of some of the most memorable places that I have visited.

1. Vinales, Cuba (March 2003)

Vinales is the place that stands out in my mind from my 2003 visit to Cuba. For one, it’s amazingly beautiful, with imposing hills and lush vegetation. Second, it was the scene of my worst sunburn ever, a traumatic experience that taught me once and for all the value of sun safety. But most of all, it was the scene of gracious generosity. One of the great benefits of travelling in Cuba is the system of casa particulares, that allows families to rent out a room to travellers, and usually includes breakfast and dinner. In Vinales we stayed with Carlos and his family. Unfortunately our financial situation was such that we could only pay him what was agreed – and certainly couldn’t afford any luxuries. Still, on the last night he brought out a whole lobster for me – and home-made mojitos. Our spirits were lifted by this act of generosity, a perfect antidote to some negative experiences we’d experienced elsewhere in Cuba.

2. Halstatt, Austria (sometime in 2004)

A small town east of Salzburg might seem a strange choice for this list, but Hallstatt is an astonishingly beautiful place. There’s nothing else to say really – the train there from Salzburg weaves through the beautiful Austrian mountains, the lake is crystal clear and the buildings all traditional constructions. It’s postcard-perfect.

3. Huang Shan (Yellow Mountains), China (summer 2005)

The Yellow Mountains are mountains on a grand scale. Accessible by overnight train from Shanghai, and then by climbing hundreds of granite stone steps, the views across the jagged peaks are jaw-dropping. On the ascent, I fell into conversation with a Chinese family from Shanghai, who decided to ‘adopt’ me, letting me stay with them in their dorm room at a hotel at the top. The next morning we awoke at 4am – something I would never have done on my own – to climb to the summit to see the sunrise. The sunrise was unimpressive, and I had become covered in dozens of small insect bites. Still, despite the tiredness and the irritation of the bites I said goodbye, and began the descent. It was one of the most remarkable journeys – up and down the jagged peaks, like something out of Lord of the Rings, with sheer drops on either side at times, exposed chasms, and only a meter between you and what would be certain death – no ‘health and safety’ ropes here! It was an awe-inspiring experience, and the most impressive mountain range I have seen.

4. El Nido, Philippines (Christmas / New Year’s 2006/7)

El Nido is a small town on the northern coast of Palawan island. It is a bizarre place, with grumpy expats, holidaying locals, a pretty average beach and lots of motorbikes and dogs. Yet it is also a gateway to some stunning islands, beaches, snorkelling and wreck diving – and it is largely empty compared to similar places elsewhere in East Asia.

5. Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan (February 2008)

Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is a winter wonderland in the early months of the year, and Abashiri is the jewel in its crown. After travelling across the island, through snow-capped mountains and valleys with frozen reservoirs and onsen (hot springs), you arrive at this remote coastal town. Locals wary of Russian sailors might not give the fondest welcome to Caucasian visitors, but the drift ice that covers the sea is a sight to behold. Visiting here is an unforgettable experience, and I would encourage any visitor to Japan to travel north to see the stunning natural beauty of Hokkaido.

6. Tokyo, Japan (several visits 2007-2009)

I love Tokyo, probably because it distils almost everything I like about Japan into one place. Kyoto may be the city of ancient Buddhist shrines and Shinto temples, but Tokyo is Japan’s gloriously neon, modern face. It’s a city best expressed in names – Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ebisu, Ueno, Asakusa, Akihabara, sushi, sashimi, yakitori, nomihodie, karaoke, love hotels, shinkansen bullete trains and tranquil parks, views stretching off into the distance – to Mount Fuji – and Tsukiji fish market, best visited at dawn. The Yamanote-sen, circling this futuristic and fantastic city.

7. Koh Tao, Thailand (August 2009)

While the Philippines were great, there’s something immensely satisfying about the combination of tropical beaches, weather and comfort that Thailand has to offer. Out of my three visits, my favourite island was Koh Tao. Sitting reading a good book, drinking a Chang beer and eating Pad Thai that cost pennies and tastes great – it can’t get much better than that. Yet Koh Tao also has secluded beaches, accessible by dirt bike, and some of the best diving in Thailand. I haven’t been to its nearby neighbours, but I immensely preferred it to the overdeveloped Koh Phi Phi on Thailand’s west coast. As of 2013 I would now also recommend Koh Kut in East Thailand as a perfect beach getaway.

8. Merzouga, Morocco (July 2010)

Merzouga is an odd place, clearly struggling with poverty, sitting as it does at the ‘end of the line’ in the south-east corner of Morocco on the edge of the desert. A trip out on camels to sleep in the desert, complete with Bedouin guide and these groovy tents is a bizarre but wonderful experience, particularly if you haven’t slept for twenty-four hours. It was the highlight of my Morocco trip for no reason other than it was so different to anything I’ve ever done before. Having experienced colds of minus thirty in Hokkaido, Japan, it was good to experience the forty degree plus midday sun here to restore some balance!

9. Istanbul, Turkey (November 2011)

Istanbul (not Constantinople) is a fab city, full of amazing architectural gems such as the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque, amazing food and welcoming people. It’s the Westward leaning face of a fascinating country, one that’s grappling with how to deal with modernity, and choosing between its Western, secular and Islamist heritages. A trip up the Bosphorus, seeing the silhouettes of Sultanahmet at sunset, is unforgettable. For me mosques are stunningly beautiful buildings – and Istanbul has some of the best in the world.

10. New York, USA (Christmas / New Year’s 2011/12)

New York has it all – and in XL portions. That’s not just the food, but the quality of restaurants, the quality of beers, or parks, museums, art galleries. It’s a behemoth of a city that’s both beguiling and imposing, with skyscrapers stretching toward the heavens and hobos prowling the run-down public subway. I loved it – it blew every other city away – and I’ll definitely be back.

A Map of Travels

A list of my travels, lest I forget.


Italy (Milan, Verona, Venice, Florence, Rome, Pisa, Naples)



Europe (Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Krakow, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Zurich, San Sebastien, Madrid, Barcelona)





Russia (Moscow, St Petersburg, Trans Siberian Railway, Irkutsk)

China (Beijing, Shanghai, Huang Shan, Xi’an, Chengdu, Yangshuo, Lijiang, Kunming, Hong Kong)

Thailand (Bangkok, Ko Samet)

Finland (Helsinki)

Japan 2006 – 2008

South Korea (Seoul)

Philippines (Palawan, Borocay, Manila)

Taiwan (Taipei)

Thailand (Bangkok, Ko Phi Phi, Railay)

Hong Kong, Malaysia (Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur), Singapore

South Korea, 2008 – 2009

Vietnam (Hanoi, Ha Long Bay)

Thailand (Bangkok, Ko Tao)


Morocco (Tangiers, Fes, Merzouga, Marrakech, Essaouira)


Croatia (Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik)


New York


Amsterdam, Bruges

Italy (Puglia)

Cambodia (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Battambang)

Thailand (Bangkok, Trat, Ko Kut)



Portugal (Lisbon, Sintra, Tomar, Coimbra, Porto)

Thailand (Chiang Mai, Koh Kradan, Koh Lipe)

Burma (Myanmar) (Yangon, Bagan, Kalaw, Nyaungshwe (Inle), Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin)