Following is a list of articles Ron has written on a variety of topics. If you would like to see the text or images of any story, please make your request using the contact form at the foot of this page.
Branching Out Let's escape the rigid lines of cityscapes and look at the fluid patterns of trees and plants, rocks and rivers, which provide relaxation and inspiration. The Wonder of Water Water is a wondrous element, with the ability to change into both a gas (steam) and a solid (ice). It can soothe us with its sound and delight us with its visual beauty. Watercolours Though water is in principle a transparent liquid, it produces a rainbow of colours through reflection and refraction. The Rhythms of Rice Rice not only fuels half the world’s population with energy to get through each day – it also determines the rhythms of the lives of those who cultivate it. This story looks at the cycle of rice-growing in Thailand. Coconut - King of Trees With its nutritious fruit, good building wood and preference for beaches, the humble coconut palm deserves a prize for the many ways it helps man. Going Bananas The English language only has one word for this fruit that has many different varieties and is a key ingredient in a staggering range of dishes. The Bizarre Baobab Baobabs look different to any other tree with their huge, smooth trunks and squiggle of branches. They can survive long periods of drought and some live thousands of years. The Mute Swan’s Tale George is an 18 year-old mute swan who lives on the River Thames in England. His story is a heart-warming example of overcoming an environmental disaster, and includes a description of the ancient Swan Upping ceremony that takes place each July.
Buddhism Buddhas with Attitude The hand gestures, or ‘attitudes’, of Buddha images reveal insights about the teachings of Buddhism and are a source of inspiration for those who contemplate them. Sweeping Meditation A personal history of attitudes to sweeping reveal the activity as both a senseless chore and a route to enlightenment. The Many Faces of Buddha Images of the Buddha in Thailand take many forms - fat and thin, gleaming and battered, massive and minute. A close look at a range of images reveals much about his life and teaching. The Gentle Art of Walking Meditation is often considered an elusive, esoteric practice, yet a form of walking meditation can bring unimagined benefits. The Rains Retreat A month-long meditation course, undertaken at the beginning of Khao Pansa, the 'Rains Retreat', in a Northern Thai temple provides some challenges and leads to unusual experiences. Mindful Moments Visitors may not realize, but when they marvel over the beauty of Thai temples, they are practising mindfulness, just like the monks who live there. Developing Compassion The Sangha Metta Project, which is training monks in Southeast Asia to help local communities cope with the AIDS crisis, is causing a quiet revolution.
Photography Making Dreamscapes Sandwiching slides is one of the easiest techniques to come up with other-worldy images as backgrounds and foregrounds interplay in strange ways. The Element of Surprise While far from home, we need to use our own surprise and that of locals to capture the magic of the moment and get great travel pictures. Striking Signs Billboards, street signs and graffitti are there to inform, persuade and entertain, yet they also make intriguing subjects to photograph. Artful Abstracts Abstract images, which can be found all around us, bring out the importance of line, tone and texture in a good photograph.
Biography In Mouhot’s Footsteps Re-tracing the travels of Henri Mouhot, French naturalist, through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Mouhot is credited with making the Western world aware of the splendour of Angkor Wat. The Road to Kelmscott Kelmscott Manor, near the source of the River Thames, was the last home of William Morris - writer, philosopher, designer and printer. A visit there helps to understand the turbulent life of this productive man. One Knight in Bangkok Sir John Bowring's The Kingdom and People of Siam is still a page-turner 150 years after its publication, and an eye-opener on Western perspectives of Thailand's enigmatic culture. The Vendor of Eternal Life Daniel McGilvary spent over half a century trying in vain to convert the Buddhists of North Thailand to Christianity, yet succeeded in founding most of Chiang Mai's schools, hospitals and churches.
Culture: Thailand A Fruit For All Sesons Thailand's benign climate bestows a fantastic range of fruit on those who live there, and new varieties are coming into season every month of the year. The Crafts of Lanna Silkweaving, ceramics and woodcarvings are just a few of the crafts which have been produced in Northern Thailand for centuries using techniques that have gone unchanged. The Handicraft Highway The road linking Chiang Mai and Sankamphaeng is often called 'The Handicraft Highway', and is the place to go to see silk and silverware, ceramics and lacquerware being artfully crafted. The Carvers of Tawai Situated just south of Chiang Mai, Ban Tawai has transformed from a village of rice farmers into the heart of the local woodcarving industry, which is booming these days. The Weavers of Mae Chaem Nestled among the hills of Northern Thailand, Mae Chaem has a reputation for producing some of the finest woven textiles in the country. Thai Spas and Health Retreats Throughout the country, relaxing spas and health retreats are tempting visitors to pamper their bodies while on holiday. Jumbo’s New Tricks Competition for visitors to elephant shows around Thailand has led the camp owners to come up with some surprising activities for their charges, such as playing music, painting pictures, playing football and giving a massage. Beetle Mania From September to November, beetle fans in Northern Thailand go crazy over these gallant warriors, which wield their horns at opponents in battle for the favours of a restrained female. Thai Transport Whether it be by elephant or tuk-tuk, by trishaw or bamboo raft, travelling round Thailand is an adventure in itself. Thai Teak The sturdy teak tree is inextricably linked with Thai culture, and was the cause of a ‘teak rush’ in North Thailand in the late 19th century. Trance Dancing in Thailand Spirit mediums in Thailand occasionally arrange trance dances to show their thanks to tutelary spirits for the powers bestowed on them. In the House of the Spirits Thailand's ubiquitous spirit houses show the importance of ancient beliefs and rituals as their owners make offerings to 'Phra Phum', the spirit of the land.
Festivals: Thailand Parasols and Flowers The streets of Chiang Mai and the nearby village of Bor Sang flare into colour at these New Year festivals, which feature lavishly- decorated floats, pretty Northern ladies and the heady scent of flowers (late Jan/early Feb). Three Days off the Ground Brilliant outfits and wild celebrations accompany the ordination of young Shan men into the Buddhist monkhood. For the three days of the festival, they are carried on shoulders or horseback (April). Dancing Spirits In a ceremony (Phi Ta Khon) to celebrate one of the Buddha's last re-incarnations, young men dress up as fearsome spirits and bring to life the sleepy town of Dan Sai in Loei Province (June/July) Nan’s Raucous Regatta At the end of the Buddhist Rains Retreat (late October/early November), villagers around Nan converge on the local river to compete in long canoes for coveted prizes. Soaked at Songkran This traditional Thai new year in April is celebrated in the most appropriate way to deal with the stifling heat – by dousing each other with water. The Festival of Light and Water The Loy Krathong Festival is probably Thailand's loveliest, when small, candle-lit floats are released to honour Mae Khongkha, the goddess of the water.
Travel: Thailand Thailand's Natural Treasures The best place to escape the tourist hordes in Thailand is in its National Parks which occupy more than 13% of the country's area. Landscapes range from coral reefs to upland meadows and misty mountains. Breezing round Bangkok With the introduction of the skytrain and subway, moving around Bangkok has suddenly become easier, so finally visitors can enjoy sightseeing without fretting about the traffic. Round Thailand in a Day The Ancient City, located just over 30km from downtown Bangkok, features reconstructions, some on a reduced scale, of all Thailand’s best-known buildings and monuments. The huge site includes lakes and woodland where deer roam free. The Charms of Chiang Mai With its beautiful landscapes, rich culture and warm, friendly people, Chiang Mai plays host to a constant stream of visitors. A Stroll through Chiang Mai’s Old City The best way to discover Chiang Mai’s charm is by walking through its narrow lanes and temple compounds, where plenty of surprises await. The Chiang Mai Enlightenment Tour While this tour does not guarantee a short cut to Nirvana, it reveals some fascinating facts about Chiang Mai’s past and much of interest about its spiritual path today. Bullets on the Border A group of classic motorbike enthusiasts ride round the border of North Thailand on Enfield Bullets, passing through the Golden Triangle, the historic town of Chiang Saen and the laid-back town of Nan. Northern Peaks The cool season is the best time to get high in North Thailand, heading for the summits of Doi Pui, Doi Inthanon, Chang Dao and Phu Chi Fa to gaze over awesome seas of mist in the valleys below. Footloose in Lanna Northern Thailand, once called Lanna, has long attracted visitors with its treks to hilltribe villages, but these days the region’s attractions also include rock climbing, kayaking, white-water rafting, bungy jumping and mountain biking. In the Mae Sa Valley With elephant camps and orchid farms, bungy jumping and off-road buggies, craft centres and the country’s best botanic garden, the Mae Sa Valley has plenty to offer. The Oldest Town in Thailand Located just 25km south of Chiang Mai, Lamphun was once capital of the Haripunchai Empire, and claims to be Thailand’s oldest continually inhabited town. Afloat in a Wonderland On the shores of a lake created by the Bhumibol Dam, the Mae Ping National Park (between Chiang Mai and Tak) offers true peace, with accommodation on a raft floating amid a drowned forest. Doing the Mae Hong Son Loop The 600-km route from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son and back is one of Thailand's most exciting journeys. It has more than 3000 bends and unfolds views of misty mountains, rice terraces, narrow gorges and hilltribe villages. Thailand’s Northern Loop Hire a car or motorbike and head off on a sweeping tour of Thailand’s north, taking in Lampang, Nan, Chiang Khong and Chiang Rai. In the City of Three Mists Mae Hong Son, in Thailand's wild northwest, is becoming one of Southeast Asia's hottest destinations. Great landscapes, colourful hilltribes, Burmese architecture and artifacts are some of the attractions. Through Hardship to the Stars A trek to the summit of Doi Chang Dao (2240m) in North Thailand provides a challenge that brings to mind the motto of the British Royal Air Force - 'Per Ardua ad Astra'. The Friendly Ghosts of Phrae Near the northern town of Phrae lies an area of eroded earth towers called 'Phae Muang Phi' which contains some other-worldly views. A Cool Spot Called Hot Surrounded as it is by attractions like weaving villages, forest monasteries, rushing rivers, hot springs, narrow gorges and a huge lake, Hot is a pretty cool place to be. Time out in Nan Crumbling temples, tasteful textiles and mountainous parks are the main attractions in Nan Province of Thailand's north, where the pace of life is leisurely to say the least. Tranquil Tak Tak, a quiet market town in Central Thailand, is the birthplace of King Taksin, one of Thailand's heroes, and is well-placed to visit several nearby scenic areas. Bucolic Pai Situated between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, Pai is one of Northern Thailand's hottest new destinations. Trek to hilltribe villages, go white-water rafting, explore caves, or just relax by the river. Rafting the River Pai A white-water rafting trip in Thailand's far northwest brings close encounters with baboons, birds and the river itself. Though packed with excitement, the trip is safe for beginners. On the Mountain that Points toward Heaven Straddling the border of Thailand and Laos, Phu Chi Fa is a towering wedge of rock with a sunrise view to beat them all. To the Top of Thailand Amid the cool mists and lush vegetation of Doi Inthanon (Thailand's highest mountain), visitors can see rare birds and plants as well as some of the country's prettiest waterfalls. Three Spirits Sharing Water Doi Luang National Park, situated near Phayao in North Thailand, has some beautiful waterfalls, and the small but historic city has many attractions too. The Beauty of Bell Mountain In Loei Province of Thailand's northeast, Phu Kradung (Bell Mountain) presents a challenge to those who would scale its steep slopes to experience the enchanting atmosphere of its plateau. In a Communist Paradise Phu Hin Rong Kla, a mountainous national park in the north of Thailand, was once the scene of bloody battles with communist rebels, but is now a peaceful plateau with beautiful views. Khmer Culture in Isan Thailand's Northeast, known as Isan, was once a central part of the Angkor Empire, and the region is strewn with evocative Khmer ruins, as well as other traces of Khmer culture, such as elephant handling, silk weaving and ceramics. Thailand's Eastern Islands The islands off Thailand's eastern Gulf coast are easier to get to and less crowded than beaches in the south. Which is the one for you? Is it Ko Si Chang, Ko Samet, Ko Chang, Ko Mak or Ko Koot? Exploring Samui One of Thailand's best-known beach destinations, Koh Samui has plenty of quiet bays far from the crowds, but lots of attractions inland as well. The Perfect Prison Tarutao Island, near the Thai border with Malaysia, was once used as a prison, but these days it tempts sun-worshippers with its long, deserted beaches and clear waters. Pampered in Phuket Thailand has emerged as Asia’s premier spa destination, and the country’s most popular beach resort is the ideal place to indulge in a range of rejuvenating treatments at its top spas. An Andaman Idyll Ko Ngai, just off Thailand’s Andaman coast near Trang, is the ideal spot to relax and watch the world go by, with excellent beaches, cozy resorts and no cars or roads .
Travel: SW China
Up the Raging River The Nujiang River, which flows through the northwest of Yunnan Province, is called the Raging River for good reason, as its waters slice deep gorges in the landscape. South of the Clouds Yunnan, meaning 'South of the Clouds', is China's south-westernmost province, with over 20 brightly-dressed 'national minorities' and landscapes ranging from snow-capped peaks to steamy jungles. The City of Eternal Spring Kunming, capital of Yunnan, is a crossroads of many colourful cultures and enjoys an idyllic climate throughout the year. It is also the base for trips to nearby Western Hills and the Stone Forest. A Walk Through the Stone Forest A short drive from Kunming leads to one of China's most scenic attractions - an area of limestone pinnacles that gives the impression of a forest which is home to the colourful Sani tribe. Surreal Dali A medieval city in northwest Yunnan Province provides scenes that would surprise even its namesake, the surreal painter Salvador Dali. Set between a tranquil lake and snow-capped mountains, it is home of the Bai people and their ancient ways. Journey to the Jade Dragon Near the Tibetan border, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Lijiang Valley are ripe for adventure. As well as meeting the local Naxi people, visitors can trek into the awesome Tiger-Leaping Gorge along the Yangtze River. Among the Tai The Tai are one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Yunnan, and have farmed the lush valleys around Jinghong for millennia. Their sophisticated cuisine, dress and architecture never fail to impress visitors. Jinghong Jaunting Short trips from Jinghong, in China's extreme southwest, bring glimpses of bright markets and temples, botanical gardens and the mighty Mekong. Into the Heart of Huangguoshu China's highest waterfall, situated in the remote countryside of Guizhou Province, reveals some spectacular views from a tunnel through its heart. Breathless in Yangshuo Whether from climbing the steep limestone hills, riding a bicycle or simply staring at the classical Chinese scenery, all visitors to Yangshuo are rendered breathless. Vibrant Chengdu The capital of China's most densely-populated province (Sichuan) pulses with life. It is an ideal place to see pandas, opera performers and storytellers in action.
Seductive Saigon With its bustling markets, colonial architecture, stylish restaurants and nightclubs, Saigon (now formally known as Ho Chi Minh City) has a seductive attraction. Savouring Saigon Vietnamese cuisine is currently enjoying worldwide popularity, and the best place to sample it is in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), the country’s commercial and culinary capital. With venues ranging from simple street stalls to superbly-restored colonial villas, eating out in this city is always an exciting adventure. Down in the Delta The Mekong Delta is a melting pot of peoples and lifestyles, with Viet and Khmer farmers living side by side in this land of plenty. Getting Hot on Phu Quoc Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest offshore island, located off the southwest coast of the Mekong Delta. With an expanding choice of resorts and guest houses, as well as some fabulous beaches, the island is growing in popularity. Hanoi Rising With investments and visitors streaming in, Hanoi is waking up to its potential as an appealing travel destination. Restful lakes, leafy boulevards and colonial buildings give the city an entrancing atmosphere. Along the Dragon's Tail: Travels in North Vietnam Vietnamese legends are littered with dragons, and a journey across the mountainous north from Halong Bay to Hanoi, Hoa Lu, Mai Chau and Sapa is like climbing the serrations on a dragon's tail. High Fashion in the Hills of Vietnam In the Tonkinese Alps of Vietnam’s northwest, the different hilltribe groups try to outdo each other with the flamboyant styles and colours of their dress. Puppets on a Watery Stage Unique to Vietnam, water puppets skim and splash their way through a set of sketches guaranteed to make children or adults of any age roar with laughter. Inside the Golden City Luang Prabang, the ancient royal capital of Laos, is a veritable Shangri-La of graceful temples and friendly locals amid the jungle. Vientiane – the Cosy City Compared to other congested capitals of Asia, Vientiane is visitor-friendly, with a small centre packed with temples, markets and great restaurants. Angkored Out The massive scale and intricate carvings of the temples at Angkor are enough to overwhelm even the most ardent lover of ancient monuments. Signs of Change in Cambodia Along the roadside throughout Cambodia are hand-painted billboards urging people to beware of land mines, to hand over their weapons, to prevent AIDS and malaria and to protect the environment.
Travel: Asia general
Stalking the White Rajahs With a history that reads like a ‘Boys’ Own’ comic book story, Sarawak spent a century under the autocratic rule of the Brooke family, yet these days retains a great diversity of ethnic cultures and wildlife. Purring in Cat City Kuching, the capital of Sarawak in Borneo, is named after our feline friend, and apart from some kitsch statues of cats, has plenty to offer the curious – such as a rich colonial heritage, bargains in the markets and a bubbling nightlife. Boogie in the Jungle The Rainforest World Music Festival, which takes place each July at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Borneo, is a great place to enjoy music from around the globe and make new friends. Breathless in the Land below the Wind Sabah, which occupies the northern part of Borneo, offers plenty of activities for the adventurous, from climbing Mount Kinabalu to white-water rafting on the Padas River and diving at Lankayan Island. Stone Visions in Sri Lanka The former capitals of Sri Lanka, at Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa, contain some of the finest examples of stone carvings in the world. Sweet-Tasting Kandy Sri Lanka's prettiest city, set in a bowl of hills, is the home of Sinhalese culture and an ideal base for visits to the ancient cities and tea plantations. It also hosts the spectacular Perahera Festival. Festival of the August Moon The Kandy Perahera is often claimed to be Asia's most beautiful festival, and few who see it would disagree. Caparisoned elephants join the parade with whip crackers, torch spinners and the acrobatic Kandyan dancers. Kelaniya: Temple of Dwarves Situated just outside Colombo in Sri Lanka, the Temple of Kelaniya dates back over 2000 years. The present temple, built about a century ago, features a frieze of cherubic dwarves, each in its own posture. To Catch the Fishtail A quest to photograph a sacred and elusive mountain in the Himalaya while trekking in Nepal is almost snuffed out by low-hanging clouds. Valley Images The cultural variety of the Kathmandu valley provides a visual feast, with Hindu temples and ceremonies, unbelievable skylines, and the ubiquitous eyes of the Buddha. Stairway to Heaven The rice terraces of Banaue are often dubbed 'The Eighth Wonder of the World'. If strung end to end, these terraces made by the Ifugao tribe would span the world.
Travel: Madagascar & Mauritius
A 'Mad' Experience With its wacky ways, Madagascar is a destination for travellers in search of adventure. It has hundreds of unique animals and plants, and an odd fusion of Asian and African cultures. Madagascar's Wild West A visit to the west coast of the world's fourth-largest island brings encounters with cute lemurs, crazy chameleons, bizarre baobab trees and the friendly Sakalava people. In Search of a Surreal Vision A frustrating search for a set of geysers near a picturesque lake in Central Madagascar ends with the discovery of some surreal colours and patterns among the mineral deposits. Adventures on Dodo Island Mauritius has moved ahead since the luckless days of the dodo. These days it is a model of success, with hotels lining its powder- soft beaches and delightful scenery drawing visitors inland. The Smooth and the Rough The creature comforts of the holiday isle of Mauritius contrast strongly with the struggle for survival in nearby Madagascar.
Travel: the Americas
The Coast of Many Colours The west coast of the USA is famous for its movie stars and hitech ways, but a drive down the Pacific coast from Seattle to Los Angeles shows that nature reigns supreme. Exploring the Lost World The 'lost world' of Conan Doyle comes to life in the Gran Sabana of Southeast Venezuela. The world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls, tumbles almost a kilometre from one of the region's table mountains.
Going with the Flow: Walking the Thames Path The inauguration of the Thames Path has made it possible to follow England’s historic river 180 miles from the source to the Thames Barrier, passing places like Oxford University, Windsor Castle and the Houses of Parliament. A Stroll beside Jubilee River England’s newest river, an 11-kilometre channel linking the Thames between Maidenhead and Windsor, makes the perfect place to begin a 16-km stroll that passes classic views of Eton College and Windsor Castle before returning along the Thames Path. Cruising Up the Thames From Windsor Castle to Oxford University, the River Thames flows past many gems of rural England. The relaxed pace of a boat is ideal for getting the feel of England's heartland. Hooray Henley Each July, English socialites swarm to the banks of the River Thames in Henley, where they consume vast quantities of champagne and strawberries, and cheer on the crews in the annual Royal Regatta. Back to Eden The Eden Project, located in Cornwall in England, is an ambitious attempt to teach visitors about the interdependence of all forms of Nature, in which it succeeds through a combination of information, inspiration and entertainment. The Grotesques of Oxford From the parapets of Oxford's colleges, some distinctly non-academic characters leer down. Subjects range from members of staff to dragons and demons, angels and clowns. The Mysterious Stones of Avebury The stone circle at Avebury in southwest England may not be as famous as nearby Stonehenge, but it emits a magical aura that has mystified generations. Jazz on a Summer’s Night The annual North Sea Jazz Festival, which takes place each July in Rotterdam, Holland, is one of the best music festivals on the planet, and never fails to thrill visitors with its line-up of top performers.
Searching for Shangri-La (self-published, 2013 - read a sample here)
No Place Like Home After a long spell travelling abroad, it's difficult going home, as home isn't the same any more. The Rains Retreat A month-long meditation course, undertaken at the beginning of Khao Pansa, the 'Rains Retreat', in a Northern Thai temple provides some challenges and leads to unusual experiences. Getting Needled A westerner with back problems in Thailand tries his luck with acupuncture - an ancient Chinese form of healing or torture, depending on your perspective. Sweeping Meditation The author reflects on changing attitudes to sweeping leaves, from considering it a boring chore to becoming a way of clearing the mind. Lost in the Middle Kingdom Getting lost must be the traveller's ultimate nightmare. For someone lost in the wilds of southern China, unfamiliar with local language and culture, the way out isn't easy. Mesmerized by Mao The massive Mao statue in Lijiang, NW Yunnan Province of China, is the central figure in a tale featuring leaping tigers, stone drums, herbalists, lamas and lost hotel keys. Down the Siddharta Highway A visit to the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal on the author's birthday follows a bumpy road to some realizations of the aptness of Buddhist concepts. Slow Boat to the Golden City Drifting down the Mekong from Chiang Khong in Thailand to Luang Prabang in Laos, in the company of a gay Finn, a macho Japanese and a bunch of smiling Laotians. Scarecrows A colourful cluster of scarecrows at the roadside in Sri Lanka draws a seasoned traveler into a tourist trap. A Visit to Uncle Ho A visit to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, leads to reflections on political ironies of the twentieth century. London Bridge Revisited A chance encounter with London Bridge in the Arizona Desert sparks off memories of driving a bus over the same bridge into the City of London. Searching for Shangri-La The author reflects on a life-long search for the perfect place to live, and comes to an unexpected realization while on a long-haul flight.