Irrelevant soundtracks

Most of the photos I've shared with you over the past few years are still inseparably linked in my memories with a soundtrack of one or more men (and the occasional woman) telling me all about the adventures of some fictional men (and the occasional fictional woman) or some anthropomophised animals in peril. Whatever I happened to be listening to at the time.

These soundtracks would almost exclusively bear no relation whatsoever to the places I was visiting - I didn't walk tentatively through the ruins of Pompeii listening to Robert Harris' Pompeii, pretending be Pliny and mourning my own imminent death. But regardless of their lack of outward connections, when I look back at my travel photos, those associations often come flooding back, forever tarnishing these vistas with tales and banter.

I don't know why you would care about this. I don't know what this page is for. But it's a little late to start worrying about things like that now. I get some kind of enjoyment out of systematically filing my life experiences.

This pointlessly exhaustive catalogue of what I was listening to where is far from complete, and is subject to error and omission. I should also point out that some things were listened to in more than the one place mentioned, just in case you thought a 40-hour unabridged audiobook could be covered with a brisk stroll around a botanical garden. These are just the image/sound associations that are the strongest, and if some places have more than one, it's because sometimes I'm allowed to go to the same place twice, you know how you do that sometimes?

Updated to include physical books I remember carting around and reading too.

Scotland (mid-2010)

Scene: Wandering the streets of Edinburgh after dark

Soundtrack: Various amateur public domain narrations of H.P. Lovecraft stories (audiobook)

Response: During my last year or so in Edinburgh I lived a double life: working in an office by day and wandering the streets at night, giving my body something to do while I listened to sinister stories. It's not as impressive a double life as a vigilante crime fighter, admittedly, but it got me out of the flat. These days I just sit behind a computer typing nonsense like this.

Scene: Wandering the streets of Aberdeen and train journeys to/from Edinburgh

Soundtrack: Adam and Joe (podcast of radio show)

Response: The irrepressibly chirpy duo's edited ramblings were a fixture of Monday mornings when I worked at a data entry job, but when I got a job that needed me to use my brain (even if just the cynical salesman part of it) they fell off my radar for a while. I took a solo day trip to Aberdeen some time in 2010 and worked through some of the back-log while looking at paintings, boats and lots of grey walls.

Italy (September 2010)

Scene: Trying to find the Piazzale Donatello in Florence

Soundtrack: Answer Me This (podcast)

Response: I tried out this podcast for the first time as I wandered around looking for an unremarkable street just so I could say I'd been there in this blog and not be a liar. This isn't some 'character' I'm doing, I am actually like this. AMT didn't impress me too much, but it's remained a fixture of my weekly audio downloads for some reason. It's been a brief soundtrack to various places over the years.

Scene: Freezing on a ferry from Bari to Corfu

Soundtrack: Some story about animals

Response: I can't remember what this audiobook was (give me a break, it was more than three years ago). It might have been some relatively mature survival tale about rabbits, but it wasn't Watership Down. Whatever it was, I tried to concentrate on the story intently to ignore the biting chill of the wind through the several layers I'd piled on from my backpack, before retreating indoors and practically begging for a free seat. A kindly old staff member took pity on me and I got one.

Egypt (November to December 2010)

Library of Alexandria. No, not that one, they built another one

Scene: The long and bumpy road from Jerusalem to Cairo

Soundtrack: Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (audiobook)

Response: One of the few times I've made an effort to sync the soundtrack to the experience, though it could have just been a coincidence. Plus, Santiago's journey to Egypt didn't involve a reckless minivan driver and a road full of painful potholes.

Scene: Night train up the Nile (alongside it, not on it, obviously)

Soundtrack: Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars (audiobook)

Response: I wasn't hugely engrossed in these short stories / novellas, but it was something to do while the old local men sharing my old-style train carriage chatted to each other and I pretended to sleep for 14 hours or so.

Physical books:

P.G. Wodehouse, Carry On, Jeeves (or some Jeeves book anyway, irrelevantly accompanying my trip down the Nile)

Taiwan (December 2010 to February 2011)

Book chair (Hualien)

Scene: Wandering the streets and parks of Taipei and Hualien

Soundtrack: Robert Rankin, The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse (audiobook)

Response: Many of my days out in Europe and the Middle East were group affairs, meeting people in my hostel who were interested in seeing the same places and having a social day out. By the time I got to Asia I'd remembered who I really was, and could get back to some serious audio reading. This book wasn't all that good, but I felt compelled to finish it. That's okay, I had a lot of cities to aimlessly explore.

Scene: The sights and long, winding roads of Taroko National Park

Soundtrack: Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot (audiobook)

Response: Taroko was a lovely place, and Carl Sagan's imitable voice was a soothing soundtrack as he discussed various mind-blowing topics before some other guy took over for the second half and I remembered Carl Sagan died and got sad.

Scene: Wandering the streets of Kaohsiung

Soundtrack: Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune (audiobook)

Response: Taiwan's cities were pleasantly dull enough that I got a lot of reading done. I skipped the first three Dune books that I'd seen adaptations of and went to this one, generally regarded as one of the best. Unfortunately, it had a terrible narrator and I mainly remember hating him. I still got through the whole thing.

Scene: Liyushan Park, Taitung

Soundtrack: Vintage Ricky Gervais XFM (radio, series 4)

Response: They may be a bit popular/unpopular (whichever is less worse), but the frequently inane and often offensive conversations of Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington got me through the aforementioned data entry job a few years earlier and I've played through the series again a couple of times since. Looking at my photos of a pagoda in Taitung, I remember them talking about a research team in Antarctica extremely vividly. Sometimes those vivid memories are really arbitrary.

Scene: Taitung Seaside Park

Soundtrack: So Wrong It's Right (radio series)

Response: I discovered and downloaded however many series were available at the time of this Charlie Brooker hosted panel show and spaced them out between book chapters while splashing through the sea.

Scene: Waiting for a train in... Taitung, I think

Soundtrack: The Unbelievable Truth (radio series)

Response: I discovered and downloaded however many series were available at the time of this David Mitchell hosted panel show and listened to them over the next month or so.

Physical books:

I can't find the title. Some book about some girl's troubles growing up in strict Singaporean society, my first tease of Haw Par Villa (picked up in Cairo hostel; left in Taipei hostel)

Thailand (February to April 2011)

Physical books:

Richard Adams, Watership Down (picked up in Kaohsiung hostel; left in Bangkok hostel)

Nick Cave, The Death of Bunny Munro (read in its entirety lounging under a parasol on Cha Am beach)

Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum (my second attempt, bought at a Koh Samui book shop and still didn't make it through before swapping for something less heavy-going)

Malaysia (April to July 2011)

Another contemporary classic on sale in Malacca in 2011

Scene: Wandering the streets of Kuala Lumpur

Soundtrack: Adam and Joe (podcast of radio series), The Collings and Herrin Podcast and As It Occurs to Me (podcast, series 3)

Response: I can't remember if Richard Herring and Andrew Collins' podcast had been ongoing every week during my travels or if they'd taken a long break and came back around this time, but I remember their strained relationship becoming obvious when I was in KL.

Richard Herring's other podcast also made a welcome return and was as good as ever - I specifically remember walking around the hilariously named Titiwangsa Park and trying to hide my laughter at a sketch about Richard being mistakenly identified as the bloke who went motorcycling around the world with Ewan McGregor.

Adam and Joe's podcast also returned when I was in KL, I remember hearing the birth of the Taffin phenomenon when I ate lunch in McDonalds. Seriously, I wish I had some say in what constitutes an unforgettable travel memory.

Physical books:

Ira Levin, The Boys from Brazil (not too long, it saw me through a few buses. Bought in Chiang Mai, left in Georgetown)

Ho Thean Fook, Gods of the Earth (local interest book picked up in Ipoh and exchanged some time. I wouldn't have even remembered it if I hadn't meticulously noted it here)

Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Book of Greek Myths (every home should have one, but I can't afford to be sentimental. After reading in the Perhentian Islands I reluctantly passed it on)

Roberto BolaƱo, 2666 (given to me by a Swedish guy on Tioman Island. I completed this thousand-page beast and left it in a Kuala Lumpur hostel where I spotted it again two years later, unloved)

Emma Donoghue, Room (picked up and worked through in the same hammock on Tioman)

Yann Martel, Life of Pi (same same)

Dara O'Briain, Tickling the English (picked up and returned to a Malacca hostel I stayed at for a while)

Dan Simmons, Drood (from the same Malacca hostel, I mostly read this in a local park which seemed to be interpreted as wyrd behaviour)

Singapore (July 2011)

Inexpensive used book store in Bugis. Not quite as bad as the Malaysian one

Scene: Wandering the high streets

Soundtrack: The Twilight Zone (radio series)

Response: I just looked at an episode list and I can't recall how many episodes I listened to or exactly what they were, but this modern audio remake of the classic series must have killed days' worth of real time over the course of six months or so, from Singapore to Korea.

Scene: Southern Ridges Walk, first bit

Soundtrack: Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Devil's Heart (audiobook)

Response: Trek novels are never very good. This was another mediocre adventure, narrated by Gates McFadden who was arguably the worst one in the show. Still, nice to see some nature in Singapore that day - I even saw monkeys.

Scene: A bus station and business park

Soundtrack: Pappy's Flatshare Slamdown (podcast)

Response: This blog reveals that I'd been listening to (and struggling with) this podcast since a while before this, but I have a memory of making a journey by foot, metro and over overpass to get to a business park for... what? Presumably it was the start of a walking trail or something, but I remember being confused and lost when I got there and think I just went 'home.'

Scene: Changi Airport

Soundtrack: Pappy's Bangers and Mash (podcast)

Response: Somehow the more enjoyable of the two, I remember burying it in my ears while on the shuttle between terminals.

Physical books:

Singapore Central Library was a major tourist attraction for me. After months of weeding through scraps, I could finally overcome this specific aspect of homesickness by sitting down and reading an awful lot (since they didn't let me become a member and check books out).

These books included several by Clive Barker, a couple by Kurt Vonnegut and a bunch of interesting reference books. You know when you crave familiar food or familiar faces abroad? This is my square version.

During this time, I bought pretty tatty, used copies of a Blake anthology and Dickens' Our Mutual Friend and read them non-thoroughly in parks.

Indonesia (August 2011)

Literate monkey in Bali

Scene: Soka beach at night

Soundtrack: Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (dramatisation)

Response: I stayed at a peaceful and relaxing resort with few humans and no internet access. This tale added to the old-time atmosphere at night.

Scene: Wandering the streets of Ubud

Soundtrack: J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (audiobook)

Response: I guess I quit this one part way through... either that or it was completely unmemorable. Can't even remember the character/s.

Scene: Lake Bratan

Soundtrack: Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast

Response: Richard released the audio of his daily podcasts from the Fringe throughout August, which enhanced my experience of Bali further. That first week was tricky, the podcast picked me up when I was down.

Scene: Bali Botanic Garden

Soundtrack: Carl Sagan, Contact (audiobook)

Response: Quite a long one, this took me from wandering around Malaysian streets looking for giant pencils through a few days out in Singapore, Malang and bus trips from Bali to Java and back again, but this day out was the most scenic accompaniment.

Physical books:

Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain (brain-expanding collection of essays, like the science-glorifying stuff Richard Dawkins writes but actually inspiring. Read while rellling in Soka, Bali)

Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (passed some time while waiting for an airport bus in Ubud)

Iain Banks, The Bridge (finally completed this worthwhile ordeal on a sleepless night at the airport waiting for the flights to start)

Philippines (September 2011)

Scene: Wandering the streets of Tagbilaran

Soundtrack: Alan Partridge, I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan (audiobook)

Response: Alan narrates his long-awaited second autobiography. Insert your favourite exclamation.

Physical books:

Peter Haining ed., The Ghouls (another horror anthology, picked up in the same Singapore used bookshop as the other one between trips, because I clearly couldn't get enough. Some overlap)

Malaysia (October to November 2011)

Physical books:

Charles Gordon ed., Mysteries (neat collection of vintage ghost/weird stories that accompanied long Borneo bus journeys)

Thailand (November to December 2011)

Scene: Wandering Khao San Road, Bangkok

Soundtrack: Me1 vs Me2 Snooker with Richard Herring (podcast)

Response: Richard Herring expanded his podcast empire with weekly audio recordings of him playing himself at snooker in his basement, refereeing himself and commentating over himself in multiple personalities. If it sounds funny, enjoy the description and don't venture any further. The podcast itself is intentionally tedious, I didn't last very long but was suitably amused and bewildered by the first frame while heading out to get some spring rolls and pad thai during a Bangkok pit stop.

Scene: Wandering around Koh Chang

Soundtrack: Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better (radio series)

Response: I discovered and downloaded however many series were available at the time of this Mark Watson stand-up-type-show with Tim Minchin bits, and they were apparently the soundtrack to my island wanderings.

Physical books:

Irvine Welsh, Ecstasy (I needed something, and despite the overall gaudiness, this was the least offensive thing in the book shop. Tell-tale rip-off printing - I don't know how this costs less to produce than just buying the book?)

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (read on the bus to Koh Chang, and maybe a little after, depending how long it is)

Sonic the Comic (I discovered a nostalgic forum devoted to this childhood favourite and lost about a day reading colourful adaptations of ancient Sega games when I really should have been enjoying the tropical paradise)

South Korea (December 2011 - February 2012)

Some book head person on Jeju Island. I remember noticing a lack of context

Scene: Wandering the streets of Seoul at night

Soundtrack: Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game (audiobook)

Response: I persevered because it was supposedly the number one science fiction novel in some poll I looked at. I made it about a quarter of the way through before quitting, I prefer my sci-fi contemplative and dull rather than shooty.

Scene: Wandering the streets of Seoul at day

Soundtrack: Cabin Pressure (radio series)

Response: I wasn't especially hooked by this dippy sitcom, but I still got through several series when heading out to get bulgogi and bibimbap a couple of times a day during my pretending-to-be-a-local phase.

Scene: Seoraksan National Park

Soundtrack: Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (dramatisation)

Response: I was expecting another nautical adventure romp like Treasure Island, but the harsh colonial bias spoiled my day a bit.

Scene: Wandering the streets of Gyeongju at night

Soundtrack: The Bugle (podcast)

Response: I belatedly discovered the best podcast at episode/issue 179, after it was dumped by The Times and went independent. It's funny. They were probably talking about Berlusconi or something.

Scene: Wandering the historical sites of Gyeongju

Soundtrack: Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys (audiobook)

Response: Bizarrely narrated by Lenny Henry, this struck the perfect balance of fantasy and humour without going all Terry Pratchett. I made a mental note to listen to more things like that, and now I'm making a written note as the mental one obviously didn't work.

Scene: Wandering around Hyeongsan River

Soundtrack: The Infinite Monkey Cage (radio series)

Response: I think I marathonned the first one or two series on that long road from Jerusalem to Cairo in 2010. Having remembered it existed again by this point, I blasted through however many more they'd made when tracking down some hills. It made the tedious task fly by.

Physical books:

Erich von Daniken, Signs of the Gods  (I dipped in and out of the equally insane sequel to Chariots of the Gods? with enthusiasm that I hope rubbed off on Koreans bystanders in Lotteria)

Sri Lanka (April 2012)

Scene: Train journeys along the coast

Soundtrack: Vintage Ricky Gervais XFM (radio, series 1-2)

Response: Possibly tired of losing my place in audio novels (I always carried at least one hefty book around too), I dug out this undemanding series again and worked through from the start, feeling a little guilty that I wasn't broadening my literary horizons or learning some new science stuff but having to hold back laughter regularly.

Physical books:

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (an Eco I managed to finish this time, I fondly remember poring over the map of the catacombs in a beachfront restaurant waiting for a curry)

Japan (May 2012)

Books about nasty parasites.
Don't worry, you won't be able to understand them; they're in foreign

Scene: Wandering the streets of Kawaguchi

Soundtrack: Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth (dramatisation)

Response: The Alien Voices company is notable to Trek fans for featuring actors from the series in its adaptations of sci-fi classixx. They're also really good, even if my own accompanying journey was basically a repetitive circle and didn't involve any dinosaurs (not even a Godzilla).

Scene: Wandering the streets and temples of Higashiyama, Kyoto

Soundtrack: Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast

Response: Another Herring podcast, RHLSTP is like RHEFP but less frequent and with generally higher profile guests. Desiring instant gratification, I listened to most of them in my various hotel rooms as soon as they became available, but managed to keep hold of his interview with Charlie Brooker to lighten up a rainy walkabout.

South Korea (June 2012)

Scene: Wandering around Bukhansan National Park

Soundtrack: The Brothers Grimm, Fairy Tales (audiobook)

Response: I talked about the audio-visual connection in that blog, because I didn't have much else to say. This was also the point where I started making note of what I was listening to in the blogs themselves, so I can stop putting such strain on my brain and feeling despair at all the lost memories. Clearly, the message is to take obsessive notes of literally everything you ever do.

Scene: Wandering up and down Samcheong Park

Soundtrack: H. G. Wells, The Invisible Man (dramatisation)

Response: Another from Alien Voices. It made the wasted trip less annoying.

Scene: Wandering the walls of Suwon

Soundtrack: Charles Perrault, The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (audiobook)

Response: More attempts to make boring walls more magical with auditory accompaniment. Not as good as the Grimms.

Scene: Hwaseong Fortress

Soundtrack: Hans Christian Andersen, Fairy Tales (audiobook)

Response: And another. Not as good as the Grimms, but better than Perrault, largely thanks to 'The Emperor's New Clothes' (my favourite fairy tale due to its lauding of daring scepticism and independent thought, plus hilarious willies).

Scene: Seoraksan National Park

Soundtrack: Philip Pullman, Northern Lights (audiobook/dramatisation)

Response: The His Dark Materials re-listen took me through the next few months. Chivers produced a presumably unabridged recording with soothing narration by Pullman and a full cast to handle all the dialogue, they're really good. Seoraksan is the nicest background I treated them to.

Scene: Wandering along Seoul Fortress Wall

Soundtrack: Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife (audiobook/dramatisation)

Response: The first book took me from Suwon to Sokcho/Seoraksan and back to Seoul. I finished the second before leaving Korea, then there was an interval before the third thanks to bloody companionship.

China (July 2012)

Giant book and small human confuse my sense of scale in Guangzhou

Scene: Window of the World, Shenzhen

Soundtrack: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World (dramatisation)

Response: Alien Voices again. I wish they'd made more, but apparently the budget wasn't there.

Scene: Wandering the streets and parks of Guangzhou

Soundtrack: Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass (audiobook/dramatisation)

Response: I didn't have a great time in this overcrowded city, but this is probably one of my favourite books so it helped. I wonder if the associations work the other way, and if I read/listen again in the future I'll be reminded of cramped metro carriages and getting lost on the way to a mountain? (You'd think that would be easy enough to spot).

Laos (August 2012)

Scene: Long bus ride from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang

Soundtrack: Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast

Response: In its second year, Richard's daily August podcasts were mostly visually wasted on the research-gathering, document-formatting part of my day job when I don't have to pay too much attention, but I saved a few up for the later hours of a long bus journey after my laptop battery expired. One of these was especially memorable as I was personally name-checked and verbally abused from across half the world, just because I'd declined to be sent some merchandise in exchange for donating to his charity. This was better compensation.

Vietnam (September to October 2012)

Another impractically large volume

Physical books:

John Milton, Paradise Lost (before I set off travelling, I considered carting my pocket copy around as a sort of Bible, and regretted not doing that fairly early on. I picked one up after a while and accidentally left it on a boat in Ha Long Bay. I hope someone enjoys it)

Iain Banks, Canal Dreams (the author's self-professed worst work, I guess I already worked through most of the good ones back in Scotland)

Australia (December 2012 to January 2013)

The only kind of books they sell in Nimbin.
You'll understand if you know Nimbin

Scene: Wandering the streets of Sydney

Soundtrack: Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid (audiobook)

Response: I walked around Sydney a lot. I listened to a lot of things. I struggled to get through this one, I didn't make it to the end, let alone the other books in the trilogy.

Scene: Sydney Harbour National Park

Soundtrack: David Icke, Beyond the Cutting Edge (live recording)

Response: I like Icke. Don't get me wrong: he's insane. But I can get through a six-hour lecture without switching off, and the pleasant scenery along the walk from Manly to the Spit put me in the mood to hear the madman out.

Scene: Same as above.

Soundtrack: Agatha Christie, The ABC Murders (dramatisation)

Response: I guess the lecture didn't last until the last bit, when I got lost in residential streets and had a more devious riddle to solve than Hercule Poirot.

Scene: Katoomba, Blue Mountains National Park

Soundtrack: H. G. Wells, The First Men in the Moon (dramatisation)

Response: Alien Voices. Great sound, great vision. Classic day.

Scene: Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains National Park

Soundtrack: Robert A. Heinlein, 'By His Bootstraps' (dramatisation)

Response: Love these time-twisting short stories from Heinlein. I must have listened to other things too as the recording was only about an hour long; probably something rubbish like music.

Scene: Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, Sydney

Soundtrack: Richard Adams, Watership Down (dramatisation)

Response: Matching nature with nature. I don't do it too often, but it yields pleasant results. Until the rabbits start brutally dying.

Scene: Morton National Park, Southern Highlands

Soundtrack: Stephen Jones ed., The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Volume 8 (audiobook)

Response: Gloomy stories for a gloomy day. That works too. I only listened to a few.

Scene: Area around Bondi Beach, Sydney

Soundtrack: Alex Garland, The Beach (audiobook)

Response: That's right, don't read/listen to the book all those other people listen to when you're actually in the places it's set, wait until you leave the tropics and return to the first world to give it a go. I did walk past this beach at one point, but that glitch aside, it's like I'm dedicated to being irrelevant.

Scene: Berowra Valley, Sydney

Soundtrack: Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (dramatisation)

Response: Gothic ghost story in sunny scenery. Didn't really work, but kept me upbeat because I'm weird.

Scene: Blackheath, Blue Mountains National Park

Soundtrack: Anthony Horowitz, The House of Silk (audiobook)

Response: It was good, I guess? Can I stop travelling yet? Maybe it was a bad idea to note the audios in real-time, I should have left it to time to decide which ones would be memorable.

Physical books:

Alberto Manguel ed., The Flamingo Anthology of Fantastic Literature: Black Water (my longest-lived of the journey, I'm not going to give this book up unless I really have to. Shame it isn't lighter)

Cambodia (February 2013)

Scene: Choung Ek Genocidal Center

Soundtrack: Choung Ek audio guide

Response: The least irrelevant soundtrack ever! I could have done with something to lighten the mood, to be honest.

Scene: Kep Mountain National Park

Soundtrack: David Brin, The Postman (audiobook)

Response: Reuniting with my girlfriend after returning to the Philippines, and not having been apart on travels since, this was my final audiobook-on-the-go for a long time, with subsequent ones being consigned to the less memorable environs of a domestic setting.

Philippines (January 2014)

Scene: Waiting patiently in Davao airport terminal 4

Soundtrack: Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days (audiobook)

Response: I listened to A LOT of things during this extended, eight-month Philippine stay, but this is the only one that accompanied noteworthy travel. The choice of tale wasn't an attempt to glorify my own modest globetrotting (I'd only planned on two countries and about 45 days), but I was sad that Spock and Q didn't get round to making an Alien Voices drama out of this Vernie.

Physical books:

Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery (There he is again! I guess he doesn't come in audiobook. Picked up from a Bangkok bookshop in 2013 and left for many months until impending travel necessitated a finish-n-swap)

Joe Dever, Lone Wolf #11: The Prisoners of Time (I was delighted to find this vintage gamebook for 20 pesos in a used book shop. It ended up in a graveyard of its kin in Borneo)

Malaysia (January to February 2014)

Scene: A several-hours round trip to Ranau town and back on an ATM quest

Soundtrack: Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions (audiobook)

Response: The narrator was suitably old and cranky for this tale of old, cranky men. I hardly noticed my skin was burning.

Physical books:

Anthony Burgess, The Malayan Trilogy (I swapped The Prague Cemetery for this, not realising it was a horrible post-colonial tale or that it was technically illegal in some parts of Malaysia)

Indonesia (February to March 2014)

The beaten path has its benefits

Scene: Wandering around Padangbai in light drizzle

Soundtrack: Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (audiobook)

Response: The Bali magic hasn't set in yet, and this story's just making me depressed.

Scene: Wandering and cycling around Gili Trawangan

Soundtrack: Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle (audiobook)

Response: Nice to have the opportunity to hear a story clearly all week without traffic drowning out various critical events.

Scene: Wandering around Candidasa

Soundtrack: Various Doctor Who audio dramas

Response: Finally stopped resisting and cracked open the Paul McGann legacy. Entertaining enough for the most part, especially all the coastal scenery. Oh hang on, that wasn't included.

Scene: Wandering around Kuta

Soundtrack: Patrick Suskind, Perfume (audiobook)

Response: Sean Barrett's soothing narration tempered the cacophony of motorbikes and drug dealers. It's enough to make you long for grotty revolutionary France.

Physical books:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (they can always do with a re-read. It includes several of the books in one, so this'll last me a while)

Robert Rankin, The Toyminator (sequel to a book I apparently didn't enjoy that much (see Taiwan), but it was the least unappealing thing I could identify in the only bookshop on the island)

Thailand (June to July 2014)

Scene: Flying over Southern Thailand and presumably Malaysia

Soundtrack: Several H.P. Lovecraft stories

Response: The flight was only a couple of hours, making a triple-bill of 'The Outsider,' 'From Beyond' and 'The Nameless City' temporally perfect if atmospherically paradoxical

Physical books:

Ken Bruen, The Devil (again, the least unenticing looking thing on my resort's mostly German bookshelves, apparently 10th in the Jack Taylor series and the only one to go weirdly paranormal)

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