Swirling mist circled the Buddhist monastery, high up on Mount Koya. Exploring Japan had led me here. The icy air an easy victory for the paper walls. Yes actual paper walls! The paper door has a ferocious tiger print on it, in the grrr pose, similar to those old-school tattoos. Just the paper tiger blocking me from the outside world. A kimono lay neatly folded, waiting for me to brave the ice-air. I’d had a demo in the art of kimono-wearing. Absolutely no cleavage, but the neck (the sexiest part of a woman’s body in Japan) revealed. Screw that! Absolutely nothing should be revealed in the fear of hypothermia.

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‘They call me Satan’s Mistress’, she cackled. Her beautiful worldly green eyes shone and her jet black hair glistened. I was instantly in awe of this solo female traveller.

I met Jean in Osaka, Japan. Traveller introductions are nearly always an insight into the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet but this globetrotter stood out. She talks in a calm, thoughtful southern US drawl. Alert and interested, Jean isn’t over-powering in her presence but when it’s her turn to take centre stage you stop and enjoy the show.

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Siem Reap Girl

Travellers say many things about Cambodia: the people are wonderful, the begging is extreme and that everything is super-cheap even by South East Asia standards. Spoiler: only one of these things is true!

I’m going to take you on a little journey, one that took us just over two weeks to cover from North to South Cambodia. From city living to island life, ‘bum guns’, insect munching, pimped up homes, a dark past and smiley prosperous future. Kicking off with the journey to Cambodia via Delhi and Bangkok and our Cambodian starting point, Siem Reap.

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Only a few weeks ago (pre Brexit) I, like many, would have argued the UK is not racist or xenophobic. I’d have argued this with confidence. We are a welcoming multicultural society, aren’t we?! Yes, I was aware that there are pockets of society in the UK that are unhappy about immigration. But, did I think it was hate-fuelled and would result in personal attacks? No.

Of course I’ve spotted the front pages on the right-wing press and dismissed them in disgust. But dismiss them I did because I didn’t believe it was a reflection on our society. I was also naive to the damage they were doing. Not overtly racist but the premise was there, immigrants are to blame. Brexit appears to have provoked a crescendo of emotions within the UK, fuelled by the media. We’re Brits, we love to moan and we also pride ourselves on our freedom of speech. It’s great that we can voice our opinions but when does free speech become hate speech?

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