Text & photographs by Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
The steep green mountain slopes of Western Norway are covered with white veins. Immensely powerful waterfalls plummet into the crystal-clear or emerald-green waters of the fjords where occasionally a whale passes by… Standing on top of Lilletopp, Tyssedal, overlooking the Hardanger Fjord, I am facing two very different sides of Norway: to the right, it looks like a lost and wild place on Earth dominated by nature, to the left another impression sticks… In the midst of this natural beauty attracting hikers from all over to conquer the famous Tongue of the Troll, or Trolltunga, lays the heart of where the industrial revolution of Norway started and the cradle of the country’s hydropower capabilities…
Text: Claire Lessiau Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
The harbour of Antwerp is larger than Antwerp itself… Historically, it allowed the city to become one of the most prominent in the world during its Golden Age in the 15th and 16th centuries. Today, it provides 150,000 jobs, greatly contributes to the wealth of the region of Flanders and propels Antwerp as the second city of Belgium. Hop on a bike to discover Europe’s second largest harbour (after Rotterdam), between capsize bulk carriers and cute villages surrounded by nature.
Cape Town has been appointed world’s most biodiverse city, and its outstanding Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens are the perfect place to discover its ecosystems. This is probably what makes them one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world, attracting more than a million visitors a year.
May, 1: Fred hikes up to the refuge d’Usciolu at an altitude of 1,810 metres from the village of Cozzano, two hours away. The athletic young fellow needs crampons and piolets to make his way up and often has to saw the icy snow to make his way into the kitchen of the refuge to warm up. For four years he has been assisting Francis, the refuge keeper in the summer months and this is how the 5-month season starts. Before the helicopter delivers 800 kilograms of Keep hiking!
Walking the streets of Cape Town, one cannot miss the impressive colonial architecture of the Prins & Prins diamond store. Whether you are shopping for stones, interested in how they are dug up and cut, or curious about the early days of Cape Town, this is a door you want to push!
Article updated on October 21, 2021 Text & photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Inaugurated only in 2008, the Oslo Opera House has already become the landmark of the Norwegian capital. Its architecture intrigues. Like an iceberg floating in the Oslo fjord, locals and tourists alike climb it to reach its roof via soft inclines or explore its warm and modern foyer. Far from the elite image of most opera houses, the Oslo Opera House is an open space decisively. It has revolutionized its area, a former shipyard cut off from the rest of the city by an ugly highway that was forced underground, and made it a favourite promenade attracting recommendable neighbours like the new Munch Museum or the bar code urbanization project. The building fascinates, and the temptation of exploring its ins and outs only grows bigger as one approaches it.
Beyond attracting thousands of people daily to observe the marine life of the cold Atlantic Ocean and the colourful species of the warm Indian Ocean, the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town hosts a rehabilitation centre dedicated to endangered sea turtles.
Article updated on April 20, 2022 Text: Claire Lessiau Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
I could harldy be further from the haute couture stores of Avenue Montaigne or Rue Saint Honoré in Paris, the stronghold of fashion since the 16th century… Still, the finest silk pieces I have ever seen are sliding through my fingers and I feel their soft and delicate textures. The shiny fabrics reflect the light delicately. The relief of the silk gives it an unexpected depth. I am in rural Cambodia a stone’s throw from the temples of Angkor where this rare Khmer silk was made, exclusively for the king: “It took more than 10 years of research, and trial and error to revive the century-old forgotten techniques of silk weaving of the Khmers!” says Sophea Peach, the founder of Golden Silk, and it all started with the devata‘s sculpture of Angkor… Let me show you…”
With its vertical limestone cliffs covered in lush vegetation dramatically plunging into the turquoise waters and white sand beaches, no wonder why Maya Bay, a stone’s throw from Koh Phi Phi Island was chosen as the filming location for the Hollywood blockbuster “The Beach”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. However, Keep travelling!
A roughly 20-kilometre long bumpy dirt road leads towards surprisingly well maintained trees on the steep slopes of Laos’ most remote mountains bordering China. Wooden houses are lined up along the road, leafs are drying in the sun, people are working on their doorstep, chickens roam around and some lazy dogs nap in the sun. Keep reading
Tall thin trees with only very few leafs are planted in perfectly aligned endless rows that cover hundreds of hectares of Thai soil. They provide a little bit of shade during the hot summer months, give off a slightly offending smell and supply their owners and their farmers with an income. We are talking rubber trees and are about to discover the ins and outs of rubber making.
In this last article of our traditional crafts of Cambodia series, we will introduce you to the most favoured alcoholic drink in Asia: rice wine. As the name implies, the alcoholic beverage is made of Asia’s main cereal: rice.
“Smell like the hell, eat like the heaven”, Mr. Ola tells us with a mesmerizing smile while explaining his mother’s signature recipe for the traditional prahok, a Cambodian fish paste dish. I uncomfortably move from one leg to the other trying to carefully listen to his story but holding my breath at the same time, avoiding the offending foul smell. We are about to discover how the unmissable and key ingredient for many Asian dishes is made on the fish paste market of Battambang, Cambodia. Keep reading
Rice paper is used for making the famous and delicious spring rolls. Due to the high demand of these thin leafs of edible paper, most of its production takes place in factories. In Battambang, a few families still make a living by producing them by hand. Keep reading
Rice noodles are a favourite in many Asian countries. A pho for breakfast or rice noodles as a base for lunch or dinner are common. To serve this high demand, most noodles are produced in factories. However, it is still possible to buy them fresh and hand-made. In Battambang, a few families living in the rice noodle district have been passing on this know-how for many generations.
Sticky rice is paramount to any meal in Lao cuisine, and can be found as well in neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Cambodia. There, it is prepared as a dessert like mango sticky rice, or a sweet snack known as bamboo sticky rice.
The water has been boiling for a while now and a woody scent enters my nose. I pour the hot water full of shavings through a piece of cloth to filter the pulp out. I bring the water to the boil again before adding the main ingredients. No, I am not preparing a meal, I am making yellow! Keep traveling!
Cambodia is not as famous as Thailand when it comes to islands, paradisiac beaches, coral reefs and scuba diving. And this is all for the best, I am telling myself as I am writing this article from the fishing village M’Pai on the small island of Koh Rong Samloem in Southern Cambodia. Feet in the sand, Keep traveling!
The Kampot pepper is famous in the best kitchens all around the world. Farmed since the 13th century in Cambodia, it is during the protectorate that the French realized the potential of the Kampot area, giving a subtle taste to the pepper that lingers on one’s tongue. The hills of Kampot along the Cambodian coast Keep reading!
Think: the Netherlands. What are the first few images popping up into your mind? Wooden clogs, tulips, windmills? Maybe gay-weddings, bicycles, the Amsterdam canals, or brown coffee shops? What about the yellow gold? No, not Heineken, I’m talking: cheese! Keep reading
An ant-hill… A beehive… No, it’s more like a ballet; a ballet, with its well-rehearsed choreography, every participant sticking precisely to its path in a continuous and fast motion, with an unbelievable precision. Except that I’m witnessing how electrical trolleys are evolving, delivering some of the 20 million flowers traded everyday here, in Aalsmeer, The Netherlands, at the biggest flower auction in the world. Keep reading
The Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama is world-renowned for its stunning beaches, islands, surfing and snorkelling spots. And there is one more reason to go to Bocas: the mountainous forests on the mainland by the harbour town of El Almirante are home to one of the best organic cacao producers in the world! Keep traveling!
“Position your nose inside the cup and inhale. Just close your eyes and smell thoroughly.” My hands are wrapped around a warm coffee cup while I am distinguishing the elegant flavours. “Now move your nostril along the ridge of the cup and smell again. What do you smell now?”
I am trying to recognize the different scents: honey, a trace of jasmine, a hint of fruits, an orange aftertaste. This coffee is not just a regular coffee: I am tasting the best coffee of the world! Indeed, the Geisha coffee from the mountains of Boquete, Panama, has been acclaimed by worldwide independent tasters as the best, with its price reaching up to $350 for a pound of its unprocessed green beans.
Article updated on May 25, 2020 Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
The fish market and tuna auction moved from Tsukiji to its new and sterile Toyosu location. However, there are still over 300 stores and restaurants in Tsukiji that has retained its character. Take a peek at what Tsukiji was like & make sure you visit while in Tokyo…
Article updated on May 19, 2020 Text & photos: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau
In Japan, onsens are natural hot springs. There are many due to the intense volcanic activity of the country, and Kyushu Island specifically is famous for them: Beppu which is no less than the second hot spring district in the world after Yellowstone in flowrate, Yufuin, and Kurokawa are some of the most renown.Keep travelling!