Dispatches, blog posts and excerpts from my non-fiction feature stories, which have appeared in publications such as National Geographic and TIME.
Journey to North Korea, Part II: The Packrat Dictatorship By Tomas van Houtryve After dinner at the end of my second day, I was pulled aside by my guides. The interrogation lasted for four hours. The most grim-looking of our minders, Mr. Chung (I have changed the names of my North Korean minders for their protection), was bad cop. “We… read more.
Journey to North Korea, Part 1: The Majesty and the Mustache By Tomas van Houtryve (Originally published on TIME.com on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009) In 2007 and 2008, Tomas van Houtryve visited North Korea by infiltrating a communist solidarity delegation. In the first of a three-part series, he reports on the elaborate ruse required to enter the isolated country. One… read more.
VIENTIANE PROVINCE, LAOS – We set out at nightfall. Four thin Hmong men dressed in faded khaki uniforms and clutching AK-47’s, those ubiquitous hallmarks of the world’s most troubled regions. There was no moon when we crawled out of our hiding spot between thickets of bamboo and onto the lightly graveled road through the jungle. After sizing us up, the… read more.
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – My first experience with King Gyanendra Shah was in February 2004. He was scheduled for an official visit to the city in Nepalgunj, which is quite possibly the least charming place on earth. Nepal is a stunningly beautiful country — green hills terraced with rice patties, and a backdrop of the jagged Himalayas. But Nepalgunj is the… read more.
BHAKTAPUR, NEPAL – I saw the 12 victims’ bodies illuminated by a dim torch and shards of light form the full moon. Their faces looked twisted and ghostly. They had been lined up outdoors on blood soaked mud. The rioters had arranged themselves at the end of an alley leading to the hospital, and started fires with anything they could… read more.
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN – With the fat double blades of the helicopter churning air through the cabin, I looked across to see the tense faces of 19 and 20-year-old American soldiers. Under their Kevlar helmets, and dust goggles, and behind their bulletproof vests were sweaty foreheads and rapidly beating hearts. Only one man, the Special Forces commando, seemed cold, his eyes… read more.