Muslims do drink, as anyone who has spent a wild weekend with Saudi booze tourists in Bahrain will know. Those Saudi tourists are like teenage girls in Manchester on a Saturday night. But each country and region is different.
One of the reasons I like living in Bangkok is that, although it's a megacity, it's very saturated with nature - the vast and brooding skies, the sudden storms and rains, the vegetation and even the animals that abound.
Thailand was never a European colony, so even though the city is very Western on the surface, deep down it's very Asian. It's quite enigmatic, and I like that. I can't get to the bottom of Bangkok, and I never will.
My favorite whisky bar in the world is in my adopted Bangkok. A refined and secretive Japanese speakeasy among the girly bars of Soi 33, it's called Hailiang.
In Bangkok's budding literary scene, Prabda Yoon sits at the centre.
Bangkok is infamously mired in lurid contradiction, but it's also a city of subtle and distorted moods that journalism and film have hitherto mostly failed to capture.
Studies in the emerging field of cellular bioenergetics, a branch of biochemistry concerned with how energy flows through living systems, suggest that molecules from orchids might be able to repair decaying mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells, in humans.
The Gobi is in many ways like the old American West, filled with abandoned hamlets and buildings, traces of disappeared peoples. Across its oceanic blond grass, horses and the black silhouettes of camels move languidly, as if they are the only inhabitants. Ancient Turkic nomads left enigmatic petroglyphs carved into boulders 2,000 years ago.
The best times to visit the Gobi and Three Camel Lodge are June, and September through October. By the beginning of November, it is ferociously cold, while October can swing surreally between warm days and clear, chilly nights and frosty mornings dusted with snow - perfect.
The orchid's association in Chinese culture with such virtues as elegance, good taste, friendship, and fertility goes all the way back to Confucius himself, who was said to have a particular attachment to the flowers.
One winter, I went to Erfoud to research trilobites and got to know the quarries, the dealers, and the remote mining villages. They are not easy places to visit, and this was a completely unknown corner of the world economy: children slaving away on desert cliffs to furnish wealthy collectors in San Francisco.
Mongolians are epic drinkers and carousers, and in this respect, they are extremely congenial to my own way of thinking.
New York was very congenial to me when I was young, like most people. I met my comrades in arms and partied hard. It's the way it should be, and then you get sick of it.
Sometimes you can publish a first novel in a kind of lyrical flourish, but it is not really a lyrical form. The beautiful truths about the world are more hard won than that. Novels should be bleach boned. It's a question of cumulative observation and lived suffering. It takes time.
So many writers live their whole lives in rooms. You can be too civilised in the environment you have around you, too oriented towards speaking engagements and literary festivals and dinner parties. That has no interest for me these days. You get to a point where you don't care anymore. At that point, you can start to write.
I left New York after my mother died and, rather aimlessly, had settled in Istanbul for a change of scene. It was a rather dramatic gesture on my part, since I'd lived in New York for 20 years, but I felt I needed something different - the escalating expense and pressure of New York had begun to weary me.
That's all you do in life: you find your perch, and if it suits you, just carry on. There's nothing Graham Greene about it.
I still miss qualities of Khmer life that are hard to quantify: the slow, sensual pace, the hovering presence of the past, the vast skies filled with terrifying and beautiful butts. And, of course, the food.
There's a distinct unease about Americans when they are outside the United States. I can't say quite what it is, but they are easily spooked or driven to cynicism - the country is diverse but, paradoxically, extremely insular.
To me, the contemporary novel suffers from a lack of sense of place - or spirit of place, if you will. It's not important to most writers, I must assume, or they try to research a given background on sabbatical. Not for me. I write about places I've lived long before I ever set pen to paper.