"Setting out on the voyage to Ithaca you must pray that the way be long, full of adventures and experiences."
- Constantine Peter Cavafy "Ithaca"
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©2008 Ruth Kozak

ARCHIVES: ASIA



XUANWU’S IDYLLIC PARK: China
by Daniel Otero

With a space in circumference of 15 kilometers, Xuanwu Lake is a place for those who enjoys nature walks, runs, going to the Isle to view its manmade stone gardens and greenery. The artificial mixes in just nicely with the natural. Life is beating constantly around the Lake and Nanjing Wall, considered by most a bird sanctuary so of interest to bird watchers. There is a scenic panorama of romantic-long walks and boat rides. For 30 RMB (5.81 CAD), tourists can climb the old stone steps to the top of the Wall. If you have enough stamina to walk the 15K, that’s almost one-third of a marathon!


FLOWER POWER AT THE LALBAGH BOTANICAL GARDENS, BENGALURU: India
by Rashmi Gopal Lao

If you love flowers and feel like what Luther Burbank says, you must visit Bengaluru’s bi-annual flower show at Lalbagh Botanical gardens, easily one of the city’s best known landmarks. The show that coincides with India’s Republic Day (26-Jan) and Independence Day every year is usually a 10 day long extravaganza of everything related to flowers.


STEP INTO THE MAGNIFICENT ARCHITECTURE OF ANCIENT BAOLIS STEP WELLS: India
by Papiya Banerjeeby

Baolis are step wells or reservoirs which were used in ancient India for conserving and storing water. The ruling clans of India, over the ages, have made many such baolis all across the states. Separate baolis were made for bathing and drinking purposes. Steps were made so that when the water levels go down; people would walk to the well and draw water.


NANJING’S PILU TEMPLE China
by Daniel Otero

Hanfu Lu (Street), like most of Nanjing (Jiangsu Province) holds mysteries and hidden treasures which not even the locals know about. One has to look carefully. Then there it is! The Pilu Temple, it’s one of the largest grounds in the whole of China for practicing Buddhist. The Temple was built during the Ming Dynasty. It roughly took forty-four years to build and complete (1522 – 1566).


TRAVELLING THROUGH THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE: Korea
by Devan Hawkins

The two Koreas are certainly different worlds. Over 60 years of separation has had a dramatic effect. The languages they both share, although still mutually intelligible, have diverged. So if the two Koreas are not only divided by a border, but also in these other fundamental ways — is there hope for reunification?


CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR IN JAPAN: Japan
by Leslie Hebert

Although less than 1% of the Japanese population is Christian, and December 25 is not a public holiday, Japanese retailers have eagerly adopted the commercial aspects of the season. Some Japanese put up Christmas trees in their homes and exchange gifts, and it is popular to eat “Christmas chicken” from Kentucky Fried Chicken.


THE TAJ MAHAL, A MONUMENT OF LOVE: India
by Marilyn Escue

The mesmerizing marble of the Taj Mahal seems to pull us in and allow us to soak in the majesty of this experience. According to Wikipedia, Taj Mahal means “Crown of Palaces”. But, this is no palace. This is a shrine of love one man had for his favorite wife after she died giving birth to their 14th child.


EXPLORING PUDUCHERRY:India
by Rashmi Gopal Rao

Formerly known as Pondicherry, Puducherry is a union territory located close to the city of Chennai in the South India. Puducherry was ruled by the Dutch, Portuguese, British and French colonialists in the 16th and 17th century. A French colony until 1954, it is a great place where both India and French coexist seamlessly giving the place a distinct feel.


I’M DREAMING OF A RED YAO CHRISTMAS: China
by Brian K. Smith

Shortly after arriving back at the family hotel we sat down (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and brother) to an amazing traditional 12 plate feast. The steaming bowls had an assortment of duck, fish, pork, beef, sautéed vegetables and rice. The dishes were rich in flavour and prepared to perfection.


SEARCHING FOR THE SUNRISE: Mt. Fuji, Japan
by Susan Elizabeth Thomas

After two years of teaching in Mito, Japan, I was ready to do something daring. So I set out to conquer the tallest mountain in Japan with a few friends and coworkers. Armed with a backpack of food, water and canned oxygen, I had one goal – reach the top by sunrise. I had no idea what we were in for.


WHERE THE DEER ARE MESSENGERS OF THE GODS: Nara, Japan
by Anne Harrison

Founded in 710, Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital. (Until then, each new emperor established a new capital.) Nara rapidly became one of Asia’s most splendid cities. It also became a major centre for Buddhism. For many, this area of Japan is sacred. As are the deer, for they are the messengers of the gods.


TIME BEFORE PRESENT - TEMPLES, FUNERALS AND A WEDDING: Kathmandu, Nepal
by Brian K. Smith

As I walked through the streets of the ancient city a resting group of riot policemen posed for a candid picture. This was a time when civil war was on the mountain kingdom’s doorstep. It looked as though the country was about to self-destruct. It did survive that turmoil and moved on with shaky footing until April 25, 2015, when a 7.9 Richter scale earthquake hit.


THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY JUNGLE SAFARI: Jim Corbett National Park, India
by Shweta Bhardwaj

Initially established in 1936 to protect the Bengal Tiger, Corbett forest and jungle are home to many different other species of fauna. A heaven for bird enthusiasts. It is also one of the best bird watching area in India. In 1956 this national park was renamed after Colonel Jim Corbett, who is considered the ‘missionary of wildlife conservation in India’.


FUSHIMI INARI: A NIGHT WITH THE FOX SPIRITS: Japan
by Susan Elizabeth Thomas

I rode a shaky, silent train from Kyoto, Japan to the mountain-side shrine, Fushimi Inari. I was arriving late, too late to meet my friend who had already trekked down the mountain. She had called me from the train stop. “Be careful,” she warned. “ At this hour Fushimi Inari is completely empty and the shrine is full of fox demons.”


LONG NECK OF INLE THE LAKE: Burma
by Brian K. Smith

Having seen photos of this beautiful country for many years, it was impossible to resist any longer - I had to go to Burma. Many of my photographer friends spoke of this troubled country as a goldmine of spectacular images just waiting to be captured. I have to admit that I was nervous, as just getting a tourist visa was incredibly involved.


COMFORT FOOD IN THE HEART OF CHINA
by Brian K. Smith

In the Muslim quarter of Xi’an there are countless vendors selling many dishes that use mutton or beef with eastern spices as the base. In the neighborhood near my hotel just a few blocks of walking took me to an amazing Muslim restaurant where they served a dish called du wah (pita bread soaked in lamb soup).


EXPERIENCING STRANGE CHINESE BEER
by Lawrence Hamilton

The only thing worse than being sober, is being drunk on Chinese alcohol, or so I thought. Luckily my imaginings were wrong. For the discerning eye, there is a whole world of completely random and strange beers that seemingly pop up out of nowhere and in the most unlikely of places.


SIX PLACES TO FIND GRAHAM GREENE IN SAIGON: Vietnam
by Anne Harrison

Having spent a few years living in the city, Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is in many ways his homage to Saigon. Despite a somber tone colored by the knowledge of what is to come, Greene’s love of Saigon and her people shines throughout the novel.


THE DRAGON OF HALONG: Vietnam, Asia
by Anne Harrison

Halong Bay is a major tourist hub, filled with a frenzy of people either visiting or making a living from UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. Passing through the chaos I wondered if this was where the belly of the dragon had scalded the land. It certainly seems so. Or perhaps his fiery breath so scorched the earth nothing of beauty could grow.


A DAY TRIP THROUGH PARADISE: Suzhou, China
by Troy Herrick

Marco Polo himself named Suzhou “the Venice of the East” because of its canal system. Suzhou is also the Garden City and once had over 100 classical Chinese gardens of which only 69 now remain. Bind these two together and you have what the Chinese refer to as “paradise on earth”.


A TRADITIONAL INDIAN WEDDING SPECTACULAR: India
by Marsha Rexford

We had accepted the gracious invitation of our dear friend and former professor, Mohan, to attend his niece's wedding in New Delhi. He assured us that a traditional Indian wedding was an experience not to be missed. Typically lasting the better portion of a week, it is a lavish celebration.


RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK – THE GARH OF TIGERS
India - by Shweta Bhardwaj

“There it is! I see it” The atmosphere became tenser. I looked at our guide, he was quiet too. He pointed towards the trees and bushes across the lake and said “yes, looks like he is planning to charge and make a kill”.


FOREVER ENGLAND
Sri Lanka - by Clare Gleeson

If Rupert Brooke had visited Nuwara Eilya he would have felt completely at home. The Sri Lankan hill station, developed by the British in the mid-19th century, retains many legacies of the Raj, despite more than 60 years of independence. Nuwara Eilya is proud of its Englishness.


TERRA COTTA WARRIORS
China - by Keith Kellett

One day, in 1974, a group of Chinese farmers near the city of Xi’an set out to dig a well. What they found was to become world famous, and some of their finds would tour the major cities, for as many people as possible to see. Instead of water, they came face to face with a soldier. Not a miniature soldier, but a life-sized model, in terra cotta.


ON THE LI WITH SNOW AND ME
China - by Karen Pacheco

We depart early for our four-hour river journey from Guilin to Yangshuo. Tourist vans and buses fill the adjacent parking lot. Hundreds line up for tickets. A fleet of boats nestled in the harbour braces for the throngs. Once aboard, we navigate towards the front of the two-level boat where others gather, cameras clicking.


A STRANGE AND EROTIC DISPLAY AT HAESINDANG PARK
Samcheok, South Korea - by Lawrence Hamilton

I had heard next to nothing about South Korea’s coastline. I was surprised to find that it was beautiful and rugged, and even more surprised to find along that coastline a park filled with statues of penises. Not just a few penises, but lots and lots of penises.


A WALK IN THE CLOUDS IN LANSDOWNE
India - by Shweta Bhardwaj

Lansdowne is a small hill station situated in Pauri Garwal district in Uttarakhand, India. A hill station where mornings and evenings give you your magical moments of walking in the clouds. A place where you are fully connected with nature and its ways. Still untouched by the modern tourism industry, this place was originally a popular hill station for Britishers (during pre-independence).

SAMARKAND, CITY OF ENCHANTMENT
Uzbekistan, Asia - by Neil Middleton

A part of the world's collective fantasy, Samarkand has always glittered somewhere in the far distance. The magical Silk Road city all the world came to, yet distant enough to have something of the mythical about it. Despite modern transport the city still entices with the allure of the great city.

HARIDWAR, GATEWAY TO GOD’S ABODE
India - by Shweta Bhardwaj

The River Ganges or Ganga as it is sacredly called in Hindi is considered to be the life line of India. Haridwar is ... one of the oldest living cities in India, it is mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures. In Sanskrit ‘Hari’ means lord Vishnu and ‘dwar’ means gate. Hence, gateway to lord’s abode.

THE GREAT WALL
China - by Keith Kellett

Comparison of Hadrian’s Wall with the Great Wall of China is a bit fanciful for, although there’s some disagreement on the length of the latter, the length of the actual wall is at least almost 4000 miles long. This figure disregards the ditches and trenches, and natural defensive boundaries such as hills and rivers, which add a further 1500 miles to the total.

FIVE TOP SPOTS NEAR ANGKOR WAT
Cambodia - by Jonathon Engels

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, with skillful carvings adorning every block in the place. However, my most memorable moments spent in Siem Reap did not happen in Angkor Wat but in the sights that surround it.

ADVENTURE IN NEPAL
Kathmandu, Nepal - by Rusif Huseynov

At first sight, it looks as one of provinces of India. Same clothing, Indian faces, smell of curry... Yet each of them contains something unique, and one soon realizes it is a different country. Welcome to Nepal! Having landed on Nepalese soil, we understood we were in a very different world.

PHALLIC POWER: THE LEGACY OF A DIVINE MADMAN
Bhutan - by K.D. Leperi

I’ll admit to not recognizing the structure of a giant penis on a commercial building at first, thinking it was some elaborate design that I just didn’t get. Initially, I was somewhat taken aback by the penile projectile, but then I began to philosophically contemplate why decorated penises adorned many buildings and homes.

WAR AND PEACE
Vietnam - by Barry Truter

Hanoi is a contrast of old and new with some intriguing contradictions. The National Museum is housed in an old colonial building. The 900 year old Temple of Literature was a center of Confucian learning and thought. The French-era Opera House is beautifully appointed ... and located opposite the Hanoi stock exchange in a square that includes a Gucci store and the Hanoi Hilton.

SLOW BOAT TO CHINA
Freighter Travel Across the North Pacific - by Barry Truter

Within six hours of boarding the massive freighter that would carry me and four other passengers – along with 5,500 containers – from Vancouver to Hong Kong, I knew I’d made the right choice of travel plans. Standing on the dimly lit navigation deck, I had a brief, blissful moment when the licensed pilot, just coming aboard, mistook me for the captain.

MIRJAN FORT
Kumta, India - by Anuradha Shankar

I am not too far from the truth – I am at Mirjan Fort, near Gokarna. The fort, built first in the 12th century and extended in the 16th century, has a long and glorious history. It was the seat of Rani Chennabhairadevi, ruling under the aegis of the Vijayanagar Empire. She was better known as the Pepper Queen, or Raina da Pimenta, as she controlled the spice trade in the area.

ADVENTURE IN NEPAL
Kathmandu, Nepal - by Rusif Huseynov

Welcome to Nepal! Although I and my brother had planned our accommodation, places to go, routes long before, we were still very intrigued to face what might await us, to see what we had expected and had not expected. Having landed on Nepalese soil, we understood we were in a very different world.

REMEMBERED MOMENTS AT JIM CORBETT NATIONAL PARK
India - by Jessica Frei

Everyone deserves a break from the monotonous lifestyle and I am no exception to it. With having said that, there is an exception in my definition of 'a break'. I want my break to be full of adventures; no sitting back at home, no chit chat with long lost friends, all I want is thrill. And this hunger for thrill took me to Jim Corbett National Park.

CLIMBING SRI PADA: THE SACRED MOUNTAIN
Sri Lanka - by Helen Moat

The mountain rises out of the rainforest an emerald pyramid. I look at its sheer vertical flanks that stretch upwards on and on until they puncture the sky high above and I wonder: What have I let myself in for? This is Sri Pada, also known as Adam’s Peak. It is the only mountain in the world to be venerated by four major world religions: by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

OF CATHEDRALS, CHURCHES, CHAPELS AND CONVENTS
Old Goa, India - by R. Niranjan Das

Built by the Bijapur Sultans in the 15th century, Velha Goa was evangelised from the 16th to the 18th century by the Portuguese before abandoning it in the 18th century after it was hit by a plague. The beautiful structures have intricate carvings both on the outside and inside.

FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT HIROSHIMA
Japan - by Josie Sampson

A city almost entirely wiped out in the space of a few seconds ... 68 years on, the tireless efforts and tenacity of its citizens mean that modern-day Hiroshima is a booming region of art, culture, economics and government. Despite its dark legacy, here we present you with a city that’s harbouring much more than the ghosts of the past.

CRUISING THE MIGHTY BRAHMAPUTRA
India - by Tom Koppel

The monastery, founded in the 17th century, is among some 25 on Majuli Island, a long stretch of land in the broad Brahmaputra River in India's remote northeastern state of Assam. Our visit is one of the memorable shore excursions that my wife Annie and I enjoy during a 10-day small-ship cruise along a mighty stream that discharges more water than the Mississippi.

DISCOVERING SAMATATA
Bangladesh - by Reema Islam

Armed with bursting enthusiasm, guide books and various brochures from the museum’s dusty shelves, I with two of my trusted girlfriends had set out on an adventurous weekend to Comilla, East of Bangladesh, to check out the ancient sites popularly known as moinamoti.

POETRY IN STONE
Hampi, Karnataka, India - by Trupti Devdas Nayak

Given its historical significance, Hampi has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This means the tourism infrastructure and maintenance is much better now than what it used to be. For many years, as the bustling cities around Hampi grew, the stone mandapas (stone pillared pavilions) on the mountains and carved dancing girls on the stone walls were silent witnesses to all that modern growth brings.

ALONG THE MOTHER GANGES
India - by Tom Koppel

During our deluxe small-ship cruise, passengers gain a wealth of insights into the religious, historical and cultural world of the subcontinent's largely rural and small-town heartland. Many of the encounters could never be had on a land-based group tour. It is the ideal way to experience the rich tapestry of life along the central artery of northern India.

FIGHTING OVER DOKDO
Korea - by Jonathon Engels

Dokdo is easternmost entity of Korea, at least disputably. The two tiny islands, a little more than a twentieth the size of New York’s Central Park, are situated between mainland Korea (135 miles/217 kms) and Japan (155 miles/250 kms). Obviously, in such a situation, both countries are claiming ownership. Japan refers to the islands by yet another name
Takeshima.

DISCOVERING JAMDANI SARIS
Bangladesh - by Paola Fornari

We are weaving our way through the heavy Dhaka traffic towards the eastern suburbs. I heard about Jamdani saris a while ago when I admired a woman wearing one at a reception. I was amazed by the delicate designs woven into the floaty gossamer fabric. So I hire Mithu to take me to visit the factory.

AN “ICEBERG” IN THE PACIFIC
The Battle for Okinawa Japan
- by Robert Hale

A quarter of a million men were about to die. No one scheduled a noon family Easter feast. And, for the next 82 days there would be nothing but war! A terrible war! …The Battle of Okinawa begins! It was called “Operation Iceberg.” The island would eventually resemble, not an iceberg, but a blazing hell-on-earth!

FLYING PROUD AND HIGH
Jaipur, India by Anuradha Shankar

Flying high over the Jaigarh Fort, the colourful flag provides a welcome contrast to the brown, which dominates the landscape. This is the flag of the erstwhile royal family of Jaipur, and flying atop the fort named after one of its greatest ancestors, it signifies the importance of the royal family, which lingers on in spite of the fact that they no longer rule the city.

SEEING SAPA IN THE FOOTSTEP OF MAY
Vietnam - by Anna Nguyen Thi Quynh Nga

Sapa greeted us with a thick layer of fog. Never before had I seen a whiter shade of green where long rows of trees along the winding road are only half existent behind many layers of fog. Maybe here, because it is so high, the clouds are being mixed up with the scenery. I wondered if this is how it looks like in heaven.

CAPE COMORIN, THE TIP OF INDIA
Kanyakumari, India - by R. Niranjan Das

There are very few places on this beautiful earth where one can witness both sunrise and sunset over the horizon. One amongst them is Cape Comorin which is the tip of Indian mainland. Cape Comorin which is better known as Kanyakumari is the place where the three humungous water bodies namely, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal meet up.

THE PADAUNG GIRAFFE WOMEN
Bagan, Myanmar - by Paola Fornari

'Would you like to see the giraffe women?' 'No.' My guide seemed a bit taken aback by my blunt reply, but he didn't insist. To me, the idea of going to ogle at women whose necks are lengthened by the rings they wear on them - and worse, have my photo taken beside one - disgusted me.

SWAYING PALMS AND FLOATING BOATS
Kerala, South India - by Raj Niranjan Das

As we are transported from the world of traffic snarls, chaos, hectic work and continuous meetings to the world of lagoons and greenery, we stood awestruck. We were on one of the numerous houseboats parked on the very famous Vembanad Lake in Alappuzha. Travellers from all over the world have a fascination for the renowned houseboat rides on this lake.

A TRYST WITH ROYAL GUJARAT
Gondal, India

Gondal may be a quaint little town of Gujarat and most tourists to Gujarat may not even be aware of its existence, but once they set foot on this charming town and savor the famed Gondal hospitality, a majority of the visitors and guests turn out to be repeat visitors who develop some sort of a love affair with the palaces of Gondal.

RESORTING TO THE ARCANE
Muktinath, Nepal

Well over a half century ago the inveterate British mountaineer and travel writer, H.W. 'Bill' Tilman (b.1898), was the first European to trek across some of the highest parts of Nepal. To be sure, it is an alluring and austere place, but why did he call it a "resort"?

GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS
Bhutan

A cool, quiet, elevated, sparsely populated country less than an hour's flight away is just too tempting, especially when that country's progress is based on GNH - Gross National Happiness - rather than GDP. And if you're looking for different - different from anywhere in the whole world - Bhutan is where you'll find it.

OUT AND ABOUT IN XIAN CITY
China

When touring China's legendary sights with twenty other enthusiasts, my husband Rick and I encounter unimagined marvels in and around Xian, the early capital where Emperors ruled for over 3000 years. Two memorable days begin high atop the ramparts of this ancient city's wall, one of the few remaining in China.

THE LAND OF CLIFFS AND BEACHES
Varkala, India

Varkala has always been there in my travel list for a long time and the two day break was apt for me to head to the small fishing hamlet. This is the best beach I have been to and for the sheer beauty of the place I will go back again for a longer vacation.

A TRYST WITH ROYAL GUJARAT
Gondal, India

Gondal may be a quaint little town of Gujarat and most tourists to Gujarat may not even be aware of its existence, but once they set foot on this charming town and savor the famed Gondal hospitality, a majority of the visitors and guests turn out to be repeat visitors who develop some sort of a love affair with the palaces of Gondal.

A ROAD TRIP TO VISIT RAIGAD FORT
India

When Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj calls, you just get up and go. The excitement at visiting a place that I had been trying to visit for the past twelve years, but somehow had never managed to do so, for a variety of reasons, was palpable. We finally reached Pachad at the base of the famous Fort Raigad.

UNDER THE EYES OF CAESAR
France

The head emerged from years in its watery grave. If only stone cold eyes could see! The discovery of a true to life bust of Caesar, in the Fall of 2007 along the shore of the Rhone, was appropriately found in southwestern France for here the great man had some of his greatest victories and the hand of Rome pressed most deeply into the land.

CHANGING CHENGDU
China

Although I knew the first settlers named the area Tianfuzhi Guó, (The Country of Heaven) four thousand years ago, this reference didn’t sit easily with the veneer of dirt encrusting the buildings and occasional person. Still, as it was recently named as China’s fourth most liveable city, I was certain I would be able to unearth the cultural charm.

OUT OF THE ATOMIC ASHES, THE CITY LIVES AGAIN
Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima. The very name conjures powerful images of mushroom clouds and devastation. The city’s atomic past is an integral part of its identity, but it is also a living city with fantastic opportunities for fun, culture, and entertainment. During my recent visit, I had the chance to meditate on a dark past at the Atomic Bomb Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, take in a major league baseball game with the Hiroshima Carp, and participate in the annual lantern ceremony on the banks of the Ota River.

A CULTURE WRAPPED IN NATURE
Nepal

Nepal is primarily known to be a Hindu nation but it is also the birthplace of Buddha. Nepal is home to four world heritage sites, one of which lies in the Kathmandu valley, the valley where its capital by the same name is situated.

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF CHENNAI AND AREA TREASURES
Tamil Nadu, India

Our mixed experiences of landmark churches, ancient temples, ashrams, specialty crafts of various areas, and pocket of French flavour, was made even more incredible with the hospitality of friendly localsa. I concur with Rick’s succinct summation, “India just keeps getting better.”

THROUGH THE TOWNS OF THE HIMALAYAS
India

When most people think of images of India, few bring pictures of green mountain meadows and snow-capped peaks to mind. Delhi’s narrow Pahar Ganj, with its rickshaws, dirt, street-sellers and conmen is probably much closer to many people’s visual concept of India.

THE HEROIC WOMEN OF CHITTORGARH
Rajasthan, India

We are at Chittorgarh, also called Chittaur, in Rajasthan, one of the oldest and biggest forts in India. It was once the bastion of the Mewar Rajputs and was ruled by various kings famed for their courage, but more than them, it is the story of their women that dwells in people’s hearts even today ... each one of them attained immortality in the hearts and minds of Indians. This is the story of some of these women.

THE TERRACOTTA TRAIL
Kolkata, India

While planning for a small vacation around Kolkata, I saw some pictures of the Terracotta temples of Bishnupur and that instant I knew I have to go there. The bright red temples were so inviting that I dropped my plans to visit Shanti Niketan and instead headed for this temple town.

THE WEDDING, ETHIOPIAN STYLE
Abdurafi, Ethiopia

It’s wedding season in Abdurafi, Ethiopia. Wedding season comes but once a year, and lasts for two months only. Raise a flag, kill a goat, beat a drum, invite the neighbours and get yourself a wife!

IN TIMES OF DISASTER
Sri Lanka

It’s January 12, 2010—5 years after the tsunami tore into Asian countries around the Indian Ocean, an earthquake, magnitude of 7, affects millions in Haiti
200,000 dead; 250,000 injured; over two million homeless with the rainy season upon them.

SERENE, SOOTHING AND SALUBRIOUS SAPUTARA
Gujarat, India

Hill stations have always fascinated me. My family and I have been fortunate to visit some of India’s best known hill stations ranging from Tawang in the Eastern Himalayas to Shimla, Nubra Valley and beyond. Having experienced first hand the joys of visiting the quintessential Himalayan hill stations of India, we decided to alter our hill sojourn a bit and gave the less commercialized Saputara a try.

FADED GLORY - ‘RAMALINGA VILASAM’
Ramanathapuram, South India

Kings and castles may seem to belong to a forgotten era. Yet I have always been keen on exploring old forts and ruined palaces. When I moved into the quaint town of Ramanathapuram in South India, an old palace that silently adorns the market square was the first landmark to catch my attention.

FIELD OF BOMBS
Phonsavan, Laos

The tiny Lao Aviation plane dropped hastily from the sky. Crossing my fingers I cursed my sense of adventure. What on Earth had persuaded me to risk flying to Phonsavan? The reason was, of course, the famous ‘Plain of Jars’. These ancient stone vessels lay scattered across the far-flung Lao province, and according to the travel books, have become something of a tourist magnet. I was looking forward to some hardcore sightseeing.

THE HEAVENLY GATES
Sapa, Vietnam

Jumping off the Victoria Express train in 5:00am fog at Loa Cai, a Vietnamese border town next to China, is not the most inviting start to the day, but I am here - determined to find the Heavenly Gates near the mountain-top town of Sapa.

MEMORIAL TO AN INTREPID TRAVELER
Sir Edmund Hillary 1919-2008

Knighted in 1953 after conquering Mount Everest’s summit, to the locals Sir Edmund was like a god. They bedecked him with garlands of flowers and almost worship him. Mitch says Sir Edmund’s calmness and poise impressed him. “It was an unexpected treasure meeting him,” Mitch says.

WHAT TO SEE, WHERE TO GO, WHAT TO DO
Beijing, China

Beijing is buzzing with activity as it prepares for the 2008 Olympic games. If you’re headed there for either business or pleasure, you’re in for an unforgettable journey into the history and culture of a 5,000 year old civilization.

THE WONDERS OF KUALA LUMPUR
Malaysia

In the words of British novelist and playwright Somerset Maugham, “If you haven’t seen this place, you haven’t seen the world.” He was referring to Malaysia. And he was right.

THE RAINFOREST WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL
Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo

The 10th Anniversary of the annual, three-day Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) was held in mid July 2007 in the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong, 45 minutes drive outside of Kuching, Sarawak on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo.

ART IN A TROPICAL GARDEN
Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia

Tucked away on an small acreage just outside of Kuala Lumpur, a Malaysian architect, Hijjas Kasturi and his Australian wife, Angela, have developed a lush garden paradise retreat for artists and writers.

OLD MALACCA TOWN - MALAYSIA’S HISTORIC CITY
Malaysia

A fugitive Sumatran prince established Malaysia’s first sultanate in Malacca during the 1400’s…and as it turned out, he’d recognized a good thing when he saw it! Very quickly, his sleepy seaside-fishing village developed into a prosperous cosmopolitan port, changing hands again and again over time.

ISLAND OF LEGENDS
Langkawi, Malaysia

Our first trekking destination was the Ourika Valley. We were forced to leave the van and had to teeter across foot-wide Berber bridges fashioned out of sticks, suspended over the rushing white water and squeeze behind houses on uneven slippery pathways meant only for goats.

GATEWAY TO THE HIMALAYAS
Nepal

It is hard to believe that Nepal only opened its borders to mass tourism in the 1950s. Now it is famous for its trekking and climbing, as it utilises the fact that most of the world’s highest mountains are within its territory.

STANDING ROOM ONLY IN SHIBUYA
Tokyo, Japan

I was in Shibuya, a Tokyo district familiar to any moviegoer. It’s all the points of the compass compacted into the city’s busiest road crossing. Pedestrians line up like the start of a marathon and take over the road, leaving Bill Murray hangdog in the middle. His foreignness is clear in his stillness for, in a place that’s constantly moving, the most Japanese of experiences are to be found by standing up.

TRADITION - OKINAWA'S LUNAR NEW YEAR
Japan

Fireworks illuminate the faces of Americans and locals as glasses are raised and toasts are made to another peaceful year on Okinawa, Japan. While the Americans' New Years celebration is coming to an end, the Okinawans' will continue on through the night until the first sunrise of the new year.

TSUNAMI! A STORY OF SURVIVAL - Phi Phi Island, Thailand
I wake, underwater, drowning again. My limbs are free. I look above into darkness. I’m down deep. The weight of the water crushes me. Debris boxes me in. I turn left…everything is black. I turn right…there’s a faint circle of light. Instinct guides me to swim! Swim! Swim for your life! Adrenaline fuels me and I sever a path through the filthy, now motionless, water.

OKINAWA’S FIVE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE CASTLES AND THE LEGEND OF GOSAMARU
Japan

Okinawa is the smallest and southernmost of Japan’s 47 prefectures. It’s part of an island archipelago that stretches from southern Kyushu in Japan to within view of Taiwan. It was also the scene of the last and greatest land battle in the Pacific theater of WWII. Today it claims nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, five of which are ancient castles.

BOROBUDUR
Java, Indonesia

Turning the corner, I found myself on the main path that led straight up to the front of the temple. It was massive, like a layered pyramid of dark grey stone rising out of the dirt. I picked up my pace to get to there quickly until I realized that I didn't need to rush the moment. I just stopped and stared in wonder.

FOODIE HEAVEN
Welcome to Penang, Malaysia

In Penang, Malaysia, the Jalan Sungai Pinang is a street crowded with food stalls, and frequented nightly by local Penangites who come to taste their rich treats. Some of the richest gastronomic experiences can be had in the markets of Penang. Street vendors at these markets prepare hot dishes with fresh ingredients right before your eyes.

AN OKINAWAN BULLFIGHT
Uruma Okinawa, Japan

Bullfighting is a traditional Sunday pastime in Okinawa and earliest records show it has been a spectator sport since at least the 17th century. Unlike bullfighting in Spanish speaking cultures, there is no Matador to face the bull; it is one bull challenging another and neither will be seriously injured or die in the event.

THE STONE-SHAPERS OF MAHABALIPURAM
Tamil Nadu, India

Mamallapuram is all about sculpture, old and new; history and mythology as is the old bespectacled guide in a crisp white veshti, who has been standing at the very spot at the gateway of the town for the past 31 years, heralding tourists with his trademark “I can show you Mamallapuram. Want a guide?"

SAVORING COOKING EXPERIENCES IN ASIA
The Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand

I love serving my dinner guests Phad Thai and having them ask, “Where did you learn to make this?” I enjoy their surprised looks when I reply, “At the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok. And, how do you like the lemongrass drink? I learned to make it at the Governor’s Residence in Myanmar.

CONTRASTING INDIA
Delhi/Ladakh, India

As our jeep drove on through the Ladakh district of India in the Western Himalayas, under the watchful eye of this bright afternoon sun, mud houses seemed to emerge from the desert. Then we see ahead the magnificent Tikse monastery which swells to its dazzling proportions, leaving us in awe.

THE FORT OF KUMBHALGARH
Rajasthan

We can scarcely believe that we are in the heart of the Indian desert – Rajasthan. It is so green and lush, the roads lined with sugarcane fields. Even the approaching mountains appear green all over. Our driver tells us that this is the only fertile area of Rajasthan, and this year the rains have been plentiful. “You are lucky to see this face of this state!” he exclaims.

AMONG THE LIONS
Gir, India

Sasan Gir, land of the wild and the free, the savage and the beautiful, where endless dry and arid grasslands are rife with game. Lions prowl there, magnificent lions with imposing manes. A stunning variety of some of the magnificent specimens of wildlife found anywhere else on earth are here in Sasan Gir.

HORSEBACK IN TIBET
Tibet, Asia

The romantic notion of galloping across the Tibetan grasslands on horseback has me lost in a reverie. According to the locals, Serchul County has the five “mosts” in the Ganzi prefecture. It is the highest (4000 metres above sea level), the farthest, the biggest, the coldest, and the poorest. It's subtle charm then is its rawness, its simplicity and its vastness.

CELEBRATING CHINESE NEW YEAR
Hong Kong

I was fortunate to be in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn as much as we could about the traditional celebrations. From our Western viewpoint, Chinese New Year is like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations all rolled into one.

TIBETAN MAGIC
Mcleod Ganj, Upper Dharamshala


Serene and sunny, this seems like a great day to explore this little Tibetan settlement, which is often known as Little Lasha. Located in Upper Dharamshala (Himachal Pradesh), Mcleod Ganj is the home of his Holiness the Dalai Lama and the head quarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Home for several Tibetan refugees, this mountain village is packed with compact houses, shops and monasteries.

CELEBRATING CHINESE NEW YEAR
Hong Kong

I was fortunate to be in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn as much as we could about the traditional celebrations. From our Western viewpoint, Chinese New Year is like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations all rolled into one.

WHAT TO SEE, WHERE TO GO, WHAT TO DO
Beijing, China

If you’re headed there for either business or pleasure, you’re in for an unforgettable journey into the history and culture of a 5,000 year old civilization. China’s capital city is packed with magnificent historical sites and out of the way alleyways teeming with life, just waiting to be discovered.

GENOCIDE AND GRAFFITI - REMEMBERING CAMBODIA'S WAR TORN PAST
Cambodia

During the three years, eight months, and twenty-one days that the Khmer Rouge were in power, an estimated two million Cambodians lost their lives from starvation, overwork or execution. Twenty thousand of those were caged within these institutional walls, the school that came to be known as Tuol Sleng, or Security Prison 21.

THE ASTOUNDING TEMPLES AND TREES OF ANGKOR
Cambodia

The full moon hangs low. Voluminous clouds shroud us in darkness as we ride toward Cambodia’s ancient Angkor temples, and the world’s largest religious monument. The open sides of the tuk-tuk (essentially a motorcycle pulling a covered cart, in which my girlfriend Jen and I sit) allow us to breathe in the cool, tropical air, a far cry from the stifling midday heat.

DILAPIDATED GLORY OF AN ANCIENT PORT
Kodangallur, India

I am in Kerala, the southern coast of India, at a port called Kodangallur. The Brits in their 150 years of colonial dominance here till 1947, couldn't pronounce Kodangallur and came as close to the name as their thick tongues would allow by calling it Cranganore. Apostle Thomas had landed at Kodangallur in 52 A.D., soon after the death of Christ.

ANGKOR AND BEYOND
Northeast Thailand

The thrill of hearing your trowel “clink” on an artifact or part of skeletal remains that nobody has seen for over 3000 years is shared by all of us who are volunteers. In addition to digging, we take turns reconstructing ancient pottery (similar to assembling a three-dimensional jig saw puzzle) and sorting other finds such as jewelry and tools.

HIKING HALLASAN IN THE SNOW
Mount Halla, South Korea

At the foot of Mount Halla, my girlfriend Jen and I stop and gape at the meter of snow clogging the trailhead. Our guidebook clearly specified no special equipment required. From a distance, the only visible snow lies atop Hallasan’s trapezoidal summit, like a white fin on a surfacing whale.