Going Southeast to Reach the West

One of the perks of living in Asia is having all those beautiful, magnificent and intriguing cultures right at my doorstep. From the gilded stupa of Shwedagon in Myanmar and the gold-leafed dome of Brunei’s Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque to Kinkakuji, the golden pavilion […]

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Ngempon, Twelve Centuries Later

1,200 years ago in the heart of Java, Buddhism and Hinduism grew as the dominant religions of the people, signified by the construction of a multitude of temples in the island’s mountainous regions as well as the vast plains overlooked by mighty volcanoes. Around the […]

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The Invincible White Heron

In Ancient Egypt, the heron was believed to be the creator of light, while the double-headed heron symbolized prosperity. Halfway across the world in Ancient China, the bird was regarded as a symbol of strength, purity, patience and long life. However in Japan, an egret […]

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Fragrant Water and Putrid Air

Any conversation about Indonesia’s natural landscape will almost certainly mention its plethora of volcanoes. Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire – where some of the world’s strongest and deadliest earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur – Indonesia is home to more than a hundred active […]

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Hue Tombs: Opulence for Eternity

Beginning in the early 19th century, much of present-day Vietnam was once again unified after being divided by rivaling feudal lords for centuries. The Nguyen dynasty, the last dynasty in the history of Imperial Vietnam, ruled the country for more than one hundred years, a […]

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Semarang: My Cherished Hometown

“Semarang is squeezed in the middle,” a pun my father once told me about the Central Javanese provincial capital which is also my hometown. We were discussing about how slowly Semarang developed compared to other major cities in Java – Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung and even Yogyakarta. […]

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Hue Citadel: Echoes of Imperial Vietnam

Beginning in the 15th century in a land known today as Vietnam, Dai Viet – an empire of the Viet people from the north – which had successfully defeated their long-time rival, the Chams, expanded their territory further south. Quite the opposite of the Hindu-influenced […]

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A Waterworld Called Inle

On a sunny Thursday morning, the river town of Nyaung Shwe is already brimming with activity. Its quay, the main gateway for locals and tourists alike to visit Inle Lake, is thronged by dozens of colorful slender boats. Our boat, conspicuously painted pink and fitted with […]

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Penataran: Appeasing the Mountain God

Swirling tongues of fire welcomed erstwhile royal families and priests who ascended the stairs of Palah, a late 12th-century Hindu temple located on the southwestern slopes of Mount Kelud. The volcano was so active and unpredictable that a temple was deemed necessary to appease Acalapati, […]

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Okayama Delights

Moving on from something good can sometimes be very difficult. And that was exactly what happened to me after my first trip to Japan last year. It was not the country itself that had me utterly captivated, although many things I observed and experienced there […]

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