Pokhara: Beyond the Hiking Trails

One morning in the middle of Nepalese winter, I woke up to the sound of children singing and playing from a house a few hundred meters behind our hotel. I opened the door to the balcony, stepped outside and let the cold and crisp air […]

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Baluran: Into the Wilderness

Our driver carefully navigates the gravel path, flanked by trees and shrubs, tall and low, that cuts through the dense forest. From the national park’s entrance off the main road that connects the East Javanese cities of Banyuwangi and Situbondo, it is a good 13 […]

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My Son: Beauty in Desolation

Indochina, a region that comprises most of Mainland Southeast Asia, has been both an entrepot and battleground of influences from two ancient superpowers in Asia, India and China as the region’s name suggests. Coined in the early 19th century, the term has been used to […]

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Osaka Calling

One morning, more than twenty years ago when I was still living in a small city in the westernmost end of Java, I was having instant noodles while watching a Japanese anime on TV. My father who had been noticing this new habit I was […]

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Food Nationalism

Chapter 5, Part 6 Several years ago, the headlines of Indonesian media suddenly flared up with nationalistic fervor against Malaysia following their claims (both official and not) over some cultural items that Indonesians are so dearly and emotionally attached to. Like sibling rivalry, netizens in […]

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Sweet Food from the Heart of Java

Chapter 5, Part 5 Indonesia, a vast country which looks rather small on Mercator maps, is a nation comprising somewhere between 13,000 to 17,000 islands, where hundreds of ethnic groups speak different languages and practice their own customs. When it comes to food, each region […]

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Here Come the Europeans

Chapter 5, Part 4 Long after being considered merely as medicine, in the 15th century the Europeans’ perception toward spices began to shift as they were used more in local cuisines. Spices added an exotic taste to the continent’s traditional dishes, and demand from royal […]

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Influences from Bharat

Chapter 5, Part 3 At a heritage house in Kumarakom on the bank of Vembanad Lake, a part of Kerala’s iconic backwaters, I discovered one of the biggest surprises during the Spice Odyssey. On the day James and I arrived, we were served several dishes […]

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The Chinese Connection

Chapter 5, Part 2 Known as the “Middle Kingdom” in Mandarin, China has always projected its image as the center of the world even long before the modern People’s Republic of China was formed. Prior to the creation of the Communist state as well as […]

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Bounty from the Earth and Sea

Chapter 5, Part 1 Long before the modern state of Indonesia was conceived, before the arrival of Europeans to Asia, even long before the magnificent Borobudur and Prambanan temples were constructed, merchants in this sprawling archipelago had already established a thriving spice trade among neighboring islands, as […]

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Toraja: Where Life Revolves around Death

Chapter 4, Part 27 In the highlands of Sulawesi, far from the coastal communities of the Bugis and Makassarese peoples, live an agricultural society who still hold onto their ancient traditions. Called “To Riaja”, People of the Mountain, by their seafaring counterparts, the Torajan people […]

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Batak: From Cannibalism to Christianity

Chapter 4, Part 26 By the 19th century, the coastal regions of northern Sumatra were strongholds of Muslim sultanates, from Aceh – where the first Islamic kingdom in the Indonesian archipelago was established – to Deli which is now part of the city of Medan. […]

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