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Stanley: vestiges of the past

Stanley_1

When family friends and relatives are in town, my father makes it a point to take them to Stanley. He goes not for its famous street market – where stacks of knickknacks and souvenirs can be found – but to soak up the town’s ambiance and history. Read more

Postcards from Lamma

Fish farms and restaurants, Sok Kwu Wan

The last time I set foot on Lamma Island, before taking Bama there this Chinese New Year, was at least four or five years ago on a boat trip with a pack of old friends. The name Lamma, literally ‘Southern Y’ in Cantonese, is a reference to the heavily indented coastline which resembles two forks, one pointing northwards and the second facing east. Read more

Harvest time at Jatiluwih

Rice terraces of Jatiluwih

We left Ubud at six in the morning, stomachs empty and eyes still heavy with sleep. Bli Komang had the habit of showing up half an hour early, which Bama and I saw as a chance to gain extra time before the afternoon rains. Both of us admired Bli Komang’s work ethic. “I’d rather be the one waiting than the guest,” he said. Read more

Balinese feasts: a taste of abundance

Smoked duck and lawar at Bebek Joni

Bli Komang turns to me and laughs. I am sitting beside him, sweat trickling down my face, inside a dimly lit warung on a main road in Sanur. Outside there is little to distinguish the restaurant from others save a baby blue sign proclaiming “HANDAYANI”, its bolded letters above a photo cutout of babi guling, Balinese suckling pig.

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Touchdown in Timor

Timor Lorosae - 'East, where the sun rises'

There was once a small crocodile who lived in a swamp. His dream was to grow to an enormous size, but food was scarce and the swamp too small to support enough prey. “I must get out of here,” he thought, so the crocodile left the swamp and began his journey to find better waters. But that day the sun was strong, baking the ground and weakening him until he could no longer move. He lay roasting alive in the sand, waiting to die. Soon a boy passed by and, taking pity on the little crocodile, carried him to the edge of the sea. The crocodile thanked the boy for his kindness, telling him, “If you would like to travel, to one day cross the sea, come and see me.” Read more

Sai Kung: a second helping

Beaches of Tai Long Wan, Sai Kung

The old man hovers over our table and grins, lowering his voice to almost a whisper. “Order the Singapore noodles,” he admonishes, “It’s the best.”

Long a staple of Hong Kong’s ubiquitous cha chaan teng – those small teahouses and diners serving generous portions of comfort food – Singapore noodles are in fact a Cantonese creation. It is something of a misnomer; gastronomes would be hard pressed to find this exact dish in the Southeast Asian city-state, so famous for its street food. Read more

Horsing around Hong Kong

Salted duck eggs in Tai O, Lantau

“Is there anything worth seeing on the other side?”

Map unfurled, the two visitors gestured at the skyline as the city lights flickered on across the harbour. It was a valid question but also a remarkably silly one, and I listened intently as a solo traveller tried his best to answer their query. Had they asked me, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. What were they interested in? What kind of sights did they want to see? Aspects of traditional culture? Street markets? Or the island’s less-trumpeted beaches and hiking trails? Read more

Hidden carvings and a bronze moon

Yeh Pulu Pejeng_1

Off in the distance, a lone farmer waded foot-deep in the paddy fields, scattering nutrients over the rows of young shoots. The bucolic scene was but a short distance from Goa Gajah, the ‘Elephant Cave’, down a series of narrow roads lined by red brick walls, past an airy pavilion where local women in kebaya sat preparing food for a ceremony. Read more

Candi Gunung Kawi: a legacy in stone

Gunung Kawi - 'Mountain of the Poet'

The rock-cut gateway stood at the end of a dramatic approach, where the footpath descended through soaring coconut palms and rice terraces now ripe for harvest, before being hemmed in by natural walls of solid rock. Two posts framed the entrance, one with words clearly inscribed in Balinese and Indonesian, and the other in English. Read more

Pura Tirta Empul: the sacred spring

Taking a dip, Pura Tirta Empul

Beneath the crystal clear surface, black clouds sprang from the depths, continuously spreading in small plumes over a sandy bed. The spring bubbled into a rectangular pool enclosed in walls of black volcanic stone, its perimeter fringed with tufts of aquatic moss. Read more