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Nyaung Shwe: a photo essay

Nyaung Shwe_1

The name Nyaung Shwe may not ring a bell, but if you are heading to one of Myanmar’s most well-known tourist destinations, there’s a very great likelihood that you will stay in this colourful, rambunctious place. Read more

Eating well in Myanmar

Myanmar Eats_1

Before embarking on a two-week jaunt around Myanmar last month, I knew virtually nothing about the food. It does not have the global standing of Thai or Vietnamese cuisine; the only anecdote I had heard was a negative review from my own father, who had once travelled there on business. What I found was in fact delicious (my father can be a fussy eater after all), and introduced me to some surprising flavours. Read more

The magnificence of Shwedagon Pagoda


Mankind has long believed that building high allows us to connect with the divine. The Mayans created monumental stepped pyramids as temples to the gods. In medieval Europe, towns and cities competed to build the tallest cathedral, using dangerously thin stone walls pierced with stained glass windows. And in the kingdoms of Indochina and South Asia, towering stupas were erected as grand reliquaries of the Buddha. Read more

Yangon, Myanmar: first impressions

Yangon Impressions_1

Inside the spotless interior of Yangon’s international airport terminal, I begin to feel a pang of anxiety. Bama is just ahead of me in the queue for immigration. He leans against the counter, listening intently as the officer speaks for a longer time than usual. Is there a problem with our electronic tourist visas? Read more

For all the nutmeg in the world

Banda Nutmeg_1

The islands lie half-forgotten, ten volcanic specks in the vast, tempestuous waters of the Banda Sea. And yet this tiny archipelago was so important its name was once writ large on maps of the East Indies. Until the 19th century, the coveted Banda Islands were the world’s only source of nutmeg and mace – spices that were prized for their medicinal value. Read more

Meet the Bandanese

Bandanese Portraits_1

I cannot begin to describe how much I adore the Banda Islands. Bama and I have recently spent the second half of September happily marooned on this tiny archipelago in the seas of eastern Indonesia. Both of us consider it one of the most beautiful places we have ever been to, and while I mull over exactly how to write about its incredible history and the wonders we saw, I will introduce Banda with photos of its people. Read more

Cook like a Nyonya

Nyonya Cooking Class_1

It’s too late when I notice my pot of duck stew boiling over. In those split seconds between Bama’s warning and the time it takes for me to put down the camera, the damage has already been done.

Quick as a flash, Pearly Kee rushes over to turn down the heat. By now the excess liquid is bubbling and steaming on the hob, with a minor cascade dripping down the drawers and pooling on the floor tiles. “Too much water,” she says. The embarrassment must be evident on my face, because Pearly is telling me not to worry while she wipes down the mess. Read more

Cheong Fatt Tze’s blue mansion

Penang Blue Mansion_1

Peering out of our window on the seventh floor, the house looked far smaller than it did from the street. But its romantic window shutters, tiled roof and walls painted in indigo blue were still magnificent. Although The Blue Mansion was just behind our hotel, it took Bama and I four days of slow deliberation before we stepped inside for a guided tour. Read more

Marooned in Manado

Ternate airport

If you ever go to the airport in Manado, North Sulawesi, you might notice one aspect of the terminal that sets it apart from all others: the stained glass windows. When the first rays of the morning sun pour into the terminal, the sight can lend it the air of a sanctuary. Read more

Indonesia: dangerously beautiful

Indonesia Roundup_1

If we only believe the sensationalism of Fox News, CNN America and other media outlets, Indonesia is the kind of country a lot of people might want to avoid. Historically, it has made world headlines for all the wrong reasons – plane crashes, violent protests, terrorist bombings and large-scale natural disasters. Read more