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Posts from the ‘ASIA-PACIFIC’ Category

A Foray into Bali’s Green Heart

If only more Wednesday mornings began like this. Wide awake, I soak up the passing scenery and perfect blue skies from the leathered interior of a 1961 vintage jeep. I’ve temporarily swapped the traffic-clogged streets of Jakarta for quiet Balinese village roads lined with penjor – tall, drooping bamboo poles that sport decorations woven from dried coconut fronds and young palm leaves. It’s just a few days before Kuningan, the end of a major local holiday when the gods and spirits of the ancestors are believed to descend to earth. Read more

Head for the Hills: Journeys in Puncak

The rain starts off as a drizzle, pattering on the terracotta roof tiles directly overhead. Standing on the wooden balcony of our upstairs room at Novus Giri Puncak Resort & Spa, above a lush ravine some 1,040 meters (3,400 feet) above sea level, I take a deep breath and savor the cool mountain air. Then it hits me — an intensely familiar scent of wet earth mixed with a subtle pine-and-floral fragrance, a half-forgotten aroma from my childhood I can’t quite place. Was it the whiff of a summer’s outing in Canada? Or a foggy spring hike in the country parks of Hong Kong? Read more

A Jakarta Christmas

It’s been a little over two years since I’ve returned to Hong Kong to see my parents or my maternal grandmother, who is well into her 90s. The prospect of going through 21 days of hotel quarantine—on top of the likelihood of a sudden flight ban—means a family reunion in my hometown will not be happening for the foreseeable future. But I’m generally a glass-half-full kind of person; after joining Bama on a weeklong vacation in mid-December with his mom, I can’t deny that part of me was excited to spend the holidays in Jakarta for the very first time. Read more

Hiking the Cisadon Trail

The idea had been bubbling away in Bama’s mind ever since the start of the pandemic, but it only really developed as fellow Canadian blogger Caroline recounted her recent trekking trips in her home province. Eventually, a plan spontaneously surfaced one Friday at lunch break while both of us were working from home. “Why don’t we go hiking tomorrow?” Bama excitedly said. The weather forecast predicted clear blue skies; he’d already done his research on Sentul, an area south of Jakarta where tightly packed suburban subdivisions give way to a soothing landscape of fields and mountains threaded with walking trails. Read more

Cheese and Chilies Galore: The Food of Bhutan

“Food served in hotels and restaurants in Bhutan can often be bland. Bhutan may not be the place for a great gastronomical experience, but the Bhutanese cuisine does provide some variety, although [it may be] a bit too spicy for many visitors.”

— Pre-departure information, Bridge To Bhutan

Of everything written in an impressive reference guide sent to us months ahead of our trip to Bhutan, a 16-page document packed with valuable information and all kinds of practical tips, it was this apologetic passage that jumped out the most. To be fair, any traveler with a low tolerance for spiciness might balk at Bhutanese cuisine in general. Read more

Bhutan: Moments from Punakha

As much as I wish it were so, I haven’t secretly escaped from Covid-ravaged Indonesia to seek refuge in the foothills of the Himalayas. Bama and I remain cooped up at home, occasionally snatching glimpses of brilliant blue sky through the windows, imagining the places we’d have gone and long-distance trips that have been deferred indefinitely. But there’s also a realization that we are the lucky ones: despite all that has happened in the past 18 months, both of us still have a regular income, food on the table, a roof over our heads. So many people in this country have seen their livelihoods evaporate and are struggling to make ends meet. Read more

Bali’s Zero-Waste “Creative Village”

We all remember the last trip we took before coronavirus turned our world upside down. Going through hundreds of photos from the first week of March 2020, when I flew to Bali for a last-minute reporting assignment, brought on a pang of nostalgia. At first glance they seem to depict the Bali that was: a thriving tourist destination just weeks before face masks and social distancing became de rigueur, before Indonesia closed its borders and foreign visitor numbers dropped to zero. But, in a strangely comforting way, the pictures also offered a hopeful glimpse of the Bali that will be. Read more

Reviving Old Semarang

Barely a decade ago, the Old Town quarter of Semarang was a place best avoided after sundown. The former hub of trade and commerce in one of Indonesia’s greatest port cities had been slowly deteriorating since the seventies, as the ground sank and businesses decamped for areas less prone to tidal flooding. When darkness fell, its abandoned Dutch colonial buildings were taken over by squatters or used as places for prostitution. Unsuspecting visitors who walked the narrow, dimly-lit streets of the area would have rubbed shoulders with small-time criminals who made a living through extortion and common thievery. Read more

Myanmar on My Mind

I’m no fan of Monday mornings, and the disheartening news from Myanmar made for an unhappy start to the week; it felt almost like a punch to the gut. Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government had been overthrown by the Tatmadaw (the armed forces) just one day before its members of parliament would have been sworn in. It seems that Myanmar’s feudal generals have succeeded where Trump and his die-hard Republican supporters could not; they have constantly peddled unfounded allegations of widespread fraud since the deeply unpopular Union Solidarity and Development Party, which the military itself controls, was humiliated at the polls in November. Read more

Tales from Ternate, the Clove-Scented Isle

Some time ago, I promised I’d write a post on one of my favorite places in all of Indonesia, an island that has remained well off the tourist trail in the five years since Bama and I set foot on its shores. The following entry – which may be the longest I’ve ever written at over 5,800 words – was compiled from my notes. This is the story of how we almost didn’t make it to Ternate, and of the fascinating things we saw and heard when we finally got there. Read more