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Posts tagged ‘Colonial architecture’

Spanish Whispers in Cebu

When Ferdinand Magellan witnessed the sunrise from the deck of the Trinidad on April 27, 1521, he scarcely knew it would be his last. In the distance, the large coral outcrop of Mactan Island beckoned with a strip of powdery, cream-colored sand lapped by rippling cyan waters – the kind of tropical idyll that sun-starved modern travelers go halfway around the world to see. But the celebrated Portuguese explorer was here in the service of Spain, midway through an epic circumnavigation of the globe. His more immediate mission was to fight on behalf of his newfound friend and ally Rajah Humabon, the chieftain of a nearby port town named Zubu. Read more

On the Cusp of Change: Semarang’s Old Town

In a previous post, penned a number of months after my first visit to Semarang three years ago, I described the old town district of Kota Lama as “one of the best-preserved historic centers of any major city in Indonesia”. Up until the mid-2000s it had suffered decades of neglect, compounded by poor drainage and a flood-prone location. Since then there’s been a recent push to restore the old town’s vitality with the ambition of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2020, though much still needs to be done before it can earn that coveted title. Read more

Memories of Panjim

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Olga is delighted when she learns I was recently in Goa. “I’m from Mumbai,” she says, “but a Goan Catholic.” I meet her by chance at a Hong Kong restaurant, and before it gets too busy with patrons, I declare my adoration for the food of her home state. There are two things I regret not doing in Panjim, Goa’s laid-back state capital: the first is that I didn’t stay longer, and the second, that I never joined a Goan cooking class. Read more

Holland in Java: the old town of Semarang

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It isn’t long after daybreak when Bama and I find ourselves in a small slice of Europe. Across the tree-lined street, not yet spoiled by the din of motorcycle traffic, the painted copper dome of a church glints in the first rays of the morning sun. Around us rise noble structures in brick and stone, some crowned with the narrow, steep-sided gables of a country halfway across the world. Semarang has one of the best-preserved historic centres of any major city in Indonesia, and we are standing at its very heart. Read more

Bandung moderne: Indonesia Art Deco

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The 1930s were an age of unrestrained decadence. Radio had displaced newspapers as the most popular form of mass media; cinemas from Shanghai to Sao Paulo screened the latest in Hollywood films; ballrooms on both sides of the Atlantic echoed to the sounds of jazz and big band swing music; and the world seemed blissfully ignorant of the storm clouds brewing on the horizon.

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Shamian Island: outpost of the West

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Separated from central Guangzhou by the still waters of a canal, and cut off on two sides by an elevated six-lane highway, Shamian Island is an anomaly in the chaos of China’s third-largest city. Read more

Borrowed place, borrowed time

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Walking down the length of Wing Lee Street, I couldn’t help but marvel at the degree of change around me. The ageing tenements running along one side had been renovated in bright pastel yellow, with balconies and windows refitted to accommodate new tenants. A cheery sign midway indicated the presence of an artists’ studio. Formerly earmarked for demolition, the entire row was saved after a public outcry following its appearance in Echoes of the Rainbow, winner of a Crystal Bear at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival. Read more

Gallic echoes in old Saigon

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Saigon is a pleasant enough place to idle in for a few days… It is very agreeable to sit under the awning on the terrace of the Hotel Continental, an electric fan just above your head, and with an innocent drink before you to read in the local paper heated controversies upon the affairs of the Colony and the faits divers of the neighbourhood. Read more