South East Asia

Pangsau pass return 2
‘Vinegar Joe’ may have made enemies as far and wide as China and United Kingdom. But he had also left something behind for me to explore in Upper Assam. And the Indian government had made it possible to visit this place only on 3 days of the month. In my case, it was on December 30th 2017. What a way to end the year! The infamous history of the Stilwell Road After kicking off my K2K2K ride from Kibithoo, I tried to stay focused on my route and not make much too much deviations. But that resolution was broken within […]

Riding on the historic Stilwell road. Towards Pangsau Pass in Myanmar.

Kecak firedance uluwatu 2
In Ron Fricke’s ‘Baraka’ – which incidentally was also one of the movies that set off the wanderlust in me– there is a mysterious and esoteric sequence from Bali. A group of bare-chested Indonesian men sat in a semi-circular huddle wearing the checked Balinese sarong and a flower in their ear – and sang a peculiar song which only had the sounds of ‘cak cak cak’. As visually captivating as ‘Baraka’ is, the scene also was an aural delight. The chants echoed through the open courtyard of the temple, and there was something else about the whole scene. Something that […]

Chasing the rhythm of the Kecak in Uluwatu. A Bali story.

View from the Sulamani temple
4 years ago, I had taken a bus ticket from the Aung Mingalar bus station in Yangon, heading towards Bagan. And I just realised – in 2018 – that I never wrote about Bagan! Well, since Bagan was hit by an unfortunate earthquake in 2016, here is looking at a mystical, magical place that I am always happy to revisit. Note: These experiences are from 2014, when Myanmar just started opening up for tourism, and Bagan was an extremely offbeat place to visit. Your experience now would be very different from mine, as Bagan has already become quite touristy and […]

A Bicycling trip through Bagan: Before the earthquake

phuket vegetarian festival
The masong had her eyes closed. I’ve seen her with her eyes closed for the last 10 minutes, which cut a very different foreground to the fire that raged behind her in the background. Anybody would have assumed that she had gone to sleep, standing up. Or that she was simply closing her eyes for that much-needed respite from the smoke that was everywhere. But because this was Thailand, I had the luxury of getting up close to her to take a closer look.   Only to see that she was not sleeping. She was crying. A tear rolled down […]

Of fire and fireworks: Phuket Vegetarian festival, Thailand

Walking along the Kapurpurawan coastline
Philippines may be home to 7107 islands. But one island beats them all in size. Luzon is the largest and the most populous island of the Pinas – as Philippines is often called. And unlike what you may think, it was much, much more than just Manila.   And to understand that, I had to go north of Manila. Past Zambales, Baguio, the cordilleras and even La Union. All the way to the Northern tip of Luzon.   To Ilocos Norte.       Ilocos – From the South to the north When the Spanish started consolidating their control over […]

Towards the Northern tip of Luzon: Ilocos Norte, Philippines

breast mound
Katai Kamminga sat opposite to me while sipping her bluish iced tea, which tasted delicious. When I asked her what the tea was made from, she mischievously retorted with a wink. “From my flower. Now you know what it tastes like”.   It was one of the many witty puns that I would hear from the brilliantly sharp mind of Katai Kamminga over the next hour. Turns out the tea was made from a non-orchid pea flower quite common in Thailand, named the Butterfly pea.   And it’s scientific name was ‘Clitoria Ternatae’. The erotic garden and teahouse of Mae […]

The Erotic Garden of Katai Kamminga: Chiang Mai, Thailand (NSFW)

people loy krathong chiang mai
It was a bittersweet culmination of a dream I had harboured for many years. To see the Loy Krathong festival. Or, as hippie instagrammers often called it, the lantern festival.   Bittersweet, because it was everything I had expected. And much more. But we will come to the ‘much more’, later in this post. Thanking the Lannas   It had been a long road from Phuket to Bangkok. Thanks to some seasonal floods that were happening in central Thailand, my long, arduous 21 hour bus ride from Phuket to Chiang Mai, had become a long, arduous 27 hour bus ride […]

Mixed emotions at the Loy Krathong Lantern festival: Chiang Mai, Thailand

lake pinatubo philippines
“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!” — Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes   As always, Calvin knew best. So did I, apparently. And that was when I decided to finally explore the Pinatubo crater lake after years of putting it off.   I had lived in Manila for nearly 5 years. But not once during those 5 years had I tried to step beyond the comforts of the city, and venture towards Pinatubo. Venture I did – and plenty of times – to the famous beaches of Zambales, the colourful festivals of Masskara and Panagbenga, former […]

To the moon and back: Trekking Pinatubo in Philippines

monk kid angkor wat 2
Note: The Angkor archaeological park is a giant area, and it is impossible at this age for me to remember all the details (yeah, I am blaming the 30’s for everything nowadays). Hence, this post is not very descriptive, rather more of a photo-story. The sunrise was upon us. And the Tuk Tuk driver couldn’t have found a better place to drop us off. Right in front of the magnificient Angkor Wat temple complex!   We had spent the last night getting knackered in the party streets of Siem Reap’s Club Street, and walked in tripping, into our hostel. The […]

In Photos: A day at the Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia

Waterfight songkran chiangmai 2
This was not my first Songkran. I had previously been to the Songkran of Khaosan Road, in Bangkok. 4 years ago, which also had me witness a full-blown protest. And the 3 days spent there were the craziest 3 days of my life. Street parties are a very rambunctious and boisterous affair, but a street party with water involved; it almost feels like the whole atmosphere is jacked up on steroids. Read: Churning of the milk ocean, in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport Songkran is Thai New Year. And if you are wondering why the name seems so familiar, it is because it’s […]

A 3-step guide to enjoying the Songkran festival in ChiangMai

Just a short ferry ride away from Singapore, lies an oft-visited weekend destination named Bintan. And in a less-explored trikora beach, lies a lesser known hideway called – tantalizingly – ‘Shady Shack’. Enough of suspense-filled opening narratives. Let’s get on with the blogpost, shall we? Riau Archipelago, Indonesia For some of you who live in Singapore, I wouldn’t be surprised if you believed that the Riau islands – which include Bintan – was a part of Singapore. And to some extent, there is some historical credibility to this misinformation too. Bintan is a part of  the Riau archipelago which – along […]

A Shady Shack on Trikora Beach: Bintan, Indonesia

This is a list of countries that do not require a visa, or offer a visa on arrival for Indians. If you are looking for countries that offer electronic visas (E-visas), click this list. There are plenty of countries which do not require an advance visa for Indian citizens. And if you are an Indian – or if you have interacted with an Indian – the chances are likely that you will believe/hear the most commonly stated reason why Indians dont travel much. “I need a visa for every fricking country that I want to go to!” Click here for […]

Top 10 countries where Indians can travel without an advance visa!

tough mudder bali indonesia
I was no stranger to Bali. But I knew this trip was going to be different. It was for the Toughmudder in Bali. Oh yeah. Waaaayyyy different! As I sat on the window seat of the Airasia flight, on a turbulent Friday night, it slowly dawned on me that the turbulence was more inside me, than outside. This was probably the 4th time that I was visiting Bali. I have rode a motorbike through the entire island in the past, and even stopped here on the way to my epic trip in East Timor. I had seen pretty much every […]

Getting muddy in the Island of Gods: Toughmudder in Bali

Yap airport micronesia
Manila It was an uneventful flight to Manila. I was no stranger to the Philippines. I lived here for 4 years. And even after I moved my base from the Philippines to the urbanscape that people called Singapore, I had visited Manila a couple of times. So, nothing exciting awaited me in Manila, save a couple of planned meetups with old friends. If you are looking for something interesting to do in Manila, go offbeat and check out the Ermita region for some amazing street photography opportunities. Owing to some confusion in my seat booking, Jetstar gave me a free upgrade to […]

Island-hopping on an airplane: Singapore to Palau

When people usually think of the Philippines, the first images that come to mind are either the densely populated streets of Manila, or many of the thousands of islands and the white, sandy beaches they hold. Very few people equate Philippines with a grand mountain range. Until they visit the cordilleras! Luzon is the largest island of the Philippines, and located at its north-central section, is the Cordillera Administrative Region – a massive mountain range that occupies a total of 6 provinces. And if you are hearing this for the first time, a cordillera is a Spanish term which implies what I […]

Visiting the Cordilleras: The lesser known Philippines

While everybody goes to Luang Prabang to enjoy the alms ceremony and the waterfalls nearby (have to blog about both some other time), one of my first impressions of this Lao cultural centre, was captured by a night market. Click here: to check out the Iranian markets of Doha, Qatar. Laos is the Rapunzel of South East Asia. Extremely beautiful, but hid away from mainstream eyes. With a good mix of socialist core values, and creeping commercialism, some interesting and much-needed laws (did you know foreigners will be jailed if they have sex with a local person!), and a very colourful culture, Laos […]

The Sisavangvong night market: Luang Prabang, Laos

I see a lot of museums in my travels, but never blog about them. None, except one. The war remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh City, had that impact on me. Located in the bustling District 3, it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnamese name is a little too hard on the mouth (Bao Tang Chung Tich Trien Tranh!), but thankfully you can ask anyone for the war museum, and they will guide you there. Depending on the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and United States, the name has been changing for […]

The war remnants museum: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Philippines wartime flag
Scroll down for the answer. Click here for previous quizzes. Click here for the hall of fame of scores. Qn: Look carefully at the military flag of the Philippines, and tell me why is it unique? Answer: The wartime flag of the Philippines is their national flag, only inverted. This is unique among world flags. Cracked by nobody, this one! Click here for the hall of fame of scores! Click here : to check out my Philippines episodes.

Been there, learnt that! Quiz #18

The view from Kampong glam to the Sultan Mosque
I’ve written a few different blogposts about Singapore being a cultural melting pot, focussing each time on different racial groups of Singapore. Yes, in one tiny country, you can see mid-autumn festivals in Chinatown, Thaipusam festivals in Little India, Javanese Kuda kepang dancing, and even the young expats doing the dance-walking around Orchard or Clarke Quay. But one important cultural icon of Singapore is the Kampong Glam and Bugis area, which is where you want to be if you want to enjoy the best of Arab/Malay food and culture. The Buginese people were one of the ethnic groups of South […]

The Sultan had a large mosque! : Bugis, Singapore

Bridge to the chinese gardens
Having lived in Singapore for 2 years, I have previous blogged about various touristy places here. But one place which I keep forgetting to mention, or which most people generally ignore from the tourism map of Singapore, is the Chinese Gardens. Heard of the other gardens? The Gardens by the bay? Click here to read about them! Also called the Jurong Gardens, the Chinese gardens was built by the Taiwanese architect Yuen-Chen Yu. Conveniently located at the MRT station, which is also named ‘Chinese gardens’, this interesting bit of Singapore is located on the west end of the green metro […]

Chinese Gardens: Singapore

The roof, is one clearly lacking piece of architecture in this ruined mansion.
There is something about monuments of remembrance, that captures the human imagination. Like Taj Mahal for instance. Built as a monument by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan for his wife Mumtaz, this mausoleum has had many a romantic tourist going all ooohs and aaahs. During my visit to Bacolod, for the Masskara festival, I had chanced upon an opportunity to visit something similar in the Philippines. Perhaps you want to see my picture of the real Taj Mahal? Click here! Talisay is a small city, which is part of Metropolitan Bacolod in the island of Negros Occidental, and has no other respectable […]

The Taj Mahal of the Philippines : Talisay Ruins

Actually, I hate to go. - Changi airport, Singapore 2
4th August 2014 – Singapore Goodbyes are the worst sob stories. Oh, the pain! Especially to friends, who saw you in both the low and prime. But with all this travel, I find that I now smile more often at airports. Because, thankfully, goodbyes don’t last a wretched lifetime.   When I started this journey from Singapore, it was heartbreaking. To let go of all the friends here. To start again, on ground zero. I was consumed with depression on the first day of my journey, in Sydney. And rightfully, i decided to make a short pitstop here, on the way from […]

Project 365: Day 34 – Leaving on a Jetplane

When one crazy, clicks another. - Clarke Quay, Singapore 2
3rd August 2014 – Singapore Don’t build distances, so vast that you drown in them. And, don’t dream about pastures that you cannot see. Don’t lead to revile. Don’t follow to beguile. Liquor is quicker, so just walk this bridge beside me.  Last night, the drinking started at the bridge, only to end at 5 or 6 in the morning. Now, even if you were living in Singapore for the last 10 years, there is a good chance that you don’t know where ‘the bridge’ is. Neither are you at fault if you started searching the club listings for any establishment named, well, the […]

Project 365: Day 33 – The bridge doesn’t divide

The face and the brushstrokes - Chinatown, Singapore
2nd August 2014 – Singapore The smell of succulent fried wantons filled the air And the red lanterns stood arrogant, and looked down. Among the bigots, the drunks, the pimps and the whores, The artist remains largely unnoticed, in Chinatown. A sleepy saturday for most of the part, I pretty much woke up only around 4 PM. Victoria, my friend whose place I am crashing, ensured that I got enough rest, before we took off to a volleyball game at Sentosa beach. At the beach, we met up with another couch surfer named Alex, and asked her to join us for dinner at […]

Project 365: Day 32 – The Artist