South East Asia


Timor leste photography
This is part of a series called ‘A sonnet to the world’, which I have been working on. You can read about the project here. The idea is to write a 14-line Shakespearean Sonnet for every country I visit (and hopefully and eventually, the whole world). And this one is for Timor Leste (East Timor). Beyond the banana pancake trail, a new nation I found. Formed by wave after wave of the ever-migrating mortal. Veddas, Melanesians, Malays and Portuguese ran aground. Each of them built new hegemony, and the previous one fell.   Despite the occupations and the massacre, Timor […]

A Sonnet to Timor Leste (East Timor)


boy and motorbike graffiti penang
Before I took a flight from Singapore to Penang, I knew only 2 things about Penang: the food and the art. I know. I am such a cliched traveller sometimes.   The street food of Penang, infused with elements of Chinese, Peranakan, Malay, Indian, Thai and European cuisines, needs no introduction. If anything, I was confused with choices here. But the art scene in Penang is completely something else. I knew about the street art of Penang, but I was about to learn about it in much more detail here. Further Reading: Looking for other offbeat adventures in Malaysia? Explore […]

The Many Facets of Street Art in Georgetown, Penang


Pha that luang vientiane laos
To me, Vientiane is one of the most interesting capital cities of South East Asia. On one hand, I could feel a deep sense of history, as this was once the administrative capital of the Kingdom of Lan Sang and was subjected to the Siamese occupation. On the other hand, there were traces everywhere of the French occupation that followed, with street names in French, and Baguettes with tuna or chicken being sold on every street or by the side of the mighty river Mekong.   Hmm… Baguettes. Ok, I digress. Let’s put the Baguettes away and focus on how […]

A photowalk through the National Symbol of Laos: Pha That Luang, Vientiane



Cristo rei dili timor leste 2
There is a common saying among the youth in Brazil, especially when it comes to matters of football. “The pope may be Argentinian. But god is definitely Brazilian”   Of course, this is a reference to the fact that the current pope is Argentinian, while Rio de Janeiro has the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city and showering its blessings. But come to think of it. There was another place in the world, which had both the pope and the Christ.   Dili, in Timor Leste. Further Reading: The Pope may be Argentinian, but his Italian was one of […]

The Other Christ Statue. Cristo Rei in Dili, Timor Leste


Kids in liquica 2
After spending some time in the heart of Dili – mostly visiting the Pope, and walking around the beach – I decided to go a little west of it. Towards the province of Liquica.   I tried to book the motorcycle again, the same one that I had used to ride to Aileu. But turns out it was already booked out today by someone else. So, I had to hire a taxi/guide that would take me and a couple of friends at the hostel towards the province of Liquica. At 50 dollars for the whole day, we were excited to […]

Towards the Sad West of Dili: Liquica and Maubara, Timor Leste


Ben duoc tunnels
Ho Chi Minh city is a beautiful city, as long as you live in the present. If you turn back time and visit the sights of the Vietnam war, there are plenty of sad and sorry places in this city, which will make you start looking for the damn ninja cutting onions. Like the Cu Chi Tunnels, for example. Note: If you are here only looking for practical information to visit Cu Chi Tunnels, and don’t want to read my slipshod writing, jump straight to the ‘Practical information’ section at the end of this post. I had already spent a […]

About Ben Duoc and it’s Tunnels: Cu Chi, Vietnam



Monkey forest bali tourists 2
It is no wonder that Bali is often called the ‘island of gods’. Every corner of it abounds with temples, beautiful beaches, ancient customs and some lip-smacking food. At the center of all this is Ubud, which was relatively unknown until Elizabeth Gilbert decided to find true love there.   While Ubud is nowadays a haven for vegans, yogis and other spiritual creatures, there is also another group of primates which have called Ubud their home much before them. Oh yeah, even before Elizabeth Gilbert got here after India.   The crab-eating macaques of the sacred monkey forest. Or as […]

Beyond the Monkeys of the Monkey Forest: Ubud, Bali


Dare children timor leste
After taking a couple of days to see the sights around the city center of Dili, the capital of Timor Leste, I knew I had to make my way deeper into the country to understand it better.   Sure, Dili was the capital and the most urban part of a country that was already one of the least visited countries in the world. But there was much more to Timor Leste than that. And I was determined to find out. Further Reading: A walk by the beaches of Dili, Timor Leste Riding a motorbike in Timor Leste Which was why […]

From Dili to Aileu: Deep into the heart of Timor Leste


Welcome to moreh manipur 2
If you tend to fall in the category of ‘gastronomically adventurous’, the Northeast region of India may just become your new home. The seven sister states – as they were called before Sikkim joined the party in 1975 and made it ‘eight sister states‘– of the Northeast are not only culturally different from the rest of India, but they also stand out in their culinary habits. And this holds true especially when it comes to what constitutes ‘non-vegetarian’ diet in this region. Back in my home state of Kerala in South India, there is a proverb in Malayalam which I […]

In Search of Sambhar: Riding to Moreh on the India-Myanmar border



Pangsau pass return 3
‘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


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. Further Reading: I love checking out markets. Click for the time I went to check out the Iranian markets in 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 […]

The Sisavangvong night market: Luang Prabang, Laos