Archive for ‘Asia’

Vang Vieng: Laos’ one-time party center no longer “Death in Paradise,” thanks to crackdown

In 2011, Vang Vieng’s small hospital recorded 27 deaths in the river. This does not include unreported deaths or people dying after getting emergency transported to Vientiane, the capital. Keep in mind, the Nam Song is not the Colorado. It has no rapids. The Nam Song (“song” means “river” in Lao) is as peaceful as a Swiss summer. The only white water that was ever on the river was the beer foam that splayed a one-kilometer swath from all the bars that lined the banks.
(To read more, click here.)

Laos: My 100th country is slowly emerging from its poverty-stricken communist cocoon

“Why Laos?” I always like that response. It means no one knows anything about it. It’s the capital of one of the few communist countries left in the world. It has emerged from a past so provincial it hardly had any street lights in 1998. The government, following China’s lead, opened its arms to tourism and limited free enterprise in the 1990s under a reform called the New Economic Mechanism. The number of tourists jumped from 14,400 in 1990 to 4.68 million in 2015.
(To read more, click here.)

Bangkok: After 30-year absence, tastes remain the same in Sodom & Gomorrah East

Welcome to the land that morality forget. Bangkok is where visions are blurred, not only through the haze of too many Singha beers but the vast tolerance of a Buddhist culture and tourist industry run amok. It’s where a he is a she and a she can do things I didn’t learn on the streets of Eugene, Ore. When I started traveling in 1978, Bangkok became my gateway to the extremes of Asia travel. It guided me through an education that hardened me on my way to visit 100 countries.
(To read more, click here.)

The City of Dreams Manila is helping elevate Filipino food to a new audience

… since the opening of the City of Dreams in December 2014 by the famous Melco Crown Group, authentic and contemporary Filipino food has been given a new platform whereby international travelers will be able to sample the best Filipino dishes in the five-star casino resort.
The casino and resort is a multi-purpose site, which has gained worldwide acclaim for its variety of live entertainment, huge gaming floors that even include and the aforementioned slew of popular high-end Filipino restaurants. The City of Dreams is also full of retail shops and purpose built concert halls.
But, for us foodies, it’s the restaurants that prick our ears.
(To read more, click here.)

Taj Mahal is the beautiful face of India but so are ugly Indian trains

It was due to one of the Seven Wonders of the World living up to its billing as the most beautiful building on earth. Eiffel Tower? Take a bow. Ever since I saw you stand over Paris like a Rockette on stage when I was a 22-year-old backpacker, you’ve been my No. 1 gal. Not now. Not after walking through a giant red sandstone gate which perfectly frames the Taj Mahal. It’s true, really. Every hardened traveler who treats crowds like immigration officials say pictures don’t do the “Taj” justice. It’s exactly as wide as it is tall, 55 meters x 55 meters. The four corner minarets make it look like a four-poster bed, providing a romantic image for a building built on love.
(To read more, click here.)

Birthday in Delhi means new friends and victory in Indian rum pong

My hotel is in Old Delhi which shouldn’t be confused with New Delhi which is the administrative and government center the British built in the early 1900s. New Delhi is lined with white, ornate architecture, huge official-looking buildings where long ago the Indians moved out numerous statues of British dignitaries. Old Delhi is lined with grime, dust, cheap retail stores, construction, wild probably rabid dogs, crazy drivers and cheap hotels you can’t tell from scruffy garages.

My hotel was an absolute mystery to my baffled cab driver. He asked directions about six times, from auto rickshaw drivers who pointed him in opposite directions to vendors selling dodgy samosas from filthy street stalls. After 30 minutes going up and down the same dirty street, screeching past rickshaws and terrified dogs, we finally found C-Spot Hotel. It’s a single door under a vertical sign which could’ve said the Bates Motel and I wouldn’t have cared.
(To read more, click here.)

Periyar Tigre Reserve light on tigers but big on bliss

We walked into the slightly dense forest and the guide pointed out something in the mud. They were paw prints, big paw prints. “Tiger,” he said. They were from four days ago. Not far away were huge round blocks imprinted in the mud. They were elephant prints from about the same time. A male and a female. They were all heading out of the forest toward the lake we were skirting across.
A few feet later he pointed out a bison skull hanging from a tree trunk. A tiger had killed it four years ago at the same spot where we were standing. Knowing tigers don’t like noise, I was wondering if anyone in our group had an AC-DC tape.
(To read more, click here.)

India’s movie industry a $1.8 billion blockbuster but I want my 90 rupees back

movies are as much a part of the Indian social fabric as the cotton in saris. Everyone has heard of Bollywood. It’s massive, much bigger than its richer, more famous cousin in Hollywood. However, Bollywood only represents movies coming out of Bombay, now known as Mumbai. There is also Kollywood (Chennai), Tollywood (Hyderabad) and Sandalwood (Bengaluru). Together, India produces more films than any country in the world. At last count in 2012 they made 1,602. Hollywood averages only 120-150, not including 40-60 independent films. For two weeks in India, I couldn’t go five minutes without seeing a movie poster. Beautiful, very light-skinned women in tight jeans fought for billboard space with muscled, tall, leading men with $100 haircuts. Every corner seemed to be plastered with two or three of the latest films.
Last night I went.
(To read more, click here.)

India meditation course channels anger into inner silence but how the $#%&#@ does one stay silent?

My mind is blank. It is void of thought. It is empty of emotion, meaning, objects. Lust has left India. This time, it’s not because of sweltering humidity that has crushed my libido like a cobra confusing my penis for a hamster. I am flat on my back in a dark, upstairs yoga studio. I face a wall hanging of a woman sitting in the lotus position with five big circles lined vertically on her body. I am focusing on the one on her groin, not for what you might think. The fan cools the studio but my first meditation lesson of my life has cooled any thoughts of intimacy or lust.

The circle on the groin is a focus point. I have emptied my mind as if I shoveled my walk of snow in order to see the pathway. One sentence runs through my brain.

“I want to experience the silence in me.”
(To read more, click here.)

There’s starving in India? Indian cooking class produces a feast fit for a village

I’ve taken cooking classes in Malaysia and Italy but the class put on here by my Kerala Bamboo House is a truly gluttonous affair. Ever since I filled out the menu request the day before, I almost fasted. Hey, again, when in India …
Seriously, the menu I filled out included: starter, Indian bread, vegetarian dish, non-vegetarian dish, rice dish, dessert. The guesthouse has a recipe book the size of a Denny’s menu. Many of the dishes’ names sounded like something you’d chant during meditation.
But I fearlessly dove in due to one inescapable fact: Indian food is fabulous.
(To read more, click here.)