Taiwan

About as large as Sri Lanka, this island is one of Asia’s easternmost outposts, wedged in between China to the west, Japan in the north and the Philippines in the south. Taiwan may be best known for its computer peripherals industry, but it’s a largely undiscovered gem for those who are looking for somewhere off…

Singapore’s Peranakan Connection

Are the Peranakans more Malayan or more Chinese? The jury’s still out on that one, but first things first: who exactly are they? They’re the offspring of the marriages between Chinese men and Malay women that took place mostly in 18th century Singapore, as Chinese settlers – traders, workers and merchants – arrived from all…

The Kashmir Book Shop

The Kashmir Book Shop In the heyday of tourism in Kashmir, books were the last thing that visitors thought of buying. The 1970s and ‘80s were when silk carpets and woollen shawls constituted the main shopping of the tens of thousands of tourists that holidayed in the Valley. So, the two bookshops that stood opposite…

The Story Behind Hainanese Chicken Rice

On a recent trip to Singapore, I made my way to the Mecca of Hainanese Chicken Rice: Purvis Street. Right by the uber fashionable Bugis Junction, no more striking contrast can be found. Purvis Street has started the inexorable change towards modernization, but when I first visited Singapore in 2002, it was an old-fashioned double…

The Walnut Grove

One thing I never tire of during my travels, is to see how the same plant, crop or tree is used so differently in various places where it grows. Take the chinar, for example. It dominates the horizon in Kashmir, especially in autumn when each tree in the Valley looks like a giant globe of…

The Teardrop-shaped Melting Pot

If you think of Sri Lanka as a minuscule island that lies to the south of India, you may be right, but if you think that it is too small to offer much diversity, you had better plan a trip there sometime soon. Because if indications are anything to go by, the somnolent country that…

My Browsing History

Everywhere I travel, I like to see the fruit and vegetable markets, the motor spare parts shops, the back streets where printers have their presses and the second-hand clothes and books bazars. For, much more than the manicured centre of town, it is these areas, with their hair let down, that you will get the…

Knocking the bastard off

In 1953, a British led expedition to Mount Everest included a New Zealand bee-keeper and a Sherpa who had settled in Darjeeling. There was rather a lot at stake. Ever since the discovery and the naming of the mountain, it had been identified with the British. Or so the British themselves liked to think. They…