Tag Archives: culture

Like Jane Austen But Not: The Single Gal’s Guide to Travelling Asia

19 Oct Z and me in Georgian silhouette, Penang, Malaysia,

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1: Avoid Spaghetti Straps
Shoulders are an erogenous zone in many cultures. Particularly shy ones. In South-East Asia, nothing, and I do mean nothing, says “hooker” more than spaghetti straps. OK. Maybe fishnets, Perspex platforms and a basque. And if you packed those, lady, make like the real fetishists and change before you leave the disco. Mm?

2: Hold the Back Bars of a Motorbike, not the Driver
In most cultures, pressing your breasts against a chap you’ve never met is a recipe for mutual discomfort. Continue reading

Tales from the Moluccas #2: Happiness on the Riverbank

3 Oct light shining through clove trees on pulau ternate, maluku, indonesia

Lima in his football shorts on the stony banks of the river

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Lima has just discovered clothes. Three months ago, in fact. Compared to the itchy bark loincloths he used to wear, they’re remarkably comfortable. An excellent addition, he feels, to his eminently satisfactory life.

It would be hard not to warm to Lima. He’s 40ish, he thinks, or thereabouts, with a ready laugh, a happy soul and keen eyes below wiry brows and wrinkled forehead.

A hunter-gatherer from the Togutil tribe, one of four minorities scattered across the crumpled, riverine forest of Pulau Halmahera in Indonesia’s Spice Islands, Lima is, I think at first, the single happiest human being I have ever, ever met.

He wants, he tells me, for absolutely nothing, and desires nothing either. Continue reading

When Travel Becomes Time Travel

23 Sep

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Tomorrow we embark for Pulau Halmahera, one of Indonesia’s Spice Islands, where we will travel back in time.

Our aim? To experience the nomadic hunter-gatherer life as it is still lived today, among unassimilated Togutil people.

And this is a journey almost as close to time travel as it is possible to get. A step right back into human history. Continue reading

A Fistful of Dollars

17 Sep little girls in marching band, Rantepao, Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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Our favoured local, back in Rantepao in the Tana Toraja, was the hangout of the local Guides Association, a Teamsteresque conglomerate of the most amiable rogues since Dick Van Dyke.

Sporting various permutations of Aviators, moustaches, long hair, cropped hair and funeral sarongs as night-time outerwear, the chaps spent most of their time out back smoking clove cigarettes, drinking Bintang beer and swapping stacks over rupiah a card game not dissimilar to shithead.

We liked them a lot.

Didn’t play cards with them, mind.

I mean, that would have been just stupid. Continue reading

Souls Growing Skywards with the Trees

5 Sep Trees silhouetted against twilit sky. Baby graves, Pana, Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, indonesia.

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At Pana, the cave graves were easy to find, half of them broken open, looming out of a granite slab in the oncoming dusk and framed by dark bamboo.

The baby graves? Well, as the beautiful kids who gave us directions and made us sign the guestbook said, they were in a “big tree”.

“These holes in the trunk,” I wondered to Z. But they seemed so natural, gnarled by age into natural knots.

So, no, we decided. They must be the bundles high up in the branches with the ferns shooting out of them, basket coffins transformed into a proliferation of life. Continue reading

Imagine Peace

4 Jul

zip up shirt crafted from Thai flag, artwork on display at Bangkok centre for Art & Culture

Zip-up shirt crafted from Thai flag, Imagine Peace exhibition, Bangkok centre for Art & Culture.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Junior remarked the other day, “I do hope the shirt war doesn’t start again while we’re in Bangkok.”

And my mother asked me over the phone, “How is Bangkok right now?”

A reasonable enough question. Last time we were here, the red shirts were still in residence but the protests had yet to turn bloody.

One day a chunk of the city centre was shut down for marches, with shiny new black pick-ups heading into the financial district across traffic, their red-shirted occupants waving amiably, scarlet banners and bandanas waving in the breeze.

A few weeks later, and only a month or so ago, great chunks of the city were in flames. Not long ago a remarkably well-timed bomb was discovered inside a cart of pineapples outside the offices of the ruling coalition.

This time? Continue reading