Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beautiful Sun Moon Lake

An amazing place.  Another Taiwanese tourist attraction well-known among the Chinese diaspora.  I have skipped it on my past 2 visits to Taiwan as it sounded really touristy,  Touristy it may be, but I have to admit that this is one of the most beautiful lake resorts I have visited anywhere.  Sun Moon Lake certainly deserves all the reputation it radiates.

On the road in Taiwan's central mountains

Alishan: Taiwanese Mountain Resort immortalised by a song

阿里山的姑娘美如水 ,阿里山的少年壮如山

Alishan, a Tschou tribal village located in the central mountains of Taiwan, is one of the most famous Taiwanese tourist attractions in the Chinese world.  The popular and timeless 1970’s pop song, Alishan, which sang praises of the place’s beautiful maiden and handsome young men, has propelled this small hill station initially developed by the Japanese as a timber station into a renowned attraction amongst Asians.  We began the day in Chiayi, had a nice dip at a nearby hotspring known as Guanzhiling, then drove on to freezing 2’C Alishan through winding mountain roads.


We woke up at 5am this morning and got onto the quaint Japanese built steam train to the summit to watch a sunrise that Taiwanese tourism authorities described as one of the world’s top ten (no comments on the merit of the claim), before a very pleasant walk in the Alpine meadows and forest full of giant thousand year-old trees.  We ended our stay here with a Tschou tribal cultural performance before driving for 3+ hours to Sun Moon Lake.

Chiayi's City God Temple

Chiayi’s City God Temple is another excellent example of the island’s exuberant Minnan architectural style. The colours and sculptures of the many gods and deities are simply amazing.

Taiwan's Chiayi City: Foo Paradise

We began our drive around Central Taiwan from Chiayi City, which is the base for visits to Taiwan’s famous Aishan hill station.  Taiwan is a gastronomical paradise and many Taiwanese cities and towns have their own local specialty that they brag about.  Armed with Taiwan Tourism Board’s food brochure, we had a great time exploring Chiayi’s food delights, including fish head, glutinous rice with minced meat and the super yummy turkey rice.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Another day in Okinawa

Historic Castles & Royal and Sacred sites of Kingdom of Ryukyu

Nine sites relating to the Ancient Kingdom of Ryukyu are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Apart from the Shuri Castle, there are also the royal tombs, royal gardens, sacred sites and a number of castles built on the most impenetrable cliffsides.  These monuments are not only a testimony to the cultural advancement of this long gone civilization and their historic trading and political links to countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia, but also the pride of the Okinawan people in preserving their unique culture and heritage.

WWII in Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa bitterly fought between US forces and Japan during WWII was the only major land battle fought on Japanese soil during the war.  Despite overwhelming military superiority, US forces took almost 3 months to conquer this small island.  Over 200,000 Japanese civilians and military perished together with 12,000 US soldiers. Many Japanese soldiers committed suicide by jumping off the cliffs during the final stand, often forcing civilians to kill themselves before that.  Today, remnants and monuments to those horrifying battles still stood in Okinawa. 

The legacy of the war remains – Okinawa has since then become the most important US bases in the Far East, and nuclear weapons aim at China and Russia from these islands. The major US bases and the land they occupy are hated by the islanders who would want to regain control of their ancestral properties.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Classical Dances of the Kingdom of Ryukyu: Video

Shuri Castle & sites of the Kingdom of Ryukyu

Classical Dances of the Kingdom of Ryukyu

I watched a 45min performance of Ryukyuan classical court dances today at the Shuri Castle in Naha.  The dances of the Kingdom of Ryukyu were said to have been influenced by both Chinese and Japanese dances.  Court dances that they were, they were very much restrained in movement.  A biased bystander commented that the dancers resembled individuals walking slowly with constipated stomachs.   Even those dances described in the official brochures as tense appeared to be tense only by mood and not by exuberance of movement.  I cannot comment as I am untrained in such matters but I have to confess that many of those who were present could easily fall asleep.  To give them credit, the dancers did have elaborate face make-up, controlled yet intense facial expressions and rather difficult constrained movements that could be achieved only after many years of training.

Naha Day 2

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hong Kong - Yuen Long/Pingshan Heritage Trail

I visited Yuen Long in the New Territories for the first time.  Again, another relaxing food and heritage walk. A different kind of HK - a more casual and relaxed one...

Hong Kong - Random Snapshots

A city that I have visited countless times... a place I've enjoyed the food, ferry rides and more.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Singapore's changing shoreline

I've always enjoyed watching the changing shoreline of Singapore, in particular,Pulau Tekong, whenever I take off from Changi Airport. Looks like Selat Johor is now rapidly being turned into an inland waterway. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taiwan R.O.C.

Taiwan R.O.C. - Yes, Taiwan. It's known to the WTO as "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu" 臺澎金馬個別關稅領域.  In the Olympics and elsewhere, it's known as Chinese Taipei 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

East China Sea Trip 2010 (东海2010)

On Saturday, ET and I would depart for Hong Kong. After 2 nights in HK, we would fly to Naha (那覇), Okinawa (沖縄島) via Taipei.  Okinawa is the southernmost and newest of the Japanese prefectures.  We will learn to appreciate Okinawan/Ryukyu culture and cuisine, as well as visit sites relating to the Ancient Kingdom of Ryukyu (琉球國) and the WWII Battle of Okinawa.  The Kingdom of Ryukyu was once a Chinese tributary state but invaded by Japanese Satsuma warlords in 1609 and officially abolished and annexed by Japan in 1872.  

On 25th Dec, we will fly to Taiwan and join A-Long and Shaun in Chiayi City (嘉義). We will drive around the central mountainous region of Taiwan, including Alishan (阿里山), Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) and Taichung (台中), before making our way to Taipei on 29 Dec in time for the new year celebrations.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sgtravelcafe@St Sophia: Toraja/Sulawesi & East Africa

We had an interesting session on 10 Dec 10 during which Soon Khai introduced us to the fascinating funeral buffalo sacrifices of Torajaland, Sulawesi (Indonesia); while Patricia told us about her adventures in Kenya and Tanzania and emotional ascent to Kilimanjaro.

Well done and thanks to the presenters!

14 Jan 2011 Gathering: Ukraine & Phuket's Vegetarian Festival

Edwin & Ying Ying will be presenting Ukraine 360', while Matt will be presenting the month's Brief Moments "Phuket Vegetarian Festival". 

Date: 14th January 2011, Friday 730PM 

See for more details

Thursday, December 09, 2010

BBC News - Phones calls used to redefine UK regions

BBC News - Phones calls used to redefine UK regions

The new map of the UK? Looks like Wales would be split into smaller regions and Scotland would be independent.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Palle Huld, Danish Actor Said to Be Model for Tintin, Dies at 98

Thank you, Mr Huld. You have inspired generations of travellers. R.I.P.

Palle Huld, Danish Actor Said to Be Model for Tintin, Dies at 98

Palle Huld, a Danish actor whose fleet, youthful and highly public circumnavigation of the globe as a cowlicked teenager is believed to have inspired the popular comic-book character Tintin, died on Nov. 26 in Copenhagen. He was 98.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Kuda Kepang - ancient Javanese/Malay dance

Kuda Kepang - the Javanese horse dance - has long been a feature of Malay cultural performances.  However, the version that is often played in official ceremonies and cultural festivals is devoid of its original pre-Islamic spiritual highlights.  On Saturday night (27/11/10), I brought my Japanese friends, Azusa and Kazuto, to the Malay Village to watch the Tedja Timur group perform.  Amazing stuff with the performances going into trance and possessed by the ancient war gods and battle horses.  This time around, however, the spirits did not possess the audience or performance assistants as it might occasionally.  Great fun anyway...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nick & a journey through time and space

Meeting Nick is always a journey across time and space.  Over bulgogi, kimchi octupus and cold noodles in a Korean restaurant set in a colonial shophouse in downtown Singapore, we dug the hard ground of Orkhon Valley of Mongolia for the remains of ancient Turks, visited the Yakuts of Sakha and the long-lost Republic of Tannu Tuva, played chess in Kalymkia, reminisced over German mansions in old Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) and the Poles of Vilnius/Wilna, debated about the Turkic/Iranian origins of Samarkand and Bukhara, explored Chinese settlements on the island of Lingga, Sumatra and wandered about our own dubious ancestral origins as conquerors and slave traders.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley

The Zanzibar Chest

The Zanzibar Chest
By Aidan Hartley

Hartley, a frontline reporter who covered the atrocities of 1990s Africa, embarks on a journey to unlock the mysteries and secrets of his own family's 150-year-colonial legacy in Africa, and delivers a beautiful, sometimes harrowing memoir of intrepid young men cut down in their prime, of forbidden love and its fatal consequences, and of family and history, and the collision of cultures that defined them both.


I love this book. Despite having a busy week, I rushed through it in less than a week. My only complaint is that the author attempted to do too much. The stories of his life and that of his father's friend Davey are just too different to jell well in this book. And his love affair with Lizzie seems totally out of place.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Video: WWII Remnants at Red Beach, Betio, Tarawa, Kiribati

Many remnants from WWII remain on this bitterly fought beach of the war.  Wee Cheng points out the remains of tanks and landing craft that still remain there in July 2010.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

SHS Tour of Hong San See

Hong San See, the temple of Nan An County clansmen in Singapore, is the recipient of the prestigious UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Excellence in 2010.  Today, Dr Yeo Kang Shua, the conservation-consultant for the temple's restoration project conducted a lecture cum tour for members of the Singapore Heritage Society.  

Sgtravelcafe 10 Dec 10 Gathering: Nairobi-Zanzibar & Sulawesi

Pat Lee will be presenting "Of Wildebeests, Roof of Africa & Stonetown - A Journey From Nairobi to Zanzibar", while Soon Khai will be presenting the month's Brief Moments "Celebes, a visit to Sulawesi". 

Date: 10th December 2010, Friday 730PM 
Venue: 2902 Gallery at Old School, Mount Sophia (Behind Cathay Cineleisure, Dhoby Ghaut).  
Address:  Old School, II Mount Sophia, Block , #B2-09
Time:  Door opens at 7:30pm (for usual potluck, socialising, networking, etc),
presentation will start at 8:40 pm.
(For potluck just bring a small box of pastry or a packet of noodles enough for 3-4 people or a bottle or 2 of soft drinks). 

More about Old School:

See maps:

On Google Map/iphone4, type "Old School Singapore"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ancient Temasek had a city wall...

The 2nd British administrator of Singapore, John Crawfurd, wrote in 1822 while walking around "the walls of the ancient town of Singapore": "...the wall, which is about 16 feet in breadth as its base, and at present about 8 or 9 in height, runs very near a mile from the sea-coast to the base of the hill..."

Crawfurd wrote in the Journal of an Embassy from the Governor-General of India to the Courts of Siam & Cochin-China about the ancient walls of Temasek, which was soon after demolished by the British, which resulted in the misconception that there was no history in Singapore until their arrival.

Posted via email from Nomadic Republic2

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thoughts on the MRT this morning

As I rode the train to work, across a landscape of housing estates and malls, my mind was cruising a lifetime of love, adventures and disasters in Aidan Hartley's The Zanzibar Chest.

At work, I speak about discount rate and revenue recognition criteria; but my heart feeds on names such as Ouagadougou, Kinshasa and Nagorno Karabakh. I can't wait for the academic term to be over.

I remember the war ruins and abandoned bunkers of Stephanakert, Nagorno Karabakh, and nervous late teenage soldiers on the ceasefire line, barely a few years after the last skirmish of the 90s, still fresh in 2000. Maybe I was a war correspondent in my past life.

I love this phrase in the book: Your mind is like a junk shop stuffed full of curiosities: some of them priceless, others of no value whatsoever.

Posted via email from Nomadic Republic2

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cosplay at Anime Fair, Suntec City, Singapore

From Wikipedia:

Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure?), short for "costume play",[1] is a type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea. Characters are often[citation needed]drawn from popular fiction in Japan. Favorite sources include mangaanimetokusatsucomic books,graphic novelsvideo gameshentai and fantasy moviesRole play includes portrayals of J-pop and J-rockstars, Taiwanese puppet charactersscience fiction characters, characters from musical stories, classic novels, and entertainment software. Any entity from the real or virtual world that lends itself to dramatic interpretation may be taken up as a subject. Inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms and it is not unusual to see genders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa.
Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered around role play. A broader use of the term cosplayapplies it to any costumed role play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.

I stumbled onto a huge Cosplay fair at Suntec City today. Had a field time taking photos of the fantastical costumes.

Random Singapore (14 Nov 2010)

SHS Visit-Practicum to the National Art Gallery Archaeological Site (II)

SHS Visit-Practicum to the National Art Gallery Archaeological Site (I)

Still remember what you learnt about Sang Nila Utama, the legendary founder of ancient Singapura?  The Malay classic, Sejarah Melayu, told us that SNU, an exiled prince from Sumatra, chanced upon a lion on the white sandy beaches of the island of Temasek.  he decided that this was a good sign and decided to settle and founded the kingdom of Singapura, meaning Lion City.  The kingdom of Singapura had a string of 5 rulers. In the 1380s, Parameswara, a refugee prince from Palembang, Sumatra, arrived here, and was given refuge by the 4th king, Paduka Seri Maharaja.  Parameswara repaid the favour by killing his benefactor and seizing the throne, becoming the 5th and last king of Singapura. Singapura was a vessel of both the Javanese Majapahit Empire and Siamese Ayutthaya Kingdom.  The Javanese overlords of Singapura invaded to revenge for the killing of their vessel, thus forcing Parameswara to flee to Melaka where he founded the much more renowned Kingdom of Melaka (which was more longlasting with the protection of China's Admiral Zhenghe).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sgtravelcafe 12 Nov 10: SW USA & Montenegro

As with before, we had a good time.  About 25 turned up for the interesting sessions on SW USA by Fred Lee and Montenegro by Nick Lum.

Sgtravelcafe 10 Dec 10 Gathering: Nairobi-Zanzibar & Sulawesi

Pat Lee will be presenting "Of Wilderbeests, Roof of Africa & Stonetown - A Journey From Nairobi to Zanzibar", while Soon Khai will be presenting the month's Brief Moments "Celebes, a visit to Sulawesi". 

Date: 10th December 2010, Friday 730PM 
Venue: TBA
Address: TBA
Time:  Door opens at 7:30pm (for usual potluck, socialising, networking, etc),
presentation will start at 8:40 pm.
(For potluck just bring a small box of pastry or a packet of noodles enough for 3-4 people or a bottle or 2 of soft drinks). 

Directions: TBA

See maps:  TBA

On Google Map/iphone4, type "TBA"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bought 15 books...

Guess what? I stumbled on a Borders sale at atrium of orchard central. Very good range of history and non fiction titles mostly for $10. I bought S$160 worth and got S$30 worth free Borders vouchers.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Intrigued with the exotic ports of the Archipelago

At an ACM talk on South Asians in Malay World 15-17th Century...I was intrigued with tales from exotic ports in remote parts of Indonesia. How I'd love to visit places such as Banjarmasin, Makassar, Ternate, Tidore, Banda, Ambon, Kupang...

Posted via email from Nomadic Republic2

Friday, November 05, 2010

Random Singapore

National Museum: Pompeii Exhibition II

National Museum: Pompeii Exhibition I

Little India Deepavali Bazaar (II)

Little India Deepavali Bazaar (I)

Today, I visited Little India's Deepavali Bazaar at the extremely narrow Campbell Lane.  This visit once again confirmed that Little India is ethnically the most colourful area in Singapore.  The colours, smell and liveliness are simply intoxicating.  In fact, exoticism is never too far in Singapore.  One just has to open one's eyes and look around.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Keppel Straits & Vivocity

Sunset at Keppel Straits between Singapore main island and Sentosa. Some theories say that the mediaeval world's greatest fleet under Admiral Zhenghe once sailed through here on the way from China to Africa.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Loan made to a cacao farmer in Ecuador

I have just lent US$25 to a cacao farmer in Ecuador thru! To date, I have lent money to entrepreneurs in Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Samoa, Kenya, Guatemala, Bolivia, Cambodia, Ecuador and Afghanistan. 33% of my loans go to agricultural, 22% to the arts, 22% to services, 11% to F&B and 11% to retail businesses.