Features on Asian Art, Culture, History & Travel
Thailand’s Akha: The Old Ways Are Still The Best
Postcards, posters and tourist brochures give us a very romantic picture of the Akha hill tribals. We see women dressed in their best embroidered jackets, loaded with beads, silver ornaments and fancy head-dresses. They are busy with their needlework, or posing with a baby strapped to the back, who peers from beneath a colourful cap, festooned with coins, cowries and chicken feather tassels. Or maybe they’re moseying around the village area, tiny figures in a landscape of bamboo houses, dirt paths, forests and hills. The portrait implies a carefree life, grounded in exotic traditions, relaxed and close to nature. But our instincts tell us the presentation is incomplete. There must be more to the idyll.
Beauty Secrets Of The Padaung
A Unique Cultural Tradition in Mae Hong Son
Both Western and Asian accounts of the "Long Neck" Padaung women tend – understandably – to stress the "neck-lengthening" effects of the massed brass coils. And why should they not, when even the Padaung themselves, from their creation myth to everyday speech, stress the aesthetic beauty of long necks?
Pu Sae - Ya Sae
Guardian Spirits Of Doi Suthep
Every late May or June, near the beginning of the Rainy Season, two little-known but archaic rituals are held in the environs of Chiang Mai. These are the related Pu Sae and Ya Sae ceremonies, which are believed to pre-date the introduction of Buddhism to Northern Thailand. The traditions which they encompass similarly pre-date Thai and even Mon settlement in the area, and are associated with the Lawa, the earliest-known inhabitants of Chiang Mai.
Getting High for God, Good Health and Kicks
The Traditional Uses of Hashish and Marijuana
There were times – the older ones among us may remember – when the term "genuine Nepalese" did not in any way refer to the ethnic background of a citizen of a small Himalayan state. Rather it indicated the origin of a type of hashish, of which Nepal is said to produce the most powerful. "Genuine Nepalese" was a trademark of quality.
Holy Men Of Nepal
Fakirs, Sadhus, Yogis and Sunyasins
“And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts in Kathmandu,” - Rudyard Kipling, 1895
They are known, variously, as sadhus, yogis, fakirs and sunyasins. They are the ascetic – and often eccentric – practitioners of an austere form of Hinduism. Sworn to cast off earthly desires, some choose to live as anchorites in the wilderness. Others, as these pictures make clear, are of a less retiring disposition, especially in the towns and temples of Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley.
The Legendary Heritage Of The Yaos
The Yao are one of Southeast Asia’s many upland minority peoples. They live scattered in small communities across the "Golden Triangle" region of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Burma, and extend deep into the southern Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi, Hunan, Guizhou and Jiangxi.
Land Of Mangoes And Songbirds
“A quiet seaside collection of old wooden houses, lovely and unfrequented beaches, Muslim fishing villages and Chinese shops. This peaceful place marks a fitting and tranquil end to a journey around the south.” - Alistair Shearer, The Lotus Kingdom
Exploring a Pristine Corner of Upper Isaan
Loei Province, located in the far west of upper Isaan or Northeast Thailand, is among the most sparsely populated and remote provinces in the country. Fortunately, it is this very isolation and relative emptiness that make it such an attractive destination for both cultural and natural ecotourism.