Features on Asian Art, Culture, History & Travel
The Consul Who Loved Beetle Fighting
Britain’s Longest-Serving Consul in Chiang Mai Enjoyed An Unusual Local Sport...
Beyond any shadow of doubt the most distinguished foreign resident of Chiang Mai this century was William Alfred Rae Wood, CIE, CMG. In 1896, at the callow age of 18, Wood arrived in Bangkok to start work as a junior member of the British Consular Service. Over the next seventeen years, between periods in Bangkok, he served as British Vice-Consul at Nan, Chiang Rai, Songkhla and Lampang before, in 1913, being appointed British Consul at Chiang Mai.
Jim Thompson’s House
The Cultural Legacy of Thailand’s Silk King
From a patch of lush vegetation, the sumptuous red teak buildings rise elegantly up, reaching for the sky, challenging the visitor to resist enchantment. One can’t help but succumb to the engaging first impressions and the desire to explore. As one removes shoes and steps into the black-and-white marble tiled entrance hall, yet more gleaming teak rising above, first impressions give way to a sense of quiet, delighted awe.
Between Hammer And Anvil
Sri Lanka’s Muslims
Adam’s peak, a symmetrically conical mountain set in the gorgeous hill country of southern Sri Lanka, is sacred to all of the island’s main faiths. There is a strange indentation set in the living rock of the summit. To the majority Sinhalese Buddhists (69% of the total population) it is the footprint of the Buddha Gautama. The Tamil Hindus (21%) know better - it is, of course, the sacred footprint of the god Shiva. Then again, the island’s Muslims (7%) insist, it is the footprint left by Adam when, cast out of the Garden of Eden by a wrathful God, he fell to earth in the place nearest to that celestial grove in terms of beauty, fertility and climate - Sri Lanka.
In The Shadow Of The Jade Dragon
This world can boast of few places enjoyable on as many different levels as Lijiang. In the north-western part of China’s Yunnan Province, at a comfortable altitude of 2400 metres, Lijiang sits on a broad plain, ringed by mountains. To the north tower the snowy peaks of Jade Dragon Mountain, 5596 metres tall, girdled with rich forests that yield over 400 kinds of trees, half the province’s botanical species, dozens of azalea types and hundreds of medicinal plants. The city itself is really two, for the new sections have grown up around an old town that has retained its basic layout, lifestyle and architecture intact since its foundation in the 13th century.
The Art Of Chewing Betel
A Taste For The Areca Nut
"Even a Dog can have White Teeth," - Old Vietnamese saying
Chewing areca nut is an increasingly rare custom in the modern world. Yet once, not so long ago, areca nut – taken with the leaf of the betel tree and lime paste – was widely consumed throughout South and Southeast Asia by people of all social classes, and was considered an essential part of daily life.
All The Spices Of The Indies
“And there come to these marts great ships, on account of the bulk and quantity of pepper and aromatic spices that are available there...” - Anonymous Greek, Periplus Maris Erythraei, 1st century AD.
Pepper is just one, if perhaps the best known, of the many spices used throughout the world to preserve or flavour much of the food we eat. Spices – for such is the generic term applied to these culinary wonders – are the highly esteemed fragrant or pungent plant products of tropical and sub-tropical regions.
The "Serviceable Herb"
’The King of China reserves to himself the duty on a certain herb which is drunk infused in hot water. This herb is sold in all the towns at high prices. Water is boiled and poured upon it. The drink so made is serviceable under all circumstances’. - Sulayman Abu Zayd as-Sirafi, 851 CE
Jim Thompson: Thailand’s Silk King
The Life and Legacy of James H. W. Thompson
On a warm Sunday afternoon in March 1967, James H. W. Thompson, a successful American businessman and well-known resident of Bangkok, disappeared whilst on holiday in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands. To this day his fate remains unknown - he simply walked out of the cottage where he was staying, and never came back.