Features on Asian Art, Culture, History & Travel

X Close

Features

Bun Nam

Bun Nam

Vientiane’s "Bun Nam" Water Festival

No country shares closer cultural and social links with Thailand than Laos. The majority of the inhabitants of both countries – Thai and Lao – belong to the same Tai group of peoples, the predominant religion is Theravada Buddhism, and the languages are, for the most part, mutually comprehensible. It is hardly surprising, then, that the Thai and the Lao share many festivals, both sacred and mundane.

Read More

That Luang

That Luang

That Luang: Heart Of The Lao Nation

"Near Wieng Chan is a very interesting pagoda called Wat Luang. Religion and war are there combined; the lower part is a perfect fortress riddled with loop holes. The Haw Chinese took possession of it without any opposition, and by means of ropes pulled off the spire in search of treasure." - James McCarthy, Report of a Survey in Siam, 1895.

Read More

Tears of the Poppy

Tears of the Poppy

Opium, Morphine and Heroin

Opium has been recognised as a narcotic for at least two thousand years. It is thought to have grown wild in the mountains of the eastern Mediterranean from Neolithic times, and was known to both the early Greeks and Romans. It was probably introduced to both China and India by Arab traders about a thousand years ago, and soon came to be widely valued for its medicinal properties. Although it flourished in the cool, nutrient-poor hills of south-west China, it did not become a serious problem until the 18th century when Britain, seeking a way to pay for Chinese tea shipments other than with silver, began exporting opium from India to China on a massive scale. The situation was compounded as both Britain and France established colonies in Southeast Asia during the latter half of the 19th century. In Burma the British first encouraged and then prohibited opium consumption in the Burman heartland, but permitted unrestricted usage in indirectly administered areas such as the Shan States. The French, for their part, encouraged opium cultivation in their Indochinese colonies, making opium a state monopoly. As a consequence opium production, consumption and export boomed in the ‘Golden Triangle’ region, as well as in the neighbouring Chinese province of Yunnan.

Read More

Ta Mok

Ta Mok

From Ta Mok To Colonel Kurtz

Recent reports from Cambodia claim that Ta Mok, the much-feared Khmer Rouge Chief-of-Staff who is also known as "the Butcher", has surrounded himself with a special bodyguard of thirty hand-picked fighters. Strangely, all are from non-Khmer ethnic minorities, and all are female. Are we witnessing a Khmer Rouge re-run of Apocalypse Now? Or are the explanations more mundane?

Read More

Akha Ways

Akha Ways

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.

Read More

Beauty Secrets Of The Padaung

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?

Read More

Pu Sae - Ya Sae

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.

Read More

Getting High for God, Good Health and Kicks

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.

Read More

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9