Fort Focus

Sri Lanka is an island country of just 25,000 sq. mi. and 21 million people, but it boasts a history varied and rich enough to rival any nation in Asia.  Among its various governing coalitions, which include 8 medieval kingdoms and 3 colonial powers, were the Dutch, who wrested control over Sri Lanka from the … Continue reading

Defense Mechanisms

The Great Wall is presented to tourists as a story of ancient China’s great technological skill and power.  However, it’s just as much a story of ancient China’s great folly and paranoia.  Despite the epic amount of labor and resources that went into its creation, the Wall was never finished, and didn’t stop the Manchus … Continue reading

Sunday in the Park with Chinese Characteristics

How Chinese is modern China?  That was a question posed by Christian Caryl in his review of a recent slew of China books in the 12/9/10 issue of the New York Review of Books.  Caryl summarized the thesis of journalist Martin Jacques’s book, titled (with Glenn Beck-esque hysteria) When China Rules the World: The End … Continue reading

Beijing Calling

As the grandchild of Chinese refugees (my mom was raised in Hong Kong and East Timor and my dad in the Philippines), mainland China has always been shrouded in mystery for me.  This year, I felt the call to make (for the 1st time) a pilgrimage to the centuries-old capital of the country that was … Continue reading

Will the Real Penang Please Stand Up?

As the most Chinese city in Malaysia, the most modern colonial heritage city, the most diverse small town where everyone knows everyone, the most beautiful-dirty well-preserved-dilapidated quiet-crowded civilized-rude place in the third world, it’s no wonder that Penang has some identity confusion, á la a certain white rapper. Moving from a hotel on Gurney Drive … Continue reading

Whirled Hair It Edge

The last time I visited George Town, Penang was in 2003, 5 years before its city center, filled with numerous colonial-era shophouses, temples, mosques, and civic landmarks, was designated (along with Melaka) a World Heritage site by UNESCO, making it one of the rare urban recipients of World Heritage status outside of Europe. Located on … Continue reading