Tag Archives: Travel

Old banyan temple upholds new green policy

Liu Rong TempleLiu Rong Temple, with over 1500 years of history dated back from Song Dynasty, is a tranquil scenic spot for both Buddhist worshippers, scholars, and tourists, surrounded by ancient banyan trees seemingly hidden in the concrete jungle of Guangzhou, one of the largest cities in China.

The renovation in the 90s has introduced two modern symbols of the temple, the Gong De Tang praying center, and the learning hall center.

Before it underwent major and costly renovation in the 90s, Gong De Tang was in its antiquated shape. hence the growing community and visitors alike called for a restoration which, after its completion, was followed by a new policy “the modern civilization prayer service”, encouraged in part by the central government.

In the face of environmental issues, the temple prohibits visitors from carrying incense to perform their ritual in the temple, instead providing a limited number of 3 earth-friendly incense sticks per person for free.

There will be no more sight of excessive ashes from burned joss papers as in old rituals.

Another modern facility in the complex is the conference center to hold traditional, cultural, and art learning, taught by Buddhist scholars from colleges across China.

In the first half of 2018, over 12 seminars were held, attended by around 5000 guests, domestic and foreign alike.

Liu Rong Temple

Go south


Yenny Wongso is a bachelor of Chinese Language in Beijing. In her recent tour to Western Europe and Italy, she captured many remarkable pictures. She now works and studies in Jakarta.


The clear blue sky as the backdrop of the chains of mountain—part of the giant Southern Alps—welcomed the plane when it landed on the south island of New Zealand. The Queenstown International Airport was flanked by a fraction of 50 volcanic mountains in the country. Don’t worry, the last earthquake occured in south island in 1968.

White clouds blanketed most of its long summit, a beautiful scenery to begin the journey on this resort destination. For Asian tourists coming from the typical densely populated home city, the south island would have certainly made them dumbfounded with the least appearance of humans.

It is one of the less inhabitated lands on earth in comparison with the modern world that is crowded by over 6 billion people.

The ultimate stop on the visit to the south island of New Zealand is Christchurch, the third most populous city in the country after Auckland and Wellington in the north island, with just over 340,000 inhabitants. Over 30 per cent of the south island population lived in Christchurch.

As the history of the European settlement in New Zealand started in the south island during the goldrush that culminated in the 19th century, Christchurch is the country’s first established city.

Frequent series of earthquakes over two years since 2010 had changed its outlook into even more vibrant and new. Rapid and thorough restoration that took place in the past two years made the traces of destructive impact of earthquakes disappeared.

New Zealand was one of the last stops of human migration in the prehistoric era. Its indigeneous Eastern Polynesian people, the Maoris, settled long before the Dutch and British voyagers found the island in the 17th century, calling it Autearoa, meaning the land of the long white cloud.

The country’s name refers to the Abel Tasman-led Dutch explorers who called it upon discovery in 1642 Nova Zeelandia. The British explorers anglicised the name to New Zealand, and unanimously agreed by consesus for use until today.

The Akihabara crossings

Inna KC
Inna KC
Laurentius T. Pesik
Laurentius T. Pesik


Akihabara is known as the heaven for otakus with its collection of Japanese anime and comics. Following years of redevelopment, this place is now famous for Akihabara Crossfield, a business complex with the aim of promoting Akihabara as a center for global electronics technology and trade.

You can also find the the famous AKB 48 theatre in Don quijote Akihabara and the cafe just right next to the JR Railways Station.

Shinjuku is a commercial center and home to many well-known sights and tourist attractions. Several of the tallest buildings in Tokyo are located in this area The most interesting part of Shinjuku would be the Kabukicho district, Tokyo’s most notorious red-light district. To the south is Shinjuku Nichome, Tokyo’s largest gay district.

Ueno is the face of Tokyo with cultural atmosphere. It is famous with art galleries and  museums, shopping and jewellery wholesale arcades. This is also the place where you can experience traditional Japanese performing arts, such as theatrical entertainment and comical story-telling (rakugo).

japan 4

Desa Sasak Ende

think archipelago V7 Aug 2014PHOTOGRAPHS  I  SALLY CONDRO

Desa Sasak Ende is the cover story of the seventh volume of the international edition of think archipelago magazine. It followed Sally Condro’s account on her visit to a cultural heritage site in West Nusa Tenggara. Go to the archive section to read the whole magazine.


The house floor made from the mixture of cattle excretion and mud.
The house floor made from the mixture of cattle excretion and mud

The native village of Sasak Ende, two hours ride from the city center of Lombok, has been a major international tourism destination in this island.

It is an expansion of the tourism-oriented rural area project, following the success of Desa Sade, where hundreds of household have thrived there relying mostly on selling souvenirs and hand-woven fabrics.

Other villages where the conservation of clothing, house types, language, and even way of life are conditioned in such a similar model, are Tetebatu and Sukarara. These tourism villages are  all located in the Special Economic Zone of Mandalika, a tourism economy model of West Nusa Tenggara province. So far the national policy seemed to have worked.

The near absence of trash along the road and in the vicinity is an evidence just how serious the local administration takes the steps to keep the prime status of this place of interest.

After enjoying the long stretch of stunning paddy fields scenery, visitors arrived in the village and welcomed by the village chief. His short introduction about the village was a useful narration to understand the living condition and the local custom.


A village inhabitant who makes fabrique using traditional hand- woven technique.

He told that life in Desa Sasak Ende is always in harmony with nature. Cows and calves are regarded an asset of high value. These animals live under the same roof with the village inhabitants.

The locals perceive them as true partners and deserve an exceptional reverence. Everything that comes from cows must be put to use efficiently. In an extreme instance, cow dung is used to harden the floor in each house.

The dried cow dung left no foul stench. The inhabitants also hold a philosophy of mutual respect that is symbolised in the typically short front doors placed in every house.

By bowing your way down into the house, you pay respect to the host. It goes the same with the host welcoming a guest at the door way.

A mother carrying her child in Desa Sasak Ende. Weaving keeps the native female busy.

Mt. Titlis


Yenny Wongso is a bachelor of Chinese Language in Beijing who now pursues another degree in English Education. In her recent tour to Western Europe and Italy, she captured many remarkable pictures. She now works and studies in Jakarta.

photo 1 (1)

The journey to Mount Titlis is one of the most memorable ones in Europe that is full of beautiful scenery with an eternal snow on the top. People can go skiing down the vast slopes on winter or even summer.

It is actually range of mountains that is located on the western part of the Alps, the primary tourism icon of Switzerland. It is also the highest summit in the Urner Alps section, although it pales in comparison with the Dammastock of the adjacent valley, or the most famous Alps crest, Mont Blanc.

In this picture, although barely seen, there lies the Engelberg-Titlis cableway that facilitates the world’s first revolving cable car. From inside, I enjoyed the spectacular view of the mountain.

As the cable car ascends, I saw the scenic parts of the mountain, from the cliff, the rocky mountainside, and the snow-covered slopes as we were reaching the peak.

The scenery was just like a painting that caught my eyes, so beautiful and unforgettable.


The hillside of Mount Titlis is a perfect scene to remember the long journey to Mount Titlis. Clear blue sky with a small village sitting under snowy mountain make a peaceful picture.



The capsule city Makati


Ika Warastuti loves exploring words. She has great respect to Pramoedya Ananta Toer for the man’s grandiose artistry in narrating monoto-nous, ignorable occasions in life into emotional passages that blow her away. She works as an analyst and occa-sionally manages a blog at warastuti.com. She her accounts of Manila, Philippines below, featured in the sixth volume of the international edition of think archipelago magazine.

Panorama Manila

The taxi driver nodded following my request and took the right line of the road, taking us through the fly over toll road heading to Makati City of Manila. The view below us was complicated and dense: Flocks of residences intersected by a railway and minor traffic jam in several spot.

The view indicates a conglomeration of those with economic dependence to the existence of the city.

The toll road brought me to a contrast view when I arrived in Ayala Avenue, the nuclei of Makati, many people said. The skyscraper of Bank of the Philippine Islands stood on the right side of our way.

Another pivotal institution, the Philippine Stock Exchange, is also located on the avenue. Most of individual spaces are built vertically in a massive number of towers so that it forms concrete jungle which can block the sunlight due to its heights.


The weather was good during my visit. So I and friends could enjoy an evening at the Ayala Triangle, a spacious park where people can jog, meet up with friends or just sit and sip a cup of coffee.

Similar parks are rarely seen outside the city. It was like entering a capsule city, where the quality of the air, the anthem and the habits of the people are completely different with the supporting regions around it.

Life in Makati

Makati has its own circadian cycle. The life in the city is lit up by the white collars marching to their offices and dimmed when the office hours is over.

Around 400,000 people are estimated to be dwelling the city. The number is boosted on weekdays to become one million due to the incoming workers from the surrounding Manila.

Manila, PhillipinesThe local government has implemented advance policies to regulate the city dwellers. The ban on plastic bag usage has been effective since around a year ago. Each shopper needs to bring their own non-plastic reused bag for loading their groceries at supermarket.

Smoking is also strictly regulated. These two policies have classified Makati high above the other regions of Manila where environmental concern remains low.

Living cost

A friend who has spent her last three years in the city said however, that life in the city is quite pricey. The living cost in Makati is relatively higher compared to other Southeast Asia’s metropolitan hubs like Bangkok and Jakarta.

The rent and property price are 1.5 higher than in other big cities. The electricity supply in Makati is managed under private entity, which eventually leads to 2-3 times higher price.

Social diversity

Perhaps, due to mixed culture and international network which are based in the city, the city dwellers have more intense exposure to foreign culture. Many youths raised in the city no longer speak Tagalog.

If I can describe Manila in two-sided coin, Makati represents the side of 21th modern century while the rest regions seem stuck in nineties. Will this sophisticated civilization be contagious to the surrounding? Otherwise the capsule city will remain a contrast, like a winner who stands in loneliness.

Manila, Phillipines

A tale of the past


Mia P. Tanujaya, a full time dreamer and reader, is currently working as a marketer in Vietnam. She is fond of teaching and always believes in Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” It is her dream to travel around the world and write a book about it.

The Japanese Covered Bridge that connected 2 parts of town
The Japanese Bridge is Hoi An’s signature landmark used widely as an emblem of the town. It was built by Japanese merchants in the 16th century. The bridge was originally constructed to connect the Japanese community with the Chinese quarter separated by a small stream of water, a symbolic gesture of peace.

Hoi An, an enchanting ancient town located in Quang Nam province, central Vietnam, was once a major trading port of Southeast Asia in the 16th century. It was previously known by various names—Fayfo, Haifo, Kaifo, Faifoo, Faicfo, Hoai Pho—meaning “peaceful meeting place”.

With the total area of 60 square kilometers, Hoi An has plenty distinct Chinese architecture with low tile-roofed houses and narrow streets, some of the first built ones remained almost intact. This little town is nominated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich cultural heritage.The entrance to Tan Ky HouseMost of the town’s grand heritage listed buildings date back to French colonial times in the late 19th and early 20th century. The oldest houses have passed four at least 5 generations, and are quite distinct from those of the colonial era. A handful of these older merchant houses are open for visitors. The three top houses to visit are Duc An, Tan Ky and Phung Hung.

Group of Tourist marching the streetHoi An’s old streets are packed with houses dating back to its emergence as an important Asian trading port in the 18th century.

The houses reflect the architectural styles of the major trading partners of the time—China, Japan, as well as the former European occupying force in Indo China, France.

You will be greeted by old yellow buildings with their Chinese-ornamented windows and doors neatly lined up along the small street. Hoi An is not big.

It only consists of a few blocks. But it is also one of so many factors that makes tourists feel immensely satisfied roaming the streets and eager to explore every hidden corner in this small town . Motorists are not allowed to enter the streets in the main area except at certain hours, which makes it a very tourist-friendly place.

The Street at dawnThere is something inexplicable about this little town, something that induces a feeling of longing that chants ” I’m coming…here I am”.

Nostalgic is probably the closest word to describe the feeling. Even if it is the first time you set foot there, you will stop for a moment to take a breath and say to yourself, “I’m home”. You could feel that every wall and corner sing a tale of the past.

The windblow  from the sidelines between a small alley seem to try to gush, “I witnessed a lot of tales from time to time”.

The old man in pajamas and a bowl of magic


Mia P. Tanujaya, a full time dreamer and reader, is currently working as a marketer in Vietnam. She is fond of teaching and always believes in Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” It is her dream to travel around the world and write a book about it.

Lion Dance vietnam

In Vietnam the Mid-Autumn Festival (Tet Trung Thu) is the country’s second most important holiday after the Vietnamese New Year (Tet). Tet Trung Thu usually takes place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.

The best place in Vietnam to observe Tet Trung Thu is Hoi An ancient city in Quang Nam province. The town’s Old Quarter is densely packed with shops, thus attracting the lion dancers. The river is teemed with floating lanterns, and the atmosphere is magical.

Flowers for offerings, vietnam

Since the town is so small, groups of lion dancers often encounter each other. They will put on fierce dance battle in an attempt to establish dominance. In the end this holiday is all about fun, and it is great to see groups of people marching and dancing through the streets, following the lion dancers’ way to every stop.

Weather could be quite tricky at this time of the year as wet season approaches, but it would not stop the people from carrying out the tradition. They would still make it through the rain and visitors are excitedly joining in.

the view from inside an old houseFor those who miss the Mid-Autumn Festival, they can always make time on every 14th day of the lunar month which is a Buddhist day of worship. Residents place offerings and burn incense on their ancestral altars and visit one of Hoi An’s many pagodas.

The scent of incense and the sounds of people singing add to the town’s enchanted atmosphere. On the evenings, visitors will get a rare glimpse into another era. These nights are warm reminders of life’s unforeseen beauty.

Cao LauVisitors to Hoi An always remember Cao Lau, which is considered by Quang Nam people as a special symbol for Hoi An. It is rice noodle served with thinly-sliced, soy-simmered pork, crispy fresh lettuce, assorted herbs such as basil, cilantro and mint, and crackly squares of deep-fried flour cracker.

It is said that Cao Lau cannot be made well outside Quang Nam. The secret lies in the water. Authentic Cao Lau is prepared only with water drawn from ancient Cham (ancient ethnic group) wells hidden around Hoi An and across Quang Nam Province.

Morning cruise in the Strait of Malacca

V4 Nov 2013The morning sea view from the highest deck of Italian mega ship Costa Atlantica cruising the Strait of Malacca graced the cover of the fourth international edition of think archipelago magazine, November 2014. Here are several photographs on board of the ship that was not found in the article Night at the cruise ship. Now we publish it online for the first time.

Costa Atlantica viewing deck

Costa Atlantica viewing deck

Costa Atlantica stern deck

Sunrise in Malacca Strait

Costa Atlantica cruise upper deck

Costa Atlantica cruise upper deck

Night at the cruise ship

Costa Atlantica deck at night

Costa Atlantica deck's bar
Recently boarded passengers chat at one of the deck’s bars.

A few men isolated themselves on the deck of Costa Atlantica from over 2,500 passengers, most of which have just boarded the ship two hours prior to departure.

A small group remained stuck in the crammed lobby to get through time-consuming but necessary boarding arrangements. Most others had started discovering every interior part of the lavishly decorated ships.

Many stayed in their rooms to get a break from the mass tourist.

On the deck, the gathering place at the top level of the ship where only very few people have had the thought to look at, the peace in vacation was found.

Minutes of departure

Under the dark sky and facing dark seas, people did not notice that the ship had just departed the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore. The main engine was hardly heard or felt. Their conversation was louder than the sound of waves.

Costa Atlantica viewing deck at night
Work hour: A crew member walks past the panorama deck as the ship begins the 5-day itineraries across three Southeast Asian countries.

Costa Atlantica picked Singapore as the port of origin in one of its cruise line maiden journeys in Southeast Asia.

In the late evening that does not differ much in temperature than in daylight, it set sail to two cities along the Strait of Malacca—the city of Malacca, Penang—and ended its journey in Phuket Island.

The visit to three ports and return trip southward to Singapore took five days to complete. The Strait of Malacca was barely challenging, as calm waters and windless days remained so for the entire vacation on board.

Crew members were on duty the entire day and they made up around a third of the total number of passengers.

Costa Atlantica lobby
Cruise staff seemed leisuring in the glitzy lobby. “Cruising in Italian Style” makes them able to mix professional on-duty hours with relaxing attitude.

Money spenders of Asia

Due to the economic slowdown in the western continents, cruise business activities have shifted to the east. People in the region with curiosity for the experience and cash are more than willing to fill the vacant rooms.

Thus, Costa Cruises Group operate their Asian cruise lines from Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal. They become the pioneer in international cruise lines making Asia as homeport.

People in the region now can take a cruise vacation without having to fly to European ports beforehand.

Nonetheless, this is still a luxury vacation, yet at a relatively affordable rate considering the cost the Asian riches had to pay to get such a holiday at the time when cruise lines operations were concentrated in far-flung regions.

Costa Atlantica at the Strait of Malacca
New business frontier: Costa Atlantica sails off the Strait of Malacca.

The ship looked empty on day as most passengers disembarked to quick visits at one of the ports of destination along the Strait of Malacca.

Cruise journeys benefit the coastal cities situated along the course. Money spenders of Asia make the tourism and hospitality businesses all the more promising.

Budget flights and hotels gain a strong foothold in Asia. The ship garners some success in its new venture in Asian territories due to the operator’s ability to align themselves with Asian behavior in terms of meticulousness in leisure spending.

Tiziano Restaurant of Costa Atlantica
Dining at Tiziano Restaurant of Costa Atlantica

Cruise dining

At one section of the cruise, Tiziano Restaurant offers not only fine dining experience and exquisite interior lightings, but also a pleasant surprise by the well-clad waitresses who show a love of Italian rhythm and melodies.

More than just a gastronomic indulgence, Italian culinary feast on an Italian cruise is a mixture of delightful taste and vacation life style. This is a culture that celebrates every bite of food, every musical note, and each colorful moment in life.

To see more photographs of Costa Atlantica, go to Morning cruise in the strait of Malacca.