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    Dancers of Ubud

    May 16th, 2012

    Dancers of Ubud

    In May and June 2010, I visited the island of Bali in Indonesia for 17 days, mostly the cultural center of Ubud, where I went to amazing art museums, galleries, shops and restaurants by day, and attended performances every night featuring gamelan music and dances such as the Baris, Barong, Fire, Jauk, Kecak, Legong, Mekepung, Tari Belibis, Taruna Jaya and Oleg Tambulilingan. Balinese dancers are among the most beautiful ever, with their delicately painted faces, intricately patterned costumes and mesmerizing movements. Now cue up some Balinese gamelan music and enjoy the Dancers of Ubud slide show over on Flickr! (For the best results, click the full screen icon in the bottom right corner on the Flickr slide show.)


    Tropical Punch Tour: South Korea Video

    September 11th, 2011

    Tropical Punch Tour: South Korea Video presents some downright captivating and moving performances of traditional South Korean music on instruments like the haegum and the komungo, caught during a layover at Incheon airport in Seoul.

    For tons of photos and a detailed travel journal, visit the Tropical Punch Tour page.


    Tropical Punch Tour: Myanmar Video

    September 9th, 2011

    Enigmatic and intriguing, Myanmar is land of contradictions. It boasts some of the nicest people on Earth who are, ironically, ruled by an oppressive military regime. On the religious front, Buddhism reigns supreme, yet a subculture of nat (spirit) worship continues to thrive in its shadow. The country’s pagoda-dotted landscape maintains layers of dust despite frequent downpours in the rainy season. And despite its considerable distance from the equator, most of Myanmar is oven hot.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Tropical Punch Tour: Thailand Video

    September 2nd, 2011

    Shaped exactly like an elephant’s head, Thailand is a vast, sweltering hot tropical kingdom whose landscape ranges from powder white beaches with turquoise water to ultra-green, lush jungles and mountains full of traditional hill tribes. Insanely ornate, gold-splashed Buddhist temples dot the villages and cities, where ramshackle shantytowns nestle up to glitzy shopping malls. Ladyboys, tuk-tuks and picturesque floating markets also await the foreign visitor’s dollars. Welcome to Thailand, one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

    Tropical Punch Tour: Thailand Video begins in quaint Phuket Town, deep in the Southern part of the country, where a loud and colorful school parade, gleaming Buddhist temples, huge golden dragon sculptures and gorgeous Sino-Portuguese shophouses grab the eye and won’t let go. Next up comes a quick look at the tropical idyll of the Phi Phi islands, followed by a cruise up the rainy Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. There, in the sprawling capital city, we sample myriad sights and sounds, including magnificent Buddhist temples like Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew, and May Kaidee’s vegetarian restaurant, home of the most delicious food to ever hit my tastebuds. Then comes a stop in the Northern town of Chiang Mai, dominated by the gold-splashed intricacies of Wat Phra Singh. After a pleasant morning bobbing in the rainbow-hued Damnoen Saduak floating market in Central Thailand, we head back to Bangkok to grab a gander of astonishing Buddhist temples Wat Kanlayanamit and Wat Arun. The clip draws to a close as we witness a couple of raw street musicians in the blown-out tourist mecca of Thanon Khao San.

    Background songs from Molam: Thai Country Groove from Isan Volume 2, Siamese Soul, Shadow Music From Thailand and Molam: Thai Country Groove from Isan CDs, courtesy of Sublime Frequencies.

    For tons of photos and a detailed travel journal, visit the Tropical Punch Tour page.


    Tropical Punch Tour: Malaysia Video

    August 19th, 2011

    Vast jungles crawling with rare, exotic animals, insects and plants. Pristine beaches and islands supporting fragile, beautiful coral reefs. Traditional kampung thatched roof houses. Sprawling urban centers sprinkled with shiny glass high rises next to run-down alleys sporting a generous helping of dirt and grime. All of these elements and much more make up the Muslim-dominated country of Malaysia, which lies under the stinging equatorial sun, right between Thailand and Singapore.

    Tropical Punch Tour: Malaysia Video takes a quick look at the colorful seaside colonial town of Melaka, including flower-festooned trishaws, a musical performance and dance party stirred up by Hiasan Budaya and a sardine-packed night market in Chinatown. Up in the sprawling capital city, Kuala Lumpur, we briefly encounter a plethora of traditional Malaysian dances offered up at various tourist centers, plus stops at the lovely and lush Taman Rama Rama, also known as the Butterfly Park, and the home of some of Earth’s most brightly hued birds at the KL Bird Park.

    For tons of photos and a detailed travel journal, visit the Tropical Punch Tour page.


    Tropical Punch Tour: Singapore Video

    August 16th, 2011

    “Made in Singapore.” Throughout your whole life, you’ve seen those three words stamped on many a product. I’m finally here! But I haven’t seen any smokey factories belching out all of that stuff. Maybe they’re hidden underneath the neatly swept and polished surface. Singapore is a small and tidy island / city / nation that measures only roughly 12 x 24 miles. It’s highly Westernized, ultra-modern, and as far as diners and shoppers are concerned, it can easily compete with any city on the globe.

    Tropical Punch Tour: Singapore Video takes a cursory glance at all of the architectural eye candy around town, plus live music performances in the form of a shrill buddhist temple ceremony at Thian Hock Keng, a couple of random street musicians and performers on Cavenagh Bridge, and a chorus of frogs singing their hearts out down inside a sewer in Fort Canning. Background songs courtesy of the Singapore A-Go-Go compilation CD on Sublime Frequencies.

    For tons of photos and a detailed travel journal, visit the Tropical Punch Tour page.


    Tropical Punch Tour: Java Video

    August 1st, 2011

    Spanning roughly 150 x 600 miles, Java is one long stringbean of a volcano-spined tropical island. Boasting the highest population of Indonesia, many of whom are Muslim, its largest cities–Jakarta on the West side and Surabaya on the East–are sprawling, polluted, centers of raw, urban chaos. Yogyakarta and Solo in Central Java rival each other as centers of culture, with regular dance and gamelan music performances and tons of other traditional artistic output in the form of carvings, sculpture, painting, and much more. Endless beaches, jungles and mountains also attract their fair share of foreigners.

    Tropical Punch Tour: Java Video aims the spotlight on musical and cultural life in and around Yogyakarta. The shenanigans begin with a quick glance at raw street musicians on the main drag in town, Jalon Malioboro. Next up, a few Wayang Kulit shadow puppets float into view, followed by a sprightly gamelan orchestra and Wayang Kulit shadow puppet play at the Sono Budoyo Museum. Next morning, we peel ourselves out of bed for an early morning visit to Borobudur, a giant Buddhist temple that’s bigger than a city block and taller than Godzilla. It was built back in the ninth century, when Buddhism reigned as Java’s primary religion. A violent Wayang Golek wooden puppet play with another chiming gamelan orchestra goes down at the Sultan’s Palace, followed by the super-colorful Ramayana Ballet at Purawisata. The video closes with a visit to the serene Taman Sari water palace, and musical instruments under fiery construction at a gamelan foundry in Bentuyang.

    For tons of photos and a detailed travel journal, visit the Tropical Punch Tour page.


    Tropical Punch Tour: Bali Video 3

    July 15th, 2011

    A small, tropical island measuring just 69 x 95 miles nestled between Java and Lombok in the vast archipelago of Indonesia, Bali is covered with lush jungles, rice terraces, mountains and beautiful beaches, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Some come for the sun, sand, surf, and world class resorts and spas, while others enjoy the predominantly Hindu culture that is celebrated daily with highly evolved dance, music, art and architecture.

    Tropical Punch Tour: Bali Video 3 presents a cornucopia of hyper-colorful music, dance and ritual at four different locations in and around Ubud. First up is a skull-rattling performance of the reverberant jegog bamboo gamelan by Suara Sakti up in Bentuyung village, just North of Ubud. The Tary Panyembrana, Tari Gopola and Tari Belibus dances are presented, among others. Then we head over to Puri Agung Peliatan Palace for the Pendet, Baris and Legong Lasem dances. Next comes a chance encounter with an amazing but exhausting all-night performance of the Calon Arang story at Pura Dalem Puri, also in Peliatan. Calon Arang is a witch who practices black magic and, during a family drama, brings death and destruction to everything in her path. The tale is told through the Barong, Telek, Jauk, Kris, Sisya and Galuh dances, highlighted by a mass murder sequence (performed as a trance ritual in real life). Read the complete story. The video comes to a close over at Bale Banjar Ubud Kelod with an all-female outfit called Luh Luwih, who present lovely versions of the Gabor, Topeng Tua, Cendrawasih, Oleg Tambulilingan, Taruna Jaya and Baris dances. Thanks to captainputs for the black magic sequence.

    For tons of photos and a detailed travel journal, visit the Tropical Punch Tour page.


    Tropical Punch Tour: Bali Video 2

    March 17th, 2011

    A small, tropical island measuring just 69 x 95 miles nestled between Java and Lombok in the vast archipelago of Indonesia, Bali is covered with lush jungles, rice terraces, mountains and beautiful beaches, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Some come for the sun, sand, surf, and world class resorts and spas, while others enjoy the predominantly Hindu culture that is celebrated daily with highly evolved dance, music, art and architecture.

    Tropical Punch Tour: Bali Video 2 presents an all-dance and gamelan extravaganza courtesy of the well-oiled machine that is Ubud’s regularly scheduled tourist shows. Opening the program, the lightning fast and loud gamelan, Semarandhana, stirs up an aural Earthquake inside the Agung Rai Museum of Art, as the Seke Werdha Arma (The Peliatan Masters) troupe displays the adorable Pendet and Legong Lasem dances. Next, the Sadha Budaya troupe presents the lovely Gabor and Legong Kraton dances at Ubud Palace. For the finale, we return to Ubud Palace as the Bina Ramaja troupe enacts a violent Legong Jobog dance, then stages a super-dramatic chapter from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana Ballet.

    For tons of photos and a detailed travel journal, visit the Tropical Punch Tour page.


    Tropical Punch Tour: Bali Video 1

    March 7th, 2011

    A small, tropical island measuring just 69 x 95 miles nestled between Java and Lombok in the vast archipelago of Indonesia, Bali is covered with lush jungles, rice terraces, mountains and beautiful beaches, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Some come for the sun, sand, surf, and world class resorts and spas, while others enjoy the predominantly Hindu culture that is celebrated daily with highly evolved dance, music, art and architecture.

    Tropical Punch Tour: Bali Video 1 presents a few tidbits of thoroughly entrancing gamelan and dance performances in the island’s cultural center, Ubud. The proceedings begin with a somber post-temple ceremony procession out of Pura Marajan Agung, the temple of Ubud’s royal family. Next comes several glimpses of the Sekehe Gong Panca Artha troupe at Ubud Palace, performing the exquisite Legong Lasem, Barong, Sunda Upasunda and Legong Trance dances. A short excerpt of a raucous shadow puppet play by Wayang Kulit Kertha arrives next, followed by a brief glance of musical instruments under construction at the Pande Made Gableran gamelan foundry in Blahbatuh. A bit of spirited gamelan practice in Peliatan and a visit to the lush and scenic Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud round out this eye-popping journey through the center of the Island of the Gods.

    For tons of photos and a detailed travel journal, visit the Tropical Punch Tour page.