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    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.

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    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: The End

    September 12th, 2010

    Sunday, September 12, 2010
    Bangkok, Thailand

    After three and a half months, the Tropical Punch Tour has finally come to an end as I fly back home to the United States. Thank you to the people of…

    Bali
    A member of the Sekehe Gong Panca Artha troupe performs the Legong dance at Ubud Palace in Ubud, Bali.

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    Tropical Punch Tour

    May 26th, 2010

    Welcome to the Tropical Punch Tour.

    Welcome to the Tropical Punch Tour, my little three-and-a-half month jaunt through Southeast Asia. From May 25 to September 10, 2010, I backpacked through Bali, Java, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar to experience the insanely creative music, art, food and architecture of those countries.

    Bali

    Bali Part 1 – Heading into Ubud.
    Bali Part 2 – Sekehe Gong Panca Artha at Ubud Palace in Ubud.
    Bali Part 3 – Museum Puri Lukisan, Pura Marajan Agung temple ceremony, more Sekehe Gong Panca Artha at Ubud Palace in Ubud.
    Bali Part 4 – Peliatan day walk, Krama Desa Ubud Kaja at Pura Dalem Ubud in Ubud.
    Bali Part 5 – Gamelan foundry in Blahbatuh, Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary and Wayang Kulit Kertha in Ubud.
    Bali Part 6 – Goa Gajah (the Elephant Cave) and Yeh Pulu near Bedulu, Seke Werdha Arma (The Peliatan Masters) and Semarandhana at ARMA in Ubud.
    Bali Part 7 – Agung Rai Museum of Art, Sadha Budaya at Ubud Palace in Ubud.
    Bali Part 8 – Threads of Life, Bina Ramaja at Ubud Palace in Ubud.
    Bali Part 9 – Heading up to Candikuning and Danau Bratan.
    Bali Part 10 – Bali Botanical Gardens and Pura Ulun Danu Brutan in Candikuning.
    Bali Part 11 – Pura Tanah Lot, Denpasar, Suara Sakti bamboo gamelan in Bentuyung village.
    Bali Part 12 – Gunung Sari at Puri Agung Peliatan Palace in Peliatan.
    Bali Part 13 – Calon Arang at Pura Dalem Puri in Peliatan.
    Bali Part 14 – Luh Luwih at Bale Banjar Ubud Kelod in Ubud.
    Bali Part 15 – A tour of East Bali, Sekka Gong Karyasa at Pura Dalem Ubud in Ubud.
    Bali Part 16 – The mother of all web sessions in Ubud.
    Bali Part 17 – A hellish 14-hour 350-mile bus ride from Denpasar, Bali to Yogyakarta, Java.
    Bali Video 1
    Bali Video 2
    Bali Video 3
    Dancers of Ubud (Flickr slide show)

    Java

    Java Part 1 – Heading into Yogyakarta.
    Java Part 2 – Street music, Wayang Kulit at the Sono-Budoyo Museum in Yogyakarta.
    Java Part 3 – Borobudur and Mendut Temple near Yogyakarta.
    Java Part 4 – Gamelan practice at the Sultan’s Palace, the Ramayana Ballet at Purawisata in Yogyakarta.
    Java Part 5 – Sono-Budoyo Museum, Taman Sari (Water Palace) in Yogyakarta.
    Java Part 6 – Gamelan practice at the Sultan’s Palace, Wayang Kulit at the Sono-Budoyo Museum in Yogyakarta.
    Java Part 7 – A bicycle trek around Yogyakarta.
    Java Part 8 – Heading into Solo, Wayang Orang at Sriwedari Theatre.
    Java Part 9 – The gamelan factory in Bekonang village, a tour of cottage industries around Solo.
    Java Part 10 – The Kraton Museum in Solo.
    Java Part 11 – Leaving Solo and Java.
    Java Video

    Singapore

    Singapore Part 1 – Heading into Singapore. Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, Sakaya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple.
    Singapore Part 2 – A skyscraper-spotting sojourn.
    Singapore Part 3 – Sri Mariamman Temple, Thian Hock Keng Temple ceremony, Orchard Road.
    Singapore Part 4 – Fort Canning, Clarke Quay.
    Singapore Part 5 – Military parade, Asian Civilizations Museum.
    Singapore Part 6 – Marina Bay.
    Singapore Part 7 – Malay Heritage Museum.
    Singapore Part 8 – Singapore Botanic Gardens.
    Singapore Part 9 – Lau Pa Sat, Marina Bay.
    Singapore Video

    Malaysia

    Malaysia Part 1 – Heading into Melaka.
    Malaysia Part 2 – A photo session throughout downtown Melaka.
    Malaysia Part 3 – Hiasan Budaya, a night market in Chinatown, Melaka.
    Malaysia Part 4 – The Muzium Rakyat in Melaka.
    Malaysia Part 5 – Heading into Kuala Lumpur.
    Malaysia Part 6 – Dayabumi Center, KL Tower, traditional Malaysian dance in Kuala Lumpur.
    Malaysia Part 7 – Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur.
    Malaysia Part 8 – Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
    Malaysia Part 9 – Taman Rama Rama (Butterfly Park), traditional Malaysian dance at the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur.
    Malaysia Part 10 – Little India, traditional Malaysian dance at the Tourist Information Complex in Kuala Lumpur.
    Malaysia Part 11 – A day off (with photos to prove it) in Kuala Lumpur.
    Malaysia Part 12 – KL Monorail to Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur.
    Malaysia Part 13 – KL Bird Park in Kuala Lumpur.
    Malaysia Part 14 – Flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Phuket, Thailand.
    Malaysia Video

    Thailand

    Thailand Part 1 – A stroll around Phuket Town.
    Thailand Part 2 – A random school parade, Patong beach in Phuket.
    Thailand Part 3 – Patong beach in Phuket part two.
    Thailand Part 4 – Laem Singh beach, Put Jaw Temple in Phuket Town.
    Thailand Part 5 – Saeng Tham, Jui Tui and Thye Guan Tong temples, Phuket Thaihua Museum in Phuket Town.
    Thailand Part 6 – Karon beach in Phuket.
    Thailand Part 7 – Heading to the Phi Phi islands.
    Thailand Part 8 – Viewpoints overlooking Ko Phi Phi Don.
    Thailand Part 9 – Snorkeling on Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh.
    Thailand Part 10 – Heading back to Phuket Town.
    Thailand Part 11 – A day off (with photos to prove it) in Phuket Town.
    Thailand Part 12 – Leaving Phuket.
    Thailand Part 13 – Heading into Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 14 – Aerobics in Lumphini Park, Chinatown in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 15 – Sri Mariamman Temple, one amazingly musical day in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 16 – May Kaidee’s, Wat Pho in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 17 – Saturday night buffet and traditional Thai dance at May Kaidee’s in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 18 – Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 19 – A ladyboy cabaret in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 20 – A day off (with photos to prove it) in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 21 – A standard torrential downpour in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 22 – Royal Thai Decorations and Coin Pavilion in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 23 – Leaving Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 24 – Heading into Chiang Mai, Wat Sai Mun Muang and Wat Thing Yu temples.
    Thailand Part 25 – Wat Phra Singh and Wat Lam Chang temples, Wat Lam Chang Vieng Phing in Chiang Mai.
    Thailand Part 26 – A tour around the moat in Chiang Mai.
    Thailand Part 27 – Heading back into Bangkok.
    Thailand Video

    Myanmar

    Myanmar Part 1 – Heading into Yangon.
    Myanmar Part 2 – Botataung Pagoda in Yangon.
    Myanmar Part 3 – Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
    Myanmar Part 4 – A hellish 12-hour bus ride from Yangon to Mandalay.
    Myanmar Part 5 – Heading into Mandalay.
    Myanmar Part 6 – Mandalay Hill in Mandalay.
    Myanmar Part 7 – Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay.
    Myanmar Part 8 – Thone Yaung Chael and Shwe Pone Taung street bands, Shwe In Bin Kyaung Buddhist monastery in Mandalay.
    Myanmar Part 9 – Sandamuni Pagoda, Mintha Theater in Mandalay.
    Myanmar Part 10 – Nat Pwe in Taungbyone part one.
    Myanmar Part 11 – Nat Pwe in Taungbyone part two.
    Myanmar Part 12 – Leaving Mandalay.
    Myanmar Part 13 – Heading back into Yangon.
    Myanmar Part 14 – Leaving Yangon and Myanmar.
    Myanmar Video

    Thailand

    Thailand Part 28 – Heading back into Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 29 – Santichaiprakarn Park in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 30 – Snorkeling in Bangkok?
    Thailand Part 31 – Wat Chana Songkhram in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 32 – Memorial Bridge, Wat Kanlayanamit, Wat Arun in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 33 – Wat Bowoniwes, Wat Intharavihan in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 34 – A day off (with photos to prove it) in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 35 – Wat Rajnadda, Golden Mount at Wat Saket in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 36 – A walk down Thanon Tanao in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 37 – Failed missions to the Sky Bar and Sri Mariamman temple in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 38 – A day off (with photos to prove it) in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 39 – Heading into Damnoen Saduak.
    Thailand Part 40 – The floating market in Damnoen Saduak.
    Thailand Part 41 – A day off (with photos to prove it) in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 42 – The National Museum in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 43 – Bangkok Art and Culture Center in Bangkok.
    Thailand Part 44 – The last day in Bangkok.

    South Korea

    South Korea Part 1 – An eight-hour layover in the airport complete with some unexpected and amazing music.
    South Korea Video

    The End – Thank you.