Tag Archives: Asia

Virgin White

Virgin White

I first meet Malinga Gunaratne in his capacity as manager of Mirissa Hills, an upmarket hotel on the outskirts of Weligama in the extreme south of Sri Lanka. The place was never meant to be a hotel and Malinga, or Herman as he insists on being called, was never meant..
The Tiger and the Dragons

The Tiger and the Dragons

Once upon a time, there was a dragon with a broken heart and a broken leg. The injuries were related and most people thought the latter was the more severe. The dragon didn’t agree. He’d injured his leg fighting for his true love and every day during that hot July..
A Ryokan On Rails

A Ryokan On Rails

Kuniko is nervous. It’s not her smile that betrays her, nor her steady English, but her hand, which trembles as she pours me a coffee in the newly-constructed Kinsei Lounge at Hakata Station. I don’t think I’m responsible for her nervousness and after a year or so of training, you..
Harvesting Perfection

Harvesting Perfection

A few years ago, before its streets were awash with violent anti-government protests and doctors and journalists were being jailed, I went to Bahrain to learn about their pearl trade. For a long time, pearl diving had been the tiny island-nation’s main industry. When the season was in full flow,..
The Miracle Makers?

The Miracle Makers?

There exists a world where the blind once again see, where the mentally infirm find serenity, and arthritics are liberated from pain. The paralysed can move again, diabetic pancreases are revived. Almost all chains of disease and suffering are broken. It is a good world, one full of hope, and..
Six Months Later

Six Months Later

Six months ago, my friend, mentor and sometime drinking partner Stephen Phelan stood where I’m standing now. That day in Onagawa, Miyagi prefecture, the view was not pretty. “In the middle of town, near the seafront, a few buildings remained upright, though stripped down to red metal frames and loose..
Isolation and the Last Samurai

Isolation and the Last Samurai

At the start of the 17th century and the beginning of the Edo Period, Japan decided it didn’t want foreign friends any more. Citing moral decline, the arrival of alien religions and the wicked vices of the wider world, it closed its doors and entered a period of self-isolation known..
For Relaxing Times…

For Relaxing Times…

They say in the original Gaelic it means “water of life” but in most of my experiences whisky has had the opposite effect. I first tried it at the age of 11 during a family holiday to the Scottish Highlands. We’d visited a distillery and had a tasting at the..
There is a Light and it Never Goes Out

There is a Light and it Never Goes Out

My grandfather was in it from the very start, lying about his age so he could join up early. His first missions in the Second World War came on the notorious Russian Convoys, when British ships would navigate icy North Sea, around the Norwegian coast, sneaking past German forces to..
The Laotian Loop

The Laotian Loop

If I knew him better, perhaps I would interpret the triumphant look on Mr Ku’s face as something other than smugness. The little Laotian has obstinately bested my haggling efforts and I must hand over 600,000 kip (about $35) for three days use of two Honda Wave 100cc motorcycles. His..