Tales of Asia IV – Saigon (HCMC) and Hanoi HIGHLIGHTS

Highlights from the fourth Tales of Asia talk on Saigon and Hanoi, at the Marine Parade Public Library, Singapore on 8 November 2015 are here.

Full talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df5t70mbXaA&feature=youtu.be

Singapore Writer’s Festival 2015 – The Fluid Identities of Southeast Asia, 7 Nov, 4 – 5 pm

SWFI am delighted to update that I shall be featured at this year’s Singapore Writer’s Festival, which launched on Friday, 30th October 2015.

Join me and journalist, Elizabeth Pisani (author of the book, Indonesia, Etc – Exploring the Impossible Nation) at a panel on “The Fluid Identities of Southeast Asia” on Saturday, 7th November, 4 – 5 p.m. at The Arts House, Blue Kumon Room, Singapore.

We will be discussing this intriguing question of Southeast Asian identity, including the lingering impact of colonialism today, the historic links between the region’s major (port) cities, and how a heritage of trade and travel has created multi-cultural and mestizo (Peranakan) communities in cities like Batavia (Jakarta) and Singapore.

To get you tickets: https://www.singaporewritersfestival.com/nacswf/nacswf/programme-listing/festival-events/THE-FLUID-IDENTITIES-OF-SOUTH-EAST-ASIA.html.

Tales of Asia III – Bangkok & Phnom Penh HIGHLIGHTS

Highlights from the second Tales of Asia talk on Bangkok and Phnom Penh, at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore on 30 October 2015 are here.

A link to the full talk is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCFaDv0gfBE

[The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia is available now at all major bookstores in Singapore, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and London. Find it at: http://www.amazon.co.uk,http://www.amazon.com, http://www.waterstones.com and http://www.bookdepository.com.]   

Tales of Asia III – Bangkok and Phnom Penh, 30 Oct, Friday, 7 – 8 pm, Asian Civilisations Museum

Royal Barge on the Chao Phraya River, Thailand.

Royal Barge on the Chao Phraya River, Thailand.

Part III of Tales of Asia features the royal cities of Bangkok and Phnom Penh, capitals of the fairytale kingdoms of Siam and Cambodia respectively.

Join me as we travel back in time to discover:

  • How Siam managed to be the only kingdom in Southeast Asia to avoid being colonised by the European Powers.
  • The story of the Thai King Chulalongkorn and the English Governess Anna Leonowens.
  • How the Grand Palace in Bangkok was both built to recall the ancient city of Ayutthaya, and also featured mixed architectural styles of Siam, China and Europe.
  • How the Cambodian King Sisowath travelled to Paris, wowed the French and fought for the return of Cambodian territories occupied by Siam.
  • How the Hindu epic The Ramayana was adapted to Southeast Asia and became the Siamese and Cambodian national epics.

…amongst other things.

Tales of Asia I – Malacca & Manila (Highlights)

Dear armchair time-travellers, here’s a clip featuring highlights from my talk at the Woodlands Regional Library, Singapore on 18 October 2015.  A link to entire talk to follow soon.  In the meantime, enjoy…

A link to the full talk is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYa3SA8_7HY

[The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia is available now at all major bookstores in Singapore, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and London. Find it also at http://www.amazon.co.ukhttp://www.amazon.com, http://www.waterstones.com and http://www.bookdepository.com.   

Tales of Asia – Public Talks in Singapore, 18 Oct – 14 Nov 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 6.31.20 pmFor those of you who are in Singapore, join me in October and November for a series of 5 weekend public talks, featuring histories and images from The Romance of the Grand Tour.

Tales of Asia takes the armchair time-traveller back in time to the East Indies – what we know as Southeast Asia today. Over the course of 5 talks, we visit 10 historic port cities in the region.  In each city, we journey back through time to the 1500s – 1800s, and back again to the present day to hunt down traces of the past that remain in the cities today.

The talks will be visually rich – featuring archival images, maps, prints, as well as contemporary photography. We shall explore castles and forts, rivers and canals, city streets, and the often strange, hybrid architecture and cultures that evolved in these cities where the East and the West met.

Here are the dates, times and venues for the talks.  No registration is required. Just come and be ready for an hour of travel, wonder and nostalgia!

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 6.57.56 pmMore details on each talk shall be posted here on The Romance of the Grand Tour each week.  The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia shall also be available for purchase at selected talks.

[The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia is available now at all major bookstores in Singapore, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and London. Find it also at http://www.amazon.co.uk, http://www.amazon.com, http://www.waterstones.com and http://www.bookdepository.com.]   

5 Essential Sights for the Grand Tourist’s Itinerary: Old Manila

Fort Santiago, Intramuros.  This is a latter-day restoration of how the Fort entrance would've looked like in the Spanish Colonial era.

Fort Santiago, Intramuros. This is a latter-day restoration of how the Fort entrance would’ve looked like in the Spanish Colonial era.

Manila was once the Pearl of the Orient, until it was largely demolished in the aftermath of World War II (the Battle of Manila). Since then, restoration of the city, particularly the historic Walled City of Intramuros, has taken place in fits and starts. But don’t let it stop you from visiting the Walled City though – amidst the ruins, and the informal settlements, are beautiful pieces of Spanish-Filipino architecture, most restored, but some original.

Here are the 5 must sees:

Intramuros

✑ The Church of San Agustin (1607), to be transported into the world of mediaeval Spain. The Church was the only one of Manila’s eight churches left standing in the aftermath of World War II – inside, there is a stunning museum of 17th – 19th century religious art. The church was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

Casa Manila, for a so-authentic-its-eerie reconstruction of a wealthy colonial-era mestizo (Eurasian) household. The museum was commissioned by Imelda Marcos herself, and demonstrates the wealth and opulence of many a resident in Intramuros in the Spanish Colonial era.

Fort Santiago, to gaze in amazement at the mediaeval fortifications and walk along parts of the Wall. Follow this with a general wander through the streets of Intramuros, in particularly down General Luna / Real de Palacio Street, for Manila Cathedral and other ruined/restored colonial-era facades.

Extramuros

Rizal Park, formerly known as La Luneta in the Spanish Colonial era.  Pay your respects at the Rizal Monument, and pay a visit to the Philippine National Museum for its excellent collection of Spanish colonial era objects, as well as objects salvaged from wrecked Manila Galleons.

✑ Have High Tea at the fabulous Manila Hotel, which sits on a stunning riverfront location overlooking Manila Bay. The hotel and its immediate surrounds was built by the Americans during a brief American Colonial era from 1898 to World War II.

Note that Manila is by any standards, an extremely dangerous city. If you are venturing out alone, even in the day, keep your wits about you.  Don’t carry anything that would draw attention to you. That includes expensive cameras.  

[The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia is available now at all major bookstores in Singapore, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and London. Find it also at http://www.amazon.com, http://www.waterstones.com and http://www.bookdepository.com.] 

Baluarte, or ramparts over the Pasig River, Intramuros.

Baluarte, or ramparts over the Pasig River, Intramuros.

Calesa, or traditional horse-carriage, Intramuros.

Calesa, or traditional horse-carriage, Intramuros.

The San Agustin Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The San Agustin Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Casa Manila, restored with traditional Hispano-Philippine architecture.

Casa Manila, restored with traditional Hispano-Philippine architecture.

The Rizal Monument is guarded 24/7 by two "Knights of Rizal."

The Rizal Monument is guarded 24/7 by two “Knights of Rizal.”

The iconic cast-iron entrance to Manila Hotel.

The iconic cast-iron entrance to Manila Hotel.

...and a final look back at Intramuros.

…and a final look back at Intramuros.