Monthly Archives: August 2012

As evidenced by the Dutch-built Stadthuys, the over 230-year-old Hindu temple, and the Chinese-inflected Kampung Kling Mosque, Malaysia’s multicultural colonial port of Malacca has been fought over and ruled by a succession of Asian and European powers since it was first established over 600 years ago. Offering safe harbor during the ferocious monsoon season for trading ships threading between China and India—a virtual crossroads of the world—the city pulled in abundant riches and a pallet of cultures.

Tossed like a hot potato between the Malays, the Javanese, the Vietnamese, the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the English, Malacca is home to architecture, food, religion, music, and other traditions that reflect the various flags flown over the city, and which influence the dominant cultures (Malay, Chinese, Indian, mixes of the three) that populate it today. Malacca’s tangled history and relaxed, Caribbean-like atmosphere make it a popular stop on the backpacker trail, but there are still a few secluded corners that occasionally go tourist-free. Here are a few of Malacca’s beauty spots.

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Jogja Hip Hop Foundation

It’s old news that hip hop has gone global, but there are still a few sleeper spots where local incarnations of the genre haven’t yet gotten the acclaim they deserve. The hip hop scene in Indonesia’s second city—Yogyakarta, aka “Jogja”—is not to be messed with. Melding multilayered rhythms from the traditional music and dance of Java (the isle on which Jogja sits) with American hip hop beats and melodious Indonesian rhymes, we’re talking sumptuous, exotic island flow coming out of the world’s most populous Muslim country. Lyrics are often remixed classical Javanese poetry and the ladies have their say, too. The videos below include a couple of head-boppers I dug up online and the trailer for a documentary produced last year on the scene, Hiphopdiningrat, featuring the Jogja Hip Hop Foundation. Check the site for a few more underground tracks and ride out, Java-style.

Shouts to ChaCha in Jakarta who put me on to the riddims.

Verdant hills, foggy dells, infinity pools, and some of the friendliest people I’ve met in life summed up my brief 2-day excursion to the tropical isle of Bali. The only majority-Hindu island in the mostly Muslim archipelago of Indonesia, Bali has been a major tourism destination–especially among Europeans and Australians–for decades. Pristine beaches, alluring culture, and cheap prices keep surfers and yoga devotees and retired hippies and honeymooners and even affluent young parents coming back. My friends and I tried to avoid all of those people and headed for the hills, far away from the Florida-style hubbub around overbuilt Denpasar and deep into the quiet, calming countryside.

To infinity…and beyond!

My buddies Mike and Ana are a crazy/cool California couple with back-to-back birthdays, which they wanted to celebrate with friends on Bali. Mike found an amazing 3-bedroom vacation villa hidden from the tourist throngs and close to the artistic and cultural center of the island, Ubud. The villa came with stunning views of a solemn valley, a refreshing infinity pool, and a terrific staff who hung out discreetly on-site and whipped up omelets on demand. If it weren’t for the lack of promised internet access, we wouldn’t have left the premises. We did eventually head into Ubud for a little Balinese food and culture, capped off by a fiery performance of the polyrhythmic Kecak dance:

Just a few hundred feet away from the villa sat a secluded Hindu temple, tended by rice farmers from the surrounding villages. But before we knew it, our very quick breather was over and it was time to move on to not-so-green pastures–Mike, Ana, and friends to Kuta and Lombok while I hopped a flight to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

My most exotic luggage tag yet!

A few more images from the villa and the temple:

Mike + Ana
Soul Glow

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