Asia

Reconciliation and Human Rights in Timor-Leste (East Timor): more to travel than just beaches and beer

When I decided to take my own advice and re-visit Timor-Leste, I didn’t expect to find myself in a dark suffocating prison. Travel is not just about beaches, bars and mountain tops; its also about learning the history of the country and its people. I am sure the 13 odd government employees I brought with me to learn about post-conflict land administration and conflict management were hoping for the former. I can’t name where the officials are from as elements of their own government might not be happy we discussed ethnic reconciliation. If you know me well, I am sure you can guess. The Indonesian era prison is actually home to a permanent exhibit on the Reconciliation process that occurred in Timor after independence, called the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR). It is tricky business getting people together to admit to crimes they committed against their neighbors, but Read full article…

How to make Singapore interesting

Every time I travel through Singapore I am disappointed. Compared to the surrounding countries Singapore is a bland wasteland of identical shopping malls and artificially created tourist attractions. It lacks the gritty cultural depth filling the cracks of its less prosperous neighbors. A bold statement? Indeed, but one backed up by countless uninspiring trips through the small city state. For the first time visitor to Asia, Singapore is a great stepping stone to getting acclimated to this diverse area of the world. But for the experienced Asia hand it can easily turn into an exercise of waiting for the water to boil as the seconds tick by and time stretches out. You may be questioning why I even bothered to go back to Singapore at all. This time I was routed through Singapore to wait for a visa while on a work trip to Timor-Leste and then Sri Lanka. As Read full article…

3 Most Dangerous Japanese Matsuri (festivals) to Experience

There is no better way to taste traditional Japanese life and culture than through one of the thousands of matsuri held across Japan each year. They come in all shapes in sizes, with dancing, singing, drinking, lots and lots of drinking, naked g-stringed men, massive floats, and portable shrines to take the gods (8 million at last count) out for a spin around the neighborhood and a bit of fresh air. Most are innocent communal affairs but a few are down right deadly.

My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

My friend Megan who writes the blog See. Write. Live. nominated me to share my three best travel secrets on Todd’s Wanderings. The nomination is a part of Trip Base Blog tag in which the Top Bloggers’ Best Kept Travel Secrets will be published in a free ebook that will be shared with the “entire online community…” Hmmm, good luck with that! First, I had to decide if my secrets were safe for the average traveler…my lawyers tell me I should be okay (by reading this you have now waived all your rights). So here you are, some of my well kept secrets, and favorite places in this wonderful world: 1. Mount Koya, Japan Aschaf Everyone visits the major temples in Kyoto and Nara but these days they are little more than tourist attractions, albeit pretty ones, lacking that lived in, struggle for enlightenment feel. Mount Koya, the secluded mountain Read full article…

Weekend in Haputale Sri Lanka

In August I headed up into the hill country with two friends to beat the heat in Colombo. Our destination was the Kelbourne Tea Estate just outside of Haputale. Kelbourne Estate has three English tea bungalows set high up in the mountains in the middle of a working tea plantation. You are waited on hand and foot, and can have dinner in your own dinning room surrounded by ever present green tea bushes. Of course half the fun of getting to the hill country is driving up through the stunning scenery That is until you get stuck behind a manure truck and two bused sizing up each other’s %$##* We picked the Wildflower Cottage with three bedrooms and… …what was supposed to be a stunning view…. Getting closer to the view as the clouds pass underneath us Ah, there it is At night the temperature drops enough to rationalize a Read full article…

Development and Human Rights at Work

Considering that most of my posts are about travel and exotic locales it may be shocking to hear that I actually do have a job. Many of you may have wondered about what it is I actually do and what type of work a development/human rights/conflict resolution worker actually does. To shed a little light into my work life, and to help educate on some of the most pressing matters facing Sri Lanka, I am posting two recent publications that I wrote. The first publication was released through my former employer, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE). It deals with the High Security Zones in Sri Lanka and how they have been used to deny citizens their human rights to adequate housing, and return to their former homes and lands after displacement. The full report can be accessed here: High Security Zones and the Rights to Return and Read full article…

A Weekend at the Lighthouse

Kay won a free weekend at the Lighthouse Hotel, in Galle, Sri Lanka during a Japanese sponsored raffle over New Years. Knowing we only had a few more months left in Sri Lanka we decided to cash in the vouchers at the Geoffrey Bawa designed luxury hotel. While I was not too impressed with the view of the hotel from the street (like most places in Sri Lanka), the view of the water and the inside were fantastic. At the entrance guests are greeted to a colonial war waging its way up the spiral staircase. Feeling relaxed yet? If you need help getting up the stairs I am sure these guys will help out… Nothing to see here sir…move along. Ahhhhh, all right, all right, you caught us…good one! Once you make it past the carnage in the entrance, you can shut your door and relax in spacious rooms. I Read full article…

On Tuesday May 19th 2009, the President of Sri Lanka announced the end of the civil war that has ravaged the small island nation for over 30 years and deprived over 70,000 people their lives and future. The military captured all remaining territory previously held by the LTTE, and the military announced the death of the LTTE’s leader, Prabhakaran. By all accounts today should be a day of celebration as the country’s young, those under 30 years of age, have never known anything but civil war. And yet as I sit here and write during a new public holiday, fire crackers booming away in the distance, I can’t help but feel unsettled by the weight of suffering still going on, the lives lost to “win” the war, and the uncertain path Sri Lanka’s leaders will take: towards reconciliation or consolidation. Since I moved to Sri Lanka over two years ago Read full article…

Journey to South Eastern Sri Lanka-Part 2

…Continued from Journey to South Eastern Sri Lanka-Part 1 In the morning we drove an hour south to Tissamaharama and checked into our new hotel that would be our base for exploring Yala National Park and diving at the Great Basses. Peacocks are everywhere Hibiscus Garden Hotel. This is a fantastic hotel and quite affordable. The staff are great and very friendly. The pool was exactly what we needed to cool down after long days under the tropical sun. After checking into the hotel we arranged for a safari tour of Yala National Park. Almost all national parks in Sri Lanka only allow visitors to enter in jeeps. The park is home to a variety of animals including elephants (which we never saw) and the elusive leopard. The park is said to have the highest concentration of leopards anywhere in the world…although finding the shy nocturnal cat is still rare. Read full article…

Journey to South Eastern Sri Lanka-Part 1

During Tamil and Sinhala New Year Kay and I took a 5 day road trip down to the southeastern corner of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is so hot this time of year most people head up into the mountains for the cool weather. We had other plans. With the monsoon shifting from the West to the East Coast a dive site called the Great Basses becomes accessible. It is only safe 4 weeks out of the year and is said to be the best diving in Sri Lanka. We planned out trip so that we spent one night in the hill country in Belihul Oya, then a night in an ecolodge in Galapita, and finally two nights in Tissamaharama where we went on a safari in Yala National Park and then finally a day of diving at the Great Basses. We hopped in the car and hit the “main” roads. Read full article…

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