Castles in the Sky: The Monasteries of Meteora

The fabled monasteries of Meteora stand nearly half a kilometre in the sky; ‘Meteora’ translates literally as “middle of the sky” (Wikipedia). My journey to these great structures, however, involved as much horizontal travelling as vertical. Both were immensely special in their own ways. For me, the journey from Athens to Meteora was not a […]

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Seven Hours in the South

Some train journeys are incredibly slow. After you get past the initial thrill and romance of hopping onto a train – that time-honoured, romance-burnished mode of transport – there is sometimes precious little to do but sit and stare at the landscape slowly changing before you. In this aeroplane age the train can look like […]

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Language, Culture and Chinese Peoples: On Dialects and Identity

Who are you? I’ve never felt more proud to be a ‘Chinese’ person than last week. Last week, I went on a solo trip to explore the island of Bintan. And for the first time in my life, I felt so intensely the sense of not only imagined community, but a sense of community. I […]

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One Day in the South: Bintan & Batam

Yesterday, because my itch to see new things and breathe new places got the better of me; because I was adamant about letting Recess Week slip and sleep by without doing something new and going somewhere novel; because school and its fair share of imbeciles had gotten me paceless and cagey – I decided to […]

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Kampong Glam & the Regalia of a Colonial Heir

Introduction Kampong Glam is today known as an area “steeped in Islamic tradition”.[1] In July 1989, it was designated by Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) as a Historic District where the heritage of the local Malay-Muslim community could be showcased to both local and international audiences.[2] It is easy on a first encounter with Kampong […]

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How I am Doing

“How are you doing, Rui?” As a good friend I’ve known for a few years now, Issy seems to know how to ask the simplest and the most penetrating questions. She also seems to ask me this once every semester, just as I need to contemplate and take stock the most. So this is in […]

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The Ghosts at Dawn: Cairo at 6am

You see a city’s ghosts best when you walk its streets at dawn. After a whirlwind, solo sojourn across Egypt: the unimaginably ancient titans at Abu Simbel and also Luxor; the desert’s roaring quiet on a trek from the Dome of the Wind to St Simeon’s Monastery, I was back in Cairo, with a precious […]

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