Bhutan by Book: An Intimate and Expansive Appreciation

Mistakenly assuming that I’ve been virtually everywhere, people often ask me what’s left on my Bucket List. Well, the truth is that my Bucket List is very long – and includes such jaw-dropping destinations as Portugal (yes, I’ve never been there!) and Argentina (never been there either!!). But the place that’s at the top of my list these days is Bhutan. Bhutan has exerted an especially powerful spell on me over the past three years. Though I’d been aware of the country for almost two decades, somehow recently the place has taken on a special magnetism, through tales of its pristine landscapes and culture, its exuberant...

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Postcards from All Over the World

The tarmac was shimmering as I walked from the car to Clare Street that afternoon. I had spent several hours driving around, trying to find the kopitiam that I had stumbled upon several years before. Holding on excitedly to a brown paper parcel, I quickened my stride as I saw the wooden sign with gold letters on top of the entrance. It read “Poh Heng” in Chinese characters. I went in and immediately felt comforted by the familiar aromas of butter and coffee. The kopitiam still looked the same. On the shelves of the cloudy glass cabinet were the same cakes: Swiss rolls with swirls of brown sugar kaya and green pandan kaya, kaya puffs and ring-shaped chiffon cakes in pandan, lemon and coffee flavours. Uncle Ngau, the owner, was behind the counter doing the accounts on a large calculator. “Wah, business must be good, towkay!” I said. “Business is the same as usual,”...

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Staff Report: Ethiopia Highlight -- Witnessing Worship at Lalibela

“You are lucky. You are so, so lucky,” my guide Samharawhit, or Sam, said with a head shake. We had just arrived in Lalibela, home of the famous rock-hewn churches. The night before, I had asked her if it would be possible to see a service in one of the churches, as the Lalibela UNESCO site was still a place of worship and pilgrimage for Ethiopia’s Christian Orthodox faithful. “Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Michael. There will be a service.” Sam made arrangements for us to arrive at 7 a.m. – five hours after the start of the service. This kind of luck – and access – highlighted my recent Ethiopia trip with GeoEx this past May. A year ago, I had been inspired to visit Ethiopia and Lalibela after reading about Pico Iyer’s experience in the ancient city. When I learned that visiting this sacred 12th-century site was part of...

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Feeling the Flow in Luang Prabang, Laos

With just hours to go before leaving Luang Prabang, I sit down to sketch beneath the awning of a sidewalk café. My subject is a temple, one which a local woman tells me is called Wat Thoung Sad. It has a layered roof, each square section slightly curved and fitted neatly into the next, and a few towering coconut trees beside it. Almost instantly, I can tell the temple on the page will be what I hope to portray of the temple before me. It’s difficult to say how I know this – rather, it’s something you can feel: this thing called flow. Every line takes on a life of its own, and yet magically connects to every other line. For once, each curved edge of the roof, each individual vein of a banana leaf, comes out exactly as I’d pictured it – and more so. Then, in the chatter of tourists behind me, I hear “arigato...

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Don George, Editor

Don George is Editor in Chief of Wanderlust: Literary Journeys for the Discerning Traveler. He has been Travel Editor for the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle and Salon.com, and Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Publications. Don has published eight books, including Travel Writing, A Moveable Feast, The Kindness of Strangers, and Tales from Nowhere. E-mail him at don@geoex.com.

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