If Las Vegas dealt in baklavas instead of money, it would look like Jasmatiyah Street in Damascus.
Everything is big and flashy. Nut-filled pastries are stack higher than people. Rolls of pistachios in vermicelli dough thicker than a forearm beckon stares of disbelief.
In one of many shops, bakers in ethnic headdress prepare halawat with ashta cream. A giant LCD screen above him plays a making-of-sweets promotional reel.
When we told our Couchsurfing host in Damascus that in Canada it’s customary to bring your own drink, and sometimes even food, to a party of barbecue, he looked shocked.
“What would you do in this situation,” I asked him.
After a hearty chuckle, he responded,” I would thank the invitation, but I’d stay far away from that party.”
After a certain point, the red-and-white markings of the Lebanese army were nowhere to be seen. Only green and yellow. We were in Hezbollah territory.
All around us were grassy hills flecked with white rocks. Some had traditional stone houses. It all looked very biblical. Our taxi had some engine trouble and the driver got out to check under the hood. I stepped out to take some pictures and the driver discreetly told me to stop.
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How’s this for a holiday: getting up before sunrise, no alcohol, and wearing modest, unremarkable clothing. This is what hundreds come to do at an ashram in the south of India.
Every year, they come, mostly young Western women, to medicate, practice yoga, and follow an acetic lifestyle. I spent 12 days at the Yoga Vacation of the ashram Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari, whose mission is popularize the practice in the West.
Listen to the report.
After several months in countries where pyjamas are casual street wear and face masks are as banal as earrings (I’m looking at you, Indochina) it was a delight to arrive in Singapore and walk among such well-dressed folk.
It felt like the “work chic” and “party dress” pages of a BCBG catalog had sprung to life with thousands of women around me.
See post for a photo gallery.
When I landed in Chennai, I realized I was also in the city of Madras. But when I wanted to explore the state of Madras, I learned I would be hopping around Tamil Nadu.
I haven’t been on this planet long enough to know a lot, but I never heard of a country that loves to change the names of its places as much as India.
As Istambul was Constantinople, Mumbai was Bombay, Kolkata was Calcutta, Bengaluru was Bangalore, Haora was Howrah.
When we travel, we discover that the way we do things isn’t always the correct one. That our culture is only one among so many. And that human beings, fundamentally, have the same needs no matter their differences.
All this is very lovely. But when I hear an Indian burping loudly on the table beside me, it makes me, like my mother, want to scold him and follow up with a lesson on good manners.
When I see a man collecting audible phlegm in his throat before firing it with gusto on the sidewalk, I’m urged to start a little chat on the basics of hygiene.
Not one among the dozens of beach-facing restaurants in Varkala have beer and cocktails in their menus.
But ask a waiter for alcohol and he’ll produce a tattered home-printed sheet from his pocket listing Tom Collins, mojitos, Cosmopolitans, all the classic mixes. Order a beer and an ice-cold Kingfisher bottle will appear in seconds.
The restaurants aren’t allowed to sell alcohol. But like anywhere else, in Varkala, the rules are negotiable if the price is right.
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1. A motorcycle can easily carry a family of five.
2. The role of police is not to protect citizens, but the highest bidders.
why? Bribery has long been a part of Cambodian society. The police and the military have been known to kidnap and threaten citizens for cash.
3. The [...]
Why settle for three square meals a day when you can have five or six?
Only tourists should be allowed to lose their money pointlessly in a casino.
Durian is revolting until you spend money on a good one. Then it’s divine.
And more wisdom from the world’s sweetest-smelling city-state.