Joining an Esoteric Buddhist Initiation on Holy Mount Koya

koyasan_shingon_priest_procession_3

One of the most unique experiences you can have in Japan is to journey to Mount Koya to take part in an esoteric Buddhist ceremony granting entrance into a sacred mandala—a visual representation of enlightened mind. The event is open to the public and held twice a year at the picturesque Garan temple complex—the home of the Shingon school—which was founded in 826 by the great saint Kobo Daishi. Kobo … Continue reading…

A Pictorial Trip Through Penang’s Chinatown

painted_door_penang_chinatown

For foreigners staying in Thailand long-term, the island of Penang in Malaysia is one of the best places to make a visa run. The Thai consulate is small, casual, and efficient. There is a great variety of food available, especially Indian food. And the old Chinatown in the heart of Georgetown is one of the most interesting and authentic you’ll find anywhere. There’s no need to follow a particular walking … Continue reading…

Thai Elephants on the Attack!

thai_elephant_attacks_car_khao_yai_national_park

Elephants are are a national symbol of Thailand, but lately these beloved animals have been generating some negative press. In the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports of wild elephants running amok in national parks, attacking cars and shops. In recent months there were also a couple cases of domesticated elephants turning on their mahouts. In one such incident, a large bull elephant trampled its handler to death … Continue reading…

America, You’re Doing it Wrong – Why Tipping in Restaurants is Stupid

tipping in restaurants is stupid

It’s pretty common for expats in Asia to bitch and complain about silly little things like road safety and breathable air, and while it might be unreasonable to expect people in every country to use turn signals and not burn down the forests, there are some things that Asian countries do get right that my homeland America gets totally wrong. At the top of this list is tipping—or rather the … Continue reading…

Get Ready for a Second Helping of the Thai Veggie Festival

Thai-vegetarian-food-7-eleven

If you missed out on Thailand’s annual vegetarian festival this year, don’t worry because you have another chance to catch it at the end of this month. Vegetarians in Thailand have an extra reason to celebrate this year, as 2014 is scheduled for a double dose of the yearly vegetarian food feast. If you’re in Thailand this year, consider yourself extremely lucky—the double festival only occurs once every 180 years. … Continue reading…

DOs and DON’Ts for Your First Trip to Bali

Bisakih Temple

Bali is one of the most tourist-friendly destinations that I’ve traveled to in Asia. Usually, when traveling it helps to expect things to go wrong—that way you are better prepared to handle the situation when something does inevitably go not as planned. When planning a rough itinerary for a week in Bali, I jokingly added “visit hospital to take care of monkey bite” as a way to keep this in … Continue reading…

Kuman Thong – Thailand’s Golden Ghost Boy

kuman_thong_ghost_boy_statue

If you know anything about Thai people, you’ll know that they are seriously afraid of ghosts. That’s why it might be surprising to know that millions of Thais willingly invite a ghost to stay at their home or business. Of course this isn’t such a scary ghost like the distraught Mae Nak or the grotesque Phi Krasue—rather we’re talking about a cute little boy ghost called Kuman Thong. The name … Continue reading…