Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Strand Hotel, Yangon: A Sense of History.



What a hotel! What a history! The Strand opened in 1901, on Strand Road, Rangoon, at the time one of British India's largest and most prized cities. It was built by British Entrepreneur John Darwood and acquired by the Sarkies brothers, who collected more than a few of Southeast Asia's grand colonial hotels including Raffles Hotel in Singapore, "Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Penang, Malaysia and Hotel Majapahit in Surabaya, Indonesia. From the beginning, The Strand was regarded as 'the finest hostelry east of Suez', and Murray's Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma and Ceylon, 1911 edition, says the hotel was 'patronized by royalty, nobility and distinguished personages'.

The distinguished and less so, have continued to patronize the three-storey hotel in the decades since. There have been, of course, a few interludes over the years. A major renovation took place in 1937 for instance. During World War II, the occupying Japanese used part of the hotel, as stables for military horses. Then there was the war tine bomb that plunged through The Strand roof to land, unexplodec, in what was known as Princess Hall and is now the hotel manager's office. There it remained for a few days, drawing curious crowds, before it was finally carted away



The Strand has long been recognised as a national landmark, arriedel of auspicicus, colonial repose. The hotel's Victorian influence is visible even from the colonnaded entranceway. Inside speils the same story; the marble floor inlaid with teak wood, the rattari furniture and potted palms, the chandeliers and black-lacquered ceiling fans - all of its imbues The Strand with a personality as welcome as it is inimitable.

With the renovation of the early 1990s, the room inventory was reduced from 50 to 32 spacious, elegantly appointed suites. All suites are located on the two upper floors and all suites are serviced 24 hours a day by a team of butlers - the men in sporting Buimese dress jackets or tighpone, the women in Steri-style blouses, and both wearing sandals and the local wraps known as 'longyis?

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Massacre on the Abrolhos





It was the middle of a moonlit night on 4 June 1629 when the brand new Dutch East Indiaman, Batavia, struck Morning Reef in the Abrolhus Islands. This event was the beginning of one of the most horrific tales of human savagery ever.

About half of the 268 survivors, including women and children, were systematically slaughtered by the mutinous and psychopathic Jeronimus Cornelisz who was plotting a career in piracy with the corrupt captain, Ariaen Jacobsz.

Relics of this spine chilling chapter of Australia’s maritime history can still be found on the Abrolhos Islands. Several graves were excavated on Beacon Island and their mutilated remain examined. A cannon still lies in shallow waters were treasure hunters tried in vain to get the heavy souvenir ashore. The hero of the Batavia, Wiebbe Hayes ‘fort’ still stands on Wallabi Island: Australia’s oldest known European structures.

In 1963 the wreck was located and the fable reignited. Many recovered items are on display in the Maritime Museum in Fremantle and replicas of both the ship and its famous lifeboat have since been built.

Located just off Beacon Island in about five metres of water, what remains of the wreck is a popular dive site.

Website: https://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/shipwrecks/batavia-gallery

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tourism Keeping Peruvian Islands Afloat



For centuries, the reclusive Uros tribe of Peru have lived in a real-life waterworld on Lake Titicaca in the Peruvian Andes.

Building huge floating pontoons from the buoyant totora reeds, the Uros Indians' waterborne communities of Islas Flotantes (floating islands) have afforded them protection from rival tribes, the Inca and Collas.

Now, despite hundreds of years of isolation, the Urosway of life is threatened by the encroaching land-based population in nearby Puno, Perus major port town on the 8300 square kilometre lake.

The plight of the Uros was highlighted in a feature story on National Geographic Channel recently.

"The issues facing the people living on the floating islands are multifold," says anthropologist Arrufo Alcantara Hernandez, director of the faculty of social sciences at the Universidad Nacional del Altiplano in Puno. "The waters of the Uros have been overfished by commercial fishermen, tourists are affecting their traditional culture and sewage from Puno is causing environmental and health problems."

Paradoxically, the growth of tourism on the lake has been something of a relief for the Uros, bringing them much-needed cash. This has reduced their reliance on the dwindling fish stocks and enabled them to purchase motorboats and medicines.

Speaking to National Geographic, Melchora, one of the elderly Uros women selling handicrafts to the tourists, said the amount of tourists grows every year. At first, only a few Uros chiefs permitted tourists, now nearly all the islands take tourists.

Given their resilience, Hernandez remains confident that the Uros people and their culture will remain intact.

"They've successfully dealt with many serious challenges over the last few centuries," he says. "I think if the Uros people use foresight and care, they'll be able to overcome their problems and balance their traditional lifestyles with the modern world."

Pioneering adventure travel operator, Adventure Associates, has organised tours to South America, including Peru and Lake Titicaca, for more than 30 years.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The True Colours of Shanghai

Photo by Manuel Joseph from Pexels


When it comes to the true color of Shanghai, the answers that spring to mind are bright neon lights, the magnificent skyline of Lu Jia Zui, the green and red of Yanzhong Greenbelt and the grey wall and red bricks of Shikumen, or Stone Gate. To bring out the very best of Shanghai during the 2010 Expo, it is essential to paint new structures in the color that best represents the city's unique character. It is difficult to represent Shanghai in one specific color because of its colorful history, extensive international engagement and the general pluralism of the city. Defects in the coloring of modern structures have aroused vast attention from all angles.

Text: Zhu Xiali
Reproduced with kind permission of China Eastern Airlines

A glance at Shanghai's architectural coloring 

A deep impression of the “mix of Chinese and foreign" styles

The elegant and historical walls, dark brown in color, of the hundredyear-old Peace Hotel; the grey walls and red bricks of the old lanes of Xuhui District being repainted from time to time; and the new Stone Gate buildings in Xintiandi, of uniform coloring and style, are a striking vision for all. When traveling on the elevated road, rows of eye-catching houses have attracted numerous new residents because of their pleasant, neat and bright color schemes. Heritage architectures account for a large portion of these impressive constructions.

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash
Nanjing Road
"Lu Jia Zui, Xintiandi and the Yu Gardens all leave a deep and lasting impression on tourists from both home and abroad. Despite their own individual characteristics, some constructions or residential quarters wear a dull color and are drowned in a sea of advertisements and store signage,” an official from the China Fashion and Color Association argued when addressing Shanghai's colors.

From the traditional residences pre-liberation to the gallery of world architectures on the bund; from diversified buildings erected after liberation to the high-rises, every new building has been a showcase of evolution in local construction by drawing inspiration from overseas. It's on record that grey and white was the color of Shanghai's old lanes before the 19th century, then came the use of exotic red bricks, and from the beginning of the 50s and 60s of the last century, color-fast autumn took over as a popular color option. Most of the modern high-rises in Shanghai are coated either by face tiles or glass curtain walls, leaving a broader range of color options that is in tune with the speed and height of the city.

Shanghai has never been short of colors in its constructions; however, the co-existence of western, local and various regional architectural characteristics add to the difficulty in planning and coordinating the color of the city. Shanghai should apply different color choices to different areas, but not too different noted Prof. Xu Mingde of the Shanghai Theater Academy, who has studied art in Europe a number of times. The "Disorder" of Shanghai's construction colors is the top priority for resolution.

Experts on color selection for Shanghai's buildings

 "Next-door color” for harmony

Shanghai's constructions are shaped in multiple forms, and the harmonizing of constructions and their surroundings is the key to setting the ideal color scheme. The Jin Mao Tower stands as a fine example, said Gu Enhong from ARR International, a Shanghai-based architectural design consultancy. Designers studied carefully and introduced the age-old pagoda approach into the scheme before it was completed. As a result, the work regarding profile, coloration and location of the building was artfully executed, making the Jin Mao Tower one of the latest and most recognized landmarks in Shanghai.

In addition to borrowing foreign concepts, many architectural designers have begun to give more thought to the harmony between constructions and their surroundings, in an attempt to keep the coloration from being overly prominent. If a building under design is flanked by a steel structure on one side and a concrete structure on the other, the coloration scheme would create a new color element by combining the grey of concrete with the original tint of the steel.

Multi-color system for environmental harmony

It takes in-depth research to determine whether Shanghai's constructions should have light or dark coloration, but the key is to introduce a multi-color system. The basic tone of the building facade shall be determined in accordance with blocks, road sections and districts and then harmony will be achieved through the matching of different color mixes. Take McDonald's and Xi'nianlai for instance: some additional color elements are suggested to be added to the former's bright red and yellow logo, and the latter's bright red logo, to fit better into their surroundings. It is known that professional consultancies have been set up in Western countries that specialize in urban coloration. Innovation proves to be the first task as China starts its research in this area.

After talks with architectural experts, it was revealed that brand new color matching concepts, fit for Shanghai, have been included in design drawings of new housing and commercial buildings now under construction. However, quite a few developers and investors would finally pick the general option or those about to be discarded because of their lack of innovative awareness. Some housing designers say they would go to lengths to promote any form or color of architecture as long as it is beneficial to urban development and fits harmoniously into its surroundings.

Accentuate cultural characteristics with different colors for different regions

Warm colors are preferred by northern cities, whereas cold colors are popular in the south; blue is the color of choice for cities on the grasslands and cold color series such as azure, cyan and green are ideal for cities in desert regions. Officials from Shanghai Urban Planning Authority and Shanghai Administration on City Appearance and Environmental Sanitation said that because of the varying ages of local constructions and their co-existence with modern buildings, the application of a single main tone will not be considered for the time being and pilot experiments are encouraged in all parts of the city. Choice of color is now given high priority in the approval processes of various construction projects.

Experts advise that from a cultural perspective, black and white should be preserved for Qingpu and Zhu Jia Jiao, featuring the serenity of south China, to impress with the elegance of Chinese painting; dark tones comprising beige and wine red should be applied in Xuhui district, known for its veritable plethora of oldstyle residences. To present a comfortable and tranquil look, bright colors such as all white and off-white are the option for the rapidly-developing Pudong New Area, to create a lively visual impact for the modern era.

We wait in anticipation of how Shanghai will dress to hail the 2010 Expo with its unique charms.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The best of Aussie culture and arts from your #Covid19 couch



Here are the top 10 films to help satisfy your wanderlust and keep you entertained

Not only are these films entertaining, but they also capture Australia's iconic vistas and landscapes which are guaranteed to have you dreaming and planning your next holiday. It’s not just about the show stopping landscapes either, each capture the larrikin spirit that Australians are known and loved for, leaving you feeling as though you’ve just caught up with your Aussie mates.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Malaysia: The Lost World of Maliau Basin

Giluk Falls plunge over the edge of the southern plateau of the Maliau Basin into dense lowland dipterocarp rainforest. Alternating layers of soft, easily-eroded mudstone and harder sandstone have given rise to a series of exposed sandstone shelves over which the falls cascade. Center of the Maliau Basin, Sabah's 'Lost World, Borneo, Malaysia.
COPYRIGHT:©Alex Hyde (to purchase high res of this image, click here)

Lost world 
One of the last tracts of pristine, untouched lands in Malaysia, the Maliau Basin Conservation Area in Tawau, Sabah is breathtaking in its ethereal, virginal beauty. The 588.4sq km area includes the seven-tier Maliau Falls, Maliau River, Gunung Lontong, Lake Linumunsut and the 25km in diameter saucer-shaped Maliau Basin. A veritable treasure trove from Mother Nature, it contains 12 forest types and an exciting wildlife population, many of them endemic. Although only 10 per cent of the area has been studied extensively, researchers have already found 1,800 plant species, 70 mammal species including rare ones like the Sumatran rhinoceros, clouded leopard, proboscis monkey and Malay bear, 261 species of birds and 30 amphibian species.

Getting there 
Accessible by road from Tawau and Keningau; permission to enter the area must be obtained from the Yayasan Sabah office

What to do 
Jungle trekking, bird watching, night drive to spot wildlife

Efforts are underway to list the Maliau Basin as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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