In the southern Indian city of Kochi, this mother and child sported bindis between their eyebrows, as well as sparkly bangles and dramatic eye makeup. The young mother’s hair was also trimmed with a garland of fresh, aromatic jasmine – a practice that is customary with many of the ladies in the state of Kerala. On two separate afternoons, locals treated me to jasmine garlands, purchasing them from a flower merchant’s stand and then tying them into my hair. It was such a beautiful gesture and a generous way of sharing this custom with us. I was so very touched by my new friends’ random acts of kindness!
On a shady street on which we regularly strolled during our stay in Luang Prabang, Laos, we watched a sculptor as he gradually turned rustic concrete into the smooth likeness of Buddha. I wonder what the man pondered on those quiet afternoons – as he was overlooked by other Buddhist figures in progress – in a sun-kissed courtyard garden. Perhaps he took lessons from the Buddha himself, whose quotes are featured so prominently on objects for sale in boutiques in the vicinity of the quiet lane.
All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers. – François Fénelon
On a bustling road leading to Hué’s once-grand Imperial City are sidewalk plots where vendors sell antique blue and white china, happy Buddha statues, and items reminding passersby of tragic chapters in Vietnam’s history. The items are harmoniously intermingled: North Vietnamese battle awards, French and American insignia, dog tags of South Vietnamese and American soldiers.
The 1,796 female figures rendered in sandstone on Angkor Wat’s pillars and walls have weathered war, and a harsh tropical environment for more than 800 years. I was first struck by the beauty and individuality of these devatas in 2009, during my first visit to Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious building in the world. During a subsequent visit to Cambodia last month, I was just as intrigued.
How many artisans did it take to carve these bas-relief figures? Are they modeled after real women of centuries past? If they could speak, what stories would they tell?
For Vietnamese standards, this Nha Trang street is a quiet one. For the uninitiated, however, it offers a great introduction to Vietnam’s infamous traffic — sans dodging a plethora of motorbikes at intersections or without going deaf thanks to a cacophony of honking horns.
While walking along Phnom Penh’s riverside, we happened upon a landmine awareness photography exhibition.
This child’s lively eyes and curious gaze caught my attention. His peaceful spirit contrasted sharply with the cruel creations depicted in the images at which his father was intently gazing.