Fly Favorites: August 2012

Rio/SP Image: Dom Phillips

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Malacca in Pictures

As evidenced by the Dutch-built Stadthuys, the over 230-year-old Hindu temple, and the Chinese-inflected Kampung Kling Mosque, Malaysia’s multicultural colonial port of Malacca has been fought over and ruled by a succession of Asian and European powers since it was first established over 600 years ago. Offering safe harbor during the ferocious monsoon season for trading ships threading between China and India—a virtual crossroads of the world—the city pulled in abundant riches and a pallet of cultures.

Tossed like a hot potato between the Malays, the Javanese, the Vietnamese, the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the English, Malacca is home to architecture, food, religion, music, and other traditions that reflect the various flags flown over the city, and which influence the dominant cultures (Malay, Chinese, Indian, mixes of the three) that populate it today. Malacca’s tangled history and relaxed, Caribbean-like atmosphere make it a popular stop on the backpacker trail, but there are still a few secluded corners that occasionally go tourist-free. Here are a few of Malacca’s beauty spots.

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5 Cities I Could Live In for the Next 5 Years

A few days ago, my college buddy Erik and I were talking about future plans and potential moves. Currently, he and his wife call Seoul home, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t eying another location. In fact, many of us who take the leap and settle abroad end up doing so for only a few years, either moving on to greener pastures overseas or even (gasp) moving back to our home countries. During our convo, Erik asked me out of all the cities I’d been to, which ones did I think I could live in for five years if I had to. Considering that I’ve not lived in one city for more than two years since 2005, Erik was asking a lot. Here are my top five:

1. São Paulo No surprise to anyone who’s read this blog for a while, Brazil’s largest city is the closest place to “home” for me, aside from my parents’ house. No matter how long I’m away from this massive, exhilarating megalopolis, I can swing back into town, call up my peeps, and plug back into the incredible social scene. I love this place.

2. Madrid Sunny, multicultural, and less-touristy than Barcelona, Madrid has the perfect combination of slick and gritty, with a kooky Latin attitude. Whenever I’m in town, I feel like I’m hanging out in an Almodóvar film. The job market sucks, but rents are cheap, so dollars earned remotely go very far.

3. San Francisco San Fran is, in a word, breathtaking. Baker Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, Dolores Park, Union Square, Chinatown—the City by the Bay is just a cool-ass place. It’s expensive and chilly year round, but there are no East Coast-style winters. And for a little more color, there’s always Oakland!

4. Mumbai
It’s a cliché to call Mumbai an assault on the senses, but dammit, that’s exactly what it is. And I love that. With wonderful people, crazy-tasty food, centuries-old history and culture, and an unrelenting sense of adventure, India’s New York/Miami/LA is a phenomenal place.

5. Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia’s multicultural capital is sprawling but easy to navigate, full of amazing food and friendly people with a good grasp of English. Set between bustling Bangkok and staid-but-sophisticated Singapore and the main hub of low-cost carrier Air Asia, KL is the perfect hub for travel in Asia.

Where’s Berlin on this list, some of you might ask? It’s #6…the dark, cold winters keep it (and Stockholm) out of the top 5. Check back in a few months, when I’ve been to a few more cities. 😉

Images by: ojjo, DavidHT,, Fly Brother and ark3pix.

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Global Juke Joint: Javanese Hip Hop

It’s old news that hip hop has gone global, but there are still a few sleeper spots where local incarnations of the genre haven’t yet gotten the acclaim they deserve. The hip hop scene in Indonesia’s second city—Yogyakarta, aka “Jogja”—is not to be messed with. Melding multilayered rhythms from the traditional music and dance of Java (the isle on which Jogja sits) with American hip hop beats and melodious Indonesian rhymes, we’re talking sumptuous, exotic island flow coming out of the world’s most populous Muslim country. Lyrics are often remixed classical Javanese poetry and the ladies have their say, too. The videos below include a couple of head-boppers I dug up online and the trailer for a documentary produced last year on the scene, Hiphopdiningrat, featuring the Jogja Hip Hop Foundation (above). Check the site for a few more underground tracks and ride out, Java-style.

Shouts to ChaCha in Jakarta who put me on to the riddims.

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Bali High

Verdant hills, foggy dells, infinity pools, and some of the friendliest people I’ve met in life summed up my brief 2-day excursion to the tropical isle of Bali. The only majority-Hindu island in the mostly Muslim archipelago of Indonesia, Bali has been a major tourism destination–especially among Europeans and Australians–for decades. Pristine beaches, alluring culture, and cheap prices keep surfers and yoga devotees and retired hippies and honeymooners and even affluent young parents coming back. My friends and I tried to avoid all of those people and headed for the hills, far away from the Florida-style hubbub around overbuilt Denpasar and deep into the quiet, calming countryside.

To infinity…and beyond!

My buddies Mike and Ana are a crazy/cool California couple with back-to-back birthdays, which they wanted to celebrate with friends on Bali. Mike found an amazing 3-bedroom vacation villa hidden from the tourist throngs and close to the artistic and cultural center of the island, Ubud. The villa came with stunning views of a solemn valley, a refreshing infinity pool, and a terrific staff who hung out discreetly on-site and whipped up omelets on demand. If it weren’t for the lack of promised internet access, we wouldn’t have left the premises. We did eventually head into Ubud for a little Balinese food and culture, capped off by a fiery performance of the polyrhythmic Kecak dance:

Just a few hundred feet away from the villa sat a secluded Hindu temple, tended by rice farmers from the surrounding villages. But before we knew it, our very quick breather was over and it was time to move on to not-so-green pastures–Mike, Ana, and friends to Kuta and Lombok while I hopped a flight to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

My most exotic luggage tag yet!

A few more images from the villa and the temple:

Mike + Ana

Soul Glow

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