Dreaming of Asia


Stolen kiss. Grandson G. at the Peranakan Museum, Singapore, 2017.

Asia eluded me. I was born in the Far East but left too young to really remember. I was then raised in Africa. Spent the rest of my life between Europe and the Americas. And I’m sorry to say, the evolution of Africa and Latin America in the past 50 years have left much be desired.

So, when circumstances made us pack the entire family, grandson included, to South-East Asia end of 2017, I was more than curious. What would Asia be like?


Guang-Zhou airport, 2017.


Cultural Revolution, China, c.1967. 50 years separate the two pictures. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita in East Asia and Pacific has tripled since 1990. In Guang-Zhou, the airport, the buildings we saw by the plane windows, the airlines,  did not exist 40 years ago. Impressive? Yes.


In this vintage Mexican map hanging proudly on one of our walls, you can see our itinerary: stop-over at Canton (Guang-Zhou), a week in Singapore, ditto in Georgetown, Malaysia, a week in a Thai island, to the west of “Siam”. Bangkok, Siem-Reap, Cambodia. You can see Phomnh-Penh between Bangkok and Saïgon. This map was drawn around 1947. The product flows are indicated in red: petrol, sugar, copra, rubber, tin, rice, tea, cotton, spices… primary products mostly. Today, the majority of smartphones are manufactured in that region.



The longest Buddha. Bangkok. Executive summary. So long I could only photograph the head and feet.




And restored. Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. The latter photo is the Blue Mansion. In the various places of Asia we’ve seen, they have managed to maintain the old and the new. Development and heritage.


Gardens by the bay, Singapore. in 2016, Singapore’s GDP per capita was 81,000 “International” Dollars. At purchasing power parity, which means that cost of living is taken into consideration to adjust GDP. As a comparison, the US GDP per capita, same conditions, was $53,000. In other words, Singapore is 50% above the US. For the sake of comparison, I hate to mention France’s GDP per capita: $38,000. Flat mostly for the past ten years in constant monetary terms. Which may explain a lot of things going on in France right now.


Ancient Chinese deity or warrior, Singapore. Tradition has been preserved, despite modernity. The Jade Emperor was just celebrated across Asia. A story of thousands of years. Can that be a clue? Tradition and modernity?


Bangkok, 2018. In Bangkok, all that glitters is gold. Thailand is not by far the richest country in Asia, but its GDP per capita is now equivalent to that of Mexico: around 16,000 dollars a year (PPP).

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Our AirBn’B in Georgetown. Note the Matisse and Hiroshige prints on the walls of this very tastefully rehabilitated Chinese shophouse.


I‘ve often commented on our English friends’ poor taste in their naming of streets. From a Frog perspective, of course. It seems they have passed it on to Asia. The above is in Singapore. Observation: after Independence, Singapore has kept the street names of the English. I have seen no resentment against the former colonial power. (As is so common in many parts of the world.) In Asia, all indicates that the colonial past has been integrated. Part of history. And then “move on”. Visit the Singapore Museum and you will see what I mean. This is what I would call the “Fusion” concept.


The lotus flower. This, if I recall properly, is outside a Hindu temple in Georgetown, Penang. Next to a Chinese temple or a Mosque. Another variant of the “Fusion” concept. On certain blogs you can see Peranakan Chinese participating in Hindu celebrations such as Diwali. Fusion? Integration?


For the love of kingfishers. Another point in favour. Reasonably good beer across the region. 🙂


Honouring the gods and ancestors. (Another clue?) Georgetown, Penang. The painted young woman is not holding chopsticks, but incense sticks. To burn on the – real – altar above. And from what I can tell, this traditional garment (which name escapes me) is still worn – proudly – on special occasions.


Peranakan houses, Singapore.


The artist house, Bangkok, Thaïland. A puppet used to enact the Mahabharata, a Hindu myth or legend. In a Buddhist country? Fusion again.


China House, Georgetown, Penang. Food is universal? We didn’t try those tacos, though. Stuck to local food. (This post has cost me blood. As I’d arrived to the next image, I tried to preview, and the godforsaken system had gone into a loop and would not save!!!! Copied all to a Word file for structure and had to re-do it again from scratch…)


Allow me to thank the China House again for this perfect conclusion. And thank you for visiting and reading. This post has allowed me to further my reflection on a topic that’s been in my head for a while. To be continued…






61 thoughts on “Dreaming of Asia

    • Thanks. He is charming. (Not biased of course). And easy to go. Imagine he was only 18 months when we took him to Asia. Took everything in stride.
      And yes, there is lots to celebrate in Asia. There are problems of course, but I sense they are on the right course.

  1. Hello Brian. Wow, what a colorful and interesting place. Your grandson is adorable. I was taken with the pictures of the old contrasted with the new. Hard to understand how the culture and people have changed in the last 70 to 80 years. I was interested in the lights over the table at the AirBnB you stayed at. Is that some kind of cloth or netting around the lights? Looks like someone hung curtains or a sack around them, yet they seem to give a good amount of light. Hugs

    • “Baby” G. is quite charming. 🙂
      The nature of change? Asian culture mainly. Strong work ethics. Family and social group above all else. In China, Deng Xiaoping when he took over China after Mao’s death, basically told the Chinese: work and get rich. Market economy is the key. And hard work.
      The lights? yes, it is a kind of cloth. Made for a very pleasant light. That place had been superbly renovated by the young couple who owned it. Cheers.

      • Yes, I miss worded that question on the changes. I meant it was stunning to see the amount of change and hard to understand the huge difference in the country back then and now. One thing I heard about China is they kept some of the older ways that worked for them and introduced the new ways that accelerated growth. I read that even in remote villages the poor have food and healthcare. I do not care for the total authoritarianism but I do like the mix of capitalism for growth and socialism for caring for people. I have heard that the mainlands patience has run out with Hong Kong. Hugs

      • Stunning is the word. I SAW those changes. Where nothing was before, new cities have been built, and a lot of the old preserved. There are many problems. Pollution is one. And… authoritarianism too. But I suspect that too will evolve. The point is: in 40 years, China has risen from utter poverty to modernity. And many other countries in the region are doing very well. Without even mentioning Korea, just think Malaysia¡s GDP per capita (at Purchasing Power Parity) is almost at the level of France. And it shows. Cheers.

    • Thank you so much. Not sure about the respective amount of travels. 🙂 I’ve given up counting. All I know is that with this Asian trip, I did complete the total trip around the world. Now I know some people who have travelled more. 🙂
      Be good. And thanks for the visit.

  2. Wow! Gorgeous pictures, informative text and you have been all over the place. Where you were born, where you’ve been and where you are. How wonderful and exciting (I hope). You’ve had a taste of life that’s larger than most. And thank you so much for sharing it with us. I enjoyed this so very much.

    • I do. But fortunately it doesn’t happen often. By experience I’m a sucker for saving work in progress. But this time I didn’t realize that the post was stuck. Until too late. But I could copy the text and pix onto word. Which meant the structure was not lost. 🙂
      I’ll be more careful next time.

    • Salut!!!! Quel plaisir de te voir. J’ai un peu délaissé la blogosphère, mais je pensais à toi. Tout va bien? Vous êtes contents? Les enfants s’adaptent bien? Même si le tagalog ne va pas leur servir à grand chose.
      Et le gamin est tout-à-fait çà: craquant. Déjà un certain sens de l’humour ce qui augure bien. Biz. A bientôt.

      • Ce gamin a de qui tenir je vois 😉 Ravie de te retrouver ! Hanoï est notre poste préféré pour le moment, les enfants viennent de commencer les arts martiaux vietnamiens, dans un temple ! Les seuls yeux ronds ! Post à venir ! La communauté internationale est top, le pays est tellement riche culturellement et historiquement et en plus il fait (presque!) beau. Le Tagalog Est loin, mais hélas le vietnamien ne compense pas encore .. il faut dire que beaucoup parlent français alors autant les aider à pratiquer 😉 à tout bientôt xxx

      • Etonnant que le Français subsiste encore. Ça fait quand même un bail. Je pense que le Vietnam et les Vietnamiens doivent être merveilleux à découvrir. Les arts martiaux locaux (selon un ami Vietnamien) empruntent beaucoup aux animaux. “La tête du serpent”, etc. Des frappes avec les doigts et des noms poétiques. Et si les expats sont bien, c’est encore mieux. Ici, je n’ai quasiment pas de contacts avec les Français. Ravis que vous soyez contents. A +

  3. Thoughtful conclusion again. I’ve had some lost content on account of sporadic auto save or auto not-save function too. Now I’m refreshing the page as I work all the time.

    I haven’t been to even a little bit of Asia at all yet. The Kingfisher beer made the most impact. Beautiful design and now I’d love a taste. Kingfisher is one of the Slovenian symbols (well, if you ask a mobile phone network).

    • Yes, save and save…
      Conclusion? Not there yet, but I suspect some may not like my conclusions… 😉
      Asia is a must, and the beer is good.
      A “Martin-pêcheur” is a lovely symbol.

  4. Grandson is adorable. 🙂 I’m in Asia (Bali) right now, visiting my sister. I’ve mostly been focused on traveling around Europe in recent years. It’s nice to be back in this part of the world. Looking forward to a short stopover in Taipei, too.

    • He is. 🙂 and a very nice disposition too. “Craquant” as we say.
      How lovely that you should be in Bali (On my list) and visiting your sister. I thought you were the only one in your family with a heavy case of wanderlust.
      Loved Asia last year. I need to go back ASAP. Do you know Georgetown in Penang?

  5. Delighted and instructed by the photographs, and commentary. Your thoughts on fusion/integration of colonial history with present culture is especially interesting, partly because I live in a country (Canada) that receives immigrants & refugees from all cultures, who then must make their own fusion/integration terms with their new home — but also because of my experience living on Lombok, in Indonesia. I was there for Independence Day celebrations, and listened to a children’s choir sing first a range of traditional songs in Javanese, then some songs in Dutch, then in Japanese, and finally songs in Indonesian. A Dutch couple sitting next to me were charmed by the Dutch songs (a tribute, as they saw it), but then greatly dismayed by the Japanese songs that followed.

    • I agree with you. Though, strangely enough I haven’t been to Canada. You lived in Lombok? Great. Daughter #2 spent a few months there 2 years ago. She loved it, and the photos were stunning. Well, Japanese songs… To each their own. I remember friends of my parents who said they never buy Japanese cars because of their conduct during WWII.
      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • Thank you. 🙂 Writing is all about angles. A very dear and old friend of mine is a consultant. Whenever we meet in Paris we “do” a museum or two. He looks for paintings or art to illustrate his presentations to the client. Instead of writing: “Build company spirit”, he puts a Brueghel painting on a peasant wedding in the middle ages. And asks the participants (clients) what does this painting make you think of? And he leads them to “building company spirit”. Different angle and a great friend since Business school. Bon week-end.

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