‘Tis the Asian Season

‘Tis the season of giving and living. Here’s a hearty hoorah to you, dear readers, for your generous contributions to Menu for Hope III, which, as of this writing, is nearing $43,000 beyond $58,000 in donations. Forty-three thousand dollars! Fifty-eight thousand dollars! That is thoroughly commendable. YEAH!!!! That is truly mind-bending. All proceeds go toward feeding the world’s 850 million hungry people. And there’s still a smidgen of time. View the prizes here, get your donations in here before Friday at 6 p.m. PST, and give yourselves a hug in this season of seasons.

Speaking of which, I wanted to assemble a little bundle of December sentiments, a gallery of holiday-ish looking scenes so you’d get a feel for the sights around here come Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa time. We have spent the past three Decembers in Buddhist and Hindu regions of the tropics, so no reindeer, snow-studded mountains or Christmas carolers wrapped in parkas. True, you’ll find 25-baht strings of blinking lights and little fake trees at most Thai supermarts; you’ll find stuffed Santas in the sweaty aisles of many Cambodian markets. But you’ll find those items in May, June, July and August as well. The lights blink all year round in Asia.

So no use pretending. What I offer instead is a random collection (Jerry’s collection) of shots as they are. It’s December in Asia, and it doesn’t look half bad.


Haputale, Sri Lanka, December 2004. The country’s mountainous interior, largely populated by Tamils, is home to thousands of tea-pickers and tea plantations. The best of the lot goes overseas.

Sri Lanka Poinsettia

Poinsettia tree, Haputale, Sri Lanka, December 2004. In its natural state, the poinsettia grows into a brilliant red-leaved tree reaching 15 feet or more. It is not native to Asia, but the tree grows widely throughout South and Southeast Asian mountainous regions.

Prek Toal sunset

Sunrise, Prek Toal, Cambodia, December 2005. In heart of Cambodia lies a great lake called the Tonle Sap. It is the nation’s lifeblood, Asia’s greatest freshwater lake, providing one of the world’s largest freshwater fish harvests. Prek Toal is a floating village on the Tonle Sap, in a remarkable ecosystem connected to the flow of the Mekong River. During the monsoon rains, the Mekong swells and backs up into the Tonle Sap river, which dumps into the Tonle Sap lake. In the dry season, the river reverses its flow and water runs toward the sea. Every year, the Tonle Sap rises and falls by 30 feet or more. These rich and abundant waters serve as mainland Southeast Asia’s most important waterbird nesting territory, home to great flocks of rare and endangered species.

Prek Toal fishing

Prek Toal fishermen, December 2005. In the wettest times of year, everything green here is under water.

Sri Lanka veggie vendor

Haputale vegetable vendor, Sri Lanka, December 2004.

Banana flowers

Red and green, banana flowers and herbs, Chiang Mai market, December 2006. In the West, we think of the banana as an elongated yellow fruit. But the banana is a tropical herbaceous plant (not a tree) with an edible trunk, as well as these gorgeous red flowers, eaten in Southeast Asian salads, soups and stews.

Train Love

Love on the train, heading inland, Sri Lanka, December 2004.

Haputale Buddha

Misty, foggy Haputale, Sri Lanka, December 2004.

Prek Toal sky

Floating homes and stores (that’s the local minimart on the left), Prek Toal, Cambodia, December 2005.

Sri Lanka Santa

Santa and friend, Kandy, Sri Lanka, December 2004.

10 thoughts on “‘Tis the Asian Season

  1. Karen,
    Really enjoyed your wonderful writing and the beautiful photography this year. Merry Christmas and best wishes from freezing England.

  2. The latest Ameri Can PC term is Christmahanukwanzica. That’s how we roll in the West. Great pictures and great story!!

  3. Paula, so glad you enjoyed the pics. Thanks for visiting!

    Thanks, Miles — while I’m sure northern Thailand is no match for freezing England, we are having a bit of a cold spell here. It’s that time of year when everyone dresses the street dogs in old T-shirts to keep them warm. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the dogs from yowling through the night.

    Thanks for the tip, Mot. Our Buddhist friends continue to send us “Merry Christmas” cards. The holiday PC-isms haven’t broken their way through the Asian scene yet.

    Well, happymerryjolly Christmahanukwanzica, everyone! May the season (whatever your season is) bring peace (peace is still OK to say, right?) to your little corner of wherever you are.

  4. The photographs you posted are so wonderfully evocative of a rich, expansive life.

    Believe me, you are not missing much here. What I notice, more than anything, is how rushed and frantic everyone is to buy and buy and buy. I’m starting to grow more horrified every day. People forget…

    it’s about peace.

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