A Town in China with Roman Empire Descendants

At the edge of the Gobi Desert, Liqian, a remote town, YongChang county in China inhabits descendants of the ancient Romans with striking Caucasian features of blond hair, green eyes and that typical roman nose.

It isn’t a surprise that these Chinese look astonishingly Central Asian, this area of China was part of the  Silk Road, a 7,000-kilometer trade route that linked Asia and Europe more than 2000-2500 years ago.

What was surprising however, Chinese archeologists in 1990s found remnants of an ancient Roman fortification in this village.

The villagers practise a game similar to the ancient Roman bull fighting and also worship bulls. DNA testing in 2005 confirmed that some of the villagers have 50% Caucasian origins which lead to the conclusion they are descendants of the ancient Roman army. This however has detractors apprehensive due to the county being part of the Silk Route, where the Asians and Europeans intermingle.

Liqan Roman descendants

Cai Junnian has yellow wavy hair, a hooked nose and green eyes. A DNA test in 2005 confirmed he is of 56 percent European origin.  Image by Natalie Behring

“Mr Cai said his great-grandfather told him that there were Roman tombs in the Qilian mountains a day and a half’s walk away, but he had never connected them to the unusual appearance he inherited from his father. “People thought I had a skin problem,” he said.”

China roman map

The Last Satay Man of Tiong Bahru and Singapore – No More

RIP The Last Satay Man of  Tiong Bahru and in Singapore!

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Final Death of Good Street Food in Singapore – Case Closed.

Sadly the bureaucratic system of Singapore has caught up with one beloved food street vendor in Tiong Bahru / Singapore once again.  Uncle Satay Man was fined big time by our very efficient Government system for ‘illegal food vendor/selling’ . I got this news through TiongBahru.org – a group of passionate people.

Uncle does traditional Hainanese satay unlike the Malay satay that is famously promoted by the Singapore Tourist Board. Hainanese satay is mainly only pork, with a slice of fat in between the meat. Traditionally three layers  per stick, meaning it is meat, fat, meat. Marinated lightly, it is served with grated pineapple and peanut sauce with chilli oil, accompanied condiments of  rice cubes “ketupat”, sliced red onion and cucumber. The key for a good hainanese satay is using charcoal grill, frequent brushes of oil for that Maillard reaction. i.e the skill is in the grilling!

Tiong Bahru was one of the last vestiges of nostagic Singapore before it was killed by Gentrification a few years ago. Turned into yet another hipster hang out, invaded with cafes and hipster restaurants. Tiong Bahru was finally murdered 2 years ago, the old retail shops and traditional food stores has ceased to exist. Leaving only shells and memories of the distant past.

Sorry Uncle Satay Man, thank you for your contribution to Singapore Street Food Culture.

Why is this so important to me?

Back in the old days, this is how we get our satay in our local neighbourhood, a little cart, the satay man with his traditional satay bamboo leaf handheld fan.  Going around the neighbourhood, yelling Satay….. Satay… Satay…. Yes. the good old 1960s-80s nostalgia where we get our door to door food vendors.

(Why no complete photo of the Satay Man? Because I don’t want to show his face to the public due to the sensitive nature of the business. The common Singapore saying “In case police catch him”. Unfortunately too many people have posted about him and pasted his image all over the web)

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Tiong Bahru Satay man

Travel lust goes to A little lane around Arab Street – Death by Gentrification

Haji Lane scene

Death by Gentrification – Haji Lane, Singapore

Change happens in Singapore very rapidly, even more in the last 5 years. Buildings are pulled down, places are taken over by Hipsters, while the old businesses are killed off by rising rents, or by physical death. Things change here.

Great little areas in Arab Street have quickly being taken over by hipsters, once the different streets here sell fabrics, craft and hold clothing warehouses. Now replaced by hipster independent stores selling Tshirts for us$500, or bespoke furniture stores, more hipster gourmet coffee cafes, or cheesy cafe restaurants. This whole place is no longer what is use to be.

Happy Sadhus of India

Naga Sadhus of Varanasi

These are my naga sadhu friends I met in the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, and we met again in Varanasi when they moved there for the next celebrations.

We were lucky to have survived the big crazy storm that lasted for 2 days after the bathing day in the Kumbh Mela. Many tents had collasped and many sections were flooded in. It was sorta a mini Kumbh Mela gathering once again.

Sadhus of india

The Super Moon Night!

blood moon-30

If you look up in the skies, it was the biggest full moon you would have probably seen for the year

The perigee moon, or Super Moon is at the closet to our Planet, hence it would look strangely bigger.

It is also said to be the time of emotional disturbances, so be prepared of all those upheavals around the world, people will become crazy and some would probably howl at the moon. Did you experience that last night?

Varanasi at Night 2

varanasi at night 2

The nightly puja prayer ceremony, now mainly for Tourists coming to Varanasi, India. It was  particularly crowded week in Varanasi, where visitors came from all over India and the world for the Kumbh Mela Festival in Allahabad, a few hours away from Varanasi

Scenes of the Kumbh Mela Festival

More images of the largest festival in the world, the Kumbh Mela Festival of India where 40 million people visited this month long event.

Kumbh mela-1

Enjoying the smokes of marijuana weed, the Sadhu Holy man decidedly sat right in front of me and performed the smoking rituals of getting high. – in Allahabad, India.  No, he did not offer any smokes to me. Oh well.

Kumbh mela-2

The couple walked all the way from Bihar, India. They came with others fromtheir village and camped along the banks for a month. Most pilgrims visited the Kumbh Mela for  the first time as it was expensive to travel and most of the villages are extremely poor.  Official holy bathing days were the best time to visit the Kumbh Mela, these village folks were so happy being here and I could feel their excitement. The whole river bank were filled with joyful people laughing after taking their holy bath to wash away their karma.

kumbh mela 3

This pilgrim just taken the holy bath in the icy cold waters of the holy river and was looking for his group. Often with such large crowds and queuing for their chance of bathing taking to wash away their karma, people get lost.  Often the speakers installed around the river banks would having announcements of people looking for their lost relative among the millions

Image

Varanasi At Night

varanasi at night-1Nightly puja at a small shrine along the Ghat in Varanasi, India

Playing around the burning bodies of Varanasi

Kids playing around a burning body in Varanasi, India : no qualms that they were around dead bodies or ashes, nor was it taboo for them to go bathe right next to the cremating bodies. Ahead of them were a group of Dobis, washing clothes right beside the flowing ashes, another man was brushing his teeth from the ganges river waters while others were dumping the ashes and looking for dead person’s gold jewellery next to him.

varanasi-1

 

Happy Vesak Buddha Day!

vesak day colombo

The holy day of Vesak or Waisak is celebrated all over the world by Buddhists. This day is also the birthday of Buddha, it represents the three milestones of Lord Buddha’s life, symbolising his birth, death and enlightenment.

It is a great time to visit during Vesak where various buddhist temples come alive with devotees performing their buddhic alms.

Here in Sri Lanka, Colombo, the whole city comes alive, and the main streets in the different colonies will decorate with lights, lanterns and decorate wheels of life that feature Buddha stories of devotion.