A surprise check arrived in the mail, refunding me for eighteen dollars. I put the money toward a Thai lunch, including a Thai iced tea so big I’m still sipping away at it. The sugary coconut milk ambrosia sent me on an imaginary trip to tropical Southeast Asia, and then through the whole fascinating continent. On this train of armchair travel, here are my favorite postcards from Asia.
July 18, 2005
“I just came back from my trip to China + Thailand…The Great Wall was so unreal in its great leng[t]h. It took so long to actually get up to the wall. There were so many stairs! Getting down was so much more worthwhile–there’s a big slide that winds its way down a mountain.”
For another China-related postcard from my former pen pal, check out the pandas in the ‘Animalias’ post.
Japanese-American, my old pen pal thoughtfully sent me several postcards from her visits to Japan. My favorite is…
Like a new addition to Hiroshige’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,this photograph seems to embody Japan’s unique way of looking to its native traditions while keeping at the fore of the world’s modernization.
Pohnpei (“upon (pohn) a stone altar (pei)”), Micronesia 1960’s (then called Ponape, Micronesia)
Helping my grandmother move out of her house last summer as she transitioned into assisted living, I found so many antiques and heirlooms. It was a stressful time for the Snail family, clearing out the big shell Grandma Snail had lived in since the early ’60s. But a few times each day, we’d discover treasure, from Ben-Hur spice tins and drawers full of buttons, to childhood drawings and correspondence from WWII soldiers.
Among our wonderful finds was a set of postcards Grandpa Snail brought back from Micronesia after a project there in the 1960s. Focused on the native people as much as the tropical landscape, the postcards are beautiful, not just aesthetically, but in their authenticity. I can’t wait to share the whole set in a future post. For now, I thought this was a great photograph to represent the set. Going to or coming from doing a chore with that bowl, the older woman appears presumably as she always is. The children at her feet are just that–children. One is gleeful, the middle one wary of the camera, the third looks to the adult. The magnificent roots of an old tree (a kapok?) stretch across the yard and palm frond tips hang down. I can see why my grandfather chose this set of postcards, and why his work in the South Pacific in the ’50s and ’60s were the best times of his life.
Shortly before the awful 2002 bombings, I had the great privilege of visiting this incredibly culturally rich little island. I selected this postcard as a souvenir so I could remember how ornate, lush, and spiritual is this place and culture. This postcard is not a specially done-up scene; This is exactly how the tons of dancers dress and how structures are adorned within the natural setting. The statues appear to be of Hanuman, the monkey-like deity who, as told in the Ramayana, steals Sita away from the demon king and returns her to her husband Rama. Each Hanuman statue has been given an offering–people place bamboo leaf baskets of flowers, rice, and incense in every nook and cranny, sidewalk and dashboard, each day–and the common accessory of red hibiscus flowers.
From Margaret Hyde’s “Mindful Journeys” travel photography exhibition benefitting the non-profit high school girls writing program, WriteGirl. “From Memphis to the Maldives, Bhutan to Bombay…a visual journey of photographs from around the globe.” My guess is this vibrant photograph is from Bombay (Mumbai), or somewhere else in India.
Korphe Village, Karakoram mountains, northern Pakistan
This gorgeous photograph was taken by Greg Mortenson, mountaineer-turned-humanitarian author of Three Cups of Tea.The postcard is for Mortenson’s non-profit Central Asia Institute, inspired by the need for a school in the village of Korphe, before broadening its sights to villages throughout the region’s remote mountains. I mention this in light of last year’s scandal surrounding The Central Asia Institute’s spending record and inside politics, and accusations of false and/or exaggerated content in Three Cups of Tea. I have no idea of CAI’s reliability, but whatever the case, this is one of my favorite postcards of Asia. There is the squalor of poverty, but also the love of family and a culturally unique beauty.