Category: South Asia

Writing about the Maldives is writing a tale of two countries. One is the Maldives of the tourists, where people lounge on the beach in revealing (western) swimwear, drink alcohol and eat pork. The other is the Maldives of the Maldivians, where people go to the beach and into the sea fully dressed, where alcohol and pork are forbidden and frowned upon. For decades, these two countries coexisted with only limited contact and only a few employees of the tourist resort would straddle the line. Since 2009, the two worlds have started to mix. […]

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It is my fourth visit to India and I have got a fairly good grasp of this complicated country. There are aspects I love and aspects I greatly dislike. I have never been that far south. The state of Kerala is well-known for two reasons, first its natural beauty, especially the backwaters, a series of canals and lakes where tourists visit on houseboats, enjoying and (most of them unfortunately) destroying the environment. Kerala’s other claim to fame is a long history of communist governments. […]

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Delhi comes as a shock. It starts with the taxi ride. To avoid all trouble, I take a prepaid airport taxi and still the guy tries all the time to talk me into bringing me to a different hotel (he gets a commission for that). And he drives badly, I can’t imagine him going around Delhi for long without causing an accident. As soon as we are closer to the centre and I know where I am, I leave the taxi, I rather walk. Old Delhi is too much for me, it is all full of people, the poverty is pervasive, people live, eat and wash themselves on the street. On top of all that comes the weather, it is hot and sticky. I have reached my air-conditioned hotel room and I have trouble convincing myself to go outside. […]

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