From Four Months to 20 Years: Meet Kim Hessel

cropped-logo_ie_99.jpg#160 February 23, 2016

Story & Photography by Gail G. Collins

Kim HesselWhere were you when the Berlin Wall came down on November 10, 1989? The concrete block barrier, topped by barbed wire and secured by armed guards, segmented the population within the German capital city. It was the last vestige of the Cold War, and ordinary people, pushing for freedom, literally tore it down. With its crumbling, families and lives were rebuilt. Memories of that exhilarating period flashed in Kim Hessel’s eyes as he remembered his part in it. Continue reading “From Four Months to 20 Years: Meet Kim Hessel”

Beyond Bunaken: Touring the Minahasa Highlands

cropped-logo_ie_99.jpg#159 February 10, 2016

Story & Photography by Gail G. Collins

Divers dig the underwater magic of Bunaken’s world class reef. The biodiversity is unmatched, but even divers needs 24 hours of decompression before flying out. Many wonders lie above the water line in the countryside surrounding North Sulawesi’s provincial capital, Manado. The city itself hosts a public museum—filled with traditional costumes, weapons, ceramic ware and independence history—plus a broad range of hotels and restaurants. Still, nothing can beat the lofty views three volcanoes provide of the old city and sapphire sea. Only an hour’s drive from the dock, the cooler climes of outlying villages offer diversions ranging from kit wooden houses to a Buddhist temple to fresh fish dinners on the lake, and of course, markets filled with local goods. The warm, welcoming Minahasa people create an inviting place to lose oneself or to breakaway and linger longer. Continue reading “Beyond Bunaken: Touring the Minahasa Highlands”

Chinese New Year Extravaganza

The gateway city to China commands a stunning harbour skyline, urban greenspaces, unmatched shopping, a fusion of Chinese, British and contemporary cultures, plus the contrast of ancient customs in a cosmopolitan metropolis.

cropped-logo_ie_99.jpg#158 January 26, 2016

Story & Photography by Gail G. Collins

Hong Kong’s origins as a fishing village in the 1800s are hard to imagine against the backdrop of today’s spectacular skyscrapers. The main island’s name is believed to have come from twin port villages, now known as Aberdeen. It harboured thousands of sampans and junks, which debuted as scenery for James Bond and Bruce Lee movies in the 60s and 70s, and now, hosts the marine amusement, Ocean Park. Continue reading “Chinese New Year Extravaganza”

Thriving Coral Reef, Thriving Community: Wakatobi Resort Conservation

cropped-logo_ie_99.jpg#156 December 16, 2015

The Coral Triangle has been likened to an underwater Amazon rainforest for its density and diversity of species. Stretching from the Philippines to Malaysia to Indonesia, it comprises an area half the size of the United States. Seventy-five percent of coral species harbour nearly 40 percent of the world’s reef fish species. A short list of its 2,000 varieties includes sharks, rays, whales and turtles, plus crocodile, cuttle and stonefish, nudibranchs, shrimps and crabs as well as pygmy seahorses. Within the Coral Triangle, in southeast Sulawesi, Wakatobi Resort shelters, not only its clientele with five-star amenities, but its 20 kilometres of pristine reef beyond the silvery sand beach. This is diving and snorkelling nirvana. Continue reading “Thriving Coral Reef, Thriving Community: Wakatobi Resort Conservation”

Learning to Cook up a Storm

Gail Collins discovers the best cooking classes in Jakarta, which create skills and appreciation for food.

cropped-logo_ie_99.jpgNovember 16, 2015, Issue #154

Story & Photography by Gail G. Collins

On a Saturday evening, couples dressed for a night out instead are in the kitchen, positioned around work stations at Almond Zucchini. Kitted out with prepped ingredients, pans and utensils, they donned their aprons. Let’s get cooking! Mature men asked for and received more help from their wives and the instructing chef. Younger males confessed that they often cook with their partners. All were keen for some fun and a flavorful meal to follow. Continue reading “Learning to Cook up a Storm”

Discovering Cirebon: A Haven of Handicrafts

A mix of cultural influences and media on Java’s North Coast

cropped-logo_ie_99.jpgOctober 6, 2015

Story & Photographs by Gail G. Collins

When one looks to Mount Ciremai, with scudding clouds against a sapphire sky, it is impossible to miss the trademark design of Cirebon’s batik. Its bright, spare ground with clean, curling lines and graduated hues on fine cotton is unmistakable. The seaport town of 350,000 people on the north coast of Java has long been a trading and cultural hub. Only a three-hour train ride from Jakarta, it siphons off the overflow of Bandung tourists and has become a pleasant diversion in its own right with four- and five-star hotels. Continue reading “Discovering Cirebon: A Haven of Handicrafts”

CHIANG MAI: Rose of Northern Thailand

This cultural capital of the Lanna Kingdom wows visitors with ancient wonders while keeping pace with a modern enthusiasm for adventure, all set amongst the fragrant backdrop of the city’s annual Flower Festival.

cropped-logo_ie_99.jpgFebruary 2015, Issue #134

Story & Photography by Gail G. Collins

It is said that in 1296, when King Mengrai saw a large mouse and four smaller ones scurry down a hole under a holy Bodhi tree, he established this city to stand as the heart of his Lanna Kingdom. A moat surrounds old Chiang Mai, and its corner defensive bastions remain, reminders of early battles for control. After more than 700 years, this population of 200, 000 on the Ping River still boasts the greatest concentration of handicrafts in Thailand. Continue reading “CHIANG MAI: Rose of Northern Thailand”

Recycling Materials and Lives for a Brighter Future


While Titi Marley was growing up in Jakarta in the 90s, her parents were preachers, and they lived near a scavenger compound. Not one to sit still, her mother would gather the girls, who weren’t in school, and teach them to read. Titi was fascinated by the recycling process she saw there. “All the papers or plastic containers, glass and more was collected, immediately sorted and cleaned. A few times a week, a truck would come to the compound to buy the items. Things were weighed or counted, and the families were paid, based on how much they had collected,” she said. After living abroad and now raising her own girls, Titi wanted to recycle and be effective upon her return to Indonesia. Continue reading “Recycling Materials and Lives for a Brighter Future”

Saving the Slow Loris

cropped-logo_ie_99.jpg Issue #130

Social Media sensationalized the slow loris, and hopefully, it can save the endangered animal as well. Being adorable was its downfall, as videos and photos launched limelight the nocturnal primate could have well done without. Enormous dark eyes in a banded face with silky tan to sooty-toned fur ranked the slow loris high in the cuteness category. In 2009, a YouTube video of an engaging slow loris named Sonya, who raised her arms and stretched when tickled, went viral. Then, a year ago, pop singer Rihanna posed with the fuzzy primate and posted the pic on Instagram. The commercial photo booth, where the pic was taken, was raided and two lorises confiscated. This is the animal’s best hope in such circumstances, but ideally, the illegal trade should be shut down. Continue reading “Saving the Slow Loris”

Hiking the Hills around Bogor

cropped-logo_ie_99.jpgIssue #129; 3 November 2014

Story & Photographs by Gail G. Collins

Forced urban dwellers like me long to escape the confines, concrete and cars. I’m always on the lookout for a quick trip that offers a breath of fresh air, and, if I’m lucky, a view, too. Sixty kilometers south of Jakarta’s city limits are a couple of easy getaways. Take the toll road to Bogor, and you can make a great escape into the country, where sensational scenery and cool climes await. It’s an oasis of unpredictable weather with 322 storms a year, so plan accordingly. Good accommodation is available for a weekend getaway, but weekdays are ideal for avoiding traffic. Continue reading “Hiking the Hills around Bogor”