Stories

 
 
 
From  Kelantan, Malaysia  — In the forests of Gua Musang, an indigenous Temiar community are struggling against state authorities, loggers, and a durian plantation for the recognition of their ancestral land.

From Kelantan, Malaysia — In the forests of Gua Musang, an indigenous Temiar community are struggling against state authorities, loggers, and a durian plantation for the recognition of their ancestral land.

THIS IS OUR LAND
(Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer 2019)

Soon, their inner rhythm takes hold. A man drops to the ground. He shudders and writhes, upending the bamboo floorboards, scattering his leaf whisk so violently it turns into confetti. Other men embrace him as if to absorb his energy, or perhaps to steady him; they anoint him with their bouquets. Then, he stops still; the exposed soles of his feet, turned up, look strangely vulnerable.
The Temiar trace their origins back some five thousand years. “Sewang selombang is a tradition we inherited from our ancestors,” Dendi says. “When we dance, the spirits come, and they speak in their own way through each of us. We ask to be forgiven for all the harm we have done to this world.”
If the forest were to be razed, all this, and much more, would be lost.


 
 

THE REMAINED
(Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2019)

“Growing up, we could make up two cricket teams with the young guys around here. Not anymore.”
Trevor Chen sits with his brother Stephen inside Sei Vui Club in Tiretti Bazaar, Kolkata’s old Chinatown. They’re waiting for the rest of their group to show up. They used to play gully cricket outside, Trevor says, when they had more friends. But now they’re down to just the handful of them, in their thirties and forties. “Almost all bachelors,” one of their friends would say later.
So it’s boys’ night some evenings after work, and tonight, in a hall upstairs decorated with portraits of Gandhi and Sun Yat-sen, they’ll be playing ping-pong. That, they have enough manpower for.


From  Kolkata, India  — On cultural survival, contentious histories, and what makes a Chinatown in this modern age in light of the drastically dwindled numbers of Chinese in the city. (Supported by the  Out of Eden Walk  project and the National Geographic Society.)

From Kolkata, India — On cultural survival, contentious histories, and what makes a Chinatown in this modern age in light of the drastically dwindled numbers of Chinese in the city. (Supported by the Out of Eden Walk project and the National Geographic Society.)

 
From  Belfast, Northern Ireland  — On conflicts that never die, the territorialisation of memory, and the politics of identity in Belfast.

From Belfast, Northern Ireland — On conflicts that never die, the territorialisation of memory, and the politics of identity in Belfast.

MEMORY WARS
(Virginia Quarterly Review, Fall 2018)

Since the Troubles ended, loyalist and republican paramilitaries once at war with one another have sat in the same room to share their experiences. They’ve met with victims in the name of truth and reconciliation. They’ve given talks to students and led wide-eyed tourists on Troubles-themed tours—something of a cottage industry here—as ambassadors of peace of a kind, so that what happened will not happen again.
But all the talking, Donnelly says, hasn’t always been productive. “Sometimes, people are revisiting old anger, and you think, Do we keep having the same conversation over and over?” 

 
 
 

WELCOME TO THE WILD, WILD WEST—IN SPAIN
(Roads and Kingdoms)

Perhaps it's as 27-year-old Cristian Navarro, the youngest of Oasys’ showmen, said, “Me siento mas realizado aqui"—I feel more realized here. He would rather be playing a romantic hero at Oasys than work as a ranch hand or compete in equestrian competitions, even if (in a departure from how things usually end) the sheriffs always win and he's always shot dead.


From  Almeria & Burgos, Spain  —   A European paean to an American idea, passed from generation to generation, lives on in Spain half a century after the filming of a classic spaghetti western trilogy.

From Almeria & Burgos, Spain A European paean to an American idea, passed from generation to generation, lives on in Spain half a century after the filming of a classic spaghetti western trilogy.

 
From  Kelantan, Malaysia  —   How a Hindu epic inspired a Malaysian art form that survived attacks by Islamists and learned to love Star Wars.

From Kelantan, Malaysia How a Hindu epic inspired a Malaysian art form that survived attacks by Islamists and learned to love Star Wars.

A NEW HOPE
(Roads and Kingdoms)

There was no hurried pow-wow before they opened the show, no talk of what story would be performed, no ironing out of logistics. Instead, we lounged on the verandah of Abang Man's house eating keropok while discussing the virtues and foibles of the characters in the Ramayanic universe. The troupe members knew their repertoire so well they were ready to perform at a moment’s notice. The genius of a master puppeteer is his ability to improvise, to pick a story based on the audience and the mood of the troupe. No two performances—even of the same story—are ever the same.

 
 
 
From  Aceh, Indonesia & Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  — The 2015 Southeast Asian boat crisis made Myanmar’s Rohingya more visible to the world, but the problems they face have persisted for decades. Now that the annual sailing season is under way, we dig into the roots of the crisis and find out what life looks like for those who made it to shore.

From Aceh, Indonesia & Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — The 2015 Southeast Asian boat crisis made Myanmar’s Rohingya more visible to the world, but the problems they face have persisted for decades. Now that the annual sailing season is under way, we dig into the roots of the crisis and find out what life looks like for those who made it to shore.

BEYOND THE SEA
(Esquire Malaysia)

The last wave of boats was pushing southwards before the coming of the monsoon. Thousands of stateless Rohingya Muslims, fleeing from ethnic and religious persecution in Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority Rakhine State or untenable living conditions across the border in Bangladesh's refugee camps, were making their way across the Andaman Sea on rickety wooden boats in hope of safe refuge in Malaysia. Among them this sailing season was Muhammadul Hasson, seventeen years old and still just a boy despite the life experiences that have already conspired to make him less of one.


 
 
 

PARADISE LOST
On Arturo Prat, the main street, a weathered banner hangs from a gutted old house. “Pisagua debe ser puerto”, it reads. Pisagua should be a port. But there is just one dock, and you can count the number of boats bobbing in the bay. I wondered if the dream still lived.

From  the Atacama Desert, Chile  — Uncovering the dark past of a forgotten coastal village and the legacies it left behind.

From the Atacama Desert, Chile — Uncovering the dark past of a forgotten coastal village and the legacies it left behind.

 
 
 

 
 
Literary travel writing still resides in the overlap of reportage and memoir, and some of the most memorable travel writing isn’t about the act of physical motion so much as the task of making sense of a single place, or reflecting on the complexity of human experience amid a world in flux.
— Rolf Potts
 
 

 
 

News Features

 
 
From Selangor, Malaysia —  Fast friends, Rohingya refugees in exile rebuild their lives in Malaysia  (Read at  Public Radio International )

From Selangor, Malaysia — Fast friends, Rohingya refugees in exile rebuild their lives in Malaysia (Read at Public Radio International)

 
 
From Selangor, Malaysia —  Life, Death, and the In Between  (Read at  New Naratif )

From Selangor, Malaysia — Life, Death, and the In Between (Read at New Naratif)

 
From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  — Petaling Street, the ‘Chinatown’ of Malaysia’s capital, bets on its heritage for a modern revival  (Read at   South China Morning Post  )

From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Petaling Street, the ‘Chinatown’ of Malaysia’s capital, bets on its heritage for a modern revival (Read at South China Morning Post)

 
From Selangor, Malaysia —   In the Last Room   ( Esquire  Malaysia)

From Selangor, Malaysia — In the Last Room (Esquire Malaysia)

 
From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia —   A Youtube Cypher Show That's Reviving Malaysian Hip-hop    (Read at  Vice Asia )

From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — A Youtube Cypher Show That's Reviving Malaysian Hip-hop
(Read at Vice Asia)

 
 

 
 

Travel / Personal Essays

From the Amazon, Peru —     Killer Fish for Breakfast in the Amazon   (Read at  Roads & Kingdom s)

From the Amazon, Peru — Killer Fish for Breakfast in the Amazon (Read at Roads & Kingdoms)

 
From Chinatown, London, Guatemala, Kolkata —     Homing Pigeon   (Read at   Mekong Review  )

From Chinatown, London, Guatemala, Kolkata — Homing Pigeon (Read at Mekong Review)

 
 

 
 

People, ARTS & Culture

In conversation with Amanda Lee Koe
(Electric Literature)

Apollo 11 anniversary: 50 astronauts, in their own words
(Washington Post)

Neil Strauss: What I’ve Learned
(Esquire Malaysia)

Claire Newcastle Brown: What I’ve Learned
(Esquire Malaysia)

Profile: Craig Fong
(Esquire Malaysia)

Profile: Tan Twan Eng
(Esquire Malaysia)

For Some People, Sex is a Total Turn-off
(The Straits Times, Singapore)

 
 

 
 

More on Malaysia