people and cultures – inspiring journeys
sharing meaningful discoveries in Asia

Reading, Films, Music

Listings below by Destination:

Click here for:
Spirituality, Buddha and Hindu Dharma,Yoga
Textile Arts
Films and Music

Bali and Indonesia:

Island of Bali, Miguel Covarrubias, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1937
Classic introduction to life, culture and the arts still very much alive in Bali today.

A House in Bali, Colin McPhee,
A Canadian composer’s classic memoir of his discovery of Bali and his passion for the music in the 1930s

A Little Bit One O’Clock, Living with a Balinese family. William Ingram 1998.

Tales of Bali, Vicki Baum, The Literary Guild of America, New York, 1938

Midnight Shadows,  Garrett Kam.  Stories of how Bali was drawn into the 1965 alleged communist coup.  A tale of historical issues intertwined with mysticism and morality.

Bali: A Paradise Created, Adrian Vickers, Penguin Books, Australia 1989

Bali: Sekala and Niskala, Vol 1 and 2, Fred Eiseman, Periplus Editions, Singapore
For those interested in more Bali ritual understanding.

The Painted Alphabet, A novel by Diana Darling, Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1992

Ganesha Bookstore in Ubud opposite the Post Office.
Check out their listings. Also Includes Music and Films:


A Brief History of Indonesia: Sultans, Spices and Tsunamis by Tim Hannigan
great reading to help understand the world’s largest archipelago.

Borobudur- Golden Tales of the Buddhas
by John Miksic with beautiful illustrations.

Islam in Java- nomative piety and mysticism of the sultanate of Yogyakarta by Mark R. Wodward

Nusantara – a History of Indonesia by Bernard Hubertus, Maria Vlekke.

Religion of Java by Clifford Geertz

Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey
Lawrence and Lorne Blair- two English brothers 10-year adventures throughout the archipelago:

Ring of Fire is also a Four-Part Series available on DVD:

Maritime Silk Route:  When Asia Ruled the World by Stewart Gordon.
early adventure travellers and merchants from 700-1500AD when Asia
flourished as the wellspring of science, philosophy and religion from Arabia
to China.

Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and Malay Peninsula
by Paul Michel Munoz.   Ancient Srivijaya and maritime trade 1AD- 16th Century.

Nathaniel’s Nutmeg  by Giles Milton

The Spice Island Voyage  by Tim Severin

Writings of Pramoedya Ananta Toer  his novels and short stories of the
colonial period, Indonesia’s struggle for independence, its occupation by Japan and post colonial times. Well known for his Buru Quartet of books:
The Earth of Mankind, Child of all Nations, Footsteps & House of Glass

A Magic Gecko: 18 years in Indonesia 1963-1981
by Horst Henry Geerken who describes struggles against the colonial Dutch,
the mystery of the Fall of Soekarno along with personal, often humorous, experiences in a country he loves.

Ann Dunham:  The Story of Obama’s Mother in Indonesia.
Her story is so unknown in the US and in the outside world.

Read:  “The Singular Woman who raised Barack Obama”  by Janny Scott:



The best guide book available is: BHUTAN by Francoise Pommaret, Tibetologist and who has lived in Bhutan since 1981. Excellent cultural and historical introduction. Published by Timeless Books in India. Or try

A Portrait of BhutanTreasures of the Thunder Dragon, by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, Queen of Bhutan, 2006. Available in Bhutan and

Beyond the Sky and the Earth by Jamie Zeppa- story of young Canadian who came to teach in remote Bhutan from 1989-1998. Pan Books, or Penguin Putnam, New York.

Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon, A Journey into Bhutan.
Katie Hickman, 1987.

So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas, Barbara Crossette

The Circle of Karma- a novel by Kunzang Choden, 2005 Penguin Books

Other books by Kunzang Choden Roder:
Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti
Folktales of Bhutan
Chilli and Cheese- Food and Society in Bhutan
Bhutan: The Early History of a Himalayan Kingdom
by Michael Aris, husband of Aung San Suu Kyi Warminster, Serindia, 1979.

The Raven Crown: The Origins of Buddhist Monarchy in Bhutan
Michael Aris- Serindia, London 1994

Of Rainbows and Clouds- the Life of Yab Ugyen Dorji as Told to His Daughter, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck- Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan.

Bhutan was ruled by a succession of reincarnations of the 17th century founder and unifer of the country, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, until the establishment of the present monarchy in 1907.
The families of the Last Mind and Speech Incarnations of the Shabdrung were united in marriage in 1916 and Yab Ugyen Dorji is a product of this union. Yab Ugyen’s memoirs reveal a remarkable story and vivid insight into life and times of Bhutan during this century. The book is brought to life with historical photographs.

Bhutan- Kingdom in the Himalaya– gorgeous pictoral book and not too heavy is called by Sanjay Acharya, Lustre Press, Roli Books- available in Bhutan.

Hero with a Thousand Eyes, by Karma Ura
Based on real memoirs of a young man supposed to become a Lama but who became a scribe for the 3rd King 1940’s-50’s. Insight into a feudal society, government marshalling wealth and distributing goods in a way keeping locals happy. A testimony to how good leadership can reign while also imposing strong demands and responsibilities on people.


A History of Cambodia, David Chandler

The Civilization of Angkor, by Charles Higham, Univ. of California Press

Khmer Mythology, Secrets of Angkor by Vittorio Roveda – small size coffee table book

The River’s Tale – A Year on the Mekong, Edward A. Gargan

River of Time, Jon Swain. British journalist experience during Vietnam & Cambodia War

Stay Alive, My Son by Pin Yathay – a story of survival during the Khmer Rouge

The Flute Player – documentary film of Arn Chorn Pond’s survival of the Khmer Rouge and returning to Cambodia to revive Cambodian music.
see more under Films.


Stalking the Elephant Kings – In Search of Laos, by Christopher Kremmer

The Bamboo Palace, the sequel by Christopher Kremmer

In a Little Kingdom, by Perry Stieglitz, former US cultural attaché who married Moune, daughter of the neutralist Prince Souvanna Phouma.

Naga Cities of the Mekong: a guide to temples, legends and history of Laos
by Martin Stuart Fox.
Very nice historical introduction along with photographs by Steve Northup.

The Politics of Ritual and Remembrance, Laos since 1975
by Grant Evans, Silkworm Books

The Ravens, Pilots of the Secret War in Laos by Christopher Robbins

Air America – from World War II to Vietnam by Christopher Robbins

Tragic Mountains by Jane Hamilton-Merritt – impact of the Hmong people as allies to US during the war.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down – A Hmong Child, her American doctors and the collision of two cultures, Anne Fadiman

Ant Egg Soup – adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos by Natacha Du Pont De Bie

Learning to Breathe – one woman’s journey of spirit and survival. Alison Wright

Myanmar (Burma):

Insight Myanmar –   Blogs and Insightful Podcasts
while world attention is distracted from what is happening in Myanmar, the resistance bravely carries on:

The Glass Palace – by Amitav Gosh
Epic novel spanning over a century of history which becomes the story of a young Indian, Rajkumar, in Mandalay during the British invasion and exile of Burma’s last King Thibaw and family to India in 1885. Rajkumar eventually tracks down the attendant of Burma’s second princess whom he marries.

The River of Lost Footsteps by Thant Myint U

Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia.
by Thanj Myint U

From the Land of Green Ghosts, Pascal Khoo Thwe, his amazing autobiography of growing up in Shan State of Burma and finding his way to study at Cambridge in England.

The Piano Tuner
In 1886, the story of Edgar Drake who receives an unusual commission from the British War office to travel to remote jungles of Northeast Burma to repair a piano.

The Trouser People – Andrew Marshall
Inspired by the diaries of Victorian Sir George Scott, Andrew Marshall sets out to retrace Sir Scott’s steps and to discover the Burma of today. A lively travelogue with Andrew Marshall’s eye for the absurd.

Twilight over Burma – My Life as a Shan Princess – Inge Sargent from Austria who became the Mahadevi of Hsipaw married to Sao Kya Seng, Prince of Hsipaw and who disappeared during the take over of Ne Win in 1962.

Beyond the Last Village – A Journey of Discovery in Asia’s Forbidden Wilderness.
by Alan Rabinowitz, director of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). A scientific adventure, personal journey and his passionate account of human and wildlife conservation in remote northern Kachin State of Myanmar.

The Shan Conundrum in Burma by Henri-Andre Aye
personal account and historical and political facts from 1940s-early 2000s.  Written passionately by the author, son of Namkhan U Htun Aye who served as MP representiing Shan State.

Burmese Days by George Orwell- A dry classic set in a small outpost in British Burma.

The Voice of Hope – conversations with Aung San Suu Kyi and Alan Clements

Freedom from Fear- and other writings by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Lady- Aung San Suu Kyi by Barbara Victor, Faber and Faber

The Burman: His Life and Notions, by Shway Yoe – 1882 (actually Sir George Scott!)

Nat Pwe by Yves Rodrique – covers the system of Nat (spirit) beliefs in Burma

A Wonderland of Burmese Legends, Khin Myu Chit

Illusions of Life: Burmese Marionettes by Ma Thanegi

Pagan, Art and Architecture of Old Burma, Paul Strachan, 1989

Pagan, The Origins of Modern Burma by Michael Aung-Thwin, Honolulu Press

Back to Mandalay by Norman Lewis- coffee table book with beautiful photos and emphasizes religion, festivals and culture.

Splendour in Wood- Monasteries of Myanmar – Sylvia Fraser Lu, Orchid Press, Bangkok

Sri Lanka:

The history of Sri Lanka is incredibly complex and colorful, overwhelming in diversity, and rich in legends and myths.

A Year in Green Tea and Tuk Tuk’s by Rory Spowers recounts what happens when a British family moves to Sri Lanka converting a tea plantation to an organic farm.

Monkfish Moon by Romesh Gunesekera
Short stories with diverse glimpse at Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.

by Micahel Ondaatje:
born in Sri Lanka, resident of Canada since 1962
Running in the Family– returning to Sri Lanka in the 1970’s

Anil’s Ghostraw (and disturbing) novel set against the background of the civil war in the 1980’s and 90’s

by Juliet Coombe, resident of Galle:
Around the Fort in 80 Days, Sri Lanka’s Other Half and Addicted: Generation T
Check out:
Serendipity Cafe in Galle Fort and Bookshops in Colombo.

What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula born in Sri Lanka in 1907

Meditation for Everyday Life, Godwin Samararatne, founder Nilambe Meditation Center –

Lessons of the Lotus by Bhante Y. Wimala

Buddhist Cultural Center Bookshop in Colombo for a great selection also including children’s books and folktales.

For some excellent on-line reading on Sri Lanka:
History, Myths Legends, shadow politics see:

Books by Arthur C. Clarke of 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Fountains of Paradise – set on the imaginary island of Taprobane, featuring Adam’s Peak and Sigiriya.

The Reefs of Taprobane Arthur C.Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death in 2008.

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux, writes about meeting Arthur C. Clarke.

Sindbad in Serendip by Richard Boyle – a series of essays about the legendary sailor’s voyages.


Thailand: A Short History by David K. Wyatt

The Balancing Act: A History of Modern Thailand by Joseph Wright.

Thailand – The Last Domino Cultural and Political Travels, by Richard West

Mai Pen Rai (which means Never Mind) by Carol Hollinger – insights into Thai traditional culture.

Jim Thompson – The Unsolved Mystery by William Warren

Bombay Anna– The Real Life Story and Adventures of the King and I Governess by Susan Morgan

Teak Lord – Chiang Mai 1875- crossroads of missionaries, spirit doctors, monks, elephants and a rush for logging.  Very entertaining by Ron Emmons

Chiang Mai: Exploring City, Valley and Mountains– a great guidebook by Oliver Hargreave


Vietnam, NOW by David Lamb
A journalist during the Vietnam/American war return to Hanoi during years of peace who captures Vietnam as it is today offering an understanding of the culture, traditions and the psyche.

Catfish and Mandala Vietnamese American Andrew Pham’s account of returning to his roots on a journey through Vietnam on his bicycle.

Communion, A Culinary Journey through Vietnam by Kim Fay

Understanding Vietnam by Neil L. Jamieson,
“Throughout the twentieth century the Vietnamese have been in upheaval, wracked by conflicting images of the past, the present, and the future…”

Memories of a Pure Spring and Novel without a Name by Duong Thu Huong.
A portrait of modern Vietnam struggles in the post war regime.

The Book of Salt – Food and exile of a Vietnamese in France in the 1930s by Monique Truong.

The Sacred Willow by Duong Van Mai Elliot – spans 4 generations of a Vietnamese Family from French colonization to WW-2 and thru the Vietnam war.

Fourth Uncle in the Mountain – the legacy of a Buddhist doctor in Vietnam. Set in the Mekong Delta area. Quang Van Nguyen and Marjorie Pivar

Ho Chi Minh: a Political Biography by Jean Lacouture
Ho Chi MinhThe Missing Years, Sophie Quinn-Judge, Horizon Books, Singapore

River of Time, Jon Swain.-British journalist experience during Vietnam & Cambodia War

The River’s Tale– A Year on the Mekong, Edward A. Gargan.

The Girl in the Picture- the story of Vietnam’s most famous war casualty by Denise Chong

The Quiet American, classic by Graham Greene.

The Tapestries by Kien Nguyen – novel based on the life of intrigue of the author’s grandfather who was an embroiderer in the court of the last King of Vietnam during early 1900’s

Caodai Spiritism – a study of religion in Vietnamese society by Victor L Oliver .

Hill Tribes of Vietnam- Joachim Schlesinger – Volume 1- 2

Copyright 2006 by all rights reserved.