Morning jostles Assam, prodding people and animals to a new day. Parakeets shriek from treetops while villagers stoke their breakfast fires. Deer feed silently in the brush as storks and adjutants rise on warming air. The sun creeps slowly over fields and hills, illuminating layers of lifting fog. Kaziranga National Park skitters to life. Kaziranga is the oldest national park in the northeast Indian state of Assam. It was created a century ago as a forest reserve by British Viceroy Lord Curzon at the behest of his wife, to protect the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros. Today the park is home to many endangered animals, including the rhino, tigers, elephants, wild buffalo, swamp deer and numerous bird species.
Thailand's Coffin Caves
Between 2,100 and 1,200 years ago, an ancient civilization buried its dead in more than 60 caves in a limestone mountain range in northern Thailand. Who were these people? Why were they buried in caves? Where did they go? No one knows, but their massive teak coffins remain. Meager funding has hampered archaeological work aimed at unraveling the mysterious culture. Meanwhile, the coffins are at the center of local people's beliefs in Spirit People, and are a main draw for an ever-growing tourist trade. Photographer Jerry Redfern and writer Karen Coates went to investigate.
The vast majority of Cambodian children work, a labor imperative for their survival and the survival of their families. In rural areas, kids are expected to work beside their parents on farms. In cities, they are sent out to sell flowers, drinks or shine shoes for extra money. Everywhere, as soon as they are able, children are expected to take care of their younger siblings and take up difficult family chores, work that is usually reserved for parents or servants in the developed world. In Cambodia, kids work everywhere, and form a significant, underreported part of the country's economy. Photographer Jerry Redfern’s photographs are not an essay on the horrors of child labor, but an attempt to portray its ubiquity in a culture that expects kids to work.
A Scent of Thai Food
Take a large wok, lots of heat, some prawns, garlic, lemon grass, lime leaves, fish sauce and a ton of chilies...oh yes and a sprinkling of coriander and you are well on your way to a Scent of Thai food. Photographer Jerry Redfern followed the aroma trail.
Damming Another Chinese River
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has recently ordered the suspension of plans for a series of dams on the pristine Nujiang River, one of only two undammed rivers in China. He said that such a controversial large dam plan should be "seriously reviewed and decided scientifically." Yunnan provincial officials had hoped to build a series of power-generating dams along this “Grand Canyon of the Orient,” the upper reaches of which are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dozens of minority groups call the river home, and even the government newspaper the China Daily says the Nujiang River passes through “one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.”
Mae Salong Tea
The Mae Salong valley was settled by ethnic Chinese allied with the Kuomintang in the middle of the 20th Century. They had been chased out of China by Mao Tse-Tung's Communist forces. They brought their culture with them and created a small corner of China in Northern Thailand. While famous for growing and refining heroin in past decades, in recent years locals have made their living growing world-class Oolong tea, a trade they learned from Taiwanese growers.
Be Unscared: The Cambodian Spirit World
Since May 2006, more than 2,000 refugees from Myanmar have fled to Thailand, following a military offensive in their homeland. These new arrivals – mostly ethnic Karen – moved into Mae Ra Ma Luang and Mae La Oon refugee camps near the border, joining 140,000 Myanmar refugees already in the country. Life can be difficult in these camps, with limited work opportunities and basic living conditions, and refugees relying on aid organizations for most of their needs. While the locations are beautiful, they are remote, making supplies of food and medical care very expensive. And for much of the rainy season, the dirt roads that connect the camps with the outside world are rivers of mud.
Cambodia's Cham Muslims
Cambodia’s Cham Muslims are under increased scrutiny in the international war on terror. Last year, Southeast Asian terrorist Hambali hid unknown in their midst for months and several teachers were arrested at an Islamic institute in the countryside. The vast majority of Chams remain impoverished and isolated. Chams make up less than two percent of Cambodia’s population and are the descendents of an ancient civilization that fought with the kings of Angkor. They were also singled out for slaughter during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.
Cambodia's Slow Train
Travelling by train in Cambodia is a slow affair at best. It takes 14 hours to make the 300-kilometer trip west from the capital Phnom Penh to Battambang, if you’re lucky. Still the route less travelled for adventurous tourists, it remains the main mode of transportation for the poorest of the poor. The rolling stock, mostly cast offs from various European railroads, is now dilapidated, bullet-scarred and the locomotives often break down. After years of turmoil almost none of the foreign investment that is pouring into the country has gone to refurbish this basic transport link.
A Curious Housing Boom
Years of insurgent violence and government counter-violence have chased away thousands of people from Pattani in the South of Thailand. In spite of this, over the last several years, local entrepreneurs have constructed concrete apartment buildings and home additions all over town to house thousands of new residents. Very small residents. It turns out that Pattani is an ideal nesting location for Edible-Nest Swiftlets, whose small, cup-shaped nests of dried spittle are the key ingredient in Chinese bird-nest soup and health drinks.
Sri Lanka Tea
Far from the tsunami-ravaged coastlines and hours from the war-troubled north, inland Sri Lanka is covered in tea. It’s a legacy of the British, who planted these hills with a cash crop that still defines the character of Sri Lankan hill country today. The country produces 300,000 tonnes of tea each year, third in the world behind India and China. Thousands of Tamil pickers toil in hot sun, harsh winds and shivering rain. They live with their families in company towns among the hills, surviving on just a few dollars a day. It’s a harsh life in an exquisite land.
© Copyright 2017 Photos by Jerry Redfern |
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