This online shoebox contains random pictures, notes, whatever. I've been a professional writer-photographer for so many years now. It's a damn good excuse to carry a camera around.

Posted By Lester V Ledesma

#8) The Train to West Java




February 18, Indonesia: The cheapest seats have no frills in the Argo Parahyangan, and they promise a sweltering, three-hour ride in the tropical heat. Yet they also boast a feature that no swanky first-class cabin can ever have: open windows, and side doors you can hang from anytime.


On this train ride to Bandung from Jakarta, its easy to guess what I am planning to do. The trip is uneventful on its first hour, with the usual back city scenes flitting by. Once we hit the countryside, though, things get interesting. The railway slopes up and up, past greenery that makes Jakarta concrete a distant memory. Together with some seatmates – a group of Javanese backpackers – we rush to the train doors to ooh and aah at the surrounding scenery. We stick our heads out whenever the train crosses a mountain bridge. Below the carriage there is nothing but a thin strip of railway, and rice terraces far, far below. The cool highland wind, the stunning view, the rush. Priceless.


Of course, the adventure didn't end there - check out my article on The Ultimate Bandung Weekend.


#7) Osaka's Eat Street



March 30, Japan: There is Japanese food, and then there is Osaka food. For eight days in this country’s Southern culinary capital, I indulged in a food trip like no other. Osaka has been called “The Kitchen of Japan”, and a walk down its Dotombori district explains explain why. On one building façade a huge, motorized octopus beckons would-be gourmands to a helping of takoyaki. On another, a grinning chef robot brandishes kushiyaki sticks like they were nunchuks. There’s also those bizarre balloons that resemble fugu – the poisonous pufferfish – a tasty, somewhat deadly delicacy in these parts. All these came with the Osakan guarantee of perfection. And indeed, they all were. In fact, even the standard Japanese fare – the ramens, the gyozas, the katsu curries – seemed extra tasty when served under Dotombori neon lights.


My tastebuds were pampered, my olfactory senses caressed, but sadness accompanied this gustatory bliss. Because I knew that once I left Osaka, Japanese food would never again be this good.



Posted By Lester V Ledesma
Four months into 2012 and its already been a crazy busy year for me. Ten locations in 12 weeks, so many highlights, so many new experiences. So many new friends.

Quarter '12

And it's only April 2012!

Posted By Lester V Ledesma

Hands, feet, thumbs, ears and dicks:

Just a few of the items you can take home from Bandung's Pasar Baru :)

Posted By Lester V Ledesma
Here's a nice view of Jakarta - and the daily gridlock that surrounds it:


Posted By Lester V Ledesma

I can't believe I did this for work - get drunk on untold shots of Ginebra while interviewing these guys. They're the surfing legends of Baler - possibly the country's first local surfers. On assignment for Smile Magazine, I met up with them to hear their stories on how surfing got started in this town. They told me all about it, of course, with equal parts exaggeration and swagger.


More importantly, they confirmed that long-standing rumor about Baler's first surfboard: yes, it was that single-finned longboard left behind by film crew of that classic war movie, Apocalypse Now.


I always try to be back in the Philippines every Holy Week - it's an immensely interesting time when age-old traditions rule. In 2010, I covered the Makati Senakulo for the second straight year. This was the biblical story of salvation, presented onstage in all its folksy glory. That week, from 9PM till midnight, the back-alleys of Evangelista came alive with the sounds of the tagulaylay and the ablada - lines spoken in very old Tagalog. Backstage was a community event, with visitors arriving to offer food and greetings to the actors. Despite the curtain calls, no character was too busy to stop for a quick chit-chat and photo-op with a guest.


And yeah, I got to share a cigarette with the main man himself :)


I was in Java, not Bali, yet on this eve of Nyepi the sights, the sounds and smells around me were distinctly Balinese. This was the night before the HIndu new year, a time to erase all past misdeeds and renew oneself for the coming year. The locals did this with the help of the ogoh ogoh - a monstrous effigy that symbolized all the evil deeds done in the past year.


At sundown the ritual began. Guided by fire breathers and shrieking villagers, the ogoh ogoh was paraded around the streets. At every crossing it was wildly spun around in an effort to confuse it and keep it from coming back. Somewhere in front, a gamelan troupe furiously played its brass percussions. At the back, the village women sang hymns in Balinese.

The night ended with the ogoh ogoh in flames. All evil deeds were erased. For these villagers, the new year started with a clean slate.



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