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From Tequila to Tea: A Different Kind of Detox

Posted on 30 July 2013 by MarkLean

A recent realignment in career direction has taken me from Asia’s bright lights, big cities and tequila bars to the town where I grew up, Ipoh, a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur on an expressway that snakes through hills and valleys.

In this city, formerly the world’s most prolific tin mining hub, the pace of life and traffic rolls along peacefully like the undulations of the postcard-perfect limestone hills that encircle the city like a natural fort. It’s also home, and as I get older, this takes on greater meaning. Home can be a place that gives us roots, giving a reassurance of belonging and familiarity and the knowing that no matter where we venture in the world or where we end up; there is always a place we can return to recharge and recalibrate.

So one Sunday, on an errand to buy top soil for my mother’s Rangoon Creepers, I find myself in a richly foliaged garden center stocked with the normal supplies and the rather unusual set-up of a table with a stand for tea. There, two men can be seen sipping from cups of hot water brewed not from tea leaves but from tiny pieces of wood. A chat with one of the men, Chai Enge Seng, reveals the tea derives from the wood of the various amber-colored barks and trunks, filling the garden nursery.

Chai tells me that the species, known in the wild as raja kayu or wood king, and as the garden variety cassia fistula, is sacred to the area’s indigenous people who never fell the trees, taking its barks and branches instead. Raja kayu is known to tap into the earth’s positive electromagnetic energy sources, and with each tree’s height and reach, good vibes are radiated to the rest of the jungle, keeping a calm equilibrium in what must probably be something comparable to the wild west of the tropics.

There is a story of an elephant that rampaged through a section of forest, devouring bananas, but the raja kayu was left untouched. The indigenous people who live in the jungles around Ipoh use barks from the raja kayu in their wells and other sources, to purify the water supply. While taking tea, Chai gives a quick chemistry class demonstration: he places four drops of iodine each into two canisters, one containing tap water; the other water from the raja kayu tea. The former turns a murky yellow; while the latter maintains its clarity.

The entrepreneurial plant nursery owner has created a variety of raja kayu products – tea, facial cleanser, shower cream, and beauty potion, all of which are based on the tree’s lab-tested detoxification benefits. I ask him about his future plans. “A spa, perhaps,” he replies, smiling.

Taking tea

Taking tea

Lined up

Lined up

The nursery

The nursery

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Walking through Culture in Kyoto

Posted on 01 February 2010 by Nellie Huang

I throw out my fortune-telling sticks in Kyoto’s Kiyomizu temple; my Japanese friends translates, ‘You will have good fortune in 2010.’ I’ve never been a believer of such old-fashioned predicaments, but it’s hard not to fall for this. I am after all, in Kyoto, a gorgeous prefecture in Japan, littered with vermillion temples, emerald green gardens and towering mountains.  I thank my blessings and continue to explore the cultural capital of Japan. I’ll let my photos do the talking, bringing you through a fusion of culture, street life and faith.

The bright vermillion pavillion in the holy grounds of Kiyomizu Temple, one of the most popular temples in Kyoto.

The bright vermillion pavillion in the holy grounds of Kiyomizu Temple, one of the most popular temples in Kyoto.

Kiyomizu Temple stands above the city, offering impressive panoramas of the area.

Kiyomizu Temple stands above the city, offering impressive panoramas of the area.

Ladies dressed in traditional kimono make their way to offer their prayers at Kiyomizu Temple.

Ladies dressed in traditional kimono make their way to offer their prayers at Kiyomizu Temple.

Tatami restaurants alfresco-style along the streets of Kyoto.

Tatami restaurants alfresco-style along the streets of Kyoto.

A young geisha draws in the crowd with her beautiful traditional costume.

A young geisha draws in the crowd with her beautiful traditional costume.

A Japanese rickshaw driver on the road.

A Japanese rickshaw driver on the road.

Sun sets over the golden rooftop of the Bydo-Inn Temple.

Sun sets over the golden rooftop of the Bydo-Inn Temple.

Bydo-Inn, an ancient temple rising above a lake, gives an interesting peek into Japanese religious history.

Bydo-Inn, an ancient temple rising above a lake, gives an interesting peek into Japanese religious history.

Red Gates are ubiquitious in the streets of Kyoto as a symbol of their beliefs. This red gate stands across the gate of Byodo-Inn.

The Red Gate Across the Entrance of Byodo-Inn

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Amy Ma

Food & Drink + Hong Kong

Amy is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal amongst other publications. [...]

Pua Mench

Hong Kong

Pua is a writing and traveling enthusiast based in Hong Kong, with a weakness for all things related to the culinary arts and healing modalities, and a passion for sustainable living. [...]

Kim Inglis

Wellness Spa

Kim has been an editor and journalist for over 20 years, more than half of which has been spent in Asia. [...]

Nellie Huang

Travel Adventures + Singapore

Nellie has been published in Food & Travel magazine and Lifestyle, and is a contributing author of V!VA's Guatemala Guidebook. She writes to travel, and travels to write. [...]

Sarah Jane Evans

Travel Adventures + Borneo

She has published travel articles in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia in publications including: Vacations and Travel magazine... [...]

Carrie Kellenberger

Photo Blog + Taiwan

She has traveled throughout Asia, finding work as a writer, editor, educator, voice over artist, photographer, and nightclub singer. [...]

Mark Lean

Kuala Lumpur

From writing about music, Mark expanded his focus to design, fashion, food and travel. In recent years, he has explored the highs and lows of Asia. [...]

Joel Quenby

Entertainment + Asia News

Joel is a British writer and journalist who's lived, worked and traveled in Southeast Asia since 2002. He's filed yarns for numerous publications...[...]

Alex Gunn

Chiang Mai

After several diverse careers as a circus performer, school teacher, psychotherapist, stunt pilot and university lecturer he can now be found poking about far flung markets, museums, restaurants and odd places in and around Chiang Mai.. [...]