Over a decade and a half of reporting in Asia, some stories stand out, either for the writing, the accomplishment of getting the story in difficult situations, the personalities, the intrigue, or the outcome. Here, then are Ron's own personal Greatest Hits.
CAMBODIA'S PAIN, AMERICA'S SHAME - After escaping the Khmer Rouge genocide, hundreds of Cambodian refugees reached safety in America, only to wind up, decades later, deported to a land many never even knew. Blame tightening immigration laws and the hysteria over Homeland Security, as America not only failed to provide promised shelter, but offers no access to appeal, let alone human decency, simply stamping them: Return to Sender.
MEETING A GOD - Even after over four decades in exile, The Dalai Lama never despairs over his dream of returning to Tibet. The world's most renowned spiritual leader welcomes us into his home for weeks of intimate talks on a wide variety of topics. See the intimate profile or read a nearly complete transcript of the interviews with the Dalai Lama, in an exciting period of time when he is giving his annual teachings and visiting with Richard Gere.
BY VOLVO -
What happens when Volvo tosses over the keys for a
road trip to my favorite part of China? Off photographer Luke Duggleby and I go
to flavorful cities Chongqing and Chengdu, to the world's biggest Buddha at
Leshan and the top of sacred mountain Emei-shan, then high into the Tibetan
mountains at the roof of the world.
And we had to shoot hoops with pandas!
NUCLEAR GLOW - Asia is buzzing about the potential of nuclear power, amidst concerns over global warming and energy security. Plans for numerous plans across Southeast Asia has led to a revival of the nuclear industry, and renewed protests from critics. Thailand is leading the way in the new nuclear charge.
INDONESIA - Spears fly and blood flows, as the worms wash ashore in a sexual frenzy when the moon is full over the island of Sumba. Then, and only then does the unique festival of Pasola brings a carnival of killing and sacrifice to the head-hunting tribes of Indonesia.Colombo - Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga came to power promising to end the long war and civil unrest. She's repaired the economy and driven back the Tamil Tigers, but will she be able to bring paradise back to old Ceylon?
Shanghai was the refuge for thousands of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust; they helped turn the Chinese city into one of the most international communities in the world. There were scores of kosher cafes and Austrian bakeries, Jewish boxers, bankers and millionaires. More importantly, there were survivors, lots of them in the Shanghai Jewish community
THE LAST GREAT PLACE - That's what admirers call Mongolia, a land of blue skies and endless space, with few fences, rules or comforts. But for those looking for adventure, it may well be the last great place.
THE BUZZ ABOUT BHUTAN - Long hidden at the very rooftop of world, the tiny kingdom of Bhutan has banked both on its remote location and a policy of extreme isolation to preserve its culture. But now, in welcoming the world, many wonder if this precious Shangri-la can survive its own significant buzz.
INSIDE NORTH KOREA - Is Kim Jung-Il ready to fall, or is the wacky Jr Dictator really rolling in donated rice and nuclear revenue? Nobody knows, and it's all speculation, until you take a tour of the Axis of Evil. We slip, on the sly, inside the People's Paradise.
UNEASY RIDER - He's the Rip Van Winkle of the road, the Prince of Pedal Power. After nearly four decades, Heinze Stucke has circled the globe more than 10 times, and is still going strong in the Bikeman's Amazing Adventure.
AROUND THE WORLD - In late 1997, we sold or shipped off all our worldly possessions and set off on the global journey we had always dreamed about. It wasn't always a romp, but the trip of our lifetime taught us much, including the true meaning of time
Galapagos - Popularized by Darwin and populated by near-prehistoric creatures which supposedly invented surfing centuries ago, these islands off the coast from Ecuador truly constitute another world. One where animals are free from fear, and visitors can marvel at the magic of watching evolution in action.
AUSTRALIA - Way Down Under, where rivers and lakes are dry and men race boats, legs wiggling out the bottom, one gets jaded by all the oddities. Until you arrive at Coober Pedy, the cave city featured in "Mad Max" as well as "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the latter notably for portraying the place as something other than a nuclear wasteland. See why in Home Under The Range.
JAPAN - the Japanese weren't satisfied with the mood swings of Mother Nature, so they built an enclosed ocean paradise, just a stone's throw from a real beach. At Ocean Dome, the surf's always up at the Indoor Beach
Tahiti - Dreamy blue seas, gentle breezes, hula skirts, sexy smiles and aimless mirth, but the French brought trouble to paradise when they started nuclear testing in the South Pacific. An indepth look at the turmoil in Trouble in Paradise, or take a satirical tour of the protests in No Boom Boom here please.
NORTH KOREA - the title for the world's weirdest country is no contest. The Hermit Kingdom defies belief in winning the crown hands-down. In fact, North Korea is not only the weirdest place that I've ever been, it's also takes the five runner-up slots. I made a rare visit in 1991, and you can join me on a train tour to Pyongyang.
THE PHILIPPINES - was Asia's first nation to abolish the death penalty in 1987, only to become one of the world's only countries to reinstate executions less than a decade later. Over 1,000 men and women languish upon Death Row, while the nation remains in an uproar over the handful of executions held in 1999. Two reports, a lengthy inside story on Death Row and Manila's death penalty dilemma.
SULU SEA - The Sulu Sea - Kevin Costner squandered hundreds of millions of dollars building a fantasy world covered by water. In the wild, pirate-infested seas between Borneo and the Philippines, Sea Gypsies live their entire lives in a genuine Waterworld.
CULTURAL REVOLUTION CRUISIN' - Not nearly Beijing Graffiti, still a tour of the capital in a Red Flag stretch limo is surely the biggest kick in years. Who knows, we may be driving Mrs. Mao's car!
FORGOTTEN FRONTIER - Space was once the Final Frontier, the ultimate challenge. Then, the madness of Moon Landings faded and space was forgotten. But no more. Perhaps a few decades behind the rest of the pack, China is reviving the Space Race.
BOYCOTT BURMA? That's the word from Britain, where hardliners want Lonely Planet to pull its guide. Tour with Lonely Planet's Tony and Maureen Wheeler to find out why they refuse to blindly bow to book-ban bullies.
ASIA'S HOTTEST NEW BEACH - Is a blast from the past, as in five-centuries ago. Better known for hippie huts and all-night raves, this lush, laid-back coast is making a comeback, as tourists and five-star new resorts herald a rediscovery of groovy Goa.
Arthur C. Clarke - in a tiny corner of South Asia, the crusty science fiction writer continues to tap out his vision of the future, scripting his own "Final Odyssey."
THE ELEPHANT WOODSTOCK - Every year, they come to feed, frolic, fight and mate in full view of joyous spectators. Earlier, as many as 50 elephants at a time paraded through the streets of Kandy for the spectacular Perahera, but hundred more make the annual trek to "The Gathering."
Leo and Keanu from the web;
Old Shanghai from the archives; Heinz Stucke from the
Coober Pedy and Pasola by David Paul Morris; ; death row by Edwin Tutay;
Sulu Sea and Cambodian with tattoos courtesy of Stuart Isett (©2008 Stuart Isett - http://isett.com)
Namibia Ron by Jolanda; the rest by Ron Gluckman
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