1. The Philippines were NOT discovered by Ferdinand Magellan.

Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to visit the Philippines. However, as per historical records, the islands initially had different Hindu kingdoms, such as the kingdom of Cebu, where Magellan and subsequent Spanish settlers arrived. These Filipino kingdoms had trade with China, Malay kingdoms and the Srivijaya kingdom of Indonesia. Ferdinand Magellan was killed in Cebu while trying to interfere with the local politics. He was also responsible for the Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines.

Ferdinand Magellan
  1. The Philippines have been under a colonial rule thrice – by the Spanish, American and Japanese.

Magellan, after his arrival in 1521, claimed the archipelago and in 1565, colonization began with the arrival of the Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi in Cebu. This colonial rule lasted until 1898, when the First Philippine Republic was proclaimed. However, as the Spanish-American war moved to the Philippines, Spain was defeated and Americans did not recognize this newly formed Republic. Hence, the Philippine-American war broke out and this led to the takeover of the archipelago by the US. Again, during the World War II, in 1942, the islands came under a Japanese occupation. The largest naval war was fought in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf when the Allied forces liberated Philippines from Japanese occupation. On 4th of July, 1946, the same date as the American Independence Day, the Philippines became an independent nation which exists today. However, the official Independence Day of Philippines is regarded as 12th June 1898, when they were liberated from Spain.

Declaration of the Filipino independence from the US, 1946
  1. The Filipino flag is flow upside down during war.

According to Chapter 1 Section 10 of the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, the Filipino flag should be flown with blue on top in times of peace and red on top in times of war. However, in 2016, on the Independence Day, Facebook posted the flag upside down, indicating that it was at war. It deleted the post and apologized after realising their mistake.

  1. Filipinos eat eggs with duck embryos.

Yes, you read that right, ‘balut’ is a common street food in the Philippines. It is boiled the egg of a Mallard duck with an embryo. Hence, a partially developed embryo gets killed in the boiling process. For this reason, it is considered as a ‘haram’ in Islam and several animal welfare organisations wish to ban it.

  1. The thousands of islands and the untouched beaches of Philippines

If you are a beach lover, beaches in Philippines must be on your travel itinerary. Being thousands of islands (7641 to be exact) and the west coast not being exposed to a major ocean directly, there are numerous untouched beaches, where you can just relax without the disturbance of hawkers, noise, etc.

The beach at Calayan island
Not just the beaches, the beach beauties are equally beautiful :p


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Magellan
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippines
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_independence_days
  4. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/06/13/facebook-accidentally-declares-the-philippines-is-at-war/
  5. https://www.quora.com/If-the-Philippines-national-flag-is-flown-upside-down-does-it-mean-war
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balut_(food)
  7. https://www.philippinebeaches.org/30-most-beautiful-beaches-in-the-philippines/
  8. https://wanderwisdom.com/travel-destinations/A-JOURNEY-TO-PARADISE




  1. Java – the programming language is also the name of an Indonesian island.

The programming language ‘Java’, designed by James Gosling’s team gets its name from Java coffee. This coffee, in turn, gets its name from the island ‘Java’ in Indonesia where it originated. The Dutch began the cultivation of coffee on this island during Indonesia’s colonial period and were responsible for its widespread fame in the western world. The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta also lies on the island of Java.

  1. The attachment to Hindu culture

Although Indonesia is 87% Muslim, Indian culture, just as on other South East Asian nations, has had a significant impact on Indonesia and this exists even today. The island of Bali is predominantly Hindu and dances on Ramayana are performed on festivals. Hindu and Buddhist temples are Indonesian marvels. One of Indonesia’s main airlines – Srivijaya Air is named after the ancient Hindu kingdom of Srivijaya in Indonesia. Moreover, despite being a Muslim nation, the Indonesian rupiah has an image of the Hindu god Ganapati, one of the most revered figures of Hinduism. The national emblem of Indonesia is also called the Garuda Pancasila, where Garuda is the Sanskrit word for eagle, the vahana of Lord Vishnu.


Balinese Ramayana dance



The Indonesian rupiah


Garuda Pancaslia, the national emblem of Indonesia
  1. Indonesia is a bio-diversity hub.

Borneo is the largest Island of Asia, split up into three different countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The Indonesian part is referred to as Kalimantan. When one talks about bio-diversity, Indonesia, and especially the island of Borneo obviously needs a mention. It is the home to several flora and fauna. Indonesia is one of the bio-diversity hotspots of the world. Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower is also found here, especially on the islands of Borneo, Sumatra and Java.


An orangutan in Borneo



World bio-diversity hotspots






  1. One of the most violent volcanic eruptions occurred in Indonesia.

Indonesia consists of thousands of islands, of which some are volcanic. The island of Krakatoa/Krakatau, in the Sunda strait between the islands of Sumatra and Java experienced one of the most violent volcanic eruptions in the history of mankind, in 1883, which was heard as far as in Mauritius and Australia. This eruption destroyed about two third of the island. In 1927, a part of the island broke out and was named as Anak Krakatoa, where ‘Anak’ means ‘child’ in Indonesian. This island is the current epicentre of the volcanic activity, with the most recent eruption in 1991.


A GIF showing the evolution of the Krakatoa islands


  1. Indonesia created a flower named for Kim Il Sung.

A genetically modified plant named after Kim Il Sung, the eternal President of North Korea was created in Indonesia during Kim Il Sung’s state visit to meet Sukarno, the first President of Indonesia, which was named as Kimilsungia. Interestingly, Kimjongilia is also a specially created flower for Kim Jong Il by a Japanese botanist. However, none of Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia are the national flowers of North Korea or Indonesia.






  1. http://www.ashleyellis.com/2013/09/the-origins-of-computer-programming-languages/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_production_in_Indonesia#Java
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Indonesia
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_emblem_of_Indonesia
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafflesia
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krakatoa#Anak_Krakatau
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimilsungia



The crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman announced that he would make Saudi follow a moderate form of Islam. Saudi Arabia is well known for its mass human rights violations, especially against non-Muslims and those who question Islamic practices. It is also regarded as the birthplace of Wahhabism, the extreme Islamic ideology who gave birth to terrorist organisations like the ISIS. Let us have a look at some of the interesting facts about this absolute monarchic kingdom:

  1. Saudi Arabia has the longest straight road in the world.

The Saudi national highway 10 from Haradh to Al Batha is the longest straight road in the world, i.e. it runs parallel to the latitude without twists or turns. This straight road is 193 km long. Since it runs through a desert without any major landscape, it was possible to build it this way.

Saudi highway 10
  1. It never hesitates in sending aid to the underdeveloped world.

On a per capita basis, Saudi Arabia is the highest donor of aid to the developing world. However, most of this aid goes only to Sunni Muslim nations. As an example, after the 2004 Indian ocean earthquake, Saudi Arabia donated $30 million of aid whereas, after the Pakistani floods of 2010, they donated about $360 million. Saudi Arabia was also accused to be the least generous donor to Syrian refugees, escaping the Syrian civil war, as Syria is a Shia Muslim nation. Saudi Arabia, like other Gulf countries, also extends direct and undisclosed aid to friendly and other Muslim countries, helping them in emergencies and providing balance-of-payments supports. The kingdom also provides aid by purchasing essential commodities for needy countries.

  1. Saudi is building the tallest building in the world.

The Jeddah Tower/Kingdom Tower will surpass the height of Burj Khalifa when completed. The height of this tower would be 1 km.

An artistic impression of the Jeddah Tower
  1. Saudi Arabia has bullet trains.

While we are waiting for the Mumbai Ahmedabad bullet train service, Saudi has started operating high-speed trains between Mecca and Madina for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, travelling above 300 km/h. The project is called the Haramain High Speed Rail Project which opened in July 2017. Talgo trains are being used for this service.

  1. Riyadh metro

The Riyadh metro is under construction and is expected to change the lives of daily commuters in the city with 6 lines of 176 km of rail length. It would have driverless trains and platform screen doors. This technology is also being used in Delhi metro’s pink line.



  1. https://www.thenational.ae/business/saudi-foreign-aid-untied-and-praiseworthy-1.566843
  2. http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/639826/Saudi-Arabia-Syrian-Civl-War-Islamic-State-Fair-Share-Foreign-Aid-Budget-Middle-East
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_foreign_assistance
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeddah_Tower
  5. http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/delhi-metro-pink-line-majlis-park-shiv-vihar-mayur-vihar-i-trilokpuri-rajiv-chowk-dmrc-longest-corridor/869653/
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haramain_High_Speed_Rail_Project





Bangladesh, with an ever-rising economy, truly has the potential to be the regional power of South Asia alongside India. Today, although it has a significant poverty, more and more people are being added to middle class every year. Big cities like Dhaka are getting more and more equipped with modern facilities like malls and hotels. Although there can be several stories of its success, here’s my compilation of the wonderful facts of Bangladesh.

  1. Bangladesh is building the third highest building in the world.

The 142 storey, 743 metres high Grand Iconic tower in Dhaka on completion will be the third highest building in the world, after the under-construction Jeddah Tower and Burj Khalifa and the tallest building on the Indian subcontinent. The construction will start in 2018.

An artist’s impression of the Iconic Towers
  1. Bangladesh is a leading textile exporter.

The textile industry is the highest contributor to the exports of Bangladesh, due to a demand for cheap textiles. These textiles are exported to as far as USA, Canada and Europe. Surprisingly, one of my brother’s t-shirts also carried a label ‘Made in Bangladesh’. In 2016, textiles accounted for 86% of the country’s exports.

  1. Although Bangladesh separated from Pakistan which left the country in a devastating state, it is growing much faster than Pakistan.

Today Pakistan is in a miserable state with a dysfunctional democracy, dominance by the military and rebellions for independence in Balochistan and Pak occupied Kashmir. Amidst all this chaos, Bangladesh has managed to retain the image of one of the fastest growing economies. In 2016, Bangladesh grew at 6.92%, faster than India and China and much faster than Pakistan, at 4.7%. Devastated economies like Zimbabwe also grew faster than Pakistan in the same year.


  1. Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh has the world’s longest beach.

Cox’s Bazar is a town in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh. It has a 120 km long unbroken sea beach, which is the longest beach in the world. Yet, despite its natural beauty, it is not a major international tourist destination.

  1. Bangladesh has some of the most fertile lands and the broadest rivers.

The two broadest rivers of India – Ganga and Brahmaputra merge in Bangladesh to form river Padma. Hence, one can imagine the breadth and the fertility of the soil on its banks. The delta of these rivers is also the largest in the world. The Bangabandhu bridge built on river Brahmaputra is 5.63 km long and the sixth largest in South Asia. These rivers are well suited for fishing, transportation and their soil for cultivating rice, jute, etc.

Rivers of Bangladesh


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iconic_Towers
  2. https://www.worldfinance.com/markets/bangladesh-textiles-industry-set-global-export-record
  3. http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-pakistan-bangladesh-textiles/textiles-on-the-move-from-pakistan-to-bangladesh-idUKTRE77T11020110830
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_real_GDP_growth_rate
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cox%27s_Bazar


Pakistan is a bad light today after a huge shame by their Permanent Secretary to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi. Ironically, the word ‘Pak’ in Urdu means ‘pure’ and hence, ‘Pakistan’ literally means ‘The land of the pure’. Let us have a look at five good facts about our ‘beloved’ neighbour.

  1. Pakistan is a haven for not only terrorists but also for street food lovers.

One must not forget that although the government is making Pakistan more and more Arabianized, its roots are still Indian. Major cities like Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar have thriving street food lanes. All types of Indian, Persian and Arabian street food is found there. Some of the delicacies are pizzas, bun kebabs, kachoris, samosas, gol gappas, pakoras, jalebis, etc.

Chicken shawarma
  1. World’s second highest peak – K2 is located in Pak occupied Kashmir.

K2 is the world’s second highest point after Mt. Everest. The ‘K’ in K2 comes from the Karakoram range. In fact, when one talks about Pakistan, one can’t forget the majestic beauty of the Karakorams and the lakes of Gilgit Baltistan in Pak occupied Kashmir. This mountain also has the second highest fatality rate with every one climber dying out of four who make it. Due to such steep slopes, not many have ventured it as compared to Mount Everest.

  1. All footballs used in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil were made in Pakistan.

Pakistan is the world’s football manufacturing hub. The Brazuca – the official balls of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil were manufactured at Sialkot. In 2014, Sialkot alone manufactured about 40% of the world’s footballs. The story of it being a football hub dates to the colonial times when the British awarded a contract for manufacturing these balls to a local saddle maker.

A manufacturer in Sialkot with Brazucas
  1. Lahore has a metro bus system.

Similar to elevated metro rail in most metropolitan cities in the world, Lahore has come up with a new concept of a metro bus. These buses are similar to BRTS buses in Ahmedabad and a few other cities except that they run on dedicated elevated roads. All bus stops have a proper arrangement for seating and are well equipped with facilities like railway stations. The service was launched in 2014.

  1. Pakistan is the home to world’s oldest and most advanced civilizations – the Harappan civilization.

This isn’t something new but the namesake river of India – Indus flows mainly through Pakistan. The name ‘Hindu’ was also derived from the Sanskrit name of the Indus river ‘Sindhu’. It is also the birthplace of the Harappan civilization and the Indo-Aryans. Today, most of the excavated sites such as Mohenjo-Daro and Vedic universities like Takshashila are located in Pakistan.

Sites of the Harappan civilization


  1. http://locallylahore.com/blog/16-mouth-watering-street-foods-lahore-street-food-king-food/
  2. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdBfFZKwUI1k7TCUQQmb5eg/videos
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K2
  4. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/one-city-in-pakistan-produces-nearly-half-of-the-worlds-soccer-balls/373802/
  5. http://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/pakistan-to-produce-world-cup-soccer-balls/article6033687.ece
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7cIgEj-mdQ&t=208s
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lahore_Metrobus






While reading the title, you might be thinking what good can this hermit, isolated kingdom do? Does it do anything else apart from nuclear tests, making hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles? Definitely, yes. Have a look at some of the interesting good facts about North Korea: –

  1. North Korea has 100% literacy rate.

According to the UNESCO, North Korea has the highest literacy rate in the world, at 100%. This means that although their citizens do not get food, it is mandatory for them to be educated, as the norm is, in several Communist countries. In India too, Tripura, which is governed by Communist governments, has a literacy rate of 94%, far better than any macro-state.


  1. World’s largest stadium is located in Pyongyang, North Korea.

The Rungardo May Day Stadium, or Rungardo 1st of May Stadium in Pyongyang is officially the largest stadium in the world by seating capacity. It has a seating capacity of 114,000. The population of North Korea is about 25 million; hence, about 0.4% of the population can be seated in this stadium at a time. This ratio (seating capacity to population) is probably the highest in the world. The stadium is used for football and athletics events. Pyongyang also has a bunch of other stadiums such as the Yanggakdo Stadium, Kim Il Sung Stadium, etc.

  1. The east coast city of Wonsan has one of the most beautiful and clear beaches.

Wonsan is a historic port city on the east coast of North Korea. It is a famous tourist destination for locals as well as foreigners. It also has beautiful beaches with clear waters. The North Korean government has also proposed to build an underwater hotel to boost tourism here.

  1. Pyongyang’s underground metro is one of the oldest and deepest in the world.

Ever heard about the Pyongyang metro? It became operational in 1973, one year prior to Seoul Metro. It is about 110 metres deep and claims to be the world’s deepest. It consists of two lines. The trains were imported from Germany, which were formerly used on the Berlin metro. All the advertising was removed and replaced with the photos of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

Puhung station of the Pyongyang metro
  1. World’s tallest uncompleted building is located in Pyongyang, North Korea.

The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang is a 105-storey unopened hotel in Pyongyang. It is the tallest unopened building in the world. It is also the tallest building in Pyongyang and defines the city’s skyline. The construction began in 1987 but was halted due to a period of economic slowdown. It suffered subsequent delays and was completed only in 2011. As of now, it has not yet been opened.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_states_ranking_by_literacy_rate
  3. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/Tripura-beats-Kerala-in-literacy/articleshow/22416019.cms
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stadiums_by_capacity
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rungrado_1st_of_May_Stadium
  6. https://www.google.co.in/maps/@39.0498023,125.7753243,321m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en&authuser=0
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonsan
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/23/north-korea-plans-underwater-hotel-wonsan-tourist-city
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyongyang_Metro
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryugyong_Hotel

A Country – What Does It Mean?

A Country – What Does It Mean?

We have a world, divided into numerous countries, nations or states, as you may call it; however, the three terms, although used synonymously, are different. A country is the geographical land; a nation is the people residing on that land while a state is the government of that land.

If you ever get a question asking, “How many countries exist in this world today?” What would be your answer? Unfortunately, here the answer may differ person to person because it all depends on what exactly do you consider as a country. Many states do not recognize Israel, Abkhazia, Kosovo, etc. and hence, their count may differ. We currently have 193 members in the United Nations, however there are a few sovereign nations like The Holy See and many claimed-to-be sovereign nations like Somaliland which are not UN members, and hence, this answer also stands inaccurate.

So what is a sovereign nation? A nation which manages its internal and external affairs without the intervention of any foreign body can be called as a sovereign state. Thus, this definition excludes protectorates, autonomous regions and dependencies.

Going apart from this legality, the form of nations that exist today wasn’t the same a few centuries ago. Then, the word ‘kingdom’ or ‘empire’ was more suitable. Have you ever heard anything like the ‘nation of Mughals’? No, because the word ‘nation’ first came into existence with the formation of nation-states. A nation state is essentially a state that controls an ethnic group of people, has a well-defined territory and (usually) has a Constitution of its own and a well-formed government.

In the earlier periods, what we had was kingdoms and empires. An empire was essentially a large kingdom. The son of the king used to inherit the throne, and when the king grew wild enough, the entire dynasty used to be replaced by a new one, taken over by another kingdom, or would split into several small kingdoms. Neither did they have a well-defined territory, their territorial area was highly variable as constant fights between neighbouring kingdoms were frequent and usually nobody shared peaceful relations. The focus of the state was more on expanding its frontiers rather than increasing the standard of living of its people.

In a first in the medieval world, this autocracy of dynasties was ousted in the French Revolution, which led to the concept of a nation state. England divided its government into the judiciary, legislature and executive which became the ground for many modern governments including that of the Republic of India. The formation of America in 1776 further strengthened these modern concepts. However, it was only in Europe that the word ‘nation’ first came into existence.

The story of formation of different nations is different, some of which are highly unique. Some nations were formed by proclaiming themselves as nation states, as those in Europe; some nations like Liberia were specially created for the people of a certain community to stay; some of the nations like Russia and Kazakhstan broke away from past larger nations. Some of the nations like South Sudan were created as a result of referendums; such stories can be told about each and every nation in the world, hence there is no point in describing each story in detail to increase the length of this already long article!

Coming over to India, it was regarded only as a region of Hindus which used to lie to the east of river Indus, from which India derived its name and to the west of the Eastern Himalayas. Once upon a time there existed the Harappan and the Vedic civilization, which were the base stones for a modern India. We then had rulers like Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka and the legendary Bharata, from whom Bharat (India) derived its name. We then had numerous rulers ruling our state and various small kingdoms too. Soon, the British East India Company took over the control of most of the parts, which was handed over to the British Parliament in 1858. The British didn’t have full control over the entire Indian ‘region’; many of the princely states were only under their suzerainty. The modern India was formed by the division of British India into India and Pakistan and as a union of these princely states with the Dominion of India, then in 1947; else, we would have had more than 565 states today in South Asia, which is almost thrice larger than the total number of states existing today!

The extent of Ashoka’s empire (pic from Wikipedia)

Thus, the formation of any nation hasn’t been as easy as cutting a cake. There has been a loss of lives of more than a billion people by now in wars, crimes, genocides, etc. Many people have voluntarily shed their blood for creating their dream states. Hence, a nation or a country is not merely a concept of geopolitical fiction; it involves the people, their thoughts, their ideas, their creativity, their intellect. Hence, as the citizens of a nation, it’s our responsibility to take it ahead as the sun shines!