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




On 14th of September, the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi and that of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for India’s first high-speed rail project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Well, that’s not a new news. Although the first passenger train was run in India between Bori Bunder in Mumbai and Thane, the first goods train ran much earlier, in 1837, in Madras (today’s Chennai).After 180 years today, the most debated and controversial bullet train project’s work finally takes off. The project is labelled as controversial not by me, but several railway haters across the country; so let us answer their arguments one by one.


Argument 1: Why waste $17 billion on a project in a poverty stridden nation?

Answer: India is not paying the entire cost of this project on its own. Almost 80% of the cost will be met with a soft, friendly loan from Japan at the rate of 0.1% per annum, whose repayment will start when the project cost will be recovered. Also, when China started building its HSR, in the 1990s, it also had a significant poverty rate. This project would actually help to alleviate poverty by generating jobs.

Argument 2: Instead of building a new bullet train project, why not improve the existing rail services?

Answer: The point is valid but again, the funding for this project is being done by Japan who won’t give that loan for improving our existing rail infrastructure. The best way to do that, according to me is semi-privatising the Indian railways.

Argument 3: Developed economies like USA don’t have high-speed rail. Why should we invest our time and money in this?

Answer: USA has a substandard railway infrastructure as compared to their economic standards, which is one of the most pathetic in the developed world. Very few lines in USA are electrified. Additionally, the railway only serves a few major cities and no passenger train serves interior states like Wyoming. The domestic transport in USA hence is mostly through the air as the country has excellent airports all over.

Argument 4: The bullet trains will be imported from Japan, so what about ‘Make in India’?

Answer: This is correct. However, only the initial rolling stock will be imported from Japan. Later, the trains will be manufactured in India using transfer of technology from Japan.

Argument 5: Why run a bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad? Why not between major cities?

Answer: The Mumbai – Ahmedabad line is the initial stage and not the only one to be built. There is a plan for a second line between Delhi and Amritsar via Chandigarh. The Mumbai – Ahmedabad line is also expected to be extended till Pune. Finally, when Ahmedabad and Delhi are also linked, we could probably see a full 2000 km high speed railway line between Pune and Amritsar. Today, I also read I TOI about Maharashtra government’s ambitious plan to link Mumbai and Nagpur too!

Argument 6: A bullet train would take 2 hours whereas a plane takes 1 to 1:30 hours. So, isn’t a plane faster?

Answer: Yes, it is. However, we are considering only the inflight time. The time taken to reach the airport, checking in, security check, waiting near the boarding gates and time taken for taxiing takes the total time to almost 4 hours. However, adding the time taken to reach the railway station, waiting, etc. wouldn’t cost more than 3 hours for a bullet train.

Argument 7: The project won’t be profitable.

Answer: There were similar criticisms on the metro projects until people realised their worth. Also, a majority of the travellers would be rich businessmen who wouldn’t have many problems with the fare system. The trains will also halt at intermediate stations, some of them being huge cities like Surat and Vadodara, to make it more profitable.

Argument 8: We already have an unsafe railway system. What if there are accidents with the bullet train?

Answer: Shubh shubh boliye! There is a track of zero accidents on bullet trains in Japan and since the same technology is used in India, there won’t be any technical fault provided the trains and tracks are well maintained and drivers drive sensibly.

Argument 9: Mumbai and Gujarat are prone to severe flooding in the monsoon. Won’t this affect the trains?

Answer: The track is fully elevated and hence just as the metro, water logging won’t affect its services.

There are several advantages to this project, some of which, according to me are: –

  1. Use of renewable energy (electricity) for high-speed transport, at a speed comparable to air travel. Recollect that aeroplanes run on expensive petrol.
  2. Decreasing the load on the conventional railway line which could be used more for transportation of goods in a future manufacturing economy.
  3. Japanese technology would be subsequently used to manufacture high-speed trains in India.
  4. Currently, only 3-4 nations (Japan, China, France and Belgium) have trains running at more than 320 km/h. India would soon join this ivy league.

New technologies are inevitable. Haters will always criticise it. Some people had also questioned the usage of computers, mobile phones, internet, IoT, self-driving cars, etc. citing irrational reasons of losing jobs, robots taking over the world and several fake predictions of their own. It is best to accept new technologies and move on. After all, technologies change humans, they create our future!