Postcards from the Southeast Asian Graffiti Scene

From Malaysia to Indonesia to Vietnam, the graffiti subculture is rich and communal, and distinctly different from each other.

03 January 2019, 7:00am

Southeast Asia has a surprisingly rich graffiti culture. All photos from the author.

For travelers seeking an adventurous and culturally rich experience, Southeast Asia has rarely disappointed. I experienced the same when I sought out the small pockets of graffiti culture within the region.

Growing up in a city free of graffiti on its streets only made the subculture even more mysterious and alluring. With its origins being halfway across the world, I became curious about its existence in the cities closest to me.

I was glad to be welcomed with open arms. Beyond the art, I discovered a unique and warm community of painters and friends, all with their own distinct personalities and spirit, reflective of their own cultures.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Day or night, breakfast or supper, it didn't make a difference. Both were just as good, and the same applied for painting. In an urban jungle with the right amount of grunge, all possibilities existed. It reminded me a lot of being in Singapore, except with a sense of freedom that was usually suppressed.

Huế , Vietnam

Feeling foreign was an understatement as I found myself at a graffiti event with writers of 15 other nationalities. The world seems surreal and condensed when you are among so many different people and experiences converging in one place – that place was a remote village in Huế, Vietnam, which hosted the event aptly named 'Meeting of Styles'.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Bike rides were always the centerpiece of any trip: it was the way the locals shared their best spots to eat and paint. One night I was given a jacket, then taken pillion with no idea where we were going, only to find myself at the base of Mount Merapi an hour later—all just for the view. Indonesian hospitality at its finest.