There are a number of interesting essays that emerged from this, but I particularly liked Ekaterina Seda's 'Challenges of Writing Alternate History Set in Other Cultures' and previously mentioned Jess Nevins' 'The Problem with Asian Steampunk'.
I would also highly recommend John Leavitt's 'Getting Around In A Steampunk World' for a good overview. It still doesn't quite answer some of my questions regarding historical distances and travel speeds that I think we need for Steampunk set in Southeast Asia, but all in due time, I suppose.
Meanwhile, here's an interesting bamboo microscope using a x20 lens from the non-profit Jodo Gyan:
They carve the microscopes themselves. For $4, cash-strapped schools in India can now buy a simple bamboo microscope that will introduce students to an absolutely essential, but typically expensive scientific tool.
I'm intrigued because it's a great example of what could have been possible even earlier, with proper application of science and education in a community. If you get a chance to, please be sure to support them.