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November 29-December 5, 2013

YAKS FOR HAUTE COUTURE


November 29-December 5, 2013

| November 29-December 5, 2013

Contents View

Tacloban’s dark days Fashion

Yaks for haute couture

We e k l y B r i e f i n g

Asia's weather woes


| November 29-December 5, 2013

November 29-December 5, 2013

Contents Life

Going down the brain drain in Asia

Life

China's new family policy

Business

Creating the next Asian global name Lifestyle

Selfie-made business


November 29-December 5, 2013

Contents Food

A streetfood showdown

Travel

Sand and Sanskrit

>>DATEBOOK

Happenings around Asia

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| November 29-December 5, 2013

WEEKLY BRIEFING

AFP

Supertyphoon Haiyan in the Philippines 5,235

AN AERIAL VIEW OF A PART OF EASTERN VISAYAS STRUCK BY TYPHOON HAIYAN

lives were taken when supertyphoon Haiyan swept through and devastated the Eastern Visayas region. The number is still being added to as search and rescue continues amid relief efforts.

1,613 people are still reported missing.

SUPERTYPHOON HAIYAN SPED TOWARDS THE PHILIPPINES AT 305KPH

23,500 number of recorded injured in wake of the disaster.


WEEKLY BRIEFING

VILLAGERS LIVING CLOSE TO MT. SINABUNG LEAVE THEIR HOMES IN TRUCKS

15,000 people fled their homes in the surrounding villages as the rumbling Mt. Sinabung in western Sumatra, which was dormant for many years until 2010, continues to spew out hot volcanic rocks and ash, threatening a massive eruption.

10,000 metres height to which the volcano shot hot ash, gas and rocks at temperatures up to 200 0C.

US$3.4m estimated amount of financial losses suffered by farmers living near the volcano.

AFP

Mt. Sinabung threatens to erupt in Indonesia

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WEEKLY BRIEFING

Heavy rain and floods in Vietnam, Malaysia 430,000 homes were left inundated, damaged or destroyed by severe floods in central Vietnam, which left over 40 people dead and 5 still missing.

4,969 number of flood relief centres in Malaysia prepared to take in victims of the annual floods brought on by the year-end monsoon season.

2,331 number of schools in Malaysia equipped with shower rooms and toilets so they can double as flood relief centres.

*figures as of Nov 25, 2013.

The Star

AUTHORITIES BRING FLOOD VICTIMS IN KELANTAN, NORTH PENINSULA MALAYSIA, TO A RELIEF CENTRE.


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THE PHILIPPINES

Tacloban’s dark days YASMIN LEE ARPON ASIA NEWS NETWORK

AFP photos

LETTER FROM


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EVACUEES QUEUE UP TO GET ON A C130 THAT WILL TAKE THEM OUT OF TACLOBAN.


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A MAN PONDERS WHAT REMAINS OF HIS NEIGHBOURHOOD.


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A CHILD SITS ON WHAT REMAINS OF HIS FAMILY'S HOUSE.


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Manila

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he stars were out on Thursday night, November 7, as if there was no supertyphoon brewing in the Pacific and expected to hit Tacloban City. That was what my mother remembers about that night. A friend, meanwhile, tweeted that it was so calm it was eerie. Obviously, the calm before the storm. I saw the news on the supertyphoon and at 11 o’clock that night asked my sister if they had enough food supply. She assured me they had enough. That was my last contact with her before Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) hit. Six hours later, sustained winds of 315kph and gusts as strong as 380kph blasted


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through the coastal city where I grew up in and lived until high school, bringing storm devastation on a scale never before seen anywhere, even by Filipinos used to typhoons blowing in every year. My mother had planned to do the groceries the day after the storm, but it was not until my sister walked to downtown Tacloban that they realised the full extent of Yolanda's wrath. Walking for at least two hours, my sister saw debris and dead bodies in a place she likened to a "zombie land". She returned home in tears and told my mother: "Tacloban is no more. We need to get out of here!" As Yolanda unleashed its wrath, water and electricity were quickly gone and communication lines were down, cutting off everyone from the outside world. It was not until day four that we finally received much-awaited word from my sister via a text message. She had to climb onto the roof of our

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house to get a signal, and while it was a huge relief to know they were alive, the SMS was nevertheless worrying: "We need help." That same day, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III declared a state of calamity, making many wonder why it took the government so long to arrive at such a decision, when soon after the supertyphoon struck it was evident that the damage was of epic proportions. Our subdivision, about half an hour away from the washed out Tacloban airport, suffered no deaths and only minimal flooding and structural damage to houses. It was one of the few communities that continued to function. But with looting going on in the city, food supplies were running out, nearby groceries had nothing to sell, ATMs were ransacked and, even if you had cash, money had no value. Cloaked in darkness after the sun set, paranoia began to grip

the populace as reports of crimes were passed by word of mouth in the absence of radio and television. But it was not until day five after the typhoon hit that my family finally decided to leave the city. By then, thousands more like them were desperate to leave as dead bodies began to decay on the streets, the stench of death hung heavily in the air while, still, relief goods had yet to reach affected areas. On day three, Aquino had flown to Tacloban, the centre of trade and banking for the Eastern Visayas region. Instead of rallying and inspiring the public, especially those who had lost not just their homes but their loved ones as well, Aquino spent his time berating local officials for not being prepared. Ironically, Aquino had sent Cabinet officials to Tacloban days before Yolanda hit to oversee preparations and the relief and


| November 29-December 5, 2013

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rescue operations that were sure to follow. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who had to give way to Aquino in the 2010 presidential elections, said himself that no amount of preparation could have countered the strength of Yolanda. Roxas is being positioned by the ruling party as a presidential candidate in the 2016 elections and he has been at the centre of the operations in Tacloban. But he has also taken flak for the slowness of relief and rescue operations, after his power struggle with Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez. Historically, the city with a population of 220,000 has always been home turf for the Romualdez family, who count among their number Imelda, former first lady to dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos was deposed by Aquino's mother, Corazon. The Marcoses and Aquinos have long been bitter rivals. As a child, I remember

participating in the parade for the city fiesta in June for "Madam". It didn't matter that I went to a private school, which also happened to be Imelda's alma mater. Everyone had to perform for Madam. Twelve years after Marcos was deposed, Imelda's younger brother Allfredo "Bejo" Romualdez was elected as mayor of Tacloban, serving until 2007. He is the father of the current mayor. It is this political dynamic between the Romualdezes and the Aquino administration that exacerbated the situation in Tacloban. There has been an outpouring of aid from foreign countries and international organisations and yet the government has been slow in responding to the disaster. What could be more ironic than the absence of relief goods at Tacloban's Daniel Z Romualdez Airport, where they were dropped

off, while people who survived the supertyphoon were in danger of dying from hunger and disease? In contrast, Palo—the town immediately next to Tacloban and also hit hard by Yolanda— had noticeably faster recovery and relief operations. The town mayor, Remedios Petilla, is a political ally of Aquino. Petilla's son, Jericho, is the energy secretary. He has promised to restore electricity in the typhoon-ravaged areas by December 24 or Christmas Eve, a very important occasion for the mostly Christian Philippines. Jericho said that if electricity is not restored by then, he will resign. For now, Tacloban and the other areas hit by Yolanda remain under darkness at night. What has become as clear as that night before Yolanda hit, is the ugliness of Philippine political games and how they always sacrifice the welfare of Filipinos. 


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LIFE

China's new family policy a beginning, not an end

Zhao Chen for China Daily

XI'AN CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL IS PACKED WITH YOUNG PATIENTS WITH RESPIRATORY TRACT INFECTION AS HEAVY SMOG HIT THE CITY IN LATE OCTOBER.


LIFE

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Wang Jing/China Daily

YOUNG PATIENTS AND THEIR PARENTS HAVE TO DEAL WITH LONG HOURS OF WAITING AND A NOISY AND CROWDED ENVIRONMENT ON THEIR HOSPITAL VISITS.


LIFE

MU GUANGZONG China Daily Beijing

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hina's family planning policy is to be eased at long last. The Third Plenum resolution, released on November 15 revealed that China will allow families in which either parent is a single child, to have a second child, together with other reforms. The adjustment is considered a breakthrough in relaxing China's family planning policy. However, this step should be a beginning, rather than an end, of family planning policy reform. Compared with the past overriding policy that required most families to have only one child, a relaxed population policy and allowing people to exercise their reproductive rights is a manifestation of greater respect and autonomy for the people. Although more families are choosing to have one child or none, for a variety of reasons, such as the rising cost of raising a child, there is no need for China to impose the mandatory one-child policy any longer. From a broader view, the central

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authorities' decision to allow more families to have a second child is meant to reverse the already low fertility rate and maintain the country's young labour resource. A relaxed population policy will contribute to a rise in the fertility rate by a limited degree—it is unlikely to lead to a population boom. Based on the trial experience of allowing a second child in four cities—Enshi in Hubei province, Yicheng in Shanxi province, Chengde in Hebei province, and Jiuquan in Gansu province—allowing couples to have a second child only raises the fertility rate to a limited extent. Even after granting people in the trial cities more chances to have a second child, the fertility rate remained low. According to the fifth national population census in 2000, the total fertility rate of these four cities was 1.31, only a little higher than the country's overall total fertility rate of 1.22. In 2010, the total fertility rate of the four cities was 1.52 compared with the country's overall rate of 1.18. Hence, even if the eased population policies are expanded across the country, the possibility of a national population boom can be ruled out.


LIFE China has experienced imbalanced demographic development since the strict family planning policy was introduced in the late 1970s. The policy, which should have "advocated" one child for most families, has turned out to be a strict birth control policy under which most families are allowed to have only one child. Since 1992, China's total fertility rate has dropped to under 1.6, well below the replacement level which is widely believed to be 2.1. Since 2000, the fast development of the market economy has shifted the relationship between the cost and benefit of childrearing, which has discouraged more people from having children. The mindset of later marriages, later childbirth, and fewer but healthier births came into vogue. A growing number of couples began to have a single child out of choice. The fifth national population census in 2000 showed China's fertility rate at 1.22, but the sixth national population census conducted in 2010 showed the figure was only 1.18. And analysis of data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows China's fertility rate was only 1.05 in 2011. As a result, China's demographic problem is becoming grave. The ratio of the population aged from 0 to 14 years old in the total Chinese

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population dropped from 33.6 per cent in 1982 to 16.6 per cent in 2010. In 2012 for the first time China saw a drop in the country's working age population, as the number of people between 15 and 59 years old fell by 3.45 million. The decline in the working age population poses a threat to China's economy as well as its national defence. What's more, the risks associated with singlechild families are manifold: families are bereft of children, as families who observed the family planning policy but later lost their single children are often too old to have a second baby, society is rapidly ageing, generation conflicts are becoming more acute and there is a growing gender imbalance and labour shortage. The National Committee on Ageing estimated that there will be more than 200 million people aged 60 or above by the end of 2013, and more than 400 million by 2033. China's fast aging society will increase the burdens on households as well as society. The sixth national census showed that in 2010, 118.06 boys were born for every 100 girls. A normal gender ratio is between 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls. It is widely reported that by 2020 there may be at least 20 million single men who will be unable


LIFE

to marry because of the gender imbalance, which will be a risk to social stability. Confronted by these potential risks, China needs to be aware of the fact that the earlier the population policy is eased, the better it will be. However, the experience of the four pilot cities showed permitting families to have a second child is far from enough, the authorities need to introduce incentives to encourage more qualified families to have a second child. Changdao county in Shandong province has allowed families to have a second child for nearly 30 years, but it has still experienced negative population growth. Simply easing the family planning restrictions to allow more families to have a second child is unlikely to increase the fertility rate to the replacement level at which population development is considered to be sustainable. This is because with the advancement of social and economic development, the childrearing cost is on the rise, too. Meanwhile, the increasing social and economic engagement also weakens the desire to have children. The family planning directives have to be

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accompanied by supporting policy orientation. To take the example of Changdao county again, even though a second child is permitted, local policy orientation remains the same as those in many other parts that observe the dominant one-child directive. A benefit-oriented mechanism, such as incentives for those who give up having a second child, discourage people from having a second child. Thus, many families, in fact only have a single child. Undoubtedly, China should push forward further family planning policy reform. It is high time that the government grasped the strategic opportunities to promote pronatalist policies, as well as grant people reproductive choice. The reform of the family planning policies should aim to build happy families, as well as social harmony based on respecting people's right to have children. At the same time, the reform should be aimed at reducing or evading the risks brought by the country's low fertility rate. The author is a professor at the Population Research Institute of Peking University. ÂŹ


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LIFE

Mixed feelings over a second child Wang Qingyun China Daily Beijing

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oung parents are making hard decisions about whether to give birth to another child, after the Communist Party said couples can have two if either the husband or the wife is an only child. Thirty year old Wang Xiaoyu of Beijing, an only-child herself, said her husband is OK with having just one. "My husband has a sister. He doesn't want another child because taking care of two children would be too exhausting," she said. Wang said both she and her husband have jobs in the financial sector and don't have enough time for their daughter as it is. As a result, the couple's parents take turns looking after the child, with each side spending two or three months with her before burning out. The financial burden is another factor. "We are paying 13,000 yuan (US$2,130) each month for our apartment and car, and our financial status is not as good as before I gave birth," Wang said.


LIFE

"Also, there are no specific regulations on how to implement this policy. I wonder if I will be able to get maternity leave and a subsidy when I give birth to another child as I did when I gave birth to the first." By contrast, a 29-year-old construction designer who is working in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, said he talked with his wife and decided they will have another child as soon as specific regulations are clarified. He wanted to be identified only as Zhang. He and his wife, both working in Shenzhen, earn a little more than 10,000 yuan a month, of which 4,000 yuan goes to pay the mortgage on an apartment they bought in their hometown in Jiangxi province. "We barely have any money left at the end of the month," Zhang said. Their daughter, born in 2009, lives with her grandparents in Jiangxi. "My wife has to work to make ends meet. We are too busy to look after her. Our parents live in rural Jiangxi and don't have pensions, and we can't afford to have them come over and live with us," Zhang said. Yet the money problem doesn't seem big enough to say no to a second child.

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"I think it's best if I have both a girl and a boy. My grandparents and parents got by giving birth to quite a few children, and so can I," he said. Shi Xiaoxi, a 26-year-old civil servant in Dezhou, Shandong province, believes otherwise. She is the mother of a 9-month-old boy. "Maybe it wasn't a problem for our grandparents to have a lot of children, but times have changed, and the gap between rich and poor is getting too wide," she said. "We don't have a problem with simply raising another child. But we won't have enough money to offer him quality education. I think there will be a baby boom under the new policy, and I'm concerned my children won't be as competitive as others 20 years from now." But Shi said she is torn. "I have a younger brother, and I can often have a talk with him when I have a problem, and that's something an only-child doesn't have. Having siblings will also make it easier for someone to take care of their aged parents," she said. ÂŹ US$1 = 6.1 yuan


LIFE

| November 29-December 5, 2013 Zhou Gukai/For china Daily

Going down the brain drain in Asia

Places such as South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia or New Zealand tend to attract talent from their less-developed neighbours such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Nepal, India or China


LIFE

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Dong Naide for China Daily

A GLANCE OF A FACTORY IN CHINA.


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Li Zongxian for China Daily

LOW-SKILLED LABOURERS AT PLANTS.


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LIFE ALFRED ROMAN China Daily Hong Kong

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sia's developing nations suffer as their brightest talents move in search of better opportunities There are about 1.4 million Indonesia-born migrants in Malaysia, making the Indonesia-Malaysia migrant corridor one of the busiest in the world. Malaysia is a "receiving" country, according to the World Bank, meaning that more people go to Malaysia every year than leave it. But this does not take away the fact that Malaysia has a severe brain drain. Most of the immigrants are low-skilled labourers. Most of the emigrants, however,

tend to have university degrees. According to the World Bank, the problem is severe enough to jeopardise the country's development prospects throughout this decade. Malaysia is not the only country in Asia that has to deal with a growing brain drain. Most of the developing countries on the continent face similar difficulties. The best and the brightest often find opportunities elsewhere and are lured to those opportunities by higher pay, more comfortable lifestyles and the possibility of taking their scientific acumen or business skills further. The problem tends to affect developing countries in the region more than their developed peers. Places such as South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia or New Zealand tend to attract talent from their less-developed neighbours such as Malaysia,

Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Nepal, India or China. The best and brightest go further afield, to study and work in North America or Europe where pay scales are in a different category and the opportunities for growth often greater. "There are incentives to go abroad because there are few opportunities (at home)," says Juzhong Zhuang, an economist at the Asian Development Bank. "There is both a push and a pull problem." The "push" is the lack of opportunities at home, which drives talented people away. The "pull" is the lure of financial rewards and lifestyle, which encourages people to move away. This pattern is not new. Japan, Taiwan and South Korea all had to stem the tide of talent heading overseas during the 1970s and 1980s. As those countries moved up the development ladder and their economies grew, the


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LIFE drain became less severe. So this brain drain problem may be more of a symptom of socioeconomic development than an illness in itself. "A more useful way to look at the issue is to look at it in terms of domestic policy," Zhuang says. "The question is: How are you going to deal with it?" Two issues come into play, says Huang Jing, a professor and director of the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. The first issue is access. It is relatively easy for people in Malaysia or Indonesia to get a passport and travel abroad. But the same was not true of China in the 1980s or 1990s, so brain drain was less of a concern. The second issue is one of the size of the population. Relatively small countries such as Malaysia have fewer university graduates. So the

impact of even a small number of them leaving can be severe. China or India have many more such graduates, so a lot more will need to leave for brain drain to seriously affect economic development. Rather, the issue for the two Asian giants is how to attract foreign talent and innovation to speed up growth. China still has a deficit of talent but the problem is limited by the sheer size of the country, says Huang. Something similar may be true of India. "China has such a large pool of talent that it has never really become a problem," he says. "In my memory, the Chinese government never really complained about brain drain, but it is an issue because they are trying to attract more talent. "It is kind of paradoxical, but interesting in my mind that the two largest countries in the region do not suffer

as much from brain drain as the other countries." Regardless of cause and effect, most developing countries in the region are now looking for ways to keep more of their top talent at home and, if possible, to attract some of the talent that has already left. Both India and China are looking seriously at the issue. For a couple of decades now, China has had programmes to lure back more "returnees"— Chinese nationals who have gone abroad to study or work and have not come back. The country also has programmes in place to attract more foreign talent. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) estimates that the flight of Indian students abroad costs the country around US$13 billion a year. And in a report last month, the group noted that the number of available places for MBA students in India


LIFE jumped from 96,000 in 2006 to 360,000 in 2012, but many of those graduates could not find jobs at home and often needed to go abroad to shore up the quality of education. "We have a peculiar situation. On the one hand, there are no jobs available; on the other hand, corporates are searching for skill sets not available with the students," noted Assocham. The option is to study abroad, and a foreign degree often translates into a foreign job. But while India and China may be large enough to absorb the problem with limited repercussions to their economic growth, smaller countries such as Malaysia—with a population of just 29 million—may have a more difficult time. Malaysia has 46 universities that graduate 180,000 people every year. That's about half of the number of students that India generates just in business

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and a fraction of the 7 million university graduates that will hit China's job market this year. Malaysia's brain drain problem is large enough that the World Bank has labelled it "intense". Part of the problem is structural and part is economic. Many of the people that are leaving are of Chinese descent. Some of them feel sidelined by policies that give native Malays greater privileges. According to TalentCorp, a government organisation tasked with bringing Malaysians back, as many as 300,000 universityeducated Malaysians have left in the past decade, about 10 per cent of the country's graduates. TalentCorp has managed to attract almost 2,000 back since 2011, thanks to a variety of government programmes. But the number of people returning is but a fraction of the number that is leaving. The Philippines is also facing a significant brain drain problem,

exacerbated by the English fluency of most of its graduates. And the problem is not confined to East Asia. On the other side of the continent, Israel is increasingly concerned about the problem, which was highlighted earlier this year when three Israeli chemists won the Nobel Prize. That would be good news, except that two of them—Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt—are living and working in the United States. Israel is losing about a third of its top-tier talent, according to a recent study by the Taub Centre for Social Policy Studies. The centre found that 29 scholars left the country in 2008 for every 100 who stayed. Israel has put in place the Israel Brain Gain Programme, a joint venture between government and universities to identify and, if possible, lure back Israeli academics living abroad. An emerging trend is that


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LIFE talent may be moving within the region, rather than flowing into North America or Europe as it traditionally has, because of economic growth in the West slowing down. The fear is that when economies in North America and Europe return to growth over the next few years, emerging countries in Asia may see some reverses in the gains they have made in retaining or attracting talent. In a recent study, Boris Groysberg and Deborah Bell of Harvard Business School found that Asian companies are hiring fewer people than those in North America or in Australia and New Zealand, but more than companies in Europe or Russia. About 69 per cent of companies in Asia are hiring. Interestingly, though, Asian companies are more likely than any other to hire locally. All of the Asian companies interviewed said

they planned to hire people in Asia, compared with 89 per cent of North American companies that planned to hire in their own markets. For the time being, the brain drain is affecting developing countries that grow enough to generate a critical mass of talent with skills to participate in the global labour force, or enough students with the means to study abroad. But as these countries grow and begin to attract back more of their people, the fear of a flight of talent may surface in the more developed countries in the region. Australia, for example, continues to attract talent but some are seeing a shifting tide of top talent gravitating toward faster-growing markets elsewhere in Asia. "We're seeing more and more and we expect it to happen more in the future. There will be a talent drain," says Alex Malley, chief executive of CPA

Australia, an accountancy body. Part of the problem is regulatory. Australia is grappling with an overabundance of regulations including, currently, the possibility of legislation around salaries for CEOs. "At one level, you could comfortably argue that that sounds sensible. But it presumes a sovereign state. If the very best people can earn much more in other markets, then by protecting yourself in salary levels in your own country can simply undermine itself," says Malley. "Those people will go and trade somewhere else." "Talent follows opportunity and if Australia does not provide its own opportunities, then talent might die," he says. "And when you want to talk to Gen Y and Gen X ... they are far more adept at being mobile, they are far more adapted to looking at opportunities outside their markets." ÂŹ


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BUSINESS

Branding is key for companies aspiring to become as well known as leaders like Samsung or Singapore Airlines A CUSTOMER LOOKS AT LCD TELEVISION SETS MADE BY JAPANESE MULTINATIONAL SHARP AT A STORE IN TOKYO. ASIAN CORPORATIONS NEED TO MAKE BRANDING AN INTEGRATED PART OF ALL STRATEGY DECISIONS FOR THEIR PRODUCTS TO COMPETE IN THE GLOBAL LEAGUE.

Provided to China Daily

Creating the next Asian global name


BUSINESS

KARL WILSON China Daily Sydney

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ith better quality products, improved supply chains and rising demand, Chinese and Asian corporations are increasingly making their way onto the global corporate stage. But they are unlikely to become true international players if they do not focus on getting their brand strategy right. “All the surveys that are done on branding show that in Asia you probably have 10 recognised global brands,” says brand strategist Martin Roll, author of the bestselling book "Asian Brand Strategy". “And most of them are Japanese and South Korean, with a few from the rest of Asia,” he tells China Daily Asia Weekly. Analysts say that the problem is cultural and that many Asian corporations are locked into a corporate structure that is still family run, and where branding is simply seen as an extension of advertising.

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But the status quo may be slowly shifting. “I think that attitude is changing,” says Ganeshan Wignaraja, director of research with the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) in Tokyo, comparing the situation with that of Japan three or four decades ago. “Many companies now coming out of China and Asia are a generation or so behind the more established and wellknown global companies from Japan or South Korea when it comes to branding. Wignaraja explains that although building a brand can be extremely costly and time consuming, it is essential. Without branding, a company will find it very difficult to become accepted as a household name, he adds. “Competition today is fierce and branding will hold the key to success or failure.” Roll believes Chinese companies still have a long way to go to build their brands globally. “It requires a totally new mindset. Chinese business leaders need to learn what it means to build something like a brand, which is much more than a slick logo,” he says.


BUSINESS

“They need to elevate branding to the boardroom level and engage a chief marketing officer— to put marketing at the forefront of business strategy.” Business leaders in China must also benchmark global practices, Roll says. Companies need to research the most successful peers in their own industry and study what is being done in other industries. “There is a common belief—and it is often stated—that the track for Chinese firms will be very different than any other country from Asia. I don’t believe that. “It is a fallacy to believe that China will globalise in a different way. Many others have done it before them, and China has to learn from the world when it comes to best practices in brand building.” Global Chinese brands will not happen by chance, Roll says. It will only happen through a thoroughly planned strategy executed relentlessly over a long time. He says that Samsung, the South Korean electronics giant, is one of the best examples of an Asian brand

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that has taken the globalisation strategy seriously, and started early to focus on its brands as a key strategic initiative. “Only now, after 10 to 15 years, it is starting to pay off,” he says. Another example is Singapore Airlines, which Roll describes as a “brilliant example of a global brand which has set standards for more than 40 years in a very competitive category”. Ying Zhu, director of the Australian Centre for Asian Business at the University of South Australia, says he can see two potential scenarios that could emerge from China when it comes to company branding. “They can either start from scratch and build a brand, or they take the easy way out and buy an established company that everyone knows. That way you avoid the costly process of brand building,” he tells China Daily Asia Weekly. He cites the example of Geely, a little known—at least outside of China—automaker based in Hangzhou that signed a US$1.8 billion agreement in 2010 to buy Volvo.


BUSINESS

At the time of the deal’s announcement, a writer for Businessweek was prompted to write: “Geely is paying US$1.8 billion for the brand.” But, speaking from his office in Adelaide, Zhu explains how there was much more to the deal, and that the benefits were not just on the Chinese company’s side. “Geely not only bought the brand, it bought Volvo’s technology, research and development, management and skilled workforce. “For Volvo, the door had opened to a massive domestic market,” he says. “It is globalisation, but in a different order. Not all that long ago, around Asia you would hear people talk about the westernisation of Asia. Now the wind has changed direction.” Another more recent example is State-owned Bright Food Group buying the iconic British breakfast cereal maker Weetabix in May last year. “These are companies with established brands all over the world. For the Chinese companies, they can leverage

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their own products off these established names onto the global market,” says Ying. “It also opens the door for Weetabix products to reach the shelves of Chinese supermarkets and stores. So it really is a win-win for both companies.” Weetabix is the UK’s second largest branded manufacturer by value of ready-to-eat cereals and food bars, and will be seen as a major boost to the Chinese domestic food sector. But these companies are the exceptions. There are many Asian corporations that could quite easily take their place in the global league and sit alongside the likes of Coca-Cola or even Apple. Before that can happen, however, Asian companies must accept branding for what it is, rather than relegated to the marketing department. “The new change-makers in Asia are the second- and third-generation family owners who for the first time are daring to question the existing business models,” Roll says. It is natural for younger generations to want to move away from the traditional Asian


BUSINESS

manufacturing and trading paradigm into an era of brands and trademarks, he adds. “They typically have overseas experience from other industries or consulting, and they bring that mindset back to Asian boardrooms.” If the recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, Urban World: The shifting global business landscape, is any guide, by 2025, there will be some 7,000 new global corporations with revenues in excess of $1 billion. A large number of them will be from China and Asia. “By 2025, some of the global leaders in many industries may be companies we have not heard of, and many of them are likely to be based in cities that we could not point to on a map,” the report says. “The proliferation of large companies is likely to usher in an era of heightened corporate competition for markets, resources and talent.” The big questions, however, will rest on the leaders’ ability to brand themselves and be aggressive in their branding.

| November 29-December 5, 2013

There are enough success stories in the region, however, to prove that it can be done by Asian companies. Ho Kwon Ping, founder and executive chairman of the boutique hotel and spa chain, Banyan Tree, built his group’s brand from scratch. “We are an Asian company that is global, with hotels in Asia, Mexico, Middle East and Africa. We employ 12,000 people from 66 different nationalities. “Our policy has always been that our core brand asset must remain universal to all customers,” he said, speaking during a panel discussion on brand building at the Asia Consumer Summit in Singapore last year. Ho explained how customers resonate to the same values all over the world. “One of our core values is a sense of place. If a customer goes to one of our hotels in Mexico that person will know where he or she is.” He said that it is not his company’s policy to develop a brand that caters just for one demographic. “The success of a brand,” he added, “must be universal.” ¬


| November 29-December 5, 2013

FASHION

YAKS FOR HAUTE COUTURE Photos provided to China Daily

A social entrepreneur wanted to do something to improve the lot of her father's people


| November 29-December 5, 2013

BUSINESS

DECHEN YESHI AND HER DAUGHTER AT THE ZORGE RITOMA VILLAGE IN GANSU PROVINCE.

LIN QI China Daily Tibet

F

or generations, the villagers of Zorge Ritoma on the eastern edge of the QinghaiTibet Plateau had depended on raising yaks as their major source of income. Overgrazing, however, had gradually desiccated their livelihood as nomads. Many of the able-bodied among them are abandoning

the harsh realities of herding for a more tempting urban life. The village, filled with old people unwilling to leave and their grandchildren, seem doomed to face a bleak future. That is, until they were told one day that the fine fibres from their young yak's may be the answer to a brighter outlook. Eight years later, the luxurious yak wool they are producing is keeping them warm and fed and linked, surprisingly, to the haute couture realm half a world away. The woman who brought about these changes is Dechen Yeshi, 30, who manages a social enterprise called Norlha in Zorge Ritoma which handprocesses yak wool and sell it to fashion houses in Paris. "We want to make sure that people who collect fibres and turn them into luxury products are local Tibetans," Yeshi says, "and that the profit would go solely to the villagers—a big challenge for the workshop, but that's also what


BUSINESS sets us apart from other producers." Born to a Tibetan father and an American mother, Yeshi majored in Asian studies and film at Connecticut College. Upon graduation, she decided to make a documentary about the land her father came from, with a "very romantic idea" of filming Tibetan lifestyles against a scenic background and promoting Tibetan culture to the world. Her mother, Kim Yeshi, bought her a camera and entrusted Dechen with a more practical mission—collecting khullu, the dense fibers that were naturally shed by two-year-old yaks and had never been used by nomads. Kim Yeshi had studied anthropology and Buddhism at university and spent 30 years in Asia researching local culture, with particular interests in textiles and handicrafts. "People always talk about the cashmere as the precious wool, and camel wool. Although the yak also has wool, it had never

| November 29-December 5, 2013

been tested," the mother says. "I thought it would be compelling to turn the yak wool into a new vision of life for the nomads." When Dechen first arrived in Zorge Ritoma in 2004, she spoke to many young nomads, and they all wanted to be a part of the world outside. "That fitted in with my mother's idea". She decided that it made more sense to help that way. "Making documentaries meant a lot to me but not as much to them." She returned the next year with her brother Genam and they collected and shipped two tonnes of khullu to a textile factory in Kathmandu owned by her mother's friend. The end product was soft and warm and had a very good feel. Inspired, the Yeshis founded Norlha, a social enterprise for yak wool production, and they started to look for villagers willing to participate in the project. "Norlha" means "wealth of the God" and is also what Tibetan nomads call the yak.

Although Dechen is halfTibetan, she still had difficulty convincing villagers that the fibres they had always neglected would be valuable. She also had to fight the concept the Tibetans had that being migrant workers was the only way out of poverty. The first person she targeted was Sangye Dhundup, a wellestablished nomad with a substantial number of yaks and sheep. Half convinced, Sangye and his wife Dzomkyid went with Dechen to Cambodia in 2006. "We saw people weaving camel hair from Inner Mongolia into very beautiful cloth. We thought it would be possible to process the yak wool in the same way and that will be a rare opportunity for us to change our future," Sangye says. They learned silk and wool weaving in Cambodia and Nepal and returned to the village with looms and started training people. In the spring of 2008, Dechen brought Norlha's first products —a suitcase of shawls—to Paris,


| November 29-December 5, 2013

BUSINESS and promoted them to four to five brands. She was confronted by indifference towards yak wool, until bespoke boutique Arnys first recognised the potential. Arny's orders were followed by those from other fashion brands and photos of Zorge Ritoma's nomads modeling the fabrics appeared in fashion magazines and helped raised awareness. Kim Yeshi, Norlha's president and head designer, believes handicrafts can only survive on the luxury market. She says when people work at home, their sources of income are irregular and there is no quality control. "You have to go to the high end to ensure young workers will get decent and regular wages and win respect for their good workmanship," she says. In a good year, a household of four could earn 150,000 yuan (US$24,612) working full time with their animals, but the income is still unstable. For instance, animals may get sick in summer. The workshop now employs

about 110 workers, mostly aged between 30 and 40 and who have been with them since it started. They are paid between 2,000 and 4,000 yuan a month, with two free meals a day at the canteen. Most workers have little schooling or are illiterate, but Dechen trained them into department managers and accountants. "That's what is great about Norlha," says David Lai, a director with Tianjin Satellite Television who documented the Yeshis' adventure in yak wool. The workshop produces 200 metres of yak felt and 400 metres of woven fabrics a month, with wholesale prices ranging from 600 to 2,500 yuan a piece. While Norlha regularly sells to five to six fashion houses abroad, it also launches two collections a year under its own brand, showing shawls, scarves, felt bags and hats. It hopes to turn profitable within the next two years. "For me and my mother, it has always been about the beauty

TIBETAN CHILDREN WITH SHAWLS AND SCARVES OF THE YAK WOOL PRODUCED BY NORLHA.

of nature and the spirituality of the place and the culture. We are weaving them together into a sustainable social enterprise, which we can not only present to the outside world but also benefit the local people. "That has been the mission and vision for me and my family."ÂŹ US$1= 6.1 yuan


| November 29-December 5, 2013

LIFESTYLE

Selfie-made business

A young Malaysian entrepreneur turned the random self-portrait photo-taking fascination, or ‘selfie’, into a money-making venture KARINA FOO The Star Petaling Jaya

T

aking a picture in the past was solely to capture or document special and rare moments. It was a novelty and perhaps exciting to pose or assume that perfect position, have the film developed at the photo shop and wait to see the finished product after a few days. These days, thanks to technology, social media and online applications, picture taking has become an instantaneous activity where anything can be captured, processed


LIFESTYLE and published for the world to see in a matter of seconds. While taking shots of major events will always be in the picture (literally), many users of social media are now snapping what they had for dinner, things they see in front of them (even if it’s just the mundane) and the common “selfie”—random shots of themselves. It could be a mix of vanity, self expression or a desire to pique the interest of other viewers, but photos still tell a story more than words alone can say. Various brands have recognised this and merged the love of picture taking with their brand identity to serve their target markets who are mainly teenagers and young adults. Now the expensive processes involved in polishing up a fantastic advertisement is only one of the many options for effective brand marketing.

Getting snap happy

Companies providing photo-related services through the use of photo booths are gaining popularity around the world, particularly in the US and the UK. In Malaysia, there is one such business called Fotobox Sdn Bhd—a name that’s easy to remember and aptly describes what it essentially does: set up a customised photo booths for its clients from various industries to let people having fun take miscellaneous pictures of themselves. The pictures are adorned with the client’s branding icons, borders and products as well as taglines and other emblems. In 2011, the company was founded by 23-year-old Jason Ang, who was inspired by the Blue Ocean strategy to use and old and existing

| November 29-December 5, 2013

ANG WANTS HIS COMPANY TO BE SEEN AS A SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERT, THAT PROVIDES THE 'WHOLE PRODUCT'—FROM THE CREATIVE DESIGN, PHOTOGRAPHY AND STAYS UP-TO-DATE WITH CONSUMER DEMANDS.


LIFESTYLE idea of a photo booths to transform it into an modern solution for branding events. (The Blue Ocean strategy suggests that an organisation should create new demand in an uncontested market space, rather than compete headto-head with other suppliers in an existing industry) “The idea quickly became a popular crowd engagement tool for events with AirAsia, Coach, Toyota, Unilever, Moet Hennessy Diageo, just to name a few of our 50 clients. We’ve slowly expanded our operations to Sydney, Australia where Top Shop is one of our clients. Singapore is also a new market that we’re looking at in the near future,” said Ang, now 25. While the external part of the booth is customised to suit any event, its software like the interface and digital and printed images are creatively designed for the event as well. “We’re not the first to do this—taking photos together and getting creative with posing is always a fun activity for people to engage with one another. But our clients’ events sometimes have up to 200 or more people and the photo-taking process requires speed and accuracy,” noted Ang. As such, Fotobox’s photo booths are equipped with a printing system that processes information and spits out prints as quickly as eight seconds per photo. And it’s not just about the physical pictures, the digital results can be sent instantly to social media

| November 29-December 5, 2013

websites thanks to cellular connectivity. “It provides great engagement for the guests at events, while the pictures can be posted online. Guests can enjoy instant uploading to social media platforms and also ‘like’ the brand’s page in an instant. For the brand, it gives them immediate exposure and that sense of being modern and in-sync with the technology of the young generation. This can rapidly increase their popularity because online media is a very powerful branding tool,” explained Ang. Fotobox’s services for its clients also includes collecting data and feedback, allowing them to see how they’re perceived online by their customers while increasing their fan base on social media. “So we aren’t just a photo booth or box. We want to be seen as social-media experts by providing a whole product that does creative design, photography and collects consumer data,” said Ang. On average, clients pay 3,000 ringgit (US$934) to 7,000 ringgit ($2,180) per photo booth, depending on the duration of their event. The cost includes more than just hiring a Fotobox as Ang explains: “We look at the whole scheme of things in terms of the events and work with our clients so that they need not worry about anything. The team will design the whole experience for clients leading up to


LIFESTYLE the day. Our people will man the Fotobox booth during the event—it’s a complete package with the product and services included,” said Ang.

Enterprising youth

Ang is soft spoken and appears to be constantly brewing ideas in his head for his next major project for a big client. He says every event is unique and each one presents a learning experience for him and his small team of six, two of whom concentrate solely on research and development. “I started this business with 200,000 ringgit ($62,305) and although it’s been two years, the company has yet to break even. That’s ok, because we are on the right track as the response has been good, so we’re aiming to see the fruits of our labour in a year from now,” said the hospitality graduate from Kolej Damansara Utama, in Petaling Jaya. Ang had always been exposed to and fascinated by branding concepts as a child and yearned to be in a profession that was brand related. “My back ground in F&B is very strong since I studied it and my parents own and operate their restaurant, Betty’s, in Wisma Cosway in Kuala Lumpur. It was kind of expected that I continue my parents’ business, but that itch in me to start a branding services business was too great to ignore. Although I didn’t’ study marketing or branding, I had the opportunity to work for a branding

| November 29-December 5, 2013

company that served international and well known clients so that’s where I learned the ropes,” said Ang. Nevertheless, he says his folks are quite happy with his entrepreneurship and he has their full support, adding that his mother taught him the value of hard work, perseverance how one needs to invest every part of themselves in a business to see its success. “If it means working up to 20 hours a day and doing it smartly every day for the first few months, the outcome will be worth it,” he said. Inevitably, Ang experienced a few rough patches when the business started, but through trial and error, he and his teammates constantly improved the product. His project for the Hennessy Artistry event in June marked a significant milestone as it was attended by an estimated 5,000 people and he still remains amazed that a simple idea of a photo booth made the event a success. Besides corporate events and parties, the company also provides its photo booths for weddings. “We’re now working on more peopleengagement that’s related to the photos. There’s a new Fotobox Light, which is a Fotobox system that increases the aesthetic qualities of the photos. We’re launching a new product next year that’s steered towards the use for various mobile applications instead of just using Facebook as one of the main social media engines,” he said. ¬


FOOD

| November 29-December 5, 2013

Singapore vs Hong Kong A street food showdown


| November 29-December 5, 2013

FOOD

BY EUNICE QUEK The Straits Times Singapore

P

opular Hong Kong food blogger K.C. Koo picked Singapore's street food scene over Hong Kong's in an article in The Sunday Times recently. The 45-year-old newspaper columnist was sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board to write a food guide on the country's street food. While focused predominantly on hawker fare, the guide also has options for afternoon tea and happy hour, which feature restaurants and bars.

Since The Sunday Times story, however, the article has sparked controversy on which city has better street food in terms of variety, flavour, consistency and quality. Foodies in the two cities weigh in.


| November 29-December 5, 2013

FOOD SINGAPORE FOOD HAS GREATER VARIETY

HONG KONG FOOD BLOGGER K.C. KOO

Like fellow Hong Kong food blogger K.C. Koo, Hong Konger Janice Leung laments the loss of street food in her city and lauds Singapore's scene for its diverse cultures. The 29 year old food writer, whose articles have been published in the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal, says: "I have heard that the demise of street food is a hot topic in Singapore, but compared to Hong Kong, it is alive and kicking. "In Hong Kong, street hawkers are almost non–existent because of licensing restrictions, and small shops are disappearing because of unsustainable rent hikes and homogenisation brought about by chain stores. "We have redevelopment plans that will knock down old buildings and force traditional food shops to close, but have no plans to offer them new spaces. "If you define street food in Hong Kong as curry fish balls,

stinky tofu and egg waffles, good versions of them are virtually nonexistent. Fish balls, for example, are more flour than fish and come from industrial producers. They are a far cry from the real thing." Leung, founder of farmers' market and social enterprise Island East Markets in Hong Kong, visits Singapore every five years and counts kaya toast, bak chor mee, Hainanese chicken rice and laksa as some of her favourite dishes here. Foodies that SundayLife! spoke to all agree with Koo that Singapore's street food scene trumps that of Hong Kong's, and echo the sentiment that the Singapore's hawker culture is much more vibrant. According to Edward Chew, Singapore Tourism Board's regional director for greater China, Koo shortlisted the stalls and restaurants for the guide—which was in the works for six months—on his own. Chew says: "We suggested 15


| November 29-December 5, 2013

FOOD

food categories from which Koo did his research on. We did not dictate the stalls and restaurants he wanted to visit and eventually include in the food guide. The stall owners were not informed of Koo's tasting sessions either. This guide serves as an insider's guide to the hidden gems of some of the most authentic hawker fare in Singapore." Dr Leslie Tay of ieatishootipost. sg, 43, whose blog focuses on hawker food, says: "I've known it all along. Our flavours are more robust and Hong Kong street food lacks the variety that we have, especially for Malay and Indian food. For example, laksa is the tastiest thing under the sun, nowhere else makes it like we do." Photographer Michelle Tng, 25, who moved to Hong Kong with her partner Davis Ng, a 28 year old financial analyst, in March this year, also lauds

the variety in Singapore. Tng says: "We have a diverse range of dialects plus different ethnic groups, so we get different tastes and spices. In general, Hong Kong has predominantly one dialect type—Cantonese. While it's really good, over time, the dishes start to be very similar." Dennis Wee, 61, chairman of real estate agency Dennis Wee Group, says: "I think each place has its own individual style. But as a Singaporean, I would pick Singapore's food over Hong Kong's. Our hawker culture here is also stronger." Accessibility is key for Cheryl Lee, 27, a Singaporean postgraduate student at the University of Hong Kong who moved there in August this year. She says: "It's not easy to locate street food stalls in Hong Kong while in Singapore, we can just go to the hawker

centre to get what we want." While the outlook for Singapore's street food scene is still positive, those that SundayLife! spoke to also feel there is room for improvement. Hong Kong-born master chef Lap Fai of Orchard Hotel's Hua Ting restaurant, 50, who moved to Singapore in 1991 and is now a citizen here, says: "The issue here is that the prices for hawker food have gone up significantly over the years, making the 'street food' no longer as cheap as before." Civil servant Gwendolene Phua, 25, says: "While I do think that Koo's views may be a bit biased, I prefer the flavours of our local street food. I will go to stalls where the hawkers make their dishes from scratch. More hawkers should do that. "I also think that the push for the new generation of hawkers is a good thing and should continue."


| November 29-December 5, 2013

FOOD HONG KONG STALLS MORE AMBIENCE

Perhaps the grass is greener on the other side. That is the case for local foodies who pick Hong Kong's street food scene over the Singapore's, even though they do not deny that there is more variety in Singapore. Systems engineer Wong Tiong Wee, 29, has a bone to pick with the definition of street food—something he associates closely with what he eats in Taiwan, another destination famous for its street snacks. He says: "For Singapore, the blogger refers more to hawker food and not really street food—food eaten on the streets. "Our local food culture has a stronger heritage, but there are dishes such as bak kut teh (herbal pork stew) that we cannot really claim as ours either. I would go to Hong Kong for great Chinese food." Singaporean housewife Karen Lim, 45, says: "In Singapore, we get massproduced sauces and ingredients in our hawker fare too. The taste is

definitely not the same, and even if it is consistent, it can be consistently bad. "Also, not everyone makes fishballs or popiah skin by hand now, which are dying trades here. I would pick Hong Kong as the better destination for street food because what I've eaten there so far has always been good." Singaporean business development executive Joshua Sum, 27, who is based in Hong Kong, says: "Singapore doesn't have street food. In Hong Kong, you still can stand by the roadside and eat. People buy street snacks and stand around to eat out of styrofoam boxes, and stretch out to the stall counter for more condiments. You see something like that only at pasar malams (night markets) in Singapore. "I wouldn't consider crabs or chwee kueh (steamed rice cakes) street food. It's not a like-for-like comparison that the blogger has done." In the food guide, Koo listed five restaurants specialising in crabs, including Chin Huat Live Seafood


| November 29-December 5, 2013

FOOD

Restaurant at Sunset Way and Roland Restaurant at Marine Parade Central. Other categories in the guide include char kway teow, nasi lemak, laksa and prawn noodles. Human resources manager Carol Chan, 40, a Hong Kong citizen, says: "Even though it's harder to find street food in Hong Kong now, I still prefer it over Singapore's food. "The ambience is different, with everyone bustling around you eating egg waffles. It's a pity to know that that is disappearing." Chan travels to Singapore every year to visit friends and relatives living here, and enjoys eating satay, nasi lemak and curry chicken, among other popular local fare. For the foodies that SundayLife! spoke to, the biggest point of contention with Koo's opinions was his comment on Singapore's seafood being fresher than Hong Kong's. Hong Kong-based photographer Michelle Tng, 25, says: "I disagree that

seafood-wise, Singapore is fresher. I've eaten plenty of seafood in Hong Kong, not just prepared Cantonese style, even sashimi seems to be much fresher." Dr Leslie Tay of the blog ieatishootipost.sg, 43, says: "I'm not sure that our seafood is necessarily fresher unless Koo went to our wet markets. "Hong Kong definitely has fresh live seafood." To preserve local street fare in Hong Kong, Hong Kong food writer Janice Leung hopes that there will be more action taken. She says: "One of the most important things is for young people to get into the business, learn traditional recipes and respect them. "Governments need to actively assist with the continuation of street food culture, or at least avoid measures that will directly lead to its demise."


FOOD

| November 29-December 5, 2013

LESS WELL-KNOWN RECOMMENDATIONS The 64-page food guide features 58 eateries recommended by Koo. While many are fairly well-known to Singaporeans, the following five stalls may not be as familiar. DA PO CURRY CHICKEN NOODLE

Where: Golden Mile Food Centre, 505 Beach Road, B1-53 Open: 11am to 9:30pm daily What: Try the signature curry chicken noodles, which is served in a tasty gravy that is not too heavy or oily, and topped with tender chicken. Add its homemade sambal (chilli paste) for an extra fiery kick. The stall also sells chicken rice and laksa (curry noodles).

KENG WAH SUNG CAFE Where: 783 Geylang Road Open: 6am to midnight daily What: Regardless of the time of day, diners flock to this coffee shop for their fix of aromatic black coffee and crispy kaya (coconut jam) toast. For a full meal, tuck into its nasi lemak (a rice dish) instead.


FOOD

| November 29-December 5, 2013

D’AUTHENTIC NASI LEMAK Where: Marine Parade Central Market and Food Centre. Block 84 Marine Parade Central Open: 7am to 3pm daily What: The stall serves fragrant nasi lemak, where the rice is cooked in fresh coconut milk. While a variety of ingredients is available, Koo recommends the sambal squid. Food sells out quickly so it is best to go early.

HEAP SENG LEONG Where: Block 10 North Bridge Road, 01-5109 Open: 4am to 8pm daily What: For a simple and delicious breakfast, head to this old-school coffee shop for steamed bread with thick butter and kaya, or kaya toast—complete with a cup of rich coffee.


FOOD

| November 29-December 5, 2013

SHI XIANG SATAY Where: Chinatown Complex, Block 335 Smith Street, 02-079 Open: 4 to 9pm, closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays What: The skewered pork, which has crispy charred bits, is moist and tender with bits of lard. The flavourful peanut gravy is topped with minced pineapple for a slightly sweet flavour.


TRAVEL

| November 29-December 5, 2013

Sand and Sanskrit The isles sur round i ng S i ha noukvi ll e a re i dea l R & R bookends to t he te m p l e s of S i e m Rea p

Photos by Rebecca Lo/China Daily

THE ISLAND RESORTS FEATURE SUCH EVENTS AS SNORKELING AND DIVING, OR GUESTS CAN SIMPLY LAZE AROUND THE SUNSET POOL.


| November 29-December 5, 2013

TRAVEL CHINA DAILY Rebecca Lo Sihanoukville

P

eople are always shocked when I admit that I have never been to Phuket. The reasons are simple: My idea of a holiday involves more than lying on a beach. There are plenty of beaches to enjoy in Hong Kong, and it doesn't involve getting on an airplane to do so. However, I am all for vacations that combine sand and surf with more cultural pursuits. That is where Sihanoukville in southern Cambodia gets it right. It's less than an hour's flight from Angkor Wat, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary as one of Unesco's top World Heritage Sites this year. The country is seeing exponential

growth recently as a friendly, affordable destination, and the archipelago surrounding Sihanoukville is gearing up for development into the next Maldives getaway. With Siem Reap's temples stealing the scene, many don't realise that Cambodia boasts miles of sandy shoreline and more than 70 islands ranging from a mere blip to bigger than Hong Kong island. While backpackers have known about the archipelago's unspoiled retreats for years, it was only with the opening of Song Saa near Koh Rong that people seeking luxury had a place to park their Louis Vuittons. With Song Saa's 27-key all-pool villa resort doubling in value from concept

to completion, French developer CityStar has a new and much bigger resort in the works on the western portion of Koh Russey. Operated by Alila, it is slated to be completed in 2015 and will include 48 rooms and a variety of pool villas. CBRE intends to launch the first batch of villas for sale late this month in Hong Kong. I have a soft spot for the efforts of Rory and Melita Hunter, the Australian founders of Song Saa. When I visited the twin islands of Koh Oun and Koh Bong in 2010, their enthusiasm for preserving the destination and its indigenous folks was infectious. It was fantastic to see their vision realised three years


| November 29-December 5, 2013

TRAVEL later. Song Saa rivals some of the best island resorts in the world, complete with a nearby helicopter landing pad, a speed boat that whisks guests to Sihanoukville 46 kilometres away and villas with uninterrupted sunrise or sunset views. Colourful planks from fishing boats were reused by Melita in villa furnishings while sandstone boulders unearthed during construction were transformed into feature walls. Dinner at Vista Bar and Restaurant started with cocktails specially created for the resort, along with an assortment of canapes served on driftwood that cement the sense of place. After moving to the dining pavilion, we were treated to porcini risotto with aromatic white truffle, line-caught sea bass salad and pink milk-fed Australian

prime veal medallions. When Australian chef Joel Wilkinson stopped by our table, he mentioned that many of the menu items were sourced locally. "There are still a few things that we import, but the seafood and local produce are excellent," he said. The next morning, associate programme director Barnaby Olson took us on a tour of the fishing village on nearby Koh Rong. The Hunters started Song Saa Foundation as a complement to the resort, with the mandate to help 2,500 villagers live a more sustainable life. We saw that many fishermen were now farming on the sandy soil so as not to be as reliant on the catch of the day for their family's sustenance. Funds from donations helped to reopen a school staffed with teachers from

Phnom Penh, with pens and notebooks brought in by guests as part of the international program Pack for a Purpose. Students who wish to explore topics as diverse as coral studies or malnutrition within Cambodian fishing villages can apply to stay in a Song Saa Foundation-sponsored hut to conduct research. With all the do-good initiatives on Song Saa, it was fun to have the R&R counterparts, such as snorkeling, diving and lying around the sunset pool munching on a wood oven-baked pizza. Etienne Chenevier believes there is ample room for other luxury resorts like Song Saa. A partner with CityStar, he is developing 25 hectares between the Western Cape and 1.5km of southern beach front on Koh Russey into an Alila resort


| November 29-December 5, 2013

TRAVEL designed by Singapore architect Chioh Hui Goh of Studiogoto. A much larger island than Song Saa, Koh Russey is also closer to Sihanoukville. He took us on a stroll along the beach front after a seafood lunch consisting of freshcaught crab, prawns and fish all enhanced by a robust black pepper sauce. During the walk, I was reminded of a similar explanation by Rory Hunter more than three years ago. After our tour of Koh Russey, we were whisked to Siem Reap and checked into Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor. The grand dame is one of the oldest and most respected colonial properties in southeast Asia, and it was bustling with activity during cocktail hour. The rooms were recently given a gentle renovation by Ho Chi Minh City-based design firm Noor—so gentle that I

hardly noticed a difference between now and when I was there last in 2011. We then assembled for a special temple dinner at Vat Preah Einkosei. I had heard about these traditional Cambodian meals set within the grounds of ancient ruins, but it was my first time experiencing one. The highly ritualised meal started with drummers and musicians welcoming us. We were led by human monkeys to the temple grounds itself, where we saw graceful ladies dressed like ethereal Apsara nymphs guarding the structure. Along with a multi-course meal that included amok fish and chicken with cashews— two local delicacies—we saw a variety of stylized dance performances depicting court rituals and cardamom picking. The next day was spent

visiting Siem Reap's famous temples, organised by Chemins d'Angkor and led by our guide Phourng Phalkun. Along with Angkor Wat and Bayon Temple, we visited Baphuon mountain temple. After a quarter of the complex collapsed, Baphuon was closed for 15 years as it underwent reconstruction by French architects from Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient. It reopened earlier this year and has become one of Siem Reap's most popular sites. After attempting to spot the reclining Buddha hidden in one side of the temple, I climbed up the steep steps to the very top. A sea of green surrounded me, and the jungle's contrast against the 11th-century temple I was standing upon reaffirmed my admiration for the Khmer culture. ¬


TRAVEL

| November 29-December 5, 2013

AMOK FISH AND RICE ARE AMONG LOCAL MEALS AT VAT PREAH EINKOSEI.


TRAVEL

| November 29-December 5, 2013

THE BAPHUON MOUNTAIN TEMPLE REOPENED EARLIER THIS YEAR AND HAS BECOME ONE OF SIEM REAP'S MOST POPULAR SITES.


| November 29-December 5, 2013

TRAVEL

KHMER DANCE IS PERFORMED AT VAT PREAH EINKOSEI.


DATEBOOK

| November 29-December 5, 2013

BAC GIANG, VIETNAM

CANH BAU PAGODA FESTIVAL A grand gourd contest will be held during the traditional local festival. The most exciting moment is when the biggest and the most delicious gourds win the prize. When: December 9 (the 8th day of the 11th lunar month) Where: Bac Giang Province

BANGKOK

SILPAKORN 70TH ANNIVERSARY INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE 2013 The conference brings together a targeted group of industry leaders dedicated to hospitality and tourism, serving as a forum for collaboration and mentoring of emerging tourism academics and industry professionals. When: December 1-3 Where: Bangkok, Thailand


DATEBOOK

| November 29-December 5, 2013

KONARK, INDIA

KONARK FESTIVAL

DHAKA

2ND ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF URBAN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY Today's Dhaka is a city of shopping malls, restaurants, cafes, beauty parlours and glamorous gymnasiums. Dhaka in a short space of time has transformed, the landscape now dominated by new developments and an array of real-estate advertisements offering lucrative land and housing deals across the city. When: December 4-5

This annual festival is held in an open air auditorium with the Sun Temple of Konark, the world heritage temple, as the backdrop. It showcases a magical parade of India’s classical and traditional dance forms. Eminent dancers and their troupe delight visitors in the wintry evening of early December with dramatic choreographies. When: December 1-5


DATEBOOK

| November 29-December 5, 2013

“20120729_2160 SELE’S SKY” BY LI WEI (SEMA)

BEIJING

'ROOTS OF RELATIONS' This group exhibition of young Korean and Chinese artists showcase artwork in diverse mediums and dealing with various topics in contemporary art. The exhibition, held by city-run museums in Seoul and Beijing, presents photographs, installations, video works and drawings by 10 Korean and Chinese artists in their mid-30s to early 40s whose works shed light on their engagement with reality and the society in which they live. Participating Korean artists include emerging young artists such as Beak Jung-ki, Jo Hae-jun and Lee Chang-won, and Chinese artists including Li Wei, Liu Ren, Liubo+Liyu, Zhang Xiaotao and Zhu Ming. The exhibition brings together works that deal with the meaning of different relationships. Topics covered include relations between reality and the virtual world, father and son, history and personal experiences and more. When: Until December 15 Where: Songzhuang Art Centre, Tongzhou “PARALLEL WORLD” BY LEE CHANG-WON (MORI ART MUSEUM)


DATEBOOK

| November 29-December 5, 2013

TOKYO

A “HEIDAN” CONFECTION OF THE TYPE BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO SEI SHONAGON, AUTHOR OF “MAKURA NO SOSHI” (THE PILLOW BOOK)

Exchanging gifts has been an important element of Japanese tradition since ancient times. To delight recipients’ senses, people have long chosen traditional confections that were beautifully crafted, included seasonal ingredients, carried ceremonial symbolism or even had interesting background stories to spark a conversation. This exhibition operated by the centuries-old Toraya Confectionery Co., displays about 40 types of confections the confectioner’s workers recreated from such sources. The exhibits are based on 20 stories associated with the treats. Source documents and books are also on display. When: Until November 30; 10am-5:30pm (free admission) Where: Toraya Gallery, Akasaka


| November 29-December 5, 2013


Asianews November 29- December 5, 2013