vol.1 no.1| january 2013
1 st Isatsinug Our e WIN F ree Din Vouching ers!
SECRETS FOR TRAVELERS BAGUIO, A WALK IN THE CLOUDS VIENTIANE TODAY, THE NEW FACE OF LAOS
Brunei BND6.00 Indonesia IDR45,000 Lao PDR LAK25,000 Malaysia MYR8.00 Singapore SGD6.00 inc.GST Thailand THB100
B o r o b u d u r, R e a c h i n g S p i r i t u a l H e i g h t s i n C e n t r a l J a v a
lot of times new things begin with the coming of the New Year. So it is with us as well, and it’s no coincidence that we are releasing a new magazine right at the very beginning of January. Welcome to the first issue of ASEAN Tripper Magazine. In October of last year, we closed shop after the last issue of Tropical Magazine, sealing the legend of our beloved 10-yearold indie travel publication. For 2 months afterwards we went quiet, heads above the table, working hard to incubate another magazine. Like a mother with a baby in her womb, I suppose, we counted every minute with excitement, down to the moment that we got to hold this first issue in our hands, and that first issue we can now deliver to you. So here we are embarking on a new journey-hopefully with you, the reader, always with us – where we explore in depth all aspects of Southeast Asia, including the regional mysteries, the ancient cultures, and kindness of the various peoples. The stories and articles written by local and long-time expatriate contributors will not only provide local perspectives about the region, which travelers will find useful, but will also make us, the people of Southeast Asia, see ourselves as others do. Hopefully this will help us to understand each other more profoundly, which is always the first step towards compassion. And finally, we would love to hear from you-compliments or complaints. Some people out there might love us, but we are aware that others may not. Whichever camp you belong to, just come and ring our doorbell and let us know what’s on your mind. Enjoy your journey through the first issue.
Suwida Boonyatistarn Editor
• Publisher The THM Co., Ltd. • Chief Executive Officer Wisith Chawalitanon • Managing Director Manachai Inkaew • Editorial Director Gaid Phitthayakornsilp • Special Content Editor Surachai Tantichot • Editor Suwida Boonyatistarn • Photo Editor Nipon Riabriang • Sub-editor Bruce Scott • Online Editor Kanittha Attamate • Contributors Boaz Rottem Chompunuch Chatnaparat Preekamol Chantaranijakorn Sanchia Fernandez Suresh Nair Kim Loe Michael Turtle • ASEAN tripper tv producer Jackkrit Udornpim • Sales & Marketing Director Ruchuda Pokabal +66 (0) 89 224 5234 email@example.com • Sales & Marketing Manager Phuthiphat Thammavichaisri +66 (0) 89 169 8412 firstname.lastname@example.org • Sales Representatives Mullika Puttaruksa Arisra Putsorn Sirirak Wannasomboon
• Layout Editor Nutnaree Mathong • Graphic Designer Ekasith Theppitak Thanawatt Khongseankhum • EVENT MANAGER Paopang-nga Sutin • ASSISTANT EVENT MANAGER Cholvit Puppavesa Priyanuch Phengcharoen • ASST. ADMIN & ACCOUNTING MANAGER Kanchana Yeyaphan • accounting Kannika Suebkhamkaew • Editorial Supports Wasinee Inkaew Sujitra Yeyaphan • Editorial & Sales Office 8, Soi Phahonyothin 29, Phahonyothin Rd, Ladyao, Jatujak, Bangkok, Thailand 10900 Phone +66 (0) 2939 5512-3, 2939 5488 Fax +66 (0) 2939 5477 • Color Separated & Prepress VR Film Co., Ltd. Print Compact Print Co., Ltd. Local Distributor World Of Distribution Co., Ltd. • Regional Distributor Market Asia Distributors PTE, LTD Singapore Phone +65 (0) 6744 8483 Fax +65 (0) 6744 8497 email@example.com • Advertising Enquiries firstname.lastname@example.org • Visit us on website at www.aseantripper.com • PRESS RELEASE SUBMISSION email@example.com No part of this publication can be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. Views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.
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â€˜LU X U R I O U S M O D E R N L I V I N G W I T H E N V I R O N M E N T A L C A R Eâ€™
Modern luxury living in complete harmony with environment is the aim of AANA Resort & Spa. Nurturing what nature has to offer, and by being exceptionally responsible to universal ecology, the resort was actually constructed with a mandate that no trees be cut down by the builders. Instead the resort was built around the natural vegetation including the locally popular Fard trees, which are hardwood trees that grow extremely slowly and are indigenous to Trat Province.
19/2 Moo 4 Klong Praow Beach, Trad, Thailand 23170 Tel : (66 0) 3955 1137 / E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org / www.aanaresort.com
CHIANG RAI RESORT
Building upon the rich history and beautiful landscape in Chiang Rai, Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort offers an enchanting and fulﬁlling experience for discerning guests of all backgrounds. Designed speciﬁcally for well-travelled individuals, the resort occupies an idyllic 26-rai site beside the Kok River. Chic and stylish with a focus on the arts and an inspiring atmosphere, the resort promises an enchanting stay with spacious and stylish 159 guestrooms and suite, the largest on offer in Chiang Rai. All of which feature expansive private balconies overlooking the expansive gardens and Kok River,
NORTHERN WINTER RETREAT TREAT YOURSELF TO AN INSPIRING HOLIDAY WITH EXCLUSIVE PACKAGE FOR THAI NATIONALS AND EXPATRIATE RESIDENTS IN THAILAND
Dine in style at the resort’s four restaurants and bars. LATEST RECIPE offers modern cuisine from around the globe. Chill out by the poolside at CHILL BAR or taste Lanna cocktails served with creative tapas at the stylist LATITUDE 19. For Italian cuisine lovers, do not miss the chance to savour authentic Tuscan-inspired Italian ﬂavours at FAVOLA, the resort’s specialty Italian restaurant by the Kok River. Discover the path to rejuvenation and experience exotic treatments at the luxurious riverside Parvati spa or relax your body and mind to the fullest in the 3-tiered inﬁnity salt pool. Located only moments away from Chiang Rai town and airport and only 45 minutes drive to the legendary Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar converge., Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort encourages cultural exploration and personal discovery and is the perfect launching point to enjoy one of Thailand’s most beautiful and culturally signiﬁcant regions.
Take advantage of special rates starting from THB 4,300++ per room per night inclusive of Le Méridien signature breakfast for two persons at Latest Recipe restaurant, special discounts and so much more *Offer is valid for bookings and stays from now until 28th February 2013
221/2 Moo 20 Kwaewai Road Tambom Robwieng Aaphur Muang Chiang Rai 57000 Tel: 053 603 333 Fax: 053 603 330 Email: email@example.com Website: www.lemeridienchiangrai.com www.lemeridien.com/chiangrai Facebook: www.facebook.com/LeMeridienChiangRaiResort
d an rn Fe cott ia ch ce S n Sa Bru rds and wo
Travel advice, tips, and country information to inspire you
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Things You Might Not Know about Medical Insurance Overseas Medical insurance may sound ‘blah’ but it’s a veritable life-saver during those emergencies that crawl up when least expected.
1.You may already have coverage
If you’re on a business trip, your company may have already set you up for medical insurance overseas. A few credit card companies offer complimentary ﬂight insurance coverage to certain customers. Flight insurance may not cover the cost of hospitalization or medication, but offers you 24/7 phone assistance. Your health insurance provider in your hometown may cover travel insurance to a certain extent. Check with them before you purchase a policy from a third party vendor. If you’re only partly covered by your provider, you may only have to pay a small fee to bump up your coverage.
2.Medical insurance overseas isn’t so expensive You don’t have to stick to your travel agent for medical insurance purchases. Look for vendors online and customize your policy to match your needs. Insurance coverage for a 15 day trip overseas could cost you anything between $80 and $250. Not much when you think of all the hassle it could save you.
4. Evacuation coverage may not be on your policy Evacuation coverage is a must have! A non-insured tourist may end up paying up to $10,000 in certain countries to avail of evacuation by road/air. It will set you back only a couple of hundred dollar bills to add evacuation coverage to your policy.
3. You could get travel health insurance for free Citizens of certain countries can avail of top notch healthcare facilities when travelling to countries that have reciprocal health care agreements. Make sure you check your government website to determine whether or not your country has reciprocal health ties with other nations.
Feel a life-rewarding experience with Mekong Cruisesâ€™ exclusive pleasures in Laos. Mekong Cruises has been capturing the imagination of passionate travelers as long back as the 1990, providing the most breathtaking and alluring cruises along the expansive and picturesque Mekong River.
Time to explore the extravagance of the Belle Epoque in Laos www.luangsayresidence.com
Enchanting journey on the Northern Mekong River in the unique way www.luangsay.com
Fascinating travel on luxury floating hotel along the Southern Mekong River www.vatphou.com
www.mekong-cruises.com Laos Hotline: Tel. +856 (0) 20 56 44 90 18 Luang Prabang: Tel. +856 (0) 71 25 25 53 Vientiane: Tel. +856 (0) 21 21 68 86
Pakse: Tel. +856 (0) 31 25 14 46 Houei Sai: Tel. +856 (0) 84 21 20 92 Luang Say Lodge: Tel. +856 (0) 81 21 22 96
Lost, Stolen or Damaged Luggage? Labeling your bags can never be enough. Lower your chances of getting separated from your bags and learn to deal with luggage woes if they do arise.
Raise a Cheer for Vietnam Beer No beer represents Vietnam as perfectly as the legendary 333 Beer. This iconic brand, ﬁrst produced in 1893, has managed to survive more than a century of regional conﬂicts and wars. What sets 333 apart is that it’s a rice lager, which is slightly bitter taste for some, but with 5.3% alcohol, and no chemical aftertaste, most beer drinkers agree that “rice is nice!” If you want to sound Vietnamese when ordering don’t say “threethree-three”, say “ba-ba-ba”. And don’t expect chilled cans or bottles, as the Vietnamese like their beer over ice. Finally, if you are drinking with locals it’s considered polite to top up their glasses before reﬁlling your own.
1. Hold on to your Packing List If you’ve made an itemized packing list before departure, don’t trash it just yet. Keep a copy of the list safely at home and take one along. Itemized lists help you recollect everything that was in the bag. Helpful when evaluating the total worth of the luggage lost.
2. Travel Light
Although impossible for some, travelling with only a carry-on bag saves a lot of trouble. No worries regarding excess baggage fees and you can ignore the baggage carousel upon arrival at your destination.
3. Get Colorful Pack a bag that comes in a different color or design. Bags in bold colors/designs are easily noticed on the carousel and can be quickly picked out from hundreds of misplaced bags at distribution centers. Can’t afford a new bag? Simply use colorful luggage straps or fasten a bright ribbon onto the handles.
4. Go Click! Take a picture of your bag after you’ve packed it. Print a few copies of the picture. In the event of any damage, you could claim reimbursement from your insurance provider by submitting sufﬁcient proof.
5. E-tags Been a victim of lost baggage before? Try tracemeluggage tracker.com, globalbagtag.com or i-Trak.com for their online lost baggage identiﬁcation services. You may have to pay a small fee for the service but it’s completely worth the money shelled out.
Singapore Shopping on a Shoestring Budget While popular brands scream spending power, ethnic ﬁnds and street side outﬁts allow you to embrace your own style statement.
1. Bugis Street Market
Currently the biggest street market in Singapore, Bugis Street offers the best bang for your buck. Whether you’re shopping for a trendy pair of jeans, makeup, antiques or even a cell phone charger, you’ll see it all at this multi-level mecca of shopping stalls.
2. Little India
What was once a colony of Indian prisoners is now a colorful, loud and bustling quarter, bursting with pretty artifacts, handicrafts, silks and many intriguing treasures. Savor a cup of lightly spiced ginger or cinnamon tea, get draped in a 9 yard long silk ‘sari’ or stain your hands with henna-a temporary dye used to create body art. Here, you’ll ﬁnd ethnic fabrics, cottons and silks for a very reasonable price. Keep an eye out for those century-old Ayurvedic remedies sold at the market for a steal.
3. Sim Lim Square 4. Lucky Plaza Electronics don’t come cheap but if you use the skills of a bold haggler you could walk away with one of the latest gadgets at a really good price. The Sim Lim Square spans 6 ﬂoors and offers you more gadgets than you could ever imagine. Choose from cameras, fax machines, plasma screens, smart phones and computers. A true techie’s paradise, this!
Singapore’s most famed shopping precinct Orchard Road plays host to some of the most expensive shopping malls. But amidst all the maddening retail therapy that happens here, you’ll ﬁnd Lucky Plaza, a shopping mall for the budget conscious. You’ll see almost all sorts of gifts items here including bags shoes, clothes, and electronics. So go ahead and indulge -it doesn’t always cost you the world!
Top 5 Sunrise Views in SE Asia
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The pages of Facebook, not to mention countless travel blogs, are strewn with pictures of glorious sunsets, but where, might one ask, are all the glorious sunrises? Luckily in SE Asia there are plenty of amazing locales to watch the sublime beauty of daybreak.
1. Mount Kinabalu, Sabah Province, Malaysia At 4095m Mt Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in Southeast Asia, but amazingly it is one of the easiest peaks in the world to conquer. And no previous mountain climbing experience is needed. Waking at 2:30am, you then push on to the summit, reaching it around 5:30am. The sunrise views here are spectacular, making all the effort worthwhile.
2. Merlion Park, Marina Bay Basin, Singapore Sunrises don’t always have to be viewed over ocean horizons or against mountain backdrops. At Merlion Park in Singapore you can experience a slow urban sunrise, set against concrete buildings and city structures. at the park about 6am, and try to be on the opposite site of Marina Bay Sands building for the best photo opportunities.
3. Nha Trang Beaches, Khanh Hoa Province, Vietnam 107 Since they all face east, any of the beaches in Nha Trang make perfect spots for sunrise watchers. Pick an oceanfront room in a 5-star hotel on Tran Phu Beach, and watch a sunrise from your balcony or through the window while in the bathtub. You can also try this great idea at one of the quieter beaches in Hong Chong or Dai Lanh. Or, try bathing in the cool water of Doc Let Beach, located just 30 km north of Nha Trang, and enjoy the chalk-like sand and calm shallow water as the sun makes its daily debut.
4. Bagan’s Historical Park, Myanmar 129 Being in a historical park dotted with 4,000 pagodas is amazing enough. Make the effort to get up early and you may ﬁnd the pagoda tops, usually overrun with tourists at sunset, are all yours at daybreak. Locate the magniﬁcent Shwesandaw Pagoda, and from there witness as the sky turns all kinds of magical colours as it silhouettes the countless spires of neighbouring pagodas. Not too far from New Bagan the Sein Nyet Ama and Nyima temple, and the Mi Nyein Gon temple, both make for excellent sunrise vantage points as well.
5. Mekong River Bank, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand Choose a riverbank guesthouse in Khong Chiam village in Ubon Ratchathani and experience the sunrise as it reﬂects of the surface of the majestic Mekong River (complete with the Phu Phan and Phanom Dong Rak mountain ranges as backdrop). At this hour it will just be you and the local ﬁshermen. And if you overnight here on December 31st, you can witness the start of the New Year before anyone else in Thailand, as this is the easternmost point in the kingdom.
While You’re Here, Volunteer As Myanmar began opening itself up to tourists in the early months of 2012, it also saw a great number of visitors wanting to volunteer their services. Teach for Myanmar (TFM), a non-proﬁt organization and one of the biggest volunteer programs in the kingdom, matches volunteer teachers with community-based organizations. Courses taught include English, Social Sciences, and academic skills, and the students – representing many ethnic groups and geographic locations around Myanmar – range from 17 to 30 years of age. Volunteers commit to a 10-week to 1-year placement, and class sizes range from 5 - 30 students. For more information visit www.teachmyanmar.org.
Freebies at Changi Airport There’s only one airport in Southeast Asia that keeps winning “Best Airport In The World” awards, and that’s Singapore’s Changi Airport. So why does everybody – from backpackers to business class – love this place? Maybe it’s the free mobile charging, alarm clocks on the chairs, live bands, extensive gardens, and free movies. And then there’s the “Free Singapore Tour”. If you have 5 hours to kill between connecting ﬂights, register for the free 2-hour river tour, which includes a 20-minute bumboat ride. Tours are available from 10am to 7pm, but seats are limited.
Coral Cove Chalet is situated in one of most ideal places on Samui, its surroundings are not only breathtaking and convenient but they are utterly tranquil too. Nestled on the side of the coastal hills amongst well kept lush tropical gardens, it serves as the perfect getaway from the bustling beaches of nearby Chaweng and Lamai beaches. We at Coral Cove Chalet have many valued, loyal customers who continue to visit us year after year. They tell us that they do so because of our friendly, non intrusive service, relaxed atmosphere and mouth watering cuisine. Our staff take pride in those attributes and strive to uphold the same standards of service at all times.
210 Coral Cove Beach, Lamai, Koh Samui, Suratthani 84310 Thailand. Tel. (6677) 448-500-3 Fax. (6677) 448-504 E-mail. reservation @ coralcovechalet.com www.coralcovechalet.com
CALEDAR OF EVENTS
Red-letter dates across the SE Asian nations
The Vaccines Live in Bangkok January 12th, 6pm Moonstar Studio, Lad Prao 80 Road, Bangkok Hailing from London, this UK indie rock band is set to play in Bangkok for the ﬁrst time as part of a North American and Asian tour promoting their heavily hyped debut CD ‘What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?’ and their No. 1 follow-up album ‘Come of Age’, which debuted at the top of the U.K. charts with ﬁrst-week sales of 44,000. Joining them onstage in Bangkok will be The Rubens, from Australia. Tickets (THB): 1,400 (pre-event), 2,000 (at door).
Ebisu Muscats Asia Tour 2013 Live in Thailand January 19th, 7pm Central World, Live Arena 8th fl., Bangkok The Japanese girl group Ebisu Muscats, made up of AV and gravure idols, is touring Asia with a stop in Bangkok. Come and meet the 10 leading ladies: Rio, Sho Nishino, Akiho Yoshizawa, Yuma Asami, Minori Hatsune, Kaho Kasumi, Nanako Kodama, Ayako Yamanaka, Mui Kuriyama and Yuri Satomi. Their ﬁrst single, ‘Banana Mango High School / 12 no 34 de Naite with Namida Yonshimai’, reached #8 on the Oricon charts in 2010. Tickets (THB): 800 – 4,500. Must be over 18 years of age to attend.
Vietnam Hoi An Full Moon Festival
January 25th Hoi An (Quang Nam province) On the 14th day of each lunar month, the old town area in Hoi An bans all motorized trafﬁc and turns itself into a massive performance venue for 18th century Vietnamese arts, a nod to the old trading town’s ﬁnancial heyday. Chinese opera, Chinese chess, and famous local dishes are all on display, and shops put up brightly-colored lanterns while traditional music is audible from every angle. It’s also the only day you don’t have to buy tickets to enter the old town’s many attractions, and the temples are at their busiest as the locals honor their ancestors.
All Beethoven’s Piano Concertos with People’s Artist Dang Thai Son 15th and 18th Jan, 8pm Hanoi Opera House, Hanoi
A solo performance by Vietnamese pianist Dang Thai Son, conducted by Honna Tetsuji, features all ﬁve of Beethoven’s piano concertos. Dang Thai Son is an emerging ﬁgure amongst the leading international musicians of our time. He was propelled to the forefront of the musical world in October 1980, when he was awarded the ﬁrst prize and Gold medal at the 10th International Chopin Piano competition in Warsaw, making himself the ﬁrst Asian pianist to win this top international competition. He has performed in renowned concert halls in more than 40 countries worldwide. Tickets (VND): 300,000 – 1,500,000.
Cambodia Victory Day over Genocide January 7th Celebrated nationwide Held annually, this event commemorates one of the most important days in Cambodia’s recent history. On the 7th of January 1979, the Khmer Rouge were overthrown by the invading Vietnamese Army, and thousands of Cambodians gather in Phnom Penh to remember millions of Cambodians who died during the Khmer Rouge regime. This would be a good day to visit the Siem Reap “Killing Fields” and perhaps even Pol Pot’s landmark house.
Kachin Manaw Festival January 10th Myitkyina and Putao, Kachin State On this day Kachin’s local tribes, such as the Kharku, Thaisan, Lacheik, Rawang, Thaikhamt and Lisu, adorn themselves with their best traditional costumes and dance around Manaw poles, decorated with folk-art and erected at the center of the festival ground. The festival focuses on paying gratitude to ancestral spirits, and praying for future prosperity. It’s also the celebration of the New Year, of victory in battles, and a reunion of the tribes.
Ananda Pagoda Festival January 27th Ananda Temple, Bagan This iconic pagoda in Bagan Historical Park becomes even more special on this date, as one thousand monks from a hundred villages in the vicinity arrive to accept offerings of ﬁlled alms bowls on the full moon night. With crops having been harvested, the villagers – mostly farmers – have time and money now to enjoy themselves, and they arrive in caravans of ox-carts. Here they camp out under shady trees, and frequent the stalls selling local products that are situated around the pagoda.
Sinulog Festival January 20th Cebu City Sports Complex, and around Cebu An annual Mardi Gras type event honors the vision of the child Jesus, known as the Santo Niño (Holy Child), who used to be the patron saint of the city. Dance rituals commemorate the Cebuano people’s pagan origin, and their acceptance of Roman Catholicism. The festival, held on the 3rd Sunday in January each year, features a street parade with participants in bright colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets and native gongs. Smaller versions of the festival are also held in various parts of the province.
Dinagyang Festival January 25th– 27th Iloilo City
Celebrated annually, on the fourth Sunday in January in the city of Iloilo, the Dinagyang is both a religious and cultural festivity. It is a tribute to Senor Santo Nino – believed to protect the city during calamities – and a celebration of the arrival of Malay settlers in the island of Panay. Watch the ﬂuvial procession along the Iloilo River, with devotees riding in bancas (boats) carrying assorted images of the Child Jesus, while lively parades and thunderous shouts of “Viva Senor Santo Nino” and “Hala Bira” go on all around. Dancers in colorful costumes paint their bodies in black to imitate the Negritos, or Aetas, who are the aboriginal people of the island.
Hari Pagerwesi January 16th Bali Pagerwesi is the day when Balinese fortify the space around themselves in order to ward off evil spirits. Tall, extravagantly decorated bamboo poles known as penjors are erected outside homes, and adorned with offerings of ﬂowers and fruit. This celebration is good time to see traditional masked dances performed with a full gamelan – an Indonesian musical band made up of xylophones, drums, gongs and bamboo ﬂutes.
Weezer Live in Jakarta January 8, 7pm Lapangan D Senayan, Jalan Pintu Tiga, Jakarta Tickets are now available for Weezer, the LA-based alt-rock band formed in 1992. The group, consisting of Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, and Scott Shriner, will be performing songs from their 9 albums, including their hits ‘Island in the Sun’ and ‘Buddy Holly’. Tickets (IDR): 550,000 - 1,2000,000.
Singapore Incanto – A Magical Spectacular Until March 10th Festive Grand, Resorts World at Sentosa Become spellbound by this show’s death-defying illusions and astonishing acrobatic sequences, executed by a team of awardwinning producers and an international cast of 50 performers from around the globe. The show follows a curious young Traveller as she enters a strange monastery – the gateway to a hidden dimension of mystery and illusion. Guided by the whimsical Jester, the Traveller’s innocence attracts the fearful Dungeon Master, mortal enemy of the Sorcerer (played by Joe Labero, wizard of the mystical arts). Follow her thrilling adventures until the final showdown between Good and Evil. Daily shows (except Tuesday and Wednesday) at 8pm. Tickets (SGD): 78 – 148.
Art Stage Singapore 2013 January 24th – 27th Sands Expo & Convention Halls D, E, F Art Stage Singapore is Asia’s premier international contemporary art fair, and the definitive rendezvous point for collectors, artists, art enthusiasts, and academics, as well as museum and gallery professionals. The fair features approximately 130 leading galleries, 75% of which hail from the Asia Pacific region, with the remaining 25% comprised of international representatives. Admission (SGD): 33 (1-day entry), 63 (4-day entry).
Malaysia 11th Royal Langkawi International Regatta January 7th– 12th Langkawi, in the State of Kedah Watch 40 boats, representing ﬁve classes, compete as crews from all over the world set to do battle against a lovely backdrop of greenery and beaches off Langkawi’s coast. At this time of year the climate in the area is sunny and dry, and the seas are calm. Look for hotel packages and promotions at this time of the year, and don’t forget to join the regatta after-party.
Thaipusam January 27th Batu Caves, Selangor Dedicated to Lord Muruga, the Thaipusam festival sees millions of Hindu devotees gathering at these famous caves, dressed in orange and yellow (their lord’s favorite’s colors) and carrying offerings such as milk, fruits, and ﬂowers. See some devotees taking it to the extreme by piercing their bodies and faces with sharp objects ranging from needles to hooks.
Malaysia Food Festival 2013
January 18th– 20th Mid Valley Exhibition Center, Kuala Lumpur Foodies… mark your calendar now, and get ready to hop around more than 100 stalls representing various food companies and restaurants. The exhibition features both international and local delicacies, and admission is free. 59
Screening Room ott s ord
The BACC (Bangkok Arts & Cultural Centre) recently played host to Cinema Diverse, a film series showcasing the works of innovative filmmakers from the South and Southeast Asian diaspora…
Spotlight Colours of Passion (2008) Drama | Directed by Ketan Mehta SYNOPSIS: This fanciful bio-pic is based on the life, loves and struggles of the 19th century Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma, an artist who achieved international recognition for his depiction of scenes from the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. His paintings were considered to be among the best examples of the fusion of Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art, but when he decided to push the barrier and depict nudity in his paintings, the Indian religious establishment went into a fury. And it didn’t help that his model/muse and he were involved in a torrid and scandalous romance. Director Ketan Metha’s epic biographical film The Colours of Passion is definitely steeped in both those qualities – colour and passion. The sumptuous set designs, elaborate costumes, and rich cinematography are a treat for the eyes, and the smouldering romance between Raja Ravi Varma (played by Randeep Hooda) and model/mistress/muse Sugandha (played the alluring Nandana Sen) definitely heats up the screen. In fact, in one erotically charged sequence the pair fuse colour and passion together in a body painting love scene so suggestive that it became one of the many reasons this film caught the unfortunate attention of Indian censors. But it was the brief scenes involving nudity that eventually caused this film to be banned in its native country of India. Censors found the scenes too scandalous, and as a result this movie has yet to have theatrical distribution at home (although it has been shown to wide acclaim at 2 independent film festivals in India). Which is a shame really, because this film portrays one of India’s great cultural heroes not only as a rags-to-riches success story, but also as a freethinker and innovator who pushed the boundaries of his craft both technically and artistically. In other words, it’s as much an inspirational film as it is a straightforward biography. Essentially the film traces the life of the artist Ravi Varma, who was inadvertently given the title Raja in 1873 after his work received appreciation from high ranking British officials. Ravi had shown artistic talent at an early age, and by the age of 13 he had secured the patronage of HH Maharajah Ayilyam Thirunal, thus beginning his formal art training. After acquiring the skills of the European masters, Ravi eventually started a successful career painting. After several commissions, painting high-ranking noblemen, Ravi did something quite extraordinary. He chose, as his subjects, characters from the Great Indian literary epics. When these paintings were exhibited in Bombay they produced quite a sensation, since it was the first time that these gods and goddesses had been depicted on canvas so truthfully and emotively. The public demand to see these works gave Ravi an idea. With the help of a German entrepreneur he set up a Lithographic Press in Bombay and began selling these artworks to the common people who, of course, could not afford one of his paintings. It was a bold step but one that made him a household name across India. 60
But the film is not just a chronology of the events in Raja Ravi Varma’s life, but also a sensuous love story of the great painter and his muse, the woman called Sugandha. She becomes his inspiration, his love, and her beauty inspires him to create exquisite paintings. However the fact that Ravi was already married to someone else made this artist/muse relationship quite a scandal, and things do not end well for this adulterous couple. A secondary scandal to this was the depiction of female nudity in Ravi’s later paintings, and for this shocking audacity Ravi is brought to court to be tried for his crimes. The film actually opens with the court proceedings in full swing, and this narrative device serves as the glue that holds together all the other flashbacks of Ravi’s career. We return to the court case several times throughout the film before the climactic finale in which Ravi’s sentence is brought upon him. The film is based on the biographical novel Raja Ravi Varma by Ranjit Desai, and although some events may be a little speculative or mythologized, it certainly paints a believable story about India in the late 19th century, and the passion and obsession of a great artist. However even though this film is an attempt by the director to stray from the well-trod paths of standard fare Bollywood movies, the musical numbers seem jarringly out of place and the occasionally histrionic performances remind me that you can take the boy out of Bollywood, but you can’t take the Bollywood out of the boy. But it’s still a fine film, and one that hopefully will get a major release in it’s own country sometime soon.
The Clay Bird (2002)
Drama | Directed by Tareque Masud
Drama | Directed by Loy Arcenas
This film, winner of a FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) award at Cannes in 2002, centers around Anu, a young boy who’s family is torn apart during the violent revolution that created the independent state of Bangladesh in the late ’60s. Anu’s distant father, a strict Muslim, sends the boy off to a madrasah – a Muslim boarding school –where he finds solace in the company of his classmate Rokon, a lonely outsider. When Anu’s beloved uncle Milon, who is heavily involved in progressive politics, comes to fetch the boy home (Anu’s younger sister has fallen ill), Anu sees that religion, politics, and anger have not only destroyed his family, but threaten to rip his homeland asunder as well.
The film is an intimate and incisive portrait of a modern aristocratic Philippine family in present-day decline. When the elderly family patriarch falls ill, his westernized eldest daughter returns home from America, only to declare she wants to sell the family mansion, which is in her name. This comes as shocking news to her aunt Celia, a former opera star, who has been looking after both the father and the house, with hopes of living out her twilight years there. Hoping for a miracle, aunt Celia dresses up her young grandson as the Santo Niño (holy child) and prays that her heartless niece will change her mind about the sale.
Tears of the Black Tiger (2000) Action, Fantasy | Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng
This candy-colored Western was made in the frenetic style that characterizes much of contemporary Thai cinema, even if the film is shot in the old-fashioned style of Thailand’s florid melodramas of the ’60s. If you appreciated Baz Luhrmann’s 2008 film Australia, then you’ll appreciate this. Essentially the tragic/comedic tale revolves around a poor outlaw boy who falls for the governor’s beautiful daughter, who in turn is to be wed to the local police captain. Set it all against a backdrop that references American Westerns and Thai folk tales, throw in a few campy heroes and villains, pepper with some gory slow-motion scenes of carnage and plenty of bad fake moustaches, and what’s left is a hallucinatory parody of cowboys and high society debutantes.
On His Career:
I have worked for most of my professional life in the theatre as a director and as a set designer. But my first love was and has always been the movies. I was in Manila directing a production of David Henry Hwang’s “Golden Child” at Tanghalang Pilipino, when I first got acquainted with the Cinemalaya Festival. Here was finally an opportunity to get myself into filmmaking and get further in touch with my Filipino roots by recording my thoughts of the Philippines within the context of film.
Quote Unquote Director Loy Arcenas
Rody Vera (Niño’s screenwriter) and I wanted to explore what it was like to be a present day Filipino. We were interested in exploring the rise and decline of our class system, the built-in dysfunctions within the Filipino family. It took us a couple of months and a number of workshops to develop the story. The main acting ensemble - Art Acuña, Shamaine Buencamino, Raquel Villavicencio, and Fides Asensio - were very much instrumental in developing the story and the characters.
(Our) intimate film ended up involving a child star, a butterfly that wouldn’t fly on cue, six dinner table scenes (turns out table scenes are very difficult sequences to shoot; I didn’t know this until we were in the midst of the shoot), the very complicated tertulia sequences… the list goes on. Someone mentioned that Niño contains practically all the most difficult sequences one needs to master in filmmaking! Well, we didn’t know this when we began to write the story. I laughed when Krisma Fajardo, my line producer, warned me that I would get hooked by the end of the filming process, but she was absolutely right. I’m now addicted to it! Sources: Jansen Musico - Pelikula Tumblr Film Blog (pelikula.tumblr. com); Juaniyo Y. Arcellana - Starweek Magazine (www.philstar.com)
Delicious Southeast Asian specialities and recipes
Head on the Table Singapore’s Fiery Fish-Head
A deliciously-stirred ﬁsh-head curry 62
THEY say it takes us 20 seconds to size up someone we’re meeting for the first time. I reckon it’s that way with restaurants serving the famous fish head curry. Imagine at a Singapore restaurant table: A giant fish head floating in a huge portion of delicious curry soup, its eyes staring and teeth grinning. The global-award-winning “ﬁsh head curry” is popularly called the “national dish”, or even the “most democratic dish”, a Singapore tradition with a legacy as famous as the Singapore Merlion (the island’s tourism icon) and it’s a must-try dish, which can be sought in multi-racial ﬂavours from Malay, Indian or Chinese variations to this recipe.
So what’s with this fascination with fish head, you may well ask? If you look back in history, Indians do not eat ﬁsh head. In fact, prisons and hospitals in Singapore would practically give away ﬁsh heads for free after they’ve used the rest of the body for cooking! But curry-talk has it that one day, an Indian cook started making curry dishes using ﬁsh heads in Singapore, it became hugely popular with the Chinese customers. It wasn’t long before ﬁsh heads became a prized commodity. And the rest, of course, is history. Generally, in this dish, the head of a red snapper (or Ikan Merah in Malay language) is semi-stewed in a Kerala style curry together with assorted vegetables such as okra (lady’s ﬁnger), brinjals, tomato and long bean. The gravy is thin and orange in colour. Tamarind or asam juice is often added to the spicy gravy so as to give it a sweet and sours taste. I enjoy going to “Little India” (with an assortment of about 150 south-Asian restaurants in a threekilometer radius in the heart of town) where the upper-end restaurants like Muthu’s Curry, Gayathri’s and Banana Leaf Apollo serve this dish at his best.
How to make Singapore Fish Head Curry Fish head 1/2 lb (Wash away blood -Clean) Cumin seeds 1 tbsp Chili powder 1 tsp Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp Coriander powder 3 tsp Red chili 1 Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp �1 tsp
Ginger 3 inch (chopped) Garlic cloves 5 (chopped) Onion 1 Cinnamon 2 inch Coconut milk 1 cup Tomato 2 Salt Oil
What makes the curry ﬁsh head extra special is the fact that it is steamed. The ﬁsh head, brinjal and okra ﬁrst, and then pours the freshly made curry gravy over it. This results in a ﬁsh head that is not overly cooked, the ﬂesh is tender and moist, while the bones easily dislodge so you can get to the wonderfully slurpalicious jelly bits. Its freshness is another key factor, every morning the boss will scour a few markets to look for hardto-ﬁnd ang goli (gold banded snapper) heads. The heads are steamed till tender then covered with a tangy, fragrant, well-balanced ﬁsh curry sauce that is not too spicy nor over powering, and with just the right amount of tangy sourness to get those salivary glands going. “It’s sinfully delicious,” says schoolteacher Maria Latiff, 33, who entertained her German boyfriend, Jurgen Martiens, 35, to Muthu’s Curry. “We just blew our tops and broke into beads of sweat as we enjoyed the most succulent and rich ﬁsh head curry, with spice and intense ﬂavor. The rice, served on the banana leaf, the veggies, the naan (north Indian bread) were magniﬁcent complements but the six-star dish was the ﬁsh-head curry.”
Directions: 1. Heat the pan and add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, curry leaves, fry until the aroma comes out. Grind the fried ingredients with little water into paste. 2. Heat the pan with oil and add chopped onion, tomato and fry until it gets golden brown. Add cumin powder, chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder fry until the aroma comes out and add ground paste. 3. Let it boil and add salt and cleaned ﬁsh head. cook in the medium heat until the ﬁsh is cooked well. Add coconut milk and cook for 3 min in the simmer. 4. Serve Fish Head Curry with rice immediately. Enjoy!
ON THE COVER t
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Come to KEP for the beach and the crab market, but reserve a day (or two) to explore the deserted early 20th century former homes of French colonists that dot the surrounding hillsides. Take a self-guided bike tour, with $2-a-day bike rental, and check out the underappreciated architecture of Cambodia’s colonial past. Most homes are abandoned, except for the occasional squatter, so the whole place has a creepy post-apocalyptic feel.
If you fancy yourself an amateur Indiana Jones or a budding Lara Croft, set aside an afternoon to visit BENG MEALEA, an ancient Hindu temple complex that dates back to the 12th century. It’s an hour’s drive from Siam Reap, so fewer tourists go there, but that solitude, and the mystical atmosphere of the crumbling ruins, makes it all the more alluring.
Had your fill of typical Cambodian holiday beaches? Then set a course for BAMBOO ISLAND (aka: Koh Russei, near Ream National Park) and see how it feels to have a beach all to yourself. The smooth white sands, gentle waves, and limitless horizons should be attracting tourists in droves, but for now, let this be our little secret.
Like any big city Phnom Penh can get a little overheated, but at the KIRIROM NATIONAL PARK, a scant 100 kms away, you can “chill on the hill”. The hike up the Phnom Dat Chivit Trail takes about 2 hours, and on the way you’ll encounter a mountaintop monastery, a freshwater lake and numerous waterfalls. You may luck out and see a black bear or a tiger along the way (if that’s your idea of luck), but keep an eye out as well for smaller, less man-eating critters, such as porcupines and hornbills.
If careening down sun-warped train tracks at close to 60 km/h on a rickety BAMBOO TRAIN sounds like fun, then we’ve go the ride for you. A renowned attraction near Battambang, this hour long train ride and tour goes past some beautiful scenery, and a local brickworks, but if a second train approaches from the opposite direction you may have to stop, help dismantle your train, carry it past the oncoming engine, and only then resume your journey. Which is quite a hoot when you think about it.
Although many tourist sites in PHNOM PEHN dwell on the misery inflicted during the Khmer Rouge regime, there’s still lighthearted entertainment available, such as the traditional performing arts Plae Pakaa shows at the National Museum.
Don’t think KOH KONG is just about casinos, visa runs, and smuggling contraband. If you find yourself in this region, spring for a night at the luxurious 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, and spend the time reading, chilling, and writing that travel blog you never get around to. Excursions to nearby Tatai waterfalls and its idyllic village are also available, and here you’ll see upcountry rural life carrying on, unaffected by tourism.
Photo Andy Kim
Photo Zeke Mermell
Travel 6 km south of the Banteay Srei ruins at Angkor Wat, and make a somber visit to the CAMBODIAN LANDMINE MUSEUM. The museum was built and is funded by Aki Ra, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who planted lots of landmines himself but now donates his life to finding and dismantling them all over the country. Your entry fee supports a good cause, since there are still millions of landmines and UXOs all over Cambodia.
Spend a spooky NIGHT IN BOKOR NATIONAL PARK exploring the ruins of the ill-fated Bokor Hotel. Using just a flashlight, check out the dilapidated church, casino, and resort buildings of this hilltop ghost town. And if you think it looks like something straight out of a horror movie, you’re right! It was used in film City of Ghosts (2002), starring Matt Dillon. BTW finding a guide in nearby Kampot City is easy-they’ll approach you.
Photo ©Keith Kelly (www.keithakelly.com)
10 If you’re lucky enough to be in TONLE SAP around October/November, ask about the date of the annual Water Festival, held annually to celebrate the reversal of the river waters flowing back into the Mekong. Join the crowd for boat races and lots of other celebrations. 67
In Brunei alcohol sale, and drinking in public, is a definite no-no. As for finding a cold pint on a hot afternoon, booze is virtually non-existent except in clubs reserved for foreigners. But you can get beer in a teapot in many Chinese restaurants if you look the waitress strai ght in the eye and ask for a “STRONG” TEA.
Brunei’s answer to KFC, AYAMKU RESTAURANT is a self service franchise eatery and one of the cheapest places to get a meal-a big piece of delicious fried chicken, rice and a drink for about B$3. They also serve fries, burgers, spaghetti, fish & chicken fillets, and all the usual fast-food favourites.
The MERIMBUN HERITAGE PARK near Tutong is home to Brunei’s largest lake, and the lake’s unique blackish tea-coloured appearance is due to the tannin from the leaves that fall in the water. But don’t go dipping any scones into it. For campers it’s possible to pitch a tent along the lake, but make sure you first ask the local chief if you can stay on his land.
Photo Michael Padre Juan, Brunei Darussalam
Early bird shoppers are in luck, since SHOPS in BSB open as early as 7:45am, but lollygaggers be aware they tend to close as early as 6pm, and on Fridays some shops are only open until noon, or are closed between 12pm and 2pm.
Pulau Ranggu, sitting in the middle of the river near the Sultan’s Palace, is where you can catch a glimpse of the ungainly PROBOSCIS MONKEY, with its large nose and rounded stomach (not to be confused with tourists from America). Water taxis take visitors along the river to where a small cluster of these oddball creatures live happily amongst the trees.
BSB’s most famous night market, PASAR GADONG is a bustling array of vendors offering up everything from satay and barbecued fish, to chicken wings and kueh melayu (sweet pancakes filled with peanuts, raisins and sugar). But there’s nowhere to sit. Eat on your feet cocktail party-style, or get it as take-away. Brunei is the only place in the world where you can legally DIVE on operating OIL PRODUCTION PLATFORMS (without being a commercial diver). It may sound dubious, but the platforms are home to a variety of soft corals and other marine animals. You must be an Advanced Open Water diver to take part in this activity, but… think about the bragging rights!
The Sultan of Brunei, ISTANA NURUL IMAN, is one of the wealthiest men on earth (worth about 25 billion US dollars, give or take a million) and if you don’t believe it, take a stroll past his flat – a 1788-room palace in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB). Especially nosy people can even get a sneak peek inside, but only during the 3-day Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations at the end of Ramadan. NASI KATOK is a signature dish of Brunei made up of rice, fried chicken and a sauce called sambal (available in spicy or regular flavor). Nasi translates to “rice”, and katok translates to “knock”, and as the story goes, years ago one would knock softly on the cook’s door after hours if one suddenly got the munchies in the middle of the night. Nowadays the name is synonymous with 24-hour eateries in Brunei, which only goes to prove that you don’t need beer to have midnight snack attacks.
Check-in at BRUNEI AIRPORT can be tediously slow since there are limited check-in counters available, and travelers are also subject to a departure tax so be sure to set aside BN$12 for this.
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Some people say that the city of Jakarta will take your breath away, but they’re probably just talking about all the air-pollution. However, there are actually white sand beaches and blue water just north of this smog-smothered capital city. Take a boat north from Jakarta Bay – the further you get from the polluted mainland, the clearer the water becomes – and head to the 1000 ISLANDS (aka: Palau Seribu). The name is a bit misleading, since there are only 128 islands here, but about half a dozen of them are equipped to handle sun-loving tourists. Built in 1478 the GREAT MOSQUE OF DEMAK is the oldest structure of its kind in Java, and to untrained eyes it might look like just another house, but this is the granddaddy of all mosques on the island, setting the model standard with its 3-level pyramid roof style.
Reaching the lip of a volcano pretty much guarantees a spectacular view, but next time try a NIGHT HIKE, and reach the summit at sunrise. The Lawu Volcano in central Java, and the Batur Volcano in Bali, are 2 excellent options for this kind of trek. At the very southern tip of Bali, right under a high cliff, lucky souls will stumble upon NYANG NYANG BEACH, a seaside secret which many surfers dudes argue is the most beautiful beach on the island. Steps lead down to the sand, and apparently there is also a nearby field where some undisclosed individuals grow and harvest magic mushrooms. Hmmm, maybe that’s why the surfers like it so much.
Think you’ve got ink? Visit Siberut Island, off West Sumatra, which is home to the heavily tattooed men of the MENTAWAI TRIBE. These guys are like original gangsters when it comes to tattoo designs, and many of their creations have been adopted by tatt-freaks worldwide. Historically the Mentawai believe that without tattoos they will never reach perfection, both in real life and in the spiritual realm; which might make your Mom feel a bit better about that dragon stretched across your back.
Closet Goths and fans of the macabre will no doubt want to visit Kersik Luway Park, home to the notorious black orchid. The park is located in East Kalimantan, Borneo, a region which also features cruises down the Mahakam River, where tourists can seek out settlements of the Dayak tribe-famous for their LONGHOUSES, wooden statutes, and intricately crafted coffins, Spooky!
The legend among local Indonesian lads is that for a masculine “pick me up” of extraordinary proportions, drinking some KUKU BIMA (herbal medicine), together with 3 raw free-range eggs, really does the trick. FYI, one of the medicine’s key ingredients is the hippocampus of a seahorse. Yes, you read that right. Photo Yasuhiro Sato
Indonesia is pretty much right on the equator so you’d be kind of daft to think it won’t be sweltering hot most of the time. But when you need a break, head to DIENG PLATEAU – half an hour from the Borobudur Temple Complex on Java –and chill out with year-round cooler temperatures. The plateau is also home to Hindu temple ruins, some dating some back to 8th or 9th century, and when your temples hurt from all that temple touring, there’s lakes, caves, and volcano craters all awaiting you and your digital camera.
Photo Rob Henry
When trekking through Tangkoko National Park on Sulawesi, keep your eyes (and perhaps a banana) peeled for the world’s smallest monkey-the SPECTRAL TARSIER – an animal so tiny, it weighs under 100 grams. Of course if you miss these puny primates don’t flip, there’s lots of other unique birds, beasts and bugs to baffle your brains. As for lodging, there’s simple homestays in the area, and local guides for your forest forays. If you’re tempted to just buy a postcard of the multicolored LAKES OF KELIMUTU in Flores, first ask yourself, “shouldn’t I actually visit them too?” Don’t be like other scaredy-cat tourists who are put off by the location – the lakes are perched atop an inactive caldera (similar to a volcano crater) – because the views here, especially at sunrise, are mind-blowing.
Laos 31 The ruined Khmer temple complex WAT PHU, in Champasak province, is the epitome of grandeur itself. However it becomes even more magical, once every year, on the night before Buddhist Makhabucha day (a lunar calendar event, usually falling in February or March). On this night the temple is lit with thousands of candles, all flickering under the glow of the bright full moon. Photo Gaid P.Kornsilpa
32 If you find yourself in Luang Prabang during the first week of December, don’t miss the LUANG PRABANG FILM FESTIVAL. This annual movie marathon is a celebration of Southeast Asian cinema, and includes a lecture series, several outdoor screenings, and a few private parties you should try and crash.
In Luang Prabang, wake up early to witness the MONK’S MORNING ALMS ON SETTHATIRATH Road. Around 6am hundreds of monks leave their temples for morning alms, and quickly disappear before the clock strikes 7. This same scene plays out on the city’s main roads, but fewer tourists know about.
33 Newsflash on VANG VIENG TUBING! Just in September last year, the Laos government suspended the liquor licenses of all bars and restaurants here, and imposed fines of up to 20 million kip for any establishment caught breaking this new law. All platforms, huts and other structures within 15m of the riverbank were ordered removed, including all high jump and swing platforms. Tubing can continue, of course, but it just won’t be the same any more.
34 When visiting Northern Laos, drop by BOKEO NATURE RESERVE and stay in one of the canopy level tree houses. From here you can use the park’s zip line cable network to scour the primary forest in search of the illusive black gibbon. See www.gibbonexperience.org for more details. Photo www.tomperry.com.au
Photo Peter Nijenhuis
THE PLAIN OF JARS, in Xieng Khouang province, is home to over 300 giant stone jars that litter the plateau. Visiting these 2,000 year-old relics is fascinating, but archaeologists and historians still can’t agree on their true purpose (or explain where all the lids went).
To see some of the most diverse and unchanged populations of hill tribes – such as the Phunoy, Hor, Thai Dam, and Akha – visit the remote mountain villages in sleepy PHONGSALI province in the north. Tour agencies in the capital city of Phongsali can help plan your expedition.
Looking for an alternative to the over-hyped Mekong and Nam Ou pre-packaged river cruises? Try the NAM HINBOUN RIVER expedition. Explore the imposing limestone mountain caves and rivers of Khammouane province, and spend a few days trekking and boating in the remote countryside. It’s a wealth of archaeological sites, forest trails and a nice detour from the typical tourist trail.
Laotians don’t dine late but, like many Southeast Asian nations, they dine all the time! In Vientiane the night food markets at Vangthong Plaza and THAT LUANG MARKET are packed with cheap food stalls featuring local delicacies such as laab, grilled chicken, and grilled fish. And the best part is you fill your tummy without emptying your wallet.
The name SI PHAN DON – located in the Pakse region of southern Laos – literally translates to “4,000 islands”, and from here you can take a relaxing river cruise to see the endangered Irrawady dolphins near the Cambodian border. Although there’s no guarantee you will actually see any of these critters (they’re free running, not kept in a farm), the best time to go is between 8am and 10am, or 3pm and 6pm, during the months between December and May. 71
Malaysia 41 If you find yourself in Kuala Lumpur around the end of January, visit Batu Caves during THAIPUSAM, a Tamil Hindu festival dedicated to the god Murugan. Get lost among a million devotees, a sea of orange and yellow as followers come adorned in their godâ€™s two favorite colours. And if your stomach can take it, watch the parades of fanatic devotees who pierce their bodies and faces with huge needles, heavy hooks and other pointy devices. It all appeases the lord, apparently, even if it might shock a tourist or two.
For a stress release getaway, head to car-free TIOMAN ISLAND, a small white sand paradise located 32 km off the eastern coast. Here you can swim, explore the reefs, shop at the duty free resorts, and belt out your own a cappella version of “Bali Hai” (film buffs note that the beaches here appeared in the 1958 movie musical South Pacific).
All it takes is a small fee to stay at the long houses of THE RUNGUS – the indigenous inhabitants of Sabah, in Kampung Bavanggazo (Malaysian Borneo). These multi-level houses are built on a hill slopes, and some measure as long as 300 m in length.
If the Petronas Towers in KL aren’t high enough for you, sign up for the ONE DAY PILOT package, which allows novices to actually take over the controls of a moving airplane for 30 minutes as it flies over the city. Thankfully however, the take off and landing are both handled by an accompanying professional pilot.
BUKIT MELAWATI, in Kuala Selangor, is nice enough as a park, but it’s the extremely tame simian residents that make this place special. A huge population of silvered langur monkeys can be found hanging from trees, walking on the road, and greedily hitting up visitors for food. Surprisingly these monkeys are born orange and turn silver grey as grownups.
When in Melaka, try the local PERANAKAN (or Baba-Nonya) CUISINE – a taste that has made dining in the city famous. Specialties such as ayam buah keluak, otak-otak, and itek tim are more fun to eat than to pronounce, and the Restoran Peranakan on Tun Tan Cheng Lock street, and the Riverine Coffeehouse on Lorong Hang Jebat street, are just 2 of the many excellent restaurants where you can sample these dishes.
Take a CANOPY WALK across the longest suspension pedestrian bridge in the world in Taman Negara National Park. Stretching across 530 m, with a maximum height of 40 m, the views overlooking the forest’s rich and diverse flora and fauna are simply amazing.
At the foothills of Mount Santubong in Damai Beach, 35 km north of Kuching, the SARAWAK CULTURAL VILLAGE is a living museum waiting to be explored. Attend cultural performances or peruse the life-size houses built by the different native peoples of Sarawak. And every July check out the renowned Rainforest World Music Festival.
Up for luxurious and extremely private experience? Check into one of the STILT VILLAS built over the water in the STRAIT OF MALACCA, and enjoy your own personal sunrise and sunset ocean views. The Pangkor Laut Resort, located on a private island, and the Golden Palm Tree Iconic Resort & Spa, closer to the western coastline, are equally tempting options.
Old school skilled craftsmanship may be harder and harder to find these days, but in GEORGETOWN, on the island of Penang, experienced artisans still ply their trade among the town’s already famous heritage buildings. On Chulia Street craftsmen can still be found weaving cane furniture by hand, while a signboard maker on Queen St is Penang’s last remaining wood engraver. Further along, at the corner of Carnarvon Street and Campbell Street, a local locksmith finds a steady clientele that swear by his antique key cutting machine.
In Mandalay, if you get up around 4am (quite different than getting home at 4am), you can attend the daily ceremony of washing the face of a Buddha image at PAYA MAHAMUNI. Photo Gaid P.Kornsilpa
52 Major CREDIT CARDS are not always accepted in Myanmar, and even though some private banks have finally introduced ATM MACHINES, it’s always better to carry some cash on hand. Also the US dollars or Euros you bring in must be crisp, unmarked, unwrinkled bills, and US hundred dollar bills will get the best exchange rate.
If you want pagodas (and who doesn’t?), Myanmar is the place to. And while Bagan is known as “the land of 4,000 pagodas”, Mway Taw Village, in the southern part of Chan State, has an attraction called KAKKU PAGODAS; an area of less than 1km sq. covered with more than 2,500 pagodas. Visit one, or the other, or both… pagoda one (say that last bit out loud). Photo Joe Carnegie / ©Libyan
55 Myanmar’s military regime prohibits demonstrations and gatherings, but every year during the THINGYAN FESTIVAL (the New Year’s water festival - April 13 to 16), the military steps aside and lets the people to have some fun. Apart from traditional and religious ceremonies, locals engage in water battles armed with garden hoses, water balloons, water pistols and anything else that shoots water. Prepare to get wet! Photo Ye Tun
Though the art scene is still limited in Myanmar, there are some excellent ART GALLERIES IN YANGON featuring the work of local artists; a great way to gain insight and understanding into local culture and thought. Inya Art Gallery, in Kamayut Township, is managed by Aung Myint and features his own works, all of which reflect his positive attitude for the future of the nation. New Treasure Art Gallery, in Bahan Township, features the work of Min Wae Aung, famous for his images of Buddhist monks from behind. At Anawmar Gallery of Art, in Yankin Township, you’ll find some 200 paintings, many of which date back to the early 20th century.
56 58 54 PUTAO, located in the northernmost part of Kachin State, offers a less beaten path for avid trekkers, with a landscape very different to the rest of the country. Different trails pass through the isolated mountain villages, and hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Eastern Himalayan peaks covered with snow. A permit to enter the area is compulsory, trekking alone is not allowed, and the only way to get here is by plane – so you’re in for a bit of a commitment – but everything can be arranged through specialized travel agencies.
59 Photo Kootnikoff Yuko
The MOUSTACHE BROTHERS, a comedy trio from Mandalay, have served a total of 12 years in prison for their political (anti-government) performances and jokes. Now tourists can see just how bad those jokes were, as the trio are allowed to perform 90-minute shows from their home, and they do so every evening (with the money raised going towards helping political prisoners). The show is in Burmese, a translator is present, and audience members are encouraged to bring their own moustache.
Although it’s a departure from Burmese cuisine, yummy breakfast options can be found at one of the country’s many teashops. BOUQ SI is similar to Chinese steamed dumplings, and filled with pork, chicken, or bean filling for vegetarians. BEQ NANBYA – bean paste and Naan bread – also makes for a great start to the day, but grab your seat before 10am or you may see empty shelves when you arrive. Forget the crowded touristy beaches of Ngapali, Ngwe Saung, and Chaung Thar, because MYEIK ARCHIPELAGOS beats them hands down. Parts of this Andaman archipelago are virtually untouched by humans, a fact which entices many sea adventurers. Here you’ll find marine parks, coral gardens, powdery sand beaches, glass-clear water, and even a population of Moken peoples (or “seagypsies” as they are sometimes known). Of course, the only accommodations available here are luxury resorts, but it’s worth the dent in your wallet.
As an alternative to bus and air travel, an IRRAWADEE RIVER CRUISE from Bagan to Mandalay (or vice versa) is good travel option if you have a week to kill. River cruise operators usually offer 5 – 10 day trips, and most voyages are of the luxury cruise variety. s 75
Philippines 61 The short trek through the overgrown jungle is the only price you pay to see the HANGING COFFINS at Echo Valley, Sagada. This unique burial ritual, practiced by the native inhabitants, stems from a belief that the higher up the cliff the coffin is hung, the closer the dead are to heaven. Those easily spooked should visit in in the morning, as the atmosphere can be somewhat eerie during late afternoon. Photo www.pinoytravelfreak.com
62 Looking for off-the-beaten-track beaches? GUIMARAS ISLAND offers a wealth of untouched beauty including pristine beaches, rock formations, caves, and waterfalls. Nearby Turtle Island is also a sanctuary for the pawikan, a cute sea-turtle species native to the island. Photo Roger Solas
In PALAWAN, at the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, paddleboats take visitors along part of the world’s longest navigable river, which also just happens to be underground in a mountain cave.
Photo Wilson Santos
History and heritage buffs wanting to avoid the tourist crush at Vigan should detour over to SILAY, northeast of Bacolod City. Among the most popular of the city’s 20 heritage houses are the Bernardino Jalandino museum, the Manuel Hofilena Ancestral house, and the Balay Negrense. Check out the walking tour map at: heritagesilay.blogspot.com. Immerse yourself in the black magic legends and local beliefs of SIQUIJOR ISLAND, where a century old church is adorned with a fierce-looking Black Magic Mary, creepily holding a small skull and a crucifix in her right hand. Visit the island on Good Friday and/or Black Saturday to see local shamans and sorcerers preparing special potions and healing materials, and for the truly brave… ask your hotel to get you an appointment with a local healer and have yourself examined in the traditional way.
Don’t leave the Philippines without trying the country’s most common, but still mouthwatering, local cuisine. The ADOBO, a mix of bay leaves, vinegar, and soy sauce, is a Spanish-rooted delicacy that comes with meat selections of marinated pork, chicken, or squid. Every home and every restaurant will have their own unique recipe so don’t expect the same taste twice. The 24-hour Cafe Adriatico, in Manila City, or the Abe Restaurant, in Taguig City, both offer up excellent examples.
If you’re feeling up to it, do the hike up MOUNT SANTO TOMAS and reward yourself with a panoramic vista of the South China Sea. And despite an elevation of over 2000 m, you can reach this peak almost directly from the Baguio City center because the mountain is so close.
In Manila, visit the stone citadel known as INTRAMUROS, which has stood for over 400 years. This massive walled city served as a settlement for the Spaniards during their occupation of the country, and as you explore the well-planned city streets, make sure to stop at the Manila Cathedral, St. Augustine’s Church, the San Agustin Museum and Fort Santiago.
The CITY OF MAKATI, one of the 16 municipal districts that make up Manila proper, may appear to be a button-down stuffy financial hub, but in a quiet corner by the South Cemetery an enclave of art galleries and bohemian hipsterdom sprouts up like a flower in the desert. Walk through chic design shops, art galleries, and restaurants of Reposo Street, and check out the cultural events organized by the local Alliance Francaise if you’re starved for European cultural fare.
The 6 uniquely magnificent ROCK FORMATIONS ON BIRI ISLAND, in Samar province, make a trip to this far-flung corner of the country worth the effort. The Magasang Formation is most visited of these massive rock clusters, but at times your only company may be the black-naped terns that make these cliffs their home. Take a motorbike taxi as a guide, and visit during low tide. Photo Christian Perez
In Singapore, there’s definitely more don’ts than dos. You can’t buy gum, chew it or import it. But do you know you can’t bungee jump, walk around your own home naked, and leave the toilet unflushed as well? For a lengthier list of bizzare Singaporean laws, check out: www.DUMBLAWS.com/laws/singapore.
Walk over the peanut shells strewn across the floor at Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar, plunk yourself down on a barstool, and order an authentic SINGAPORE SLING. You’ll knoAw it’s authentic because this is where the drink was born. First served in 1915, the ingredients are – still to this day – gin, Cointreau, cherry brandy, Dom Benedictine, pineapple juice, Grenadine, Angoustura bitters and limes.
Arrive at the open-concept Singapore Zoo between 9am and 10:30am and you can literally have BREAKFAST WITH THE ORANGUTANS. Enjoy a breakfast buffet spread while the apes, and a few other zoo residents, get snacks of their own and pose for pictures. Photo Richard Douglas
75 If natural attractions aren’t enough for you, check out the world’s HIGHEST MAN-MADE WATERFALL, standing 30 m tall, at the Jurong Bird Park.
Grab good cheap local food in sleepy CHANGI VILLAGE, and then lie back on the nearby beaches while watching the airplanes coming and going.
Interested in the dark side of Singapore? While exploring the historic Chinatown district, stop at the Street of The Dead on Sago Lane. These “DEATH HOUSES”, abolished since 1961, were where the poor and ailing members of the overcrowded Chinese communities would come to live out their final days in dormitory rooms – rooms which were conveniently situated near the local funeral parlour, making things easier for everybody.
Every year, usually in August (depending on the lunar calendar), the Chinese community celebrates the HUNGRY GHOST FESTIVAL – a large-scale tradition of paying respects to the dead. Believers not only make offerings of food to the visiting spirits, but also entertain them with boisterous live wayang and getai performances, bawdy stand-up comedy, song and dance numbers, and even sensually acrobatic pole dancing featuring spandex clad dancers. Join it for once.
Photo Vivien Gondouin
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The DEMPSEY DISTRICT is a very cool place to be at night. Hip trendsetters hop from chic restaurants to gourmet cocktail bars, sometimes stopping in at a swank art gallery on the way. For a cool daytime diversion check out the more laid back atmosphere in the TIONG BAHRU district, home to well preserved art deco style buildings, ultra-gourmet coffee bars, vintage clothing stores, and fabulous restaurants. Look for street vendors selling PURPLE YAM FLAVOURED ICE CREAM (among other flavours), and ask for it wrapped in a slice of rainbow-coloured bread. It’s an old-school S’pore dessert classic. According to statistics, more Singaporeans are born in the month of October than any other month of the year. Which means the BEST TIME TO VISIT is… mid-January?
Thailand 81 In June and July parts of the PANG SIDA NATIONAL PARK in Sakaeo province become overrun with feasting butterflies. Drawn by nutrition in the soil, the influx of so many colourful butterfly species creates a surrealistic dreamland in the tropical forest. Photo Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
If you’re looking for something that truly epitomizes to the word “awesome”, head straight to the TEE LAW SU WATERFALL in Tak province. These falls, both the highest and largest in all of Thailand, stand 250 m high, and measure nearly 450 m across. The rainy season run-off period, from October to February, is the best time to visit.
It may look like something from a winter wonderland fantasy film, but WAT RONG KHUN, also known as The White Temple, is just another of the unforgettable attractions in Chiang Rai province. Pure white from top to bottom, this unique building is considered one of the most beautiful temples in all of Asia.
The gleam and glitter of Bangkok proves this is a 21st century nation, but a visit to the SAKAI tribe in Southern Thailand will make you think you’ve traveled back in time. These jungle dwellers lead a very primitive life – eating root plants, living in basic palm or banana leaf huts, hunting with poison darts –¬ but homestays exist in nearby Talay Noi, from where you can make a guided trek to the Sakai villages in the mountains. Just be very respectful when you visit, obey their rules, and no one will get a dart in the back of the neck. Photo Nipon Riabriang
Photo Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
Every year, before the start of the rainy season, the northern province of Ubon Ratchathani puts on a massive 1 km long carved CANDLE PROCESSION. Accompanied by traditional Thai dancers, the parade floats are composed of oversized candles – handcrafted into Lord Buddha statues, mythic characters from Thai literature and other fantastic figures – and it’s all prepared by local community. With some help from local bees.
You’ve heard of rock festivals, but how about “ROCKET” FESTIVALS? Well, every May these explosive celebrations are held across Northeast Thailand (Isaan) to celebrate the start of the rainy season, and Bun Bangfai, in the tiny town of Yasothon, is by far the largest, craziest, most inebriated, and most fun for visitors who come from all over to witness the flurry of fireworks.
A visit to BANGKOK’S BAAN BAT, or monk bowl village (more of a twisting alleyway actually), reveals the only area in the city where traditional alms bowls are still made by hand. And although this surviving tradition entails harder work – the alley echoes with the repeated “ding-ding” of constant hammering – these handcrafted bowls are more revered by Buddhists than their mass-produced counterparts.
If camping in a dark cave, wading your way through several kilometers of water, and getting up close and personal with eyeless fish sounds you’re your kind of adventure trek, then the 4 km MAE LANA CAVE, in the remote Mae Hong Son province, welcomes you. This underground hangout is the second longest cave in Thailand, full of eerie stalactites, stalagmites, and ball stones that look like dinosaur eggs.
Klong Naga Canal, in Ranong province, is the only place in Southeast Asia to see WATER ONION PLANTS in their natural habitat, because despite efforts to preserve them they are rapidly disappearing. And if that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye (ahem), then consider that the journey to see them requires a bamboo boat cruise through crystal clear water flanked on either side by Amazon-like jungle. Sound more exciting now? Knew it would.
The tiny, sleepy resort island of KOH MAK, in Trat province, is not only an idyllic white sand getaway, but also a haven for kayakers, especially with tiny outer islands like Koh Kradad within such easy reach. Koh Kradad is also known as Deer Island, since it is home to a 1000+ herd of royal deer (the island was set up as a sanctuary for them by King Rama V).
Most visits to the ethnic minority areas of northern Vietnam tend to be jaw-dropping experiences – visually and otherwise – but if you’ve grown tired of touristy Sapa, drive downhill around 50km west of the town to BINH LU in Lai Chau province, and visit the ethnic Lu people in their tribal village. Here the older women of the tribe coat their teeth black as a sign of beauty, which should make you feel better about not flossing as much as you should. Photo Craig Stevenson
If you expect to see the embalmed corpse of HO CHI MINH in Hanoi, be aware that his mausoleum is usually shut from September to December, as Uncle Ho makes his annual journey to Moscow for ‘maintenance’.
93 When in Dalat, grab an evening drink and some fine Vietnamese nosh at the first-class THUY TA RESTAURANT, perched on a little island over central Xuan Huong Lake. The lake itself is a particularly picturesque place to wine and dine, but be forewarned that the place often gets overrun with wedding parties. So if you don’t want to get dragged into the proceedings, keep your eyes averted and concentrate on the horizon. Photo Dung Viet
97 If you are offered what looks like a boiled egg, watch out… it may be Balut, a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled and eaten in the shell. And no, it doesn’t look as nice…
Hanoi has a MIDNIGHT CURFEW, so you might think there’s no nightlife after the clock strikes twelve. Look for rolled down corrugated metal doors with noise and lights coming from inside to find restaurants and bars operating after hours.
Thinking of souvenirs? VIETNAMESE COFFEE makes a great take-home item, and when you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, make a stop at the Ben Thanh Market for the best selection. Get Trung Nguyên and Highlands brands. They taste great and have the highest quality control. When it comes to tea, VIETNAM GREEN TEA, scented with lotus or jasmine, is probably the best overall choice.
96 Traffic in Vietnam is so noisy, crazy and chaotic it feels like a real-life computer video game. And most of this traffic consists or MOTORCYCLES AND SCOOTERS (Hanoi has the largest number of motorcycles per capita in the world). So if you’re simply trying to cross the road, and waiting for a break in the flow of these ceaseless, honking, sputtering 2-wheelers, you might just end up missing your flight home. Instead, walk out with intent and they will (somehow) avoid you. We promise.
Photo Daniella Zalcman
By all means visit BAN GIOC, the largest and most stunning waterfall in the country. This natural wonder marks the border between Vietnam and China, and is located 85km from Cao Bang town in Cao Bang province. Go during the rainy months between June and September for the best view.
Need a Hanoi city tour guide? Talk to studentrun NGO: HANOI KIDS TOURS. The idea is for tourists to get a flavor of the city by being shown around by local children who in exchange can practice their English. Not only is it a great idea, and quite amusing to boot, but it’s free (although a tip for the wee ones is sort of expected). For more information check out: www.hanoikids.org
100 It’s not uncommon to be invited to drink tea with local people in Vietnam, so you might want to know some of their DRINKING ETIQUETTE beforehand. Similar to Chinese tea drinking etiquette, Vietnamese tap their index finger to thank the person who pours tea for them. You can do the same. Impress your host. 83
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a WaLk in tHe CLoudS Manila may be the capital city of the Philippines, but Baguio, situated amidst the mountainous region of Cordillera, has fast become the country’s “summer capital”. Baguio City is not only blessed with a cooler climate than the rest of the country – you can expect that sort of thing at 1,500 meters above sea level – but it also boasts a variety of cultural, historical and scenic attractions. Located just 250 km north of Manila, this serene city is fast becoming a primo destination for intrepid travelers.
Diplomat Hotel for the 18+ crowd, one level below the building’s main entrance there’s a smaller gallery devoted to nudes and erotica.
If the vistas at Baguio City aren’t enough for ya, then try your hand at a trek up Mount Pulag. Standing tall at 2,922 m above sea level, it’s one of the highest peaks in the country, but still a firstrate destination for the novice, the uninitiated, or the mountaineering newbie. Located about 60 km from Baguio itself, reaching the peak here is like taking a walk in the clouds.
Tam Awan Village
photo John Alfonso Lopez
Baguio sits peacefully about halfway up the length of Luzon Island (nestled a little to the west), and in this fertile mountain valley the year-round cool climate leads to a bountiful production of vegetables and fruits, especially delicious fresh strawberries. Nature lovers find it a paradise for hiking, bicycling, and other outdoor activities, while many a city slicker just likes to get a breath of fresh mountain air once in a while.
7 Stops to Make in & around Baguio Diplomat Hotel
Head to the top of Dominican Hill, and when you spot an ancient, creepy, dilapidated old building, you’ll know you’ve arrived at the now defunct Diplomat Hotel. The building, originally a school, was abandoned in 1987 after the death of the owner. Since then it has survived the great earthquake of 1990, and many people maintain it’s quite haunted (allegedly many nuns and priests saw were beheaded here during the Second World War).
Here’s a sweet idea – travel just 30 minutes outside Baguio City and visit a hillside strawberry farm. From November to May you can pick your own berries (rates for picking vary farm to farm). 86
If you’ve arrived here to enjoy the cooler weather, take advantage of this beautifully manicured park in the heart of the city. Named after the city’s master planner, Daniel Burnham, the park sees bikers, hikers and skaters spending the day crisscrossing the numerous walkways, while boaters can take advantage of the manmade lagoon. And for couples (or those hoping to become a couple) a walk in the rose gardens is never a bad idea.
A trekking trail leads to this village, and here visitors get a visual history lesson on some of the early tribes that lived in the Cordillera area. The village contains a few tribal traditional houses built on a fairly steep hillside, and there are cultural shows, handicraft demonstrations and workshops here as well. The BenCab Museum
An iconic landmark that rises above the city skyline, the Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral – better known as the Baguio Cathedral – is a mustsee OMG attraction. The building’s rose-colored exterior, twin spires and traditional stained glass windows make it one of the most photographed and iconic buildings in Baguio.
photo KVRedor, www.pinoytravelr.com/blog
Tam Awan Village
The BenCab Museum Although your first question might be “what is a BenCab?” you’d be better off asking “who is BenCab?” since he’s the dude who built and stocked the museum in question. Located on Asin Road – about 15-minutes from Baguio City – the museum is home to BenCab’s collection of his own works, as well as those of rising contemporary artists and acknowledged Filipino masters. And photo Dandi Galvez
Baguio Church Strawberry Farms
tripper tour guide
photo JR Rodriguez IV
CLiMate & FeStiVaLS
Manor Camp John Hay
Baguio’s weather is consistently cool, averaging about 14° Celsius. Although it can be visited yearround, local visitors crowd the city in March, April and May, especially during Holy Week. December, meanwhile, sees the reunions of many locals, as well as weddings and other celebrations in the area.
Spanish-inﬂuenced dishes are just half the draw here as customers are treated to Filipino performing arts shows, including the traditional Eastern-style bamboo dance.
A good Spanish-style buffet luncheon – there’s enough here for any appetite – and a strolling musician can even deliver mellow sounds right to your table if you wish.
Baguio becomes a “City of Flowers” and stays in bloom with a month-long series of events highlighted by a Parade of Floats. There’s also live band and street-dancing competitions held on the last weekend of the month.
Holy Week (March or april)
The Roman Catholic Holy Week kicks off the Philippine Summer Vacation session (April to May) with festivities and a massive inﬂux of visitors arriving to escape oppressive heat of the lowlands.
Baguio craftsmen are famous for their collections of silver jewelry. At St. Louis University Silver Shop, a few paces away from Baguio Cathedral, you can watch young silver craftsmen at work. There are also stalls selling silver accessories in Wright Park, and Ibay’s Silver Shop also has great buys.
Find cotton fabrics decorated with elegant ethnic motifs of several different local ethnic groups at the Baguio City Market. To see the actual weaving process, visit the Easter Weaving School on Easter Rd, and watch as the threads are magically transformed into bags, blankets and blouses.
Manor Camp John Hay
A Canadian-imported pine-built, luxurious hotel surrounded by a foggy pine forest, delivering a Twilight movie kind of vibe. The Club features 7 food outlets, an 18-hole golf course, 6 tennis courts, a 6-lane bowling alley, a heated swimming pool, and volleyball and basketball courts. www.campjohnhay.ph
if it’s strawberry jam you’re hankering, proceed to the Good Shepherd Convent. The nuns sell the jams here to raise funds for their various charities. Try the strawberry and ube jams, cashew and peanut brittle mixture, and the coco jam.
Le Monet Hotel
Expect exquisite and arty interior decors, plus an amiably warm welcome from the hotel staff. www.lemonethotel.ph
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Baguio lies 240 km north of Manila City. Philippines Airlines ďŹ‚ies from cities in the Asia-Pacific region, the Western United States, Canada and Australia direct to The Ninoy Aquino International Airport based in Manila. From Manila to Baguio, buses depart every hour from the terminals in Caloocan, Cubao and Pasay. Alternately, arranging a private car with driver through a travel agency is the best alternative for making the roughly 6 hour journey.
Philippine Airlines www.philippinesairlines.com Philippine Department of Tourism www. visitmyphilippines.com
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Borobudur Reaching Spiritual Heights in Central Java High on a mountain in central Java, Borobudur Temple rises up towards the sky. In Buddhist belief, the closer you are to the sky, the closer you are to Heaven, and as you climb the steps of the temple – the jungle landscape of Indonesia revealing itself in every direction – you can understand how the people who built this masterpiece felt more connected to the ethereal than the earthly.
Back in the Day... Borobudur – the name most likely derived from the Sanskrit Vihara Buddha Uhr, meaning “Buddhist monastery on the hill” – was built by the rulers of the Sailendra dynasty about 1,200 years ago. Not much is known about Borobudur’s early history, but the Sailendras must have assembled an army of workers, as some 60,000 cubic metres of stone was hewn, transported and carved during the construction. At some point in history it was abandoned, and left to the wilds of nature. For at least five hundred years the jungle was all that climbed the steps towards the celestial. Trees, vines, and animals overtook one of man’s greatest creations and embraced the hewn rocks once again. Eventually the temple became hidden from the eyes of humanity.
Fast forward to 1814, when Java was under British control, and in walked the English governor Thomas Stamford Raffles, who had heard stories from local villagers about a mysterious and abandoned structure. He sent his people to investigate, and for two months a team of 200 men cut down trees, burned vegetation and dag away at the earth to reveal the temple once again. Many Europeans remain intent on restoring the temple, including J. W. Ijzerman, a Dutch architect who in 1885 discovers a hidden tier of subterranean panels with Sanskrit lettering dating back to the middle of the 9th century. Finally, in 1991, the temple makes it on the UNESCO World Heritage List after millions of dollars have been spent on restoration and preservation.
photo Nico Haryono
photo Nico Haryono photo Nico Haryono
Borobudur, officially the world’s largest Buddhist temple, is made up of six large square terraces, each with three circular platforms on top, and then a magnificent stupa at the summit. From a distance it is stunning, but close-up the true magic is revealed. Intricate carvings adorn the walls throughout the complex, and the panels – primarily depicting the teachings of the Buddha– paint a familiar story for religious pilgrims. These galleries act as a guide for faithful Buddhists making a spiritual journey as they move upward from one terrace to the other, as each level is thought to represent a higher plane of consciousness. It is estimated that the entire structure is built from two million stone blocks, and viewed from the air, the temple complex resembles an enormous tantric mandala, or symbolic circle.
Visiting the Monument photo Amanjiwo
As a visitor these days, it’s hard to understand how something this large and spectacular could have remained hidden for so long. But there’s a certain enchantment in imagining you are the explorer stumbling upon it for the first time. I arrive before the official opening hours in order to climb to the top in time for the sunrise (costs more than the normal entrance fee). There are only a handful of people here, and there’s a peace and serenity fitting for such a spiritual place. The site gets absolutely packed during the day – to the point where it’s hard to even climb up the narrow and steep staircases, let alone lose yourself in the moment – so I’m glad that’s not going to be me. As the sun rises in the sky, obscured partly by the morning cloud cover, rays break through to illuminate the temple and the surrounding landscape, and as the day slowly dawns, the shadowy silhouettes turn into glowing images of divinity. The majestic temple itself however seems disconnected from the daily pilgrimage of the tourists; at once intricate and colossal, this heavenly platform – preserved by jungle for hundreds of years – now just needs to survive modern man.
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The monument is best visited during the dry season; May to October.
the Full-moon Day of Waisak (may)
The celebration of Buddha’s birth and enlightenment – a procession of saffron-robed monks travel to Borobudur, where candles are lit and flowers are strewn as offerings
Festival of Borobudur (June)
a grand festival with folk-dancing competitions, handicraft exhibits, and other activities.
The region around Borobudur is a verdant, incredibly fertile collection of villages and rice fields, and visiting these agricultural settlements opens a window onto Javanese lifestyle. The nearby village of nglipoh is known as a ceramics center, and locals maintain that clay pots have been produced here for over 1000 years (local artisans will even let you try your hand on their pottery wheels). The full moon day
Sitting right next to the monument, the hotel also operates Borobudur sunrise and sunset tours. Stay here for a night to catch the first and the last light of the day. www.manoharaborobudur.com
located at Ds. Majaksingi, the 5-star resort is perched on a hillside, about 4 km from the temple complex. With panoramic views of the stupa, luxury suites, 2 tennis courts, a pool, and a spa, this world-class getaway is as much a nirvana as Borobudur itself. www.amanresorts.com
photo Nico Haryono
The national airline, Garuda Indonesia flies from Jakarta and from Denpasar to Yogjakarta several flights a day. Once in Yogjakarta, hire a taxi from the airport, a tour agency, or one of the hotels in Yogyatarka, and drive around 40 km to Borobudur. alternatively, take a 1½ hour journey from Yogyatarka’s umbulharjo Bus Terminal.
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Vientiane Today The New Face of Laos
Laos has long been known as a small, sleepy neighbor of Thailand, often a must-visit destination for adventurous backpackers, but less often considered by travelling families, traditional holidaymakers, and those looking to invest in property and business in this fast developing region of Southeast Asia. However, all that is changing as the country experiences rapid economic growth and considerable foreign investment, with Vientiane, the capital of Laos, undergoing a dramatic facelift, soon to be known as the Mekong Hub.
Urban Laos Lifestyle Modern Vientiane is a fascinating exotic mix of Lao, Chinese and Thai traditions, with visible influences from French colonial times, past American bases, and a period of Russian occupation. As you'd expect, the people of Vientiane are far more urban and worldly than those from more rural areas, but this is not Bangkok, and life still tends to move at a very relaxed and laidback pace. Up until recently the city has relied heavily on the agriculture and market trade, but today many locals of the capital are working in the growing tourist industry, in shops, restaurants, and taxi services.
Dining in Vientiane Daily Lives of Laotian People Mornings in the capital tend to get off to an early start, with local monks collecting alms at the crack of dawn, as market stall workers set up business for another dayâ€™s trade, and coffee shops filled with the smell of fresh ground Laotian coffee and the soft chatter of NGO workers. Things start to get far more lively in the evening and the Lao people have a fondness for large bars/restaurants, enjoying an evening meal and listening to a live band. There are several such bars of note in the city including Bor Pen Nyang at the river promenade, popular with a fun mix of locals, expats and tourists, bragging to serve the finest (and most expensive) whisky in town. The Martini Lounge offers lots of alternative entertainment with live DJs on Friday nights, Salsa on Thursdays, and Movies shown early in the week. For something a little classier, JazzyBrick and Wine 95 on Setthathirat Road is where the upper class Laotians and expats head for a late night tipple. Although everything is supposed to close before midnight, there are still venues which burn the midnight oil. One such bar is the Samlo Pub, one of the oldest bars in Vientiane, which stays open until up to 2:00am, often getting busy around midnight when nearby bars turn off their lights.
A notable new dining venue in Vientiane, MIX Restaurant and Bar in Namphu Square, is an upscale choice for middle class people and tourists who look for modern dining with comfortable seats in a soothing atmosphere, both in the bar and alfresco dining area right in front of Nam Phu fountain. The popular franchise from Thailand, MIX Restaurant and Bar, serves delicious Thai and Lao food that is outstandingly presented. If you are seeking out a classier take on traditional Laotian food, PhakhaoLao Restaurant is a real find located in the alley behind Wat Ong Teu. You'll also find a wide range of international Asian options from Korean plates at Airiang, to the must-try shabu shabu at the ITECC Japanese restaurant. With no shortage of French colonial influences decorating the city's architecture, Vientiane is blessed with a collection of authentic French bistros such as the Chateaux De Cave, serving outdoor French BBQ, and Le Terrasse, a popular family restaurant with a reputation for baking the best bread in the city. Other notable restaurants popular with local Lao people include Moon the Night, sat on the banks of the Mekong River, popular with the twenty-something crowds, and Samyaek Pakpasak, found just outside the tourist zone of the city, much loved for its live music, local food, and cold Beerlao.
photo Long Vien Golf Club
Shopping in the City Talat Sao Market draws locals and tourists to the corner of Thanon Lane Xang and Thanon Khu Vieng with a large selection of indoor stalls selling gadgets, clothing, jewellery, and textiles. You'll also find the Talat Sao Mall close by, with three floors of clothing and accessories from a variety of independent vendors, along with a Thai style food court. Tourists tend to be attracted by the range of non-profit handicraft shops in the city, selling lots of silk and cotton weavings, some of which welcome visitors to watch the workshop, such as the Mixay Boutic in Nokeo Kumman Road. Vientianeâ€™s new modern way of thinking is steeped in the vision for a brighter future for not only its local residents, but also for visitors and holidaymakers to the city. Within the next 3-5 years, many shopping malls will rise up to dominate the Vientiane skyline, including mega projects such as the Vientiane New World and World Trade Center, which will be a complex of office buildings, restaurants, conference facilities and a pedestrianized area, bringing the region swiftly into the 21st century.
New Golfing Options in Vientiane To compliment these new projects, the city has recently seen the opening of the Santisuk Lang Xang and Long Vien Golf Clubs. These international courses have been built to an impressively high standard with a design and layout able to compete with the world class courses across the border in Thailand. Based around the old KM 14 and Santisouk Golf Course, the highlights of the Santisuk Lang Xang course include a brand new, modern clubhouse with a large terrace overlooking the opening and closing holes, while the newly opened Long Vien course is part of US$1 billion project including luxury villas, commercial buildings, and top of the range hotels.
photo Thanawatt Khongseankhum
Other things to see and do in Vientiane There is plenty to see and do in Vientiane and its rich selection of cultural attractions go beyond the well known religious buildings of Wat That Luang, Wat Sisaket, Hor Prakaew, and the Patuxay monument. The COPE Visitor Centre is a place to experience the generosity and charity of the Lao people. The project was set up to help and support disabled locals in a creative and imaginative way, such as using old bike parts to fashion wheelchairs. Another interesting charity worth visiting is the Houey Hong Vocational Training Centre for Women, set up to train disadvantaged Lao women in the arts of dyeing and traditional silk weaving, where visitors are free to watch the women at work and learn every aspect of the process, and even get involved.
By the time you read this article the development of modern Vientiane will be well underway. There has never been a better time to visit the capital. New visitors will discover a fast growing city filled with the fresh air of excitement, with plenty to see and do from ancient culture to new, modern attractions, while those who have visited before will find a once sleepy city in vibrant mode, exploding with new commercial projects, and a local population embracing an historic and positive period of change.
Tripper Tour Guide
Best time to visit Vientiane is from November to February when the weather is mild and the rainy season is off.
Starting from 30 November, 2012, Bangkok Airways connects Vientiane to Bangkok with a daily route, matching the existing daily flight between Bangkok and Luang Prabang. Vientiane's Wattay International Airport has already seen vast improvements over the past years, including a new, modern terminal with shopping and eating facilities, and the new route will only increase traffic to this fast developing airport and city.
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Trang Capturing Breakfast Culture in a Provincial Capital
The province of Trang, on southern Thailand’s Andaman Coast, has lots to offer offshore and in the wild, but the inland capital city of Trang itself can rarely keep visitors more than a day. However, in this sleepy town, along the winding backstreets, a local breakfast culture flourishes. Tucked in alleyways are charming raan ko-pii, or coffee shops, that serve extra strong brew and a variety of Chinese teas, as well as well-established restaurants featuring the delicious dim sam (Chinese steamed buns) and moo yang (Chinese-style roast pork). So when in Trang, do as the Trangs do… and eat!
Chinese immigrant settlers in Trang are responsible for passing on the recipes of what are today the city’s most famous dishes. And since getting up early in the morning to have breakfast is the tradition of local residents in Trang, as most of them work in the rubber plantation where they finish their daily job at sunrise, breakfast is the most important meal of the day here. It also provides a chance for workers to meet up with friends, share thoughts, and update their daily status reports, kind of like today’s social networks. And as Trang is the hometown of former Thai Prime Minister, Chuan Leekpai, local breakfast restaurants are where heated daily political discussions get their start. When eating out at local restaurants that serve breakfast, you don’t even have to look at the menu. Dim sam, a variety of many small portion plates, will be served right at your table in full set without you having to say a word. Choose from steamed shrimp, 106
crab meat, minced pork, sausage and mushroom dumplings, steamed barbecued pork buns, spring rolls, steamed sticky rice wrapped with bamboo leaves, deep fried chicken and tofu, fried fish and shrimp balls, and more. Whatever dishes you want, and a few you definitely might not want, are all available to try. Eat as much as you want, and what’s left can be returned to the kitchen. You just pay for what you’ve eaten, simple as that. Another local specialty to ask for is moo yang. According to most foodies, what’s so different about the moo yang in Trang, compared to elsewhere, is the pork’s extra crispy skin outside, and extra tender meat inside. The secret is that the pig is marinated in honey and spices for five hours before being roasted for about two hours. When your plate of moo yang arrives, toast your meal with a cup of ko-pii, old-style coffee with milk. Ask for ko-pii dam for black coffee, with or without sugar.
Benchmark Breakfasts Ko Teng The most famous hotel among backpackers, the restaurant at the front serves several noodle and rice dishes, and also eggand-toast breakfasts. Rama 6 Rd. (opposite Trang Tourist Office) Ton Noon Dim Sum One of the best Dim Sum places in town 202 Pad Sathani Rd. and 122 Pattalung Rd. Sin O Cha ormerly “Sin Jiaw”, it was renovated a few year ago into a modern Ko Pii Shop. If you get to Trang by train, this is a convenient place to take a breather before heading to explore the rest of the city. Next to Trang’s railway station
Breakfast Coffee & Afternoon Tea Ko Tham
Best Chinese buns in town Raksachan Intersection
The timid and introverted Ko Chaeng has more than 5 years experience working at a coffee shop in Japan, and has the best kept secrets for preparing Chinese tea. Try your luck sampling the wares, as the shop opens and closes whenever the owner feels like it. Opposite to Sai Ngam Rd soi 2 107
rua rasaDa hoTel The eye-catching Rua Rasada Hotel has a unique cruise ship design. The hotel offers a broad range of accommodation choices with 132 superior rooms, 67 deluxe rooms, and 18 suites to meet all your travel requirements. All luxurious guestrooms are stylishly and fully fitted with premium furnishings, and offer either mountain or city views. The hotel is situated far from the bustling downtown market area, but guests can still enjoy their fresh air and mountain views while being able to walk to a modern shopping mall conveniently located nearby. The hotel also boasts seminar facilities, as well as several dining options – from Western to Asian – including many of Trang’s traditional dishes. Rua Rasada Hotel +66 (0)75 214 230, (0)75 226 999 www.ruarasadahotel.com
Tripper Tour Guide Climate & Festivals
The best time to visit is during Thailand’s cooler months, from November to February.
Roast Pork Festival (September)
This annual festival of all things BBQ pork includes a fancy dress parade, a food preparation contest (using barbecued pork, of course), and plenty of meats to purchase at below market prices.
The cakes of Trang have no frosting, but come in several flavours, such as orange, coffee, and coconut. At Ban Lam Phu Ra, where making cakemaking dates back generations, you’ll find some of the best cakes in town.
Thai AirAsia and NokAir both fly to Trang daily. Alternatively, night buses leave from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Station and take about 11 hours.
Explore Trang’s backstreets on foot for real local flavour. Otherwise hire a tuk tuk hua kob, a green motorized tricycle with its front part shaped like a frog’s head – a classic symbol of Trang. These drivers can organize an old town tour, and most do a good job as makeshift tour guides. Grab one parking on the road, and negotiate a price.
Although Trang has its city charms, the province is known for its beautiful coastlines and islands in the Andaman Sea. Koh Ngai is one of these island hideaways, with white sand beaches and turquoise waters that are great for diving and snorkeling. It’s a must-see!
A recent addition to the Koh Ngai Island resort line-up that provide beachfront bungalows, this deluxe facility includes beachfront relaxation at The Chill Bar. www.kohngaithanyaresort.com +66 (0)75 206 967, (0)86 950 7355
Thai Fantastic Dolphinarium
Laem Singh, Chanthaburi
isitors to Oasis Sea World have been intrigued and entertained by the dolphin shows and other aquatic attractions since this park opened back in 1990, but there’s an equally fascinating story behind the creation of this Thai Fantastic Dolphinarium. It all started when Vichai Wattanapong, the founder of Oasis Sea World heard that many dolphins were being trapped in the nets used by local fishermen. Mr. Wattanapong graciously offered to foster these dolphins and provide them with the care they needed. Eventually his small operation grew, and has now become part of Thailand’s official dolphin preservation and nursery center. But Oasis Sea World is as much about entertainment as it is about education, and the park is home to a series of amazing dolphin shows. At the park, the professional create their unique methods of training by the close relationship with the dolphin, including sign language and human voice commands, to put on aquatic shows that are simply amazing. Animal lovers will marvel at the talents of these clever marine mammals. The dolphins at Oasis Sea World are from two very distinguished dolphin species, Indopacific humpback dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins. Indo-pacific humpback dolphins appear grey in colour when young, but as they grow older their entire body color slowly changes to pink, and hence the name “pink dolphin”. Irrawaddy dolphins are characterized by their blunt rounded heads, and their rounded mouth which makes it appear as though they are always smiling. They even have dimples!
And now, new in our family are the just-born Irrawaddy ones!
Together these dolphins perform a wide variety of tricks including sawasdee (“hello”), “thank you”, and even a bit of “waterskiing” which is not to be missed. After the show, visitors will have a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to actually touch, hug, and feed these adorable dolphins, all under the special guidance of the experienced team of trainers (the first professional team of Thailand). And for the younger generation there’s a Dolphin Camp, with a program full of fun and inventive activities. Other attractions at Oasis Sea World include the Fish Cave, where you’ll find your own little Nemos (clown fish), plus other colorful underwater critters, or for those visitors who wish to relax their feet, there’s a stress relieving Fish Spa, where tiny fish nibble away at the dirt and dead skin on your tender tootsies. On the other hand if you want to burn some calories while keeping your legs in shape, take a spin on the Water Bicycle. You can also enjoy hand-feeding the giant White Snapper. When it’s time to eat, the Thongnatee Restaurant welcomes visitors with its splendid atmosphere and cozy ambiance. Surrounded by beautiful lake, the restaurant offers an extensive seafood menu, as well as delicious local cuisine and other fresh healthy foods. Or just stop in at the Oasis Sea World coffee shop and try something homemade from the bakery, together with our signature item, the Irrawadee coffee. Shoppers can shop ‘til they drop at the souvenir store, which includes famous products from Chanthaburi province including jewelry, handicrafts, fruit products and dolphin-inspired gifts. In short, there’s something for everyone at Oasis Sea World.
Oasis Sea World is returning with a renewed service. You will get to swim with dophins in a prettier and more comfortable place. Come for your once in a life time experience! Oasis Sea World 48/2 Mu5 Paknam District Amphor laem Singh, Chanthaburi Thailand 22130 Tel.+66 3949 9222 Fax.++66 3949 9223 www.oasisseaworld.net
ASEAN @ a GlANCE
Brunei Brunei, the second smallest ASEAN nation, is often overlooked as a travel destination. Although oil-rich, it is not an übermodern emirate like Dubai, nor is it an uptight Muslim stronghold like Bahrain. Instead it’s charm lies in its natural surroundings and laid back villages.
Nasi Katok is a mixture of rice, fried chicken and a sauce called sambal – is the signature dish of Bandar Seri Begawan (and the rest of Brunei as well) Kueh Melayu is a sweet pancake treat, filled with peanuts, raisins and sugar Ambuyat is a sticky ball of flavourless sago starch, similar to tapioca, served with a variety of dips Smooters are Brunei’s answer to ice-cream milkshakes
Dina Arif Gallery in Bandar Seri Begawan exhibits and sells paintings by local artists Silversmiths and coppersmiths across the country sell a wide range of metallic souvenirs including gongs of all sizes Jong sarat, a hand-woven cloth made from gold and silver threads, can be found at the Arts and Handicrafts Centre in Kota Batu
While in Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) take a walking tour that leads you past the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, the Istana Nurul Iman (the Sultan’s Palace), and the Royal Regalia Museum, and marvel at the lavish lifestyles of these Southeast Asian sultans Grab a water taxi and cross the river in BSB to visit the wooden stilt-houses in Kampong Ayer, the world’s largest floating city The best high tea in BSB is definitely to be had within the marbled halls of The Empire Hotel, a lavish oasis built on a jungle-like seafront Take a lazy longboat ride deep into the virgin rainforests of Ulu Temburong National Park, and spend the night in a jungle resort before heading to Bangar for a look at a traditional village Tutong, in central Brunei, is famous for its white sand and its 6 varieties of pitcher plants (locals use their insect-catching sacs to cook a variety of dishes) Pantai Tutong, a few kms from Tutong town, boasts one of the best beaches in the country
Brunei has no railway system, so ground transport around the country is limited to bus, rental car, or taxi Hiring a car in Brunei is cost-effective (petrol is cheap) and the main roads are in good condition Boats to and from Bandar Seri Begawan operate from the Muara Ferry Terminal (about 25km northeast of the city) The government bus network covers most sights in and around the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan, including the international ferry terminal at Muara
Like the rest of Borneo, temperatures consistently fall between 24°C and 31°C, with high humidity year round September - January : the wettest months February - April : the driest months May - August : the hottest months
Cambodia Recent years have seen Cambodia become a tourism hot spot, but remember that there’s more to the country than just making the pilgrimage to Angkor Wat.
After seeing Angkor Wat, as well as the colossal stone-faces at Bayon, check out the even older Bakong Temple, which predates the main attraction by almost 400 years From Siem Reap make a detour to see the floating stilt-village of Kampong Phluk at Tonle Sap Lake (Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake) The Hariharalaya Healing Center – 20km from Siem Reap – is a yoga and meditation retreat nestled in the Cambodian countryside featuring incredible vegan food In Phnom Penh visit the 17th century Emerald Buddha at the Royal Palace, and admire the equally breathtaking Silver Pagoda (which was originally constructed of wood) The infamous Killing Fields are memorialized at Choeung Ek – about 15km from Phnom Penh – where visitors can view around 8,000 skulls, arranged by sex and age, laid out behind a glass panel Battambang, in the Northwest, is an amazingly preserved French colonial era town Explore the Cham villages and the sweeping vistas of the surrounding countryside near Kampot In Sihanoukville clear waters and beautiful stretches of white sand can be found at Otres Beach, and the privately owned Sokha Beach (day passes available) Head south to Koh Rong for the turquoise waters of Southwestern Beach, Long Set Beach, and Lazy Beach
Cambodia has two rail lines with the Phnom Penh Royal Railway Station as its major hub Coach service between most major destinations is made possible by an ever improving network of buses, while minibuses serve most provincial routes Longtail rocket boats and other river craft service the Mekong and its many tributaries, shuttling both tourists and locals between major destinations Inexpensive car and motorcycle rental provide tourists with greater flexibility, and almost all car rental in Cambodia includes a driver
Cambodia’s climate is dominated by monsoons and temperature extremes range from 21 to 35 °C May - October : rainy season (heaviest in September and October) November - March : dry season (driest months are January and February)
Amok (baked fish wrapped in banana leaf with coconut, lemon grass and chilli) is regarded as the national dish of Cambodia Prahok Jien consists of a pungent fermented fish paste that is fried and then mixed with meat (usually beef or pork), chili, and served with dips, vegetables and rice Nom Ban Chok, often called simply Khmer noodles, was originally a regional specialty from the Kampot province Samlor Machu Siem Reap is a traditional sour soup (samlor), flavoured with bamboo shoots and tiny freshwater shrimp Sugar-palm, wine, sold in bamboo containers off the back of bicycles, is popular with locals (and some brave tourists), while Angkor is the popular national beer
Phnom Penh’s St 178 is home to a budding gallery scene, featuring the work of local artists The best silks come from Kompong Cham and Takeo Provinces, but the silk farms in Siem Reap also produce lots of quality material Woodcarving is a Cambodian specialty, and Betel-nut boxes are readily available, as are hand-carved jewelry boxes inlaid with mother of pearl, lacquer or metalwork
Train travel in Indonesia is restricted to Java and Sumatra. In Java the rail
service connects with the ferry to Bali in the west, and the ferry to Sumatra in the east International ferries connect ports in Indonesia with ports in Malaysia and Singapore, while domestically the Pelni company has giant ferries visiting practically every inhabited island across Indonesia Jakarata still has a small army of bajaj – noisy 3-wheeled covered vehicles with a driver up front and passengers behind Becaks (or trikshaw) used to be everywhere in Jakarta, but they were banned some years back. However they still operate in smaller cities like Medan In Java the andong (or dilman), is a larger horse-drawn wagon that seats six, while in North Sulawesi, the bendi is a similar horse-drawn vehicle that seats two
Being close to the equator makes for a fairly evenly hot climate yearround October - April : the wet season (sudden tropical downpours and nonstop for days) May - September : the dry season (drought in some areas)
Indonesia Indonesia is a gigantic nation, so even hitting just a handful of island locales is more than some visitors can say they’ve done.
Jakarta is a noisy polluted mess, and Bali is following in its footsteps, but they’re both still fascinating first stops on any Indonesian voyage Sumatra boasts the world’s largest crater lake, Danau Toba, but the 6 km-wide crater lake and mountain summit views at Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani are equally impressive To see orangutan conservation at its finest visit Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan, Borneo If the crowds in Kuta Beach become too much, the nearby Gili Islands offer the same beach paradise with a more laid back atmosphere Seek out the Tana Toraja tribe of South Sulawesi to see their unique burial grounds in which crypts are carved into sheer rock faces. Tourists can attend the funeral festivities as long as they don’t wear black or red
Gado Gado is a Betawi (Javanese) original, consisting of boiled vegetables served with a peanut sauce dressing Nasi Uduk, another Java specialty, consists of rice cooked in coconut milk, served with meat, tofu and/or vegetables Bebek Betutu is a Balinese duck entrée stuffed with spices, wrapped in banana leaves and coconut husks, and cooked in embers Ampiang Dadiah (buffalo yoghurt with palm-sugar syrup, coconut and rice) and Bubur Kampiun (mungbean porridge with banana and rice yoghurt) are popular snacks in West Sumatra Ketupat Kandangan, a mixture of fish and pressed rice, with lime-infused coconut sauce, is famous in Tuak (palm-sap Kandangan, in Kalimantan wine), Arak (rice or palm-sap wine) and Balinese Brem (rice wine) are popular domestic home brews, while Bintang remains the country’s predominant beer brand
Topeng (carved theatrical masks) can be found throughout the archipelago, the most readily identifiable of which are the ones from Java Ikat cloths, woven from intricately and Bali patterned and painstakingly tie-dyed material, are produced in many regions, most notably in Nusa Tenggara On South Sumatra, Tanjung Tunpung is renowned for its ceremonial songket sarongs, which can take up to a month to make In Papau a penis gourd, worn by indigenous men in the province’s highlands (attached to the testicles by a small loop of fibre), makes for an unforgettable keepsake
Laos Although fully landlocked, Laos has much to offer travellers who can live without a beach. The spectacular countryside, charming mountains towns and networks of interconnecting rivers are just the start.
Although capital city Vientiane is a little sleepy, there’s lots to see including the amazing outdoor Buddha Park A significant part of Luang Prabang’s old town appeal lies in the many French provincial style houses that remain intact When in Luang Prabang, visit the Pak Ou Caves – also known as the Buddha Caves – a trip that includes a 25 km scenic river journey Travel 7kms down the Nam Hin Bun River via the Tham Kong Lo Cave, hidden deep in the Phu Hin Bun wilderness of central Laos The spectacular limestone karst cliff formations in Vang Vieng are perfect for rock-climbing enthusiasts In Ban Khiet Ngong visit the pre-Angkorian Vat Phu Temples, then take an elephant trek through the forest to visit the enigmatic Phu Asa Temple Tranquil Champasak is the base for visiting Wat Phu Champasak – Angkor-style temple ruins stepping up the slopes of sacred Phu Pasak
Laos has a small rail network, but currently it only links with Thailand at the Friendship Bridge in Nong Kai The bus system in Lao is efficient and extensive. There are 3 bus stations in Vientiane, and 2 in Luang Prabang A slow boat travels the river between Huay Xi and Luang Prabang, but the once thriving boat service along the Mekong is dwindling Light traffic and good roads makes Laos the best country for long-distance cycling in Southeast Asia Taxis are an option in larger cities like Vientiane and Luang Prabang Sawngthaew – bench seat converted pick-up trucks – service rural areas, while the lot doi saan (wooden buses) handle trips over extremely rough road conditions In towns both small and large the jumbo seats around 6 passengers comfortably, while the saam-laaw (pedicab) and tuk tuk carry smaller groups
Along the Mekong temperatures can reach 40°C some months, while lows of 5°C or less have been reached in the mountainous uplands September - May : the dry season (May is usually the hottest month) June - September : the wet season
Larb (or laab), a sour and spicy meat salad made with chicken, beef, duck, fish, pork or mushrooms, is considered the national dish of Laos Khao Jii, french bread with coffee for breakfast, is common in Vientiane and Luang Prabang Khai Phun, a Luang Prabang specialty, consists of dried seasoned river moss Tam Maak Hung is a spicy green papaya salad, served with fermented crab When it comes to alcoholic beverages, Lao Hai is fermented rice wine, Lao-Lao is rice whiskey, and Beer Lao is the national beer brand
The Talat Sao morning market in Vientiane has small shops selling high quality handmade silk scarves and wall hangings In Luang Prabang the car-free Night Market sees hilltribe traders selling fabrics, ceramics, lamps, blankets, handicrafts and silk scarves Laotian coffee, often called Pakxong (as it usually grown around the town of Paxong on the Boloven Plateau), makes a delicious take home souvenir
Albiet slower than buses, Myanmar’s network of trains services huge regions of the country, including an express line connecting Mandalay with both Bagan and Nyaung U Private companies operate Myanmar’s extensive bus network, which includes everything from luxury express coaches to mini 32-seaters Riverboats and government ferries service the almost 5,000kms of navigable waterways in Myanmar In big cities, such as Yangon, Mandalay, and Pathein, public buses take regular routes along the main avenues Cities and small towns have a variety of local transport including bicycle rickshaws (trishaws) vintage taxis, and thoun bein (3-wheelers similar to Thailand’s tuk-tuks) Bicycles rentals are readily available in tourist spots such as Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake Small towns rely heavily on horse carts, ox carts, and trishaws as primary modes of local transport
Annual monsoon rains can make some roads impassable (especially in the delta region) May - September : rainy season December - February : dry season Shoulder seasons : March - April, and October - November
Myanmar Ruyard Kipling once wrote about Burma (as it was called then): “It is quite unlike any place you know about”.
His words ring true even to this day. The jaw-dropping Shwedagon Pagoda, in the capital city of Yangon, is the symbolic icon of Myanmar and really can’t be overlooked The water-bound temples, shore-bound markets and floating gardens of Inle Lake make it a must-see destination For an evening of culture, visit the Mintha Theater in Mandalay and catch an acclaimed traditional folk dance performance More than 3,000 Buddhist temples, dating back to between the 11th and 13th centuries, are scattered across the plains of Bagan; accessible by foot, bike, or try a hot-air balloon overhead tour The colossal Golden Rock on Mt Kyaiktiyo is one of the country’s most important religious pilgrimage sites, and the arduous climb is rewarded by spectacular scenic vistas The modest Yadana Labamuni Hsu-taungpye Paya, or Snake Pagoda, in Paleik is home to 3 giant pythons that are bathed and fed regularly Ngapali Beach is the perfect getaway for sunbathers, snorkelers and swimmers who just want to relax
Mohinga, Myanmar’s unofficial national dish, is rice vermicelli in fish broth, served with boiled eggs, fried fish cake (nga hpe) and fritters (akyaw) Shwe Yin, the national dessert, consists of agar jelly, tapioca and sago in coconut milk Meeshay, a Mandalay favourite, combines rice noodles, pork and/or chicken, bean sprouts, and rice flour fritters, and garnished with onions, garlic, coriander, and pickled daikon/mustard greens Kew Soi Dok, popular in Yangon, sees noodles in tamarind sauce tossed with cucumbers, potatoes, dried shrimp, cabbage & garlic chips Htamin Jin, an example of Shan cuisine, is fresh or fermented rice –kneaded with boiled fish – combined with tomato paste, mashed potatoes and garlic Toddy Juice (made from fermented palm sugar) is popular in central Myanmar, and Shwe Le Maw is a potent orange-infused alcohol from the Shan State Myanmar Beer is the national beer brand
If you can afford it, Myanmar’s famous gemstones – rubies, diamonds, cat’s eyes, emeralds, topaz and pearls – are available from numerous dealers (Yangon has many licensed shops) Burmese puppets, elaborately costumed and bejeweled, are growing in popularity as souvenirs Amarapura in Mandalay is the home of first class luxurious Myanmar silks Textiles, especially the tapestries from the Chin State region, are particularly stunning, and at Inle Lake, fabrics woven from lotus fiber are available
eat Adobo, pork and/or chicken stewed in vinegar and garlic, is considered the country’s national Sinigang na Hipon, another national dish favourite, is a tamarind-flavoured sour soup dish with shrimp Lechon, an important dish at many festive occasions, is suckling pig slowly roasted over live coals and simmered with vinegar, sugar and herbs In Pampanga local specialties include Tocino (honey cured pork) and longganiza (sausages) Laing, or taro leaves simmered in spiced coconut milk, is a favoured dish in Bicolano cuisine Emperador and San Miguel are the 2 most popular commercial beer brands, while lambanog (coconut wine), and tuba (palm wine) are the 2 most popular home-brews
pHiLippineS Flights generally touch down in Manila or Cebu, but the islands, coves and small towns are what draw most travelers back to the Philippines again and again.
Intricate hand-embroidered blouses and shirts can be bought at special outlets, as well as many malls, across Manila Colourful mats made of tikog, available in the Samar and in Leyte regions, are cheaper when bought directly from the mat weavers themselves The tubao, a colourful handkerchief made by the Manobos and other indigenous peoples in Mindanao, can be used as a turban or head covering
While spending a day or two in historic Manila, don’t overlook the more modern Mataki shopping mecca, which is also home to dozens of great wining and dining spots Make a stop at the visually stunning ancient rice terraces of Banaue, known locally as “the eighth wonder of the world” In Cordillera make the trip to Sagada to take in the cool mountain climate and to see the famous hanging coffins (a traditional way of burying people that is still utilized) South of Cebu City the dive colony of Moalboal lies just across the strait from Negros, and the exciting nightlife of Dumaguete In Coron the attraction for scuba divers is wreck diving, but land lovers can make a trek to the Makinit Hot Springs (5km east of town) The long strip of an island known as Palawan is home to not only the chilled out beach town of Puerto Princesa, but also the distinctive St Paul Subterranean River National Park The party beaches of Boracay never lose their charm (or their tourists) Heading much further south, try some white water rafting and cave exploring along the Cagayan De Oro River in Cagayan De Oro
The only train service in the Philippines is from Manila in the south, to northern Luzon An enormous number of buses cover the country and bus travel is relatively efficient and comfortable Boat travel ranges from luxury catamarans to fastcraft ferries to economy pumpboats (bangka). WG&A Ferries operates many routes Manila’s public transportation system includes an Elevated Light Rail in some parts of the city Manila is famed for its inexpensive taxis, while motorbikes rental – available in larger cities and tourist spots – is another good option Jeepneys – halfway between a jeep and a bus – are used as local transport in most towns for local and also for long distance runs Tricycle – the Philippine rickshaw – is usually a passenger cab bolted to a motorbike
September - May : the dry season (typhoon off-season) June - September : the wet season falls between. May is usually the hottest month
Express trains depart daily to Malaysia from the Singapore Railway Station, and The Eastern & Oriental Express luxury train goes all the way to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Laos Cruise ships to Malaysia and Indonesia depart from the Harbourfront Centre, and ferries to neighbouring islands depart from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal Local air-conditioned buses, that sometimes go all the way to the Malaysian border, service both downtown and the remote corners of the island Taxis are available for hire but be aware they include many hidden fees (such as peak-hour surcharges) Trishaws (pedal rickshaws) still service some tourist areas, but they are a rarity these days
Singapore’s temperature is hot and humid, and almost never drops below 20°C, usually climbing to 30°C during the day Rainfall and humidity are steady year round November - January : the wettest months May - July : the driest months
Singapore Although diminutive in size (it’s the smallest of the 10 ASEAN nations), there’s still lots to do in Singapore once you’ve seen the Zoo, the casino, and Sentosa Island.
The Singapore Zoo is a must-see attraction. If you come early enough you can have “Breakfast with The Orangutans”, and if come late enough you can do the famous “Night Safari” Fort Canning Park makes a great escape from the busy city streets, and Fort Canning Hill hosts outdoor events and concerts from July to October Clarke Quay is host to a slew of bars and clubs, and the futuristic roof canopy, which projects illuminated patterns at night, is a sight to behold Although some restaurants are designated “alcohol free”, its still fun to explore Little India, which is dominated by the lavish Sultan’s Mosque While visiting the charming Changi Village, take the 10 minute bumboat ride to the neighbouring island of Pulau Ubin, rent a mountain bike, and explore this unkempt jungle oasis; a time capsule of Singapore’s long vanished rural past
Hainanese Chicken Rice (slow poached chicken with white rice) is considered Singapore’s national dish Chilli Crab, a Singapore classic, combines stir-fry crab with a sauce containing tomato, egg, and spices and serves it all up with rice or man tou (Chinese fried buns) Kaya Toast consists of coconut jam and butter slathered over thin charcoal-toasted pieces of bread Rojak is a salad of beansprouts, greens, tau pok, you tiao, pineapple, cucumber, and peanuts tossed with a prawn paste The Singapore Sling is the country’s most internationally recognized cocktail Jungle Beer is a new local brewery specializing in small batch craft beers
The Singapore Handicraft Centre sells jade carvings, bronze statues and antique snuff bottles The Heritage Shop features collectables like Peranakan-style tiffin tins, retro advertising signs and coasters made from old Peranakan tiles Any t-shirt featuring funny “Singlish” words or phrases makes a great souvenir
Pad Thai, a mix of spicy stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, peanuts and bean sprouts (prepared with shrimp, chicken, or tofu), is undoubtedly the national dish of Thailand Tom Yum Kung, a spicy and sour prawn soup (also made with chicken) is synonymous with Bangkok Khao Soi, a northern Thai specialty (particularly in Chiang Mai) consists of flat egg noodles served in a curry broth with meat (chicken, pork or beef), and topped with crispy fried noodles Massaman Curry, Muslim in origin and common in Southern Thailand, contains beef or chicken (not pork), coconut milk, roasted cashews, potatoes, cardamom, cinnamon, and tamarind sauce Thailand has 3 national beer brands – Singha, Leo, and Chang – as several local craft beers (such as Phuket Beer) Among Thai whiskies (which are actually sugarcane molasses-based rums) Sangsom and Mekong are the most common brands
THAiLAnd Newcomers to Thailand should be aware that there’s plenty more to this country once you get past the more well-known travel spots.
Colourful triangle-shaped pillows (and mats with pillows) are sold all over Thailand and make very relaxing souvenirs Durian candy is a yummy snack, and unlike strong-smelling fresh durians, these can be taken through airports and on trains and buses In Chiang Mai, at the Bo Sang umbrella village on San Kamphaeng Road, hand-painted umbrellas made of delicate Sa paper (from mulberry trees) are readily available Sky lanterns, a common sight at the annual Loy Kratong Festival, can also be brought home for release in your own favourite location
The Old Bangkok area is the best place to explore a very traditional Thai way of life Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samet, and Koh Chang beaches remain pretty but are very touristy Ranong, Pang Nga, and Trang offer less visited and equally beautiful beaches Best party beaches include Koh Samui, Koh Tao, and Koh Pa-Ngan (which is famous for its “full-moon parties”) Visit Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi, and Khao Yai for national parks and jungle hikes A high-altitude hippie-style artist’s village can be found in the northern mountains of Pai Ruins of the ancient kingdoms can be found in the towns of Sukhothai and Ayuthaya Isaan (Thailand’s northeastern provinces) offers a glimpse of a unique agricultural way of life (and terrific spicy food along the way)
Thailand’s extensive railway system (SRT) links Bangkok to almost every destination in the country. The main train station in Bangkok is Hua Lamphong Thailand’s extensive network of buses service both popular and remote destinations. The 3 main bus terminals in Bangkok are: the Northern Bus Terminal (near Mochit BTS station); the Eastern Bus Terminal (at Ekkamai BTS Station); and the Southern Bus Terminal (a 10 minute taxi ride from Khao San Rd.) In Bangkok many buses depart from the backpacker zone at Khao San Rd, heading to most major tourist destinations across the country Metered taxis, motorbike taxis, tuk-tuks (3-wheelers), minivans and buses are great ways to get around Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand Common public transportation modes in and between other provinces and rural areas include the song-taew (pick-ups or larger trucks installed with covered bench seating)
November - February : best time to visit, as the weather is milder and nature is at its most beautiful March - April : very hot, with temperatures sometimes reaching over 35°C. Beaches are often more crowded with Thai holiday makers than with foreign tourists May - October : rainy and cloudy most days
Vietnam’s state-owned railway system, Vietnam Railways, runs along the coast between HCMC and Hanoi, and links the capital with Hai Phong and northern towns Vietnam has an extensive network of inexpensive buses that reach the far-flung corners of the country, but travelling from Hanoi to HCMC is not advisable as it is just too far (take a train or plane instead) Although still very pedestrian friendly, the safer way to get around Hanoi quickly is by taxi, motorcycle taxi, or public bus Although a subway system in HCMC is underway, the best way to get around is still by taxi, motorcycle taxi, or the slow moving Cyclo (a 3-wheel rickshaw style bicycle cart)
April - June : usually the quietest months but expect hot, humid weather across the whole country (except for mountains areas) July - November : violent and unpredictable typhoons affect much of central and northern Vietnam November - March : the weather is dry and a little bit cooler
Vietnam is a large country, with many different geographic regions, and anyone planning a visit here should bear in mind that there’s more to see than just Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Getting lost in the winding narrow streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a must for any visitor Although the glamour and nightlife of Ho Chi Minh City is enticing, there’s also plenty sobering war monuments serving as reminders of the country’s turbulent past Fresh mountain air is reason enough for making a trip to Da Lat, which enjoys year round cool weather, or Sapa in the north, home to a variety of local hill tribe populations Exploring ancient caves, and kayaking past towering limestone cliffs, makes a trip to Ha Long Bay an amazing day trip Nha Trang and Mui Ne beaches offer sun-worshippers a chance to do some sunning, swimming and maybe even a little kite-surfing
Pho Bo, or beef noodle soup, is typically served in bowls, garnished with spring onion, and is considered the national dish of Vietnam Banh Mi Kep Thit is a Vietnamese baguette served with paté, mayonnaise, cold cuts, jalapeños, pickled daikon, carrot, and cucumber Bun Thit Nuong, or grilled pork with rice vermicelli, is an extremely popular dish, and each region and restaurant has its own unique recipes Ca Phe Da is a mix of finely ground Vietnamese dark roast coffee (brewed with a drip filter) and sweetened condensed milk, stirred and poured over ice Bia Hoi, is a draught beer – made daily – available on street corners throughout the country Among Vietnam’s name brand beers Saigon Do is popular in the south, Bia Hanoi is popular in the north, and Bia 333 is the choice in the central region Snake Wine is an exotic Vietnamese alcohol produced by infusing whole poisonous snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol
Traditional wood-carved items (usually made from cinnamon or camphor wood), and lacquerware items decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay, make great parting gifts In Ho Chi Minh City, Lotus and Dogma are 2 stores that are goldmines for vintage propaganda posters from the 60s and 70s On historical Hang Bac Street in Hanoi, silver goods for sale are still produced using secret methods that have been passed down through generations Shoe shoppers in Hanoi should head to Hang Dau Street where brand name footwear (made at Vietnamese factories but rejected as factory seconds) is sold at incredible discounts
Malaysia Although Kuala Lumpur and Penang seem to get the lion’s share of attention from travellers, be aware that peninsular Malaysia is only half the story.
The glittering Petronas Towers may be on all the postcards of KL but the glorious Islamic Arts Museum is arguably a much more beautiful sight to behold Evenings in KL can be spent exploring the myriad of dining options in chaotic Chinatown, or the night market at Jln Petaling The Forestry Research Institute of Malaysia in Selangor offers visitors a 200m long canopy walk (suspended at 30m above the forest floor) Ipoh is a pleasant midsized city full of colonial architecture, and it’s close to the famous Cameron Highlands In Penang there’s plenty to see and do in colonial Georgetown, or head to the picturesque stretch of small coves and beaches at Batu Ferringhi The islands of the Seribuat Archipelago, off the east coast of Johor, are prime dive territory and blessed with gorgeous white-sand beaches
There are no boat services connecting Peninsular Malaysia with Malaysian Borneo Bus companies servicing longer domestic routes in Malaysia include Aeroline and Supernice. The main bus station in KL is Bandar Tasik Selatan (accessible by LRT and KTM lines) Long distance taxis are a great option for groups, and taxi rates to specific destinations are fixed by the government and posted at taxi stands Bicycle rickshaws (trishaws) are gone from KL, but they still exist in cities such as Georgetown and Melaka Small towns and villages are serviced by inexpensive public buses, often with tickets purchased from the conductor after boarding In bigger cities across Malaysian Borneo, taxis, buses and minibuses are available, while in the bush, riverboats and airplanes are the only alternatives
It’s hot and humid year-round with temperatures climbing to 30°C during the day April to October : wet season on the west of the peninsula November to February : wet season on the east of the peninsula
Nasi Lemak, a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, is considered Malaysia’s dish Otak-otak, a blend of fish, coconut milk, chili paste, galangal, and herbs wrapped in a banana leaf, is a prime example of Peranakan or Baba-Nonya cuisine Beef Rending, or spicy coconut beef, is considered the signature dish of Kuala Lumpur Kway Teow, stir-fried flat noodles with shrimp, chicken, cockles, chives, and soy sauce (sometimes served with duck eggs) is a specialty on the island of Penang Tiger Beer is the country’s most internationally recognized beverage Teh Tarik (pulled tea) is a popular hot Indian milk tea beverage whose name derives from the process of “stretching” the drink during its preparation
The Kompleks Budaya Kraf in KL sells locally produced batiks, pandanus (woven baskets), and ceramics, and many of the craftsmen and artisans are present there for tourists to meet The Royal Selangor Pewter Factory in KL is the leading manufacturer of traditional tankards, as well as other pewter gifts and accessories Pottery from the states of Sarawak and Perak, recognizable by its size and unique tribal markings, makes a highly prized memento
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