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Survey confirms what we already know: Malaysians love exploring world through food

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Food. Glorious food.

The Malaysian passion for food is a key focus even while away on holiday, according to a survey by BlackBox Research for Tourism New Zealand.

The survey found that eight in 10 (80 per cent) Malaysians ranked indulging in a country’s local delicacies as the activity they enjoyed doing most when on holiday in another country.

The survey of 1,000 respondents also revealed that 50 per cent of Malaysian travellers appreciated the quality time spent with family and friends while holidaying, followed by basking in nature’s beauty (43 per cent) and relaxing by the beach (43 per cent).

Tourism New Zealand’s Regional Manager for South and South-east Asia, Steven Dixon said the Malaysian love for food was something the people in New Zealand could certainly relate to.

He said there were many places in New Zealand which could cater to the Malaysian traveller’s palette.

“New Zealand offers a wide range of gourmet experiences throughout the country.

“From savouring the traditional Hangi feast in central North Island to tasting the freshest catch of the day in crayfish capital Kaikoura, there is something for every foodie Malaysian traveller to enjoy in the different locations in New Zealand,” he said in a statement here today.

Dixon highlighted that Tourism New Zealand had the Halal Food Guide to cater to Muslim visitors that could be downloaded at

Launched last year, the Guide provides information on suitable Halal dining options.

“It includes a list of various Halal-certified restaurants and cafes as well as those which offer vegetarian dishes or vegan cuisine,” said Dixon.

There are also many food events throughout the year in New Zealand, which offer a great way for Malaysian travellers to not only immerse in the country’s food culture but also spend quality time with loved ones.

One example of these key events is Wellington on a Plate, an annual culinary festival held in August which sees the city’s restaurants and eateries whip up new and different dishes throughout a two-week period to tempt everyone’s taste buds.

Dixon said a holiday in New Zealand is very accessible for Malaysian travellers.

“Malaysians don’t need a visa to enter New Zealand, which makes it more convenient for them to visit New Zealand and have a culinary or leisurely holiday experience.

Furthermore, he said there were non-stop flights to New Zealand from Malaysia with Malaysia Airlines and great one-stop options with airlines such as Singapore Airlines.




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It’s getting hot in here

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Beware of European summer travel chaos

IF you are visiting Europe this summer, you will likely experience an extreme heat wave, and more stringent immigration and security checks than ever before.

A scorching 40 degrees Celsius heat wave has arrived in parts of Europe, mainly the southern countries of France, Spain and Italy.

In what seem like end of days’ scenes, people are dying from the heat, crops and other fresh food supplies are being damaged, and energy and water suppliers have been pushed to their limits.

People are also advised to stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day.

With temperatures soaring into the low 40s, Europe has witnessed widespread cases of wild fire during its traditionally dry season.

In central Portugal in June, a raging forest fire killed more than 60 people, including 30 motorists who were trapped in their vehicles when the fire engulfed the road they were travelling along.

At the time, Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo noted that the heroic firefighters faced the toughest possible conditions of high temperatures, wind and zero humidity.

Meanwhile, in the western Bernese Swiss Alps, the shrinking Tsanfleuron glacier recently revealed two frozen bodies who went missing in 1942.

The two farmers disappeared at an altitude of 2,600m. Their bodies were found near a ski lift by a local worker.

Climatologists say global warming is causing the glacier to recede. Swiss glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate, losing a cubic kilometre of ice this past year.

Since 1850, when glaciers covered 1,735 sq km, they have shrunk to 890 sq km or roughly half.

Swiss police have a list of 306 names and locations of all people missing on the mountains since 1925. They expect to discover many more, thanks to global warming.

To underline the very real harmful effect of fossil fuels’ polluting emissions, the UK government announced its intent to ban all diesel and petrol-driven cars by 2040 due to the rising levels of nitrogen oxide posing a major risk to public health.

Air pollution is killing 9,000 people a year in London.

In line with this global realisation of global warming’s harmful effects, car manufacturer Volvo is switching to electric or hybrid-only powered cars from 2019.


Meanwhile, non-European Union (EU) passport holders are facing more stringent security checks following new EU immigration regulations in the wake of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks.

The new rules demand entry and exit checks on all passport holders from outside of the EU Schengen 26-country border-free zone.

That now includes UK passport holders (due to Brexit), many of whom are reported waiting for up to four hours in immigration queues, with many missing their return flights to the UK. Introduced in early April, from October this new rule will be rigorously enforced.

Never before has a tropical Malaysian staycation looked more attractive.


But there is one key event that will impact the global tourism industry.

The Trump Administration issued notification in early August that the US will withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The agreement aims to limit Greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning sometime between 2050 and 2100, according to the BBC.

It also aims to keep global temperature levels below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, and try to limit them to 1.5 degrees.

Climate Interactive, a US think tank, predicts that if all signatory nations hit their Paris commitments, the average global surface temperature rises by 2100 will be 3.3 degrees or 3.6 degrees, excluding the US.

But the US withdrawal announcement is considered largely symbolic as no nation can officially announce its intention to withdraw until November 2019.

Even then, the process takes another year, so it would not take effect until after the next US presidential election in 2020. Many are hoping the US incumbent does not win a second term.

President Donald Trump argues that the agreement punishes the US and will cost millions of American jobs. His orange-faced permatan couldn’t be a more appropriate look for the world’s highest profile sceptic of global warming’s harmful effect. But unlike his suntan, global warming is not fake news.



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Airlines target millennials with lifestyle — David Leo

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Air France will debut a new carrier named Joon in the third quarter of the year, apparently following in the footsteps of Lufthansa and IAG (International Airlines Group), which also owns British Airways (BA), Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus — but with a different focus.

Joon will not be a low-cost carrier like Lufthansa’s Eurowings and IAG’s Level, which compete with the likes of Ryanair, EasyJet, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Iceland’s Wow Air on price.

Air France says Joon will offer original products and services that reflect those of the parent airline. That is not saying that the price of the air ticket is not important, but rather that the primary appeal will be its brand.

Joon is being promoted as a “lifestyle brand” targeting millennials, designed to meet the requirements and aspirations of a young working clientele whose lifestyles revolve around digital technologies that include social media and an array of electronic tools and IT applications.

Baby boomers have long been the backbone of travel on legacy airlines, but it is millennials who are shaping the business, going forward. According to Air France, this new generation of travellers between 18 and 35 years old are “epicurean, connected (and) opportunistic … they know how to enjoy every moment and are in search of quality experiences that they want to share with others”.

In line with its image, Joon will sport a stylish, electric blue livery and trendy-casual uniforms — think blazers, polos, ankle pants and sneakers. The colour symbolises the airline’s dynamic attitude, embracing sky, space and travel, and depicts a positive, “go-getter” attitude. While details about other onboard amenities are not yet known, you can expect these, including meals and entertainment, to be designed and packaged with adventure-seeking jet setters in mind.

Joon’s playful chic reflects the kind of statement Asian low-cost carriers are already making — boldly unconventional, as in the youthful dynamics and tongue-in-cheek branding by AirAsia, Jetstar and Scoot.

Even their colour schemes — bright and bold — all hint at a cheerful disposition that is outgoing and game for new experiences.

Indeed, Air France might well glean a lesson from Scoot’s strategy. The Singapore Airlines subsidiary prides itself as “an airline for the young, the young-at-heart and the value-seeking”. It is targeted at travellers who yearn for “spontaneous discovery, connections and fresh experiences” — cleverly summed up as “Scootitude”.

Targeting IT-savvy travellers, Scoot turns to social media to hype its brand, communicating in the language of millennials, with humour and quirkiness to create a fan base of potential customers. AirAsia and Jetstar are similarly tech friendly, aimed at encouraging direct online bookings. For instance, AirAsia’s Web address is boldly inscribed across the fuselage of its aircraft.

Indeed, Scoot and Joon are more like each other than their respective Asian and European competitors. They have short, punchy names that resonate with young jet-setters in this Instagram and text-messaging age, and that thrive on directness, speed, immediacy and efficiency. Appropriately, Joon’s name is a play on the French word “jeune”, which means “young”.

On the other hand, AirAsia and Jetstar, like Eurowings and Level, are driven primarily by price, as reflected in their corporate and marketing slogans.

For AirAsia, cheap airfare means: “Now everyone can fly.” Jetstar goes from “All day everyday low fares” to “Low Fares, Good Times”. Taking the cue from Scoot, it may be time for them too to shift gears and place more emphasis on brand positioning.

When Scoot was inaugurated, its outlandish slogan was unmistakably loud: “Get Outta Here!” Since incorporating sister budget carrier Tigerair, the new Scoot tagline — “Escape the Ordinary” — continues to convey the irrepressible spirit of adventure.

Quite aptly, Scoot has announced plans to fly to more off-the-beaten track destinations such as Kuantan in Malaysia, Palembang in Indonesia and Harbin in China — ports that are shunned by legacy airlines.

In appealing to millennials’ preference for exotic places over popular tourist destinations, the likes of Scoot can work at carving out a niche market of their own, not one necessarily driven by price alone.

Air France says Joon will offer more than just a flight and a fare; rather, it promises a “global travel experience”. As competition between legacy airlines and low-cost carriers narrows now that the latter are operating longer distances and offering upgraded products, value has become a more important determinant of choice.

By and large, millennials are not particularly wowed by frills, but that does not follow that they go for the cheap and cheerful.

They pick what they want rather than go along with a set menu, so that their dollar can stretch to embrace more experiences. They are travelling more frequently, unlike baby boomers who prefer to wait until they have saved up enough to splash on something grander.

For millennials, travel is more a necessity than a luxury. For baby boomers, the flight is part of a well-deserved reward for having worked so hard to achieve it.

According to Air France, Joon’s conception was inspired by the new generation of travellers. Originally planned to be a budget offshoot like Eurowings and Level, Air France has since clarified that Joon is not a low-cost carrier.

The classification is inconsequential. As the competition between legacy airlines and low-cost carriers levels, the moniker “budget airline” is becoming somewhat of a misnomer. Low cost or not, Joon and Scoot are stepping up the game as millennials take over from baby boomers in reshaping the travel industry. — TODAY

* David Leo is a published author and aviation veteran.



AdminAirlines target millennials with lifestyle — David Leo

Are smartphones taking jobs from tour guides?

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As technology continues to improve and spread, more and more industries will be disrupted and see employees become redundant.

The next group potentially on the chopping block? Tour guides.

Their jobs could be in jeopardy thanks to the increasing popularity of smartphone audio guides – simply a voice in one’s ear that relates the story of this historic building or that artwork to the listener.

But can a smartphone audio guide really replace human tour guides?

Audio guides’ greatest advantage is that the single tourist is no longer dependent on a travel group but can instead shape a tour according to individual interests and with greater time flexibility.

This concept has been working for museums for a long time already; many of them have rental audio guides that explain the works of art.

“These mostly operate on a kind of kiosk system,” says Dieter Brinkmann, lecturer for applied recreational science at Bremen University in Germany.

The visitor dials up on the audio guide the work of art he or she is standing at, and the guide then provides information about it.

smartphones tourist guides

Outside the museum, there are audio guides for one’s own smartphone.

“Often a prescribed route and stations along the way are given,” Brinkman says. This model resembles a classic tour with a guide.

With the newest audio guides, the system helps set up an individual tour. Many work using GPS location data. When a tourist walks past a certain important building, the relevant audio info is passed along.

The tour is downloaded and stored on the smartphone once and can always be replayed. “You don’t even have to hold the mobile in your hand or need to click it as you go,” says Marco Neises, founder of the company Lauschtour in Germany that produces audio guides.

smartphones tourist guides

Lauschtour has different offerings, from Napoleon in Elchingen to the Zugspitz Climate Change Trek, as well as the classical city guide.

As a rule, an audio-guided tour is cheaper than one with a guide, and many tourism associations offer audio tours free of charge.

But the quality can vary greatly with these, as there are no standard specifications; there is as yet no unified platform for audio guides.

As a rule, tourism operators make their apps and guides available on their websites as well as hand out flyers or post signs on-site with their audio guide offers.

smartphones tourist guides

Such services as Audible have a large selection of guides in their programme. “But the level and the demand have been low so far,” press spokesman Jens Kraemer says.

So for now, it appears the classic tour guide is not going extinct.

“Dissemination of knowledge also requires a relationship,” insists Markus Mueller-Tenckhoff, chairman of the Association of Berlin City Guides. He himself works as a tour guide and is certain that, through the personal touch, tourists clearly take away a lot more. “We can answer questions and prepare ourselves for a target group,” he says.

With an audio guide, you’re also missing a sense of togetherness and contact with other travellers. “An audio guide is like a GPS. You are often lonely,” Mueller-Tenckhoff says.

Still, that’s not enough to stop the spread of audio guides in the tourism sector. New developments focus on boosting interaction with the traveller. For example, a function like Apple’s speech software Siri is conceivable. The traveller could ask the guide: “What church am I standing in front of?” and the programme could take a GPS reading of the location and tell the traveller using earphones.



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Indonesia: island-hopping through Nusa Tenggara

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With 17,000-plus isles to choose from, planning an Indonesian island-hopping adventure can feel overwhelming. If you’re beginning – but not wanting to end – your adventure on Bali, the Nusa Tenggara archipelago to the east is an excellent place to start. Bouncing between ferries and buses, you’ll have an intimate window on a natural wonderland.

Journey through the Nusa Tenggara archipelago to see the landscapes and meet the people of these beautiful islands © Tan Yilmaz / Getty Images

Hang out with Indonesians on the decks of boats, gazing at innumerable tiny islands which dot the seas around larger siblings such as Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and West Timor. Catch buses across the major islands, stopping off for beaches, surf breaks, dive spots, eons-old villages, tourist towns, beautiful views and much more.

The following itinerary takes you from Bali all the way to West Timor on a journey that can fill a 30-day visa. Travel as far east as you want and then fly back to Bali from various airports along the way.

Use our map to plot your itinerary across Nusa Tenggara


Just east of Bali, similarly sized Lombok makes a perfect transition to the exotic adventures of Nusa Tenggara. It has the tourist services of its famous neighbour but is much less crowded, and has a vibe that doesn’t march to the beat of visiting hordes. Among the star attractions are the superb south coast beaches, starting with the wide, azure bay at Kuta.

lombok-indonesia-sunsetFor jaw-dropping tropical sunsets Lombok is hard to beat © Southern Lightscapes-Australia / Getty Images


Lombok is almost entirely Muslim, with many grand new mosques evidence of the island’s growing prosperity. It’s relaxed, pragmatic and tourist-friendly.

Getting there and around

From Bali, hourly public ferries make the four- to five-hour trip to Lembar on Lombok. Along the way, enjoy fine views of soaring Gunung Agung on Bali and southwestern Lombok, which includes the legendary surf break, Tanjung Desert (Desert Point). There are also fast boats to Senggigi on Lombok or you can go via the Gili Islands. Public buses run frequently to the eastern port town of Labuhan Lombok. From the main city, Mataram, you can buy through tickets to islands further east. It’s about four hours by bus across Lombok.

Lombok’s modern airport at Praya is close to the southern beaches and has frequent flights to Bali and the main cities in Nusa Tenggara.


Large, dry and thinly populated, Sumbawa makes a clear break from its busier neighbours to the west. The pace is slow and traditional attractions few, although it has two famous coasts for surfing: Maluk and Pantai Lakey, near Hu’u. Many travellers hurry across the island on their way to eastern Nusa Tenggara.

sumbawa-indonesia-surfingTest your surfing skills (or just watch someone else testing theirs) on Sumbawa © Paul Kennedy / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images


Sumbawa is a very conservative Muslim island; the city of Bima is a centre of fundamentalist beliefs. However, travellers are a common sight and the perceived standoffishness of locals is mostly due to shyness.

Getting there and around

There are airports at the main cities of Sumbawa Besar and Bima, and ferries frequently make the 90-minute run between Labuhan Lombok and Poto Tano. Public buses regularly cruise the main highway between Poto Tano and the eastern port town of Sape; it’s about 13 hours across the island.


On the ferry ride from Sumbawa, you’ll sail through the islands of Komodo National Park, home to some of the region’s best diving as well as the iconic, flesh-eating Komodo dragons. Flores itself is one of Indonesia’s most appealing islands, with traditional cultures, smoking volcanoes, and a string of sublime beaches.

Start in the west in the alluring tourist town of Labuanbajo, where you can wander among great restaurants and cafes while arranging trips to the national park. The trip east on the Trans-Flores Highway is one of Indonesia’s highlights. Stone Age villages with unique cultures are found around Bajawa, spectacular volcanic scenery (including polychromatic lakes at Kelimutu National Park) make Moni unmissable, while you simply can’t pass up Paga’s perfect beaches. East of Maumere is more good diving before all hints of tourist buzz vanish as you reach remote and quiet Larantuka.

komodo-dragon-indonesiaThey don’t breathe fire but Komodo’s dragons are still highly impressive and well worth breaking your journey for © guenterguni / Getty Images


The nearly two million inhabitants of Flores comprise five major linguistic and cultural groups and are predominantly Catholic, though animist beliefs are common. The Ngada people live in age-old villages near Bajawa and welcome visitors.

Getting there and around

Flores has several small airports. Two are important for island-hoppers: Maumere and newly expanded Labuanbajo, both of which have regular service to Bali and Kupang on West Timor. There is at least one public ferry a day from Sape on Sumbawa to Labuanbajo; these take up to seven hours. You can buy through bus tickets to Flores from major cites all the way west to Bali. You can also book passage on overnight tourist boats from Lombok to Labuanbajo which bypass Sumbawa, but be sure to vet operators for safety. Frequent buses run the length of Flores, linking all the towns on the Trans-Flores Highway, from Labuanbajo to Larantuka. The minimum transit time on buses is more than 24 hours; most people stop off at least in Bajawa, Moni and Maumere.

West Timor

West Timor, the Indonesian portion of Timor island, is drawing increasing numbers of travellers. Many come for the exquisite traditional crafts such as fabrics, which are sold in tiny village markets. But an equally good reason to venture this far east is to visit the ancient villages where time seems to have stopped several centuries ago. In isolated spots such as None (18km east of Soe), they only stopped hunting heads in 1945, while hilltop Temkessi, could be the mystic home of Yoda in Star Wars.

Cloth making is still very literally part of the fabric of life for many West Timorese © Peter Ptschelinzew / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images


West Timor is one of Indonesia’s friendliest places, where even former head-hunting villages are now open to visitors. At least 14 languages are spoken and there’s a mix of religions.

Getting there and around

The main city of Kupang is a hub for eastern Nusa Tenggara; there are regular flights to Flores and Bali. Ferries from Larantuka on Flores run twice a week and take about 15 hours. You can also venture on to Timor-Leste by bus (organise your visa in Kupang first).



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Caring for rivers to preserve Sarawak’s highlands

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Communities in the mountainous northern areas of Sarawak can look forward to cleaner water, sustainable rice farming methods and improved forest protection.

There are plans over three years to raise awareness on food and water protection, boost biological diversity and improve eco preservation in the rural areas of Ba’kelalan and Long Semadoh.

The project, a joint partnership between CIMB Islamic Bank and World Wildlife Fund Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia), involves a RM1.5mil fund. (It also includes another conservation project at Ulu Muda, Kedah.) Over those three years, RM600,000 and RM900,000 will be channelled towards the projects in Sarawak and Kedah respectively.

Located 970m above sea level, Ba’kelalan is adjacent to Pulong Tau National Park. The highlands here are scenic with cool weather, and renowned for growing the local variety Adan rice.

One can engage in nature-based activities including bird-watching, jungle trekking and a trek up Mount Murud, the highest peak in Sarawak. From Ba’kelalan, one can also cross over to central Krayan in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

In Sarawak, rivers are a lifeline for local communities and play an integral part of the ecosystem. But there are issues concerning water pollution and soil erosion, specifically in the Trusan River and Kelalan River – two water catchment areas in the state.

Erosion of riverbanks results in water overflowing into padi fields and damaging crops. There is also the problem of increased pesticide usage which can affect the quality and yield of rice.

“Some parts of the river banks have eroded badly,” said WWF- Malaysia executive director/chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma in an e-mail interview.

“This could be attributed to previous logging activities and natural changes to water flow. Problems arise when land is cleared for agricultural activities, damaging riverbank stability.”

To reduce erosion at affected rivers, WWF-Malaysia intends to plant bamboo and trees, and erect gabions (retaining walls of wire mesh filled with rocks and earth).

Bamboo is a great option for riverbank restoration projects as it grows well and fast, especially along rivers.

“If grown in appropriate places, bamboo roots will hold onto soil firmly and prevent erosion,” explained Dionysius, who added that bamboo cuttings – planted into soil or laid horizontally – will produce new shoots, which can eventually grow into larger plants.

The project also aims to promote the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) among Ba’kelalan farmers.

SRI is an organic farming method practised by farmers in India and Indonesia. It uses sustainable agro-ecological methods to increase crop productivity by soil, water and nutrient management.

Dionysius explained, “The project aims to promote SRI and make rice farming more sustainable. This will lessen the need to develop more areas for rice fields. In addition, WWF-Malaysia is also identifying areas for agriculture and conservation that can benefit communities.”

He is pleased the projects have received positive feedback from communities.

“The forests and rivers have been well-guarded and conserved because the local communities see the greater benefit of doing so. By preserving forests, the impact of water pollution can be minimised. They depend heavily on clean water sources from the river for their rice fields and daily uses.”

To further instil the importance of conservation, WWF-Malaysia intends to organise community engagement and educational activities among villagers.

“We want to build a greater sense of responsibility among the community,” explained Dionysius. “Villagers need to have a sense of ownership that they need to be part of the action to reap the benefits of these projects. Hopefully, the communities of Long Semadoh will become advocates for river conservation.”

CIMB Islamic Bank chief executive officer Rafe Haneef hopes the conservation projects will provide sustainable long-term benefits for communities, be they environmental conservation, financial literacy, rehabilitation or education initiatives.

“The rivers in Sarawak are important for local communities as they support healthy ecosystems and the locals’ livelihood,” he said.

“Our main objective is to protect rivers from further erosion and restore the riverbanks in Long Semadoh. In Ba’kelalan, the focus is to promote sustainable rice farming to minimise forest conversion to agriculture.”

Rafe also hopes the projects will create greater awareness on the importance of environmental protection and its value to human beings.

“With the three-year partnership, we aim to see a positive outcome in three ways – ensuring food and water security for the community, preserving these areas, and raising awareness about these hidden treasures.”



AdminCaring for rivers to preserve Sarawak’s highlands

5 amazing things from 5 more Asean countries

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Asean the organisation of 10 South-East Asian nations celebrated its 50th anniversary recently on Aug 8. Last Wednesday we had run some interesting and amazing points of note from five of the countries in Asean. Here are more interesting snippets from the remaining five Asean nations.


Catch the Pyazat, before it dies

Pyazat, Myanmar’s traditional drama, is on the verge of extinction due to the influence of foreign cultures. The modern form of Pyazat emerged in the late British colonial period with films. The shows that used to last three hours are now down to two and they are mostly performed in rural areas. From preaching morality, these shows now dwell on laughing away the stresses of daily life.

A breathtaking cave in an amazing landscape

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

The Saddan cave, one of the biggest in Myanmar, is dotted with several images of Buddha. It takes about 20 minutes to cross the cave, if the bats don’t deter you, and the exit opens into a lake, offering a view of a landscape that will leave you feeling enchanted.

A spot to remember a romantic legend

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

Than Daung Gyi – in Kayin state, a four to six-hour train ride from Yangon, is best known as the place of Myanmarese Christians. It is also famous for the legend of Prince Saw Thaw oh Khwa and Princess Naw Bu Baw, who were deeply in love. Though they got married, the prince’s side did not like Naw Bu Baw as they thought she was a witch. After the prince died in battle, she was imprisoned in a rock cavern and eventually died. Local people believe their spirits still wander hand-in-hand through forests in that area.

Asean’s top collection of Buddhist mural paintings

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

The Lokahteikpan Temple, in Bagan, is said to have the best collection of Buddhist mural paintings in South-East Asia and these were discovered as recently as 1958. The mural paintings emphasise educating people on Theravada Buddhism. The paintings depict the eight Scenes of the Buddha, 10 major stories of Lord Buddha and 550 Jatakas.

Not just a ball game

Chinlone is perhaps the country’s most famous traditional sport. Players in teams of six pass the ball back and forth using their feet, knees, and their heads as they walk around a circle. A player goes into the middle alone, and creates a dance of different moves strung together. Unlike other sports, there is no scoring in Chinlone, and players are judged based on how beautifully they play the game.


Island in a lake on an island in a lake

While Vulcan Point may no longer be the largest specimen of its kind, it is still a marvel of nature to experience. Vulcan Point is on an island in a lake, on an island. The lake surrounding Vulcan Point, Taal Lake, is a volcanic one formed after eruptions sealed the water body from the sea. After centuries of rainfall, it slowly desalinated and become host to a plethora of species that slowly adapted to the change in the salinity of the water. The volcano holding all of this, the Taal Volcano, is the second most active volcano in the Philippines.

Largest mammal eye to body ratio

The Philippine tarsier has the largest mammal eyes, in terms of ratio to the body, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The diminutive chimp is also one of the smallest primates in the world, ranging from 8.5cm to 16cm tall. Despite this small frame, the tarsier’s skull houses a pair of eyes that are 1.6cm in diameter. As a result, its eyes are unable to turn in their sockets. A special adaptation allows their necks to turn 180 degrees in either direction. Furthermore, their eyes can dilate almost completely in poor light conditions, allowing them to see late at night in the forest.

Mother of all pearls

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

The former holder of this accolade, the Pearl of Lao Tzu, was also from the Philippines. The current title-holder, the 34kg Puerto Princesa pearl, was kept under its owner’s bed for over 10 years, where he would take it out and touch it before he went out to fish. It was only when he was to move to another part of the province that it came to light, where the man handed the pearl to his aunt – a tourism officer working in the local government. The pearl was then put on display as a tourist attraction at the local town hall.

Inventor of karaoke

While many assume that the karaoke machine was a Japanese invention, the patent is in fact held by Filipino inventor Roberto del Rosario. He created the Karaoke Sing-Along System in 1975, which contributed to the spread of the trend. Although the karaoke was created by Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue a few years prior, both men have been credited as noteworthy in the history of karaoke.

‘Boondocks’ is Filipino

The expression boondocks, used to refer to isolated places or the countryside, has roots in the Tagalog word “bundok”, which means mountains. It is believed it was adapted into English by American soldiers.


Think coding and programming is hard?

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

The world’s youngest app developer, Lim Ding Wen, created his first app when he was nine in 2009. It is a drawing app named Doodle Kids. Working from an Apple IIGS computer, he wrote it in a few days before porting it for the iPhone and releasing it for free on the iTunes Store. Ding Wen is now an aspiring game developer with more than 20 apps under his belt.

The man behind the name: who is Old Chang Kee?

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

Ironically, there is no such person. The man behind the famous snack chain is Hainanese immigrant Chang Chuan Boo, who set up shop in 1956. He gained fame for his curry puffs at a coffeeshop near Rex Cinema. Locals referred to the snacks as the “Rex Curry Puff”. This business was later bought by Han Keen Juan in 1986, who transformed a small shop along Mackenzie Road to the chain of stores that are well known today. Old Chang Kee was named one of the world’s 20 best fast-food franchises by US-based Travel & Leisure Magazine in 2012.

Blast from the past: Singapore’s first fast food outlet

Fast-food outlets are commonly associated with the golden arches and Colonel Sanders, but for many Singaporeans in the 70s, their first such encounter was in fact A&W (Allen & Wright). A&W was the very first fast-food chain to open in Singapore, bringing in classics such as the Coney Dog, curly fries and the eponymous root beer from America. A&W ceased its operations in 2003 and Singaporeans have little memory of this pioneering franchise today.

The smell of cocoa in Singapore’s west

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

Singaporeans travelling to the west of the island might detect the smell of cocoa. The scent originates primarily from two chocolate factories, Cadbury and ADM Cocoa, 1km from the Boon Lay train station, and which have been in the area for the past two decades. Through roasting, the outer shell of beans open up, and can thus be ground more efficiently into cocoa powder.

Smelly toilets? No way!

From its humble beginnings as the Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS), the World Toilet Organisation (WTO) was formed to share information and resources between countries to raise the standards of toilets worldwide. Given the impeccable cleanliness Singapore is known for around the world, it is little surprise that the founder of the RAS and WTO is from Singapore. Despite having an unconventional claim to fame, Jack Sim has received numerous accolades and his efforts have changed the toilets (and lives) worldwide, reaching out to places as far as Samoa.



World’s smallest mammal

Weighing just 2g and measuring 29-33mm in length, Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai) is the world’s smallest bat species and also (arguably) the world’s smallest mammal species. First known to the world in 1974, the tiny bat species lives in a handful of limestone caves along rivers in the Kanchanaburi province of western Thailand, foraging for insects in the surrounding forests. Colonies have around 100 individuals per cave, with females producing just one offspring annually.

Sadly, the bat, aka the bumble bat, is classified at risk of extinction,.

Thailand’s national dish?

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

Phat Thai, aka pad Thai and literally meaning “fried Thai style”, is a stir-fried rice noodle dish, commonly cooked with eggs, tofu, shrimps, tamarind pulp, shallots, chili and fish sauce. For many visitors, phat Thai is their introduction to Thai food and many consider it to be the country’s national dish (although some might contend that tom yum kung takes that honour).

Yet evidence indicates that it is actually not even Thai. Bangkok-based celebrity chef McDang (Sirichalerm Svasti), in an interview for the BBC, said that noodles and stir-frying – the two main elements of phat Thai – arrived in Thailand with Chinese immigrants. He did note that the sauces and pastes used are Thai.

It turns out that the dish was popularised by military strongman Plaek Phibunsongkhram in the 1930s and 1940s in an effort to create a “national dish” as part of his programme of nationalism.

Sombat Metanee – World’s most prolific actor

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

Sombat Metanee is an 80-year-old legend of the Thai silver screen who for a time was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific movie star ever, performing in an incredible 617 titles.

Introduced to the world of celluloid in 1961, Sombat gained popularity for his good looks, sculpted body and sex appeal. During his heyday in the 1960s and 70s – the golden era of Thai film industry – he often worked on several films at the same time, with almost the same hairstyle in each role. On average, he starred in some 30 films per year covering various genres – action, drama, comedy, romance, rom-com and musical.

Frequently paired with lead actress Aranya Namwong, Sombat was also well-known for his singing voice and released a number of movie soundtrack records and albums. Even today, the veteran actor continues to make an occasional appearance in Thai films and TV soaps, as well as TV commercials.

Bangkok’s “gourmet” fresh market

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

Most wet markets to be found in Bangkok (actually anywhere in Thailand) are wet, smelly, crowded places where hygiene and quality are not the top priorities. Not so with Or Tor Kor Market (pronounced Aw, Taw, Kaw), the Marketing Organisation for Farmers, in northern Bangkok right next to the world-famous Chatuchak Market.

The bright and airy market recently ranked fourth in a CNN survey of the top 10 best fresh markets in the world, named alongside the likes of La Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain; Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo,; and Union Square Farmer’s Market in New York City. According to the report, Or Tor Kor “displays exotic fruits and vegetables that are unique to Thailand as well as imported specialities from around Asia. The market is immaculate and brightly lit, allowing shoppers to easily cruise for seafood, sweets and cooked foods”.

While most of the fruit and vegetables on display look noticeably superior to those found elsewhere in Bangkok, they’re also considerably pricier. To get to the market, exit the MRT at Kamphaeng Phet station and follow the signs. The market is open daily from 6am to 8pm.

What’s in a nickname?

Unlike people from other nations, almost all Thais have a nickname. Nicknames are common in Thai culture and are normally chosen by parents based on their child’s gender. Thais generally use the nicknames of family members, friends or colleagues instead of their “official” names. There are no specific rules for how parents choose nicknames for their children. Most likely, it’s just a favourite name, and as a result nicknames today are immensely varied.

Nicknames based on the names of animals are among the most popular, ranging from Nok (meaning bird), Kai (chicken), Moo (Pig), Kung (shrimp), Pla (fish), Kwang (deer), Tao (turtle), Kob (frog), Ped (duck), Mod (ant), Singhto (lion) to Norn (worm).

Some nicknames clearly indicate the gender of the person, such as Chai (male), Ying (female), Boy, Man and Num (young man), while others suggest the order of the birth in the family, for example, Ton (beginning), Neung (first or number one), Yai (eldest), Lek (youngest) and Nong (mostly youngest sister).

Auto brands like Benz and Porsche have become popular among boys.


An ethnic group facing extinction

The Si La ethnic group is among the groups with fewest people in Vietnam. With a total population of fewer than 1,000, Si La people live mostly in Muong Te District in the northern province of Lai Chau and in Muong Nhe District in the northern province of Dien Bien.

The Si La group’s language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family but its usage is dropping and they have no written language.

Hundreds of years ago, their ancestors lived in Lhasa, the capital of today’s Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. They then migrated to Laos before coming to Vietnam.

Men in the group used to dye their teeth red, while women dyed their teeth black, but that custom has died out. The costumes of Si La women are made with metal coins attached to the chest. Their headscarves indicate their ages and marital status. Si La people customarily marry twice. The second ceremony is held one year after the first.

The group is at risk due to inter-marriage.

Where only men could make dresses for women

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

Around 60km from downtown of capital Hanoi, Trach Xa village in Ung Hoa District has been known for its ao dai (Vietnam’s national dress)-making skills for centuries.

A strange feature of this fame, however, has been the fact that the iconic national dress for women was made exclusively by men.

To this day, 90% per cent of the local tailors are men, owing to a long-standing rule in the region: the job was taught only to men.

Explaining the special rule, Nguyen Van Nhien, 84, who has been an ao dai maker for 65 years, said that in the old days, local inhabitants had to go far away to work as tailors to earn their living. Only men could travel as women were not believed to be strong enough to travel so far.

Locals also believed that the ao dai designed and tailored by men was more beautiful than those done by women.

Today, villagers do not have to travel to different regions to look for clients. Women also help their husbands do the job.

The only mosque in northern Vietnam is in the centre of the capital

The only mosque in northern Vietnam, named Al-Noor Masjid (The Mosque of Light), is at 12 Hang Luoc Street in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem District.

Over the past 100 years, the mosque has been the destination for Vietnamese and foreign Muslim worshippers. At the beginning of the 19th century, Indian businessmen came to Vietnam on business, and some settled here. In 1885 they started to build the Al-Noor mosque, which is deeply influenced by Indian architecture and culture.

The mosque was officially inaugurated in 1890.

The only place to find squid eggs

Every coastal locality in Vietnam offers visitors many culinary gifts from the sea, but the southernmost province of Ca Mau has a monopoly on squid eggs.

The province’s fishermen fish for squid at night. The catch is put in ice to keep it fresh. Next morning, the squid eggs are taken out and the squid flesh is dried in the sun.

A popular squid egg dish involves mixing it with duck eggs, minced pork and pig’s liver. The mixture is flattened out into small patties, which are sun dried and taken home. Squid eggs are a luxury because for every 10 to 12kg of fresh squid, you can only get 1kg of eggs.

Underwater sea path

Asean and the 50th anniversary.

Located in Van Phong Bay (60km from Nha Trang City in the central province of Khanh Hoa), Diep Son Island is an increasingly attractive destination for many visitors, drawn by its beaches and especially a beautiful “underwater sea path” connecting two islets.

Depending on the time of the visit, the path is either partially submerged in the crystal waters (in the morning during high tide) or completely dry and visible (in the afternoon during low tide).

The rustic island consists of three small separated islets and is home to about 100 households who use it as a base for fishing trips. There are also many hidden coves and caves that are perfect for exploration.

Source: Myanmar Eleven, The Straits TimesThe NationViet Nam News and Asia News Network. Information from several online resources was also used in this listicle.

Admin5 amazing things from 5 more Asean countries

How to survive an earthquake when you’re travelling

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Earthquakes are a constant danger in many places around the world.

The earthquake in China’s Sichuan area that happened yesterday (Aug 9) is an example of how we can never be too prepared.

Locals know the rules on how to be ready for them and how to best protect themselves, but what about people who are just visiting?

Tourists should also be aware of the risks when travelling to endangered areas.

Here are some tips from the German Geophysical Centre on how to cope with catastrophe.

Always be prepared

Vacationers should study – and even better, – walk the recommended emergency evacuation routes at least once.

These routes are usually posted by a hotel or holiday apartment complex.

Also keep an eye for potential shelter spots and emergency assembly areas.

You can also agree with family members on where to meet should an earthquake happen.

If you’re in a travel group pay attention to the meeting point.

If you’re inside a hotel room

Those who do not have a room right next to the ground-floor exit should not try to flee the building while a quake is going on.

Flying objects and shards of glass can cause injuries.

In the room, you can take shelter beneath a table or bed – and you should stay there for as long as the quake continues, even if the furniture is moving about.

An alternative is also a sturdy door-frame.

One can also lie on the floor, preferably close to an interior load-bearing wall and away from the outside walls.

If possible, try to lie away from heavy furniture such as bookshelves or cupboards.

While lying down, you should cross your arms over your head and face.

If you’re out in the open

If you’re outside when an earthquake strikes, you should look as quickly as possible for an open space away from buildings, trees and street lamps.

But you should also stay away from steep slopes.

If the quake strikes near a flat, coastal region, you should flee inland to the highest possible elevation to avoid a possible tsunami.



AdminHow to survive an earthquake when you’re travelling

80 things to see and eat in George Town

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What should you see and where should you eat when you come to George Town?

According to artist Vanessa Ho, there are at least 80 things to see, do and eat here that she has documented, replete with colourful illustrations in a book titled GT 80.

Commissioned by George Town Festival (GTF) to put together the book within two months, Ho has skilfully captured the nuances of George Town’s beauty through her strokes of watercolour illustrations.

Ho, who is from Kedah, visited George Town several times to personally taste the food and visit the places before immortalising these in her illustrations.

“I did a lot of online research first and then I visit all these places to make sure these places still exist and I also tried all the food that were featured in the book,” she said in a recent interview with Malay Mail Online.

The list of 80 things were also finalised with GTF director Joe Sidek before she started work on the book.

It was no easy task because Ho only began in May, and took over 700 hours of work to rush to complete it in time to be launched during Macam-Macam ASEAN last weekend.

She started the book with introductions to the George Town World Heritage Incorporated building in Acheen Street, the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower in Lebuh Light and historical places in George Town before on to traditional trades such as the flower garland makers along Queen Street, Chulia Street and Market Street, the songkok maker in King Street and local hawker fare.

Each page is filled with her illustration of the location or food, along with a brief description and history of each.

In between, she inserted a full page on the intricate tiles of George Town and another, on the many items related to the Penang Baba Nyonya culture.

Uniquely restored and repurposed buildings such as 23, Love Lane and Seven Terraces, both of which are now boutique hotels, are also featured.

Ho was not always a full-time artist prior to her return to Malaysia. She studied in Taiwan and subsequently worked there, and only returned to Malaysia in 2013 after spending 15 years studying and working overseas.

“I was working in an advertising agency but not as an artist, as an assistant and I did translations,” she said.

Ho likes to draw and paint as a hobby and had never considered turning it into a full time career until she came home.

“After living overseas for so long, I decided to come home to my family in Kedah and I was only doing illustrations to past time,” she said.

Her big break came when Sin Chew Daily commissioned her to draw illustrations for one of the newspaper’s weekly column last year.

“That was when I started getting commissioned work and I started to take it seriously as a career,” she said.

This year, the 38-year-old attended a design workshop organised by Think City and George Town Festival where she met Joe.

“After he saw my presentation at the workshop, he was interested in my work and asked me to meet him to develop something for George Town Festival and that is how this book came about,” she said.

GT 80 features more than 20 different types of food, over 20 grand heritage buildings and 30 places to visit and traditional trades to see.

Ho’s book is still available for sale at GTF office in Armenian Street. Find out more about GTF events at


Admin80 things to see and eat in George Town