A Region Says No to Plastics

A Region Says No to Plastics

Bye-Bye Plastic Straws / Our love affair with plastic straws used for drinking from a glass and bottle is being replaced by something new.

//ASEAN //

Fresh drink with natural material straw in Bali
Eatable straws made from rice flour, Vietnam

A company in Vietnam has introduced eatable straws made from rice flour. Bali has banned them along with plastic takeout containers and single-use plastic bags. Laos is witnessing an increase in drinking straws made of sustainable materials while some supermarket chains in Thailand have done away with plastic bags entirely.

The message is clear. Reduce plastic waste and its environmental impact. Here are some interesting developments across the region.

In December 2018 Bali announced legislation to prohibit plastic straws, plastic takeout containers as well as single-use plastic bags and utensils. After a six-month grace and considerable opposition, the ban officially went into effect on June 23, 2019. It’s seen as part of a wider effort at reducing plastic waste by 70% in the long run. As a result, waxed paper straws have replaced those made of plastic. Some hotels on the paradise island even serve beverages with glass tubes instead. Interestingly, the fight against plastic waste started in earnest five years ago when two teenage siblings, Isabel and Melati Wijsen, launched a campaign called “Bye-Bye Plastic Bags” to raise public awareness of the impact of pollution.

Isabel and Melati Wijsen
Glass straws in Bali, Indonesia

Elsewhere, a company in Laos has introduced drinking straws made of sustainable materials such as bamboo and stalks of a reed. A factory in Vietnam is making eatable straws out of rice flour in much the same way as pasta is made. Its thin, hollow tubes are firm and stable in shape for up to half an hour. Similarly, drinking straws made from morning glory stalks are offered by specialized restaurants in Vietnam and Thailand.

To save the ocean from trash, some supermarket chains in Thailand have stopped giving out single-use plastic bags. Among them, three Tesco Lotus stores on Chang Island have done away with plastic bags entirely.

Drinking straws made of sustainable materials; rice flour, bamboo, and reed

Across the globe, in March 2019 the European Parliament voted 560-35 to approve a ban on disposable plastic products from 2021. In June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would prohibit single-use plastics starting 2021. Prior to that, in July 2018 Seattle became the first US city to ban plastic straws, plastic stirrers and disposable plastic utensils, while the New York City Council also introduced legislation to ban plastic straws by 2020.


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The Making of the “Super Ung-Lo,” Ratchaburi’s Fuel-Efficient Cook Stove

The Making of the “Super Ung-Lo,” Ratchaburi’s Fuel-Efficient Cook Stove

The old-fashioned cook stove known as “Ung-Lo” has long been a manifestation of traditional knowledge of the people of Thailand. It’s fair to say that the charcoal stove can make food taste and smell better than can gas-fired cooking ranges. Precisely, nothing can replicate the natural smoky flavor of char. Nowadays, although the ubiquitous influence of gas-fired cooking ranges is felt by everybody, there’s always a demand for the charcoal stove. That said, we believe there’s at least one “Ung-Lo” in practically every household to meet every cooking need, whether it be barbecuing low and slow or cooking with high heat.

Story: Trairat Songpao /// Photography: Kosol Paipoei

Ruam Sukhawattago is owner of “Gold Stoves,” an old manufacturing factory located in Ratchaburi Province. He kindly takes a break from work to show us around and share his experience. No doubt it’s an opportunity to observe traditional knowledge at work and see how the cloning process has evolved over time to fit modern circumstances. In the process, Ruam succeeds in crafting a fuel-efficient cook stove that he calls the “Super Ung-Lo.” The product is made from materials sourced directly from the community, such as clay and rice husk ash. In all, the handcrafted cook stove takes ten days from start to finish.

Super Ung-Lo Super Ung-Lo Super Ung-Lo

How It’s Made

First of all, clay goes through a curing process to become liquefied overnight. Then the soft clay is mixed with soil and rice husk ash. The ratio of soil to ash is 2:1. Work the moistened clay mix into paste with the hands until it’s thick and malleable enough to be molded to its final shape.

Let it cure for 12 hours before attaching three cooking pot supports to the inside wall of the fire chamber. The support points should be raised slightly higher than the mouth of a stove. Rub off the rough edges on the clay surface to give it a nice finish. Cut an opening in the lower part of the wall to make an air inlet. Then, let stand for five days before putting it in a kiln, where the clay stove becomes hardened by heat.

Next is the making of a perforated clay brick or grill that separates the fire box from the ash chamber below. The lower room doubles as air inlet and ash removal port. The round grill prevents the fire from falling into the space underneath. Traditionally, a total of 61 holes are made while the brick is soft and easy to cut. The grill is fired at the same time as is the stove body.

From the kiln, the hardened earthenware is placed inside a metal casing for protection. The void space is filled with rice husk ash for heat insulation. Finally, it’s time to seal the top circumference with cement mix and install the perforated brick to complete the process.

Super Ung-Lo Super Ung-Lo

The “Super Ung-Lo” cook stove is designed to save fuel in line with the policy of the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency. It differs from traditional cook stoves in that:

  1. Shape: It’s perfectly shaped to store thermal energy in material by raising its temperatures.
  2. Stove top circumference: The stove mouth is capable of supporting 9 sizes of cooking pots (sizes 16-32)
  3. Support points: The three support points are raised above the top circumference only slightly to minimize heat loss.
  4. Fire chamber: Relatively speaking, its fire chamber is smaller than that of a traditional cook stove, which translates into less fuel being used.
  5. Grill: The perforated clay brick is made thicker for durability. Its efficiency comes from a forceful current of air that is pulled through many smaller holes using convection.

Super Ung-Lo Super Ung-Lo

Touring the factory, we come across so many cook stoves to the extent it gets us thinking about the future of the age-old industry. Will this occupation continue to have pride of place in modern circumstances? Interestingly enough, Ruam replies:

“At one time, the US Embassy invited me to join my counterparts from Laos and Vietnam for a meeting on Ung-Lo making in Vientiane. I represented Thailand in that event. At the time, many versions of cook stoves were discussed and compared in a bid to identify a design that produced the highest heat, had the least impact on the environment, and the most energy efficient. The Thai Ung-Lo proved to be the case. It started a fire in the least amount of time. By comparison, it produced the highest heat with water reaching the boiling point very quickly. In fact, the kettle boiled twice while the Vietnamese stove had only just started a fire.

“It turned out that theirs was a biofuel stove, which produced a lot of smoke. Experiments showed the Thai stove was made to a high quality standard. I couldn’t help wondering why the Americans were so interested in the Ung-Lo. Their answer was that 20 years from now, humans would have turned around to using traditional cook stoves due to natural gas being used up. Oils derived from petroleum would have been depleted less than 50 years from now, unlike wood which is a renewable product. So, now I understand.”

Super Ung-Lo

We came away feeling good knowing we have formed friendships and understanding with each other. It made us happy to go by the saying, “Whatever you do in life, do it for love.” Ruam Sukhawatago no doubt was of the same opinion.

For a chance to visit the “Gold Stoves” factory, or get yourself something good like a “Super Ung-Lo,” call 08-7977-8677 for information.

Source :


There’s More to New Year Than January 1

There’s More to New Year Than January 1

For peoples across the ASEAN, New Year means more than the first day on the new calendar. Whether it’s Songkran, Thingyan, Choul Chnam Thmey, Tet, or Nyepi, the happy day is publicly acknowledged with enthusiasm and joy. As celebrations kick off, traveling can be difficult. We think it wise to plan ahead. Here’s the period the New Year Festival is traditionally celebrated around the ASEAN in 2018. Have a safe journey!

A public procession celebrating the Thingyan Festival, Myanmar / Photo: Tayzar

The New Year Festival differs from country to country across the ASEAN. It’s part of a tradition that has been in existence long before the advent of the new calendar. The happy day goes by different names — “Songkran” in Thailand, “Thingyan” in Myanmar, “Choual Chnam Thmey” in Cambodia, “Tet” in Vietnam, and “Nyepi” in Bali. It’s publicly acknowledged with enthusiasm and festivity that has transformed into the Region’s timeless attraction. If you’re planning a visit during the holiday season, we think it wise to plan ahead. Here’s the period the New Year Festival is traditionally celebrated around the ASEAN in 2018.

An elephant and tourists splash each other with water at the scene of a Songkran event in Thailand. / Photo: JJ Harrison

Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia share a common culture when it comes to celebrating New Year. The season of goodwill and festivity is based on Buddhist/Hindu beliefs that they received from India. It’s celebrated around mid-April in keeping with the Buddhist solar calendar. The occasion marks a change of seasons from cold to hot, which coincides with the rising of Aries in ancient astrology.

Over time, each country has developed its own system of beliefs associated with the beginning of a new year. The Myanmar version is concerned with the elephant-headed deity Ganesh, son of Shiva, who is worshipped as the destroyer of obstacles and patron of learning. In Thailand, the beliefs center around the legend of Thao Kibil Prom, a deity who was beheaded after losing a bet on intelligence games. The two stories reflect elaborate systems of Buddhist/Hindu beliefs about cleansing rituals, to which the Southeast Asian mainland is greatly indebted. Over time, the use of water to rid a person and place of something deemed unpleasant or defiling has evolved into a tradition, which later transformed into a popular water festival that we see today. 

The Thingyan water festival in Myanmar / Photo: Tayzar

– Myanmar –

Thingyan is the most widely celebrated festival in Myanmar. Traditionally, it was a public holiday that usually lasted about ten days to allow the people plenty of time to travel, celebrate the water festival, and reunite with families in far-away provinces. Just recently the holiday period has been cut short despite opposition from some sectors. As for 2018, the Thingyan Festival is scheduled for April 13 through 16, and culminates in Myanmar New Year’s Day on April 17. In Yangon, the water festival centers around Kandawgyi Pet Lann Road, and Kabaraye Road.


A bucket and a water pistol are absolutely necessary if you plan on taking part in the water festival celebrating Thailand’s New Year come mid-April. / Photo: Takeaway

– Thailand –

Thailand’s traditional New Year, known as Songkran, falls on April 13 through 15. In Bangkok, the water festival takes place on various locations, such as Khao San Road that’s popular among foreign tourists, and Silom Road that’s favorite among the general public including the gay community. In fact, a good time is had by all during Songkran, and it’s not limited to just the two spots mentioned. Up north, the province of Chiangmai is mega rich in Songkran tradition. Tourists, both local and foreign, traverse thousands of miles to converge in the city during the high season.


Songkran Festival in Laos / Photo: Njambi Ndlba

– Laos –

The people of Laos start celebrating Songkran or Pi Mai Lao (literally Lao’s New Year) on April 13. Take time to relax since April 14 through 16 is the official public holiday. It’s a slice of paradise for those impressed by warm, sweet, and welcoming hospitality unique to the Lao PDR.


A gong and tom-tom procession heralds the Cambodian New Year. / Photo: Rdghalayini

– Cambodia –

For 2018, the Cambodian New Year or Choul Chnam Thmey falls on April 13 through 16. The annual event is celebrated with a multitude of joyful festivities and merit making ceremonies in Buddhism. People often confuse Choul Chnam Thmey with the Cambodian Water Festival, which is an entirely different event. The Water Festival, known as Bon Om Touk, is celebrated with row boat racing in the capital Phnom Penh usually in October or November each year.

Loy Krathong and Water Festivals around the Region

Loy Krathong and Water Festivals around the Region

Loy Krathong is a season of festivity celebrated annually in much of the Southeast Asian mainland. For the Thais, it’s a festival of lights, and one of the Kingdom’s landmark events. The same is true for Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. There are many different reasons to celebrate.

/// THAILAND ///

A Krathong featuring the likeness of Phya Naga, the mythical Great Serpent, in Laos // Photo:

In Laos, the equivalent of Loy Krathong Festival usually happens before anywhere else in the ASEAN. Known as Boun Awk Phansa, it is celebrated on the day of the full moon of the eleventh lunar month, or around October in the Western calendar. The occasion marks the end of the three-month-long rains retreat often referred to as Buddhist Lent.

The celebration begins at dawn when laypeople attend almsgiving ceremonies at temples across the country. The night is aglow when colorful floats made of banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks, and candles are launched in thanksgiving to the river spirit. The tradition is known as Lhai Heua Fai.

Rowboat races are landmark events in the Cambodian Water Festival in Phnom Penh. // Photo:
The atmosphere of the Cambodian Water Festival near Tonle Sap Lake in front of the Royal Palace // Photo:
Bon Om Touk or Water Festival in Cambodia // Photo:

In neighboring Cambodia, the occasion is celebrated big time and goes on for three days. Known as Bon Om Touk, the Water Festival is commemorated with plenty of fun events hosted by communities around Tonle Sap Lake on the 14th and 15th nights of the waxing moon, and the night of the new moon. The tradition culminates in exciting rowboat races and a ceremony dedicated to memories of a waterborne battle against Cham states that are central and southern Vietnam today.

Myanmar celebrates its version of Loy Krathong based on traditional stories about King Asoke the Great and the mythical Phya Naga. The Myanmar experience, which is specifically about the public veneration of the Great Serpent, is held on the day of the full moon of the 12th lunar month.

The Loy Krathong tradition doesn’t exist in Vietnam, except for a few areas in the central part of the country.

A spectacular light and sound show in Sukhothai, the purported birthplace of Thailand’s Loy Krathong Festival. // Photo: Sukhothai Loy Krathong and Candle Festival
The atmosphere of a venue for Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand // Photo: John Shedrick
A sight to behold, sky lanterns symbolize the letting go of problems and worries in people’s lives. Locally known as Yi Peng, the Lantern Festival is popular in the Northern Region and coincides with Thailand’s Loy Krathong Festival. The unique tradition has been officially prohibited in the past few years for aviation safety reason and a precaution against house fires. // Photo: Mith Huang
Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand // photo: Robertpollai

As for Thailand, Loy Krathong has become one of the country’s tourism industry success stories. The festival takes place annually on the night of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, usually around November. It is often claimed that the festival has its origin in the Sukhothai Period, but this proved not to be the case.

Written work by King Rama IV in 1863 indicated that the practice was adopted by Thai Buddhists during the reign of King Rama III. It has become a traditional veneration of the Buddha ever since. Like so, the Kingdom pays tribute to the teaching of the Buddha with light. The floating of Krathong or banana-trunk floats symbolizes letting go of episodes that debase life and the dignity of the human person.

The Thai Loy Krathong experience is seen as a chapter in the influence of the civilization of India. Brahmanism and Buddhism both spread into the Southeast Asian mainland until about 1500. Eventually the countries of the mainland became predominantly Buddhist.

Convergent evidence points to a piece of written work by King Rama III, which mentions Thao Srichulaluck, or Nang Noppamas, as a court lady during the period of the Phra Ruang Dynasty that ruled the Kingdom of Sukhothai from 1238 to 1438. The story refers to the practice of making banana-leaf containers bedecked with lotus flowers and setting them adrift in the river as a means of paying homage to the Buddha. Other evidence also refers to candle lighting and pyrotechnic displays as the public veneration, but falls short of mentioning the Krathong.

Loy Krathong is celebrated nationwide in modern-day Thailand. The exact date of the festival changes from year to year. As for 2017, the full moon of the twelfth lunar month falls on November 3. The Thais mark this important day with almsgiving and other acts of kindliness. At night they head for the river, where they launch the Krathong adorned with flowers, incense, and candles. Some ask forgiveness from the river spirit for any wrongdoing they may have committed. Others trim their hair and fingernails, put them on the Krathong along with some money, and set it adrift as a way of making all the bad things go away.

A colorful bread Krathong
A DIY block of ice Krathong in Thailand

The river is aglow with candle lights as the season of festivity culminates in spectacular firework displays. Lately loud firecrackers have banned in some areas for safety reason. As a means of protecting the environment, only biodegradable materials, such as banana trunk and leaves, are encouraged. As a result, foam sheets that were popular twenty years ago have begun to disappear, albeit not entirely. But the fight to safeguard the environment continues, which gives rise to many inventive ideas. Some people use bread, tree barks, even blocks of ice as a means of keeping the Krathong afloat for the duration of the festival. Others are seen using booklets of lottery tickets that didn’t win to buoy up the weight of the basket.


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Sanam Luang Then and Now: A Glimpse from the Past

Sanam Luang Then and Now: A Glimpse from the Past

Come October 26, 2017, the people from across the country will converge on Sanam Luang in a show of respect, appreciation, and gratitude for their most beloved monarch. Royal cremation in honor of the late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is scheduled to take place right here on the open field north of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace.

/// Thailand ///
Story: Samutcha Viraporn /// Photo:  National Archives of Thailand, room magazine, Perapun Vichitkraivin


Flashback: An aerial shot of Sanam Luang taken by a foreign visitor, date unknown.

Fit for a king, the royal funeral ceremony took many months in the making. Detailed design and planning culminates in a superlatively crafted Royal Crematorium that stands embraced by beautiful pavilions at the center of Bangkok’s cultural landscape.

The architectural masterpiece will be the venue of a landmark event as the citizens traverse hundreds of miles to bid their beloved king a fond and final farewell. It will be touching moments for many Thais, hence a tremendous turnout is to be expected.

The Royal Crematorium in honor of the late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thong Sanam Luang, 2017 // Photo: room magazine

Formerly known as “Thung Phra Main,” which is Thai for Royal Cremation Ground, Sanam Luang is more than just an open public square. It’s a million memories in the lives of many citizens. Traditionally it’s here that kings and queens and high-ranking royalty were honored in the most appropriate of ceremonies at the end of life’s journey.

The like of which is happening on Thursday the 26th of October, when people turn out in full force to show their respect and utmost admiration for the late King Rama IX of the House of Chakri.

For the record, the field has undergone several name changes over time. As a royal funeral ground, it was appropriately called “Thung Phra Main” during the reigns of King Rama I and II. It became a productive rice paddy field in the period of King Rama III. Later it was King Rama IV, who renamed it “Thong Sanam Luang” – purportedly because the old name did not bode well for the future. The new identity caught on fast as it was required by law.

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace as seen from Sanam Luang in 1925
The Royal Crematorium celebrating King Rama V provides inspirations for the funeral ceremony in honor of the late H. M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Part of the procession transporting the relics of King Rama V in 1910
A solemn procession transporting the relics of King Rama V from the crematorium

Tamarind trees gave Sanam Luang its unique character. The landscape was improved during the reign of King Rama V, who had multiple tamarind trees planted along the perimeter of the field upon his return from travel to Indonesia. It was said that he was inspired by the palaces of the sultans of Yogyakarta, and Surakarta at the time.

Military hardware on show at Sanam Luang in 1953
Tamarind trees and rickshaws were usual sights around Sanam Luang in 1953.
Municipality workers were out cutting grass over a large area.
A 1953 shot of one of the further ends of Sanam Luang

A lot had happened since the centenary of Bangkok in 1882 and the subsequent celebration of King Rama V’s return from Europe. There were times when Sanam Luang was used for horse racing, golf courses, military hardware displays, flea markets, centenary celebrations, as well as R and R facilities for the general public. Not to mention outdoor spaces for picnicking, kite flying, and venues for political stump speeches. There were even times when the homeless were camping out and prostitutes accosting passers-by to offer service. One thing led to another, an attempt to revamp Sanam Luang went into effect in 2010. At one time the authority erected a perimeter fence around the field preventing public access.

A shot of Sanam Luang and Rajadamnoen Avenue from higher elevations taken in 1982
Flashback: Leafy tamarind trees shaded the walkway against the sun for much of the day.
Sanam Luang was home to a thriving flea market on weekends from 1958 to 1982. The retail industry was later relocated to a vacant lot on Pahonyothin Road, which later became known as Jatujak Market today.

Shop-houses on Na Phra Lan Road across the street from the Grand Place

A Thai-style pavilion erected as part of the Bangkok Bicentennial Celebrations in 1982
Archways and public displays drew attention to the bicentennial celebrations in 1982.
A building near Sanam Luang put on a display promoting the 1982 bicentennial celebrations.
Rajadamnoen Avenue was aglow under street lamps in1982.
The Royal Crematorium in honor of the late His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thong Sanam Luang, 2017 // Photo: Perapun Vichitkraivin

After many months in the making, Sanam Luang (literally Royal Turf) was restored to its original glory and is now reserved for royal funeral ceremonies.


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Ten Rather Odd Singapore Laws

Ten Rather Odd Singapore Laws

It’s not just the ban on chewing gum: Singapore has some wildly strange laws that a lot of folks aren’t even aware of. Don’t you go running around naked at home, now, or – if someone sees you – you could get arrested!

/// Singapore ///
Thank you: Eve K Honda from AECOM Singapore


There are quite a few look at things a foreigner or tourist might find astonishing: this is against the law, there’s a law against that in Singapore. Generally they’re supposed to make for a better quality of life, but you’d better be careful about letting mosquitoes breed, forgetting to flush the toilet, going naked in your own house, or acting gay.

1. It’s not a good idea to walk naked in the house, because if someone outside sees, they can call the cops on you.

2. You’re not allowed to pee in a public place other than a rest room. Of course you might pee playing in the ocean, who’s going to know? But if you’ve have dumped your load in the restroom and not flushed, there’s a penalty. Sometimes you’ll even see a warning sign.

3. If you’re gay, it’s forbidden to act on it in public. A girl and a boy usually can kiss and hug each other, no problem, but gays have to be a little secretive in Singapore.

Singapore officials spraying mosquitoes

4. You can’t have a place where mosquitoes breed. There are random inspections all the time, where they even look at planter pots. You can be fined 2000 Singapore dollars for this one. One construction site was reported to be playing host to 6000 larvae, and they had to halt construction for a full year.

5. So sorry for all you party-lovers! You’re not allowed to drink alcohol in public places here between 10:30 PM and 7 AM – except occasionally at government-approved events.

6. It’s forbidden to gather or store rain water or even sea water for personal use, because it’s considered a national resource.

The merit-making activity of releasing animals is also forbidden in Singapore.

7. You may not give human food to animals in public parks such as ducks, geese, or fish. Each species has to be given the right kind of food. The merit-making activity of releasing fish, birds or turtles is also forbidden.

8. Talking in an elevator isn’t allowed. In Singapore even if you see someone chatting cheerfully with a friend, you’ll notice that when the elevator door opens everyone shuts right up.

9. In an MRT station during peak hour it’s forbidden to stop and turn all the way around, or even change the pace you’re walking up.

Grass lawn, a type of green area found everywhere in Singapore

10. You’ll see grass lawns all over town, but they’re for dogs to do their business, not for kids to kick balls or run and roll around in.

Points 8-10 are behavior guidelines, no legal penalties, but they are social mores. If you don’t follow them, the locals can get quite offended.


Environmentally friendly building designed by WOHA Architects

Singapore takes urban development and building design very seriously: every project is in overseen by a specific agency to ensure regulations are followed to the letter. Singapore is especially concerned about environmental quality, and has with having guidelines from important agencies, such as

Green Mark by BCA

BCA (Building & Construction Authority is an international standards agency that assigns value to projects regarding environmentally significant factors such as green space, sustainability, climate response, energy efficiency, environmental impact, etc.

Urban Design Guidelines

The city planning agency Urban Redevelopment Authority ensures that building designs are in harmony with national policy calling for such things as “smart technology”: buildings have to be “smart.”

Well-cared-for trees trimmed by skilled personnel

NParks Guidelines

The large National Park Board (NParks) Agency is responsible for the Island’s greenery and plant life, assigning identification numbers to each variety. Qualified and knowledgeable officials are in charge of gardening and tree trimming, especially for the designated “heritage trees.”

PUB Guidelines

The Public Utilities Board is in charge of drainage nationwide. Construction sites must manage their own drainage problems, and no drainage into public areas is allowed. The PUB also enforces laws  preventing people from wasting water.

Tourists and foreigners who enter to work in Singapore should study and learn these strange – and strict – Singapore laws. The basic consideration here is that life should be orderly in order to properly develop the country and its citizenry to make the most efficient use of the limited resources of this small island nation.


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Souvenirs of a Myanmar Visit

Souvenirs of a Myanmar Visit

Nothing impresses visitors to Myanmar more than tea, nuts, and Balachaung. And there is more to the Land of Pagodas than “Thanaka,” the popular anti-UV facial powder. Living ASEAN introduces the three favorites that foreign tourists like to take home as souvenirs of a Myanmar visit.

/// MYANMAR ///
Story: Samutcha Viraporn /// Photography: Sitthisak Namkham, Samutcha Viraporn




– Tea –

Tea drinking has long been a popular culture in Myanmar. Small tea shops with plastic furniture in vivid shades are ubiquitous across the city. Like old school cafes, they are favorite hang-outs for people to socialize or just chill out sipping tea. The modest shops in peaceful settings offer the country’s all time favorite, black tea with sweetened condensed milk. Legend has it that tea growing was initiated by King Alaung Sithu (1113-1167 AD), in the northern part of what is now Shan State. Later when the country came under British rule, Myanmar grew tea on commercial scales for exports to Britain in much the same way as India did throughout the Colonial period.

Nowadays the aromatic beverage made the traditional Myanmar way has become increasingly popular among foreign visitors. Many tourists take it home as a souvenir of their visits. For instant tea lovers, Myanmar tea comes in 3-in-1 pouches ready to be reconstituted into a cup of tea. For a premium tea experience, try tea leaves that come in sealed bags. There are many varieties to choose, from English Breakfast to Earl Grey to Jasmine to Green Tea. Two popular brands are Royal and Nagar Pyan.



– Nuts –

Laphet is Burmese for fermented or pickled tea leaves. Popular among the citizens of Myanmar, it’s a cold dish made of various mixtures of nuts and tea leaves. It started out as a condiment to a cup of tea, but eventually grew to become a salad recipe on its own. Various nuts are cooked in oil, mixed with fermented tea leaves, and seasoned with chilies and garlic. The export version of Laphet comes in boxes for tourists to take home as souvenirs. Whilst there, don’t forget to try peanut energy bars, and the Myanmar Peanut Crisp Candy. The latter is similar to Toobtub peanut snacks of Thailand. The name refers to the sound of ingredients being pummeled in the making of the tasty snack.


– Balachaung –

An accompaniment to hot steamy rice, the Myanmar Balachaung is made with fried shallots, garlic, ginger, shrimp and red chilies. Its tantalizing aroma comes from the fact that all the ingredients are fried crisp. It is set aside to cool down completely before being stored in airtight containers. Properly stored Balachaung keeps well for a fairly long period. It is easily transported and goes together well with Thai-style omelet that is cooked in a frying pan until firm. Versions of the crispy mouthwatering condiment are also made by many households around Mae Sot town on the Thailand-Myanmar border. 

The above have been three favorites that we have discovered on this Myanmar trip. We trust that our friends across the ASEAN find the information useful, and that your next itinerary will include Laphet, tea products, and the delicious Myanmar Balachaung.


Statistics to know before the 2017 SEA Games

Statistics to know before the 2017 SEA Games

Southeast Asian Games Game statistics are a hot topic right now. The upcoming 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, under the slogan “Rising Together,” will mark the sixth time that Malaysia has hosted the biennial competition. Thailand historically has the most championships of all participants, with 13. Follow along as we look at this and other fascinating stats and stories about the Games.

/// ASEAN ///

Thailand’s 13 championships are followed by Indonesia, with ten. Myanmar, formerly Burma, has won twice, and Vietnam and the Philippines have each come out once as the winner. It’s also interesting that out of 28 events, the host country has emerged champion at 15.

Thailand also has won the highest total number of gold medals altogether 2,089. Again, Indonesia is in 2nd place, with 1,714, with Malaysia in 3rd with 1,104. Timor Leste, with 3, has the fewest, since it’s the newest country, only starting to compete in 2003.

Six types of competition were held just once, and then abandoned: Contract bridge, Floorball, Paragliding, Roller sports, Sport Climbing and Soft Tennis.

SEAP Games in Singapore // Photo:

The one year the SEAP Games (South East Asian Peninsula Games) were scheduled but had to be canceled was 1963. The Games were set to be hosted by Cambodia that year, but at that time there was serious social unrest in the country which made that impossible. Major sports, such as men’s football, have been a continuing tradition each time. The first SEA football champion was South Vietnam, although the Thai team has the most championships, with 14. Behind Thailand are Myanmar and Malaysia, each with 4. Indonesia had 2 championships, and Malaysia one.

So who’s going to win at the 2017 SEA Games? Get out there and cheer for your favorite!



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Singapore PM Won’t Carry out Lee’s Order to Demolish Old House

Singapore PM Won’t Carry out Lee’s Order to Demolish Old House

Former leader of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew ordered his residence at No. 38 Oxley Road to be torn down, but current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has refused, resulting in a family feud.

/// Singapore ///



Illustration of 38 Oxley, Singapore

In 2011 former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew openly stated that upon his death, or after his daughter Lee Wei Ling subsequently moved out, that his house  at No. 38 Oxley Road should be demolished. This was out of concern that it might become a museum, perhaps fostering a cult of personality in Singapore which he felt undesirable.

          After Lee Kuan Yew’s death in 2015, however, his eldest son and current Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong attempted to preserve the house. This brought about a fierce conflict with siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling, who issued an online declaration that Lee Hsien Loong was illegitimately using his position of influence in the Singaporean Government and exerting pressure on government agencies to further his personal agenda. The two said they had lost faith and had no more trust in their older brother, whom they also accused of promoting his own son’s political ambitions. Lee Hsien Yang also stated that due to this growing family rift he himself would shortly be leaving Singapore.

Picture from Lee Hsien Yang’s facebook

          Lee Hsien Loong responded that he had tried his very best to solve the problem, that his siblings’ statement had done harm to his father’s legendary status, and that he was not in any way pushing his son to be political ambitious.

          Lee Kuan Yew lived in this house from 1945 on, and the first People’s Action Party (PAP) convention was held there. In 2015 the group YouGov conducted a survey on this issue, and found that 77% of respondents favored demolition of the house, while 15% wanted it preserved.



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Tropical Cocktails That Originated in Southeast Asia

Tropical Cocktails That Originated in Southeast Asia

Many think the Tropical cocktail Mai Tai is of Thai origin. At least the name sounds like the word for Thai silk. Far from it! Mai Tai comes from a Tahitian cry for “Very good!” It’s hot out there. Let’s find out which one of the tasty cocktails actually has its origin in the ASEAN Region.

/// ASEAN ///

Original Singapore Sling
Original Singapore Sling at Long Bar // Photo: VasenkaPhotography

– Singapore Sling –

The Singapore Sling is a gin-based cocktail invented around 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon, a Hainanese bartender at Raffles Hotel, Singapore. Ngiam wanted to create a cocktail for ladies. So he mixed gin and pineapple juice, along with Grenadine, lime juice and Benedictine into a long drink. Its sweet and sour taste is perfect for summer. That’s why even male drinkers don’t shy away from ordering this rosy cocktail. Nowadays it is widely regarded as a national drink of Singapore.

Variations of the popular Tropical Cocktail abound. But the original recipe is still served at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel. Peanuts are its longtime companion there. Singaporean barflies in the Roaring Twenties went to the Long Bar and sipped Singapore Sling while tossing peanut shells onto the floor. The Long Bar was the only area where littering was permitted at that time.


Jungle Bird
Jungle Bird // Photo: Hilton Kuala Lumpur

– Jungle Bird –

When the nightlife of the 1970’s was swarming with delicious cocktails, the Aviary Bar at the former Hilton Kuala Lumpur launched its version of Tiki drinks. The exotic rum-based cocktail is a mix of pineapple juice, Campari, lime juice and simple syrup. It was named Jungle Bird.

The Aviary Bar is no more after the Hilton Kuala Lumpur has moved to a new location. But the Jungle Bird has flown across the globe. It has become a popular Tiki cocktail in every bar that embraces the romanticized concept of Tropical cultures.


Siam Sunrays
Siam Sunrays  // Photo: Diageo Moet Hennessy (Thailand)

– Siam Sunrays –

Even without a long history, the Siam Sunrays is widely regarded as “Thailand in a glass.” The long drink was created by Surasak Phanthaisong, who won the Thailand Signature Drinks Competition in 2008. The recipe is publicized as a national cocktail by Thailand’s Tourism Authority in a campaign to promote travel to the Kingdom.

Inspired by the taste and aroma characteristic of Thai food, the Siam Sunrays is a mix of vodka, coconut liqueur, kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, ginger, lime juice, Thai chili pepper, syrup and soda water. It may look like Tom Yum in a tall glass, but it sure is one refreshing way to beat the heat. The tasty Tropical cocktail can be found at many bars and restaurants around Thailand.


Ya Dong
Ya Dong at Studio Lam Bangkok // Photo: Studio Lam

As cocktails are becoming popular again in this present day, aspiring mixologists across Southeast Asia have invented new cocktail drink recipes based on experience and the taste of local cuisine. In Thailand, it’s easy to find hip bars that serve traditional Ya Dong (Thai herbal rice spirit) in a cool manner. Meantime in Indonesian, bartenders mix elegant cocktails with their Tuak, locally brewed “moonshine” from palm trees. And if you love sweets, there are cocktails that look like ABC, an acronym for the Malaysian shaved ice dessert.

The next generation recipes feature a perfect blend of fresh, new ideas and old-fashioned spirits. Who knows? One day they could rise to fame and earn pride of place in the world of mixology like those big names that came before them. Cheers, see you later!


Mai Tai
Mai Tais at Trader Vic’s Bangkok // Photo: Trader Vic’s Bangkok

Did You Know?

Many Thais think the Tropical cocktail Mai Tai is of Thai origin, because the name sounds like the word meaning Thai silk. Actually, Mai Tai is a rum-based Tiki drink invented by Victor J. Bergeron, the founder of Trader Vic’s restaurant. Legend had it that when he served this cocktail for the first time to some Tahitian friends, they cried out in the Tahitian language, “Maita’i roa ae,” literally “Very good!” So, he named this cocktail “Mai Tai.”

Having misunderstood it all along? No problem! You can enjoy the original Mai Tai in Thailand, too. Trader Vic’s restaurant at Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort could very well be your next favorite hangout place.