The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019 published by the World Economic Forum shows the ASEAN collectively scores 3.8 out of 7 on factors that contribute to the environmental sustainability of the T&T industry. In spite of that, the Region has an advantage over North Africa in price competitiveness.
All things considered, Singapore is ranked number 17 in the world. Malaysia comes in at 29, Thailand 31, Indonesia 40, and Vietnam 63. Brunei Darussalam ranks number 72, and the Philippines 75 while Lao PDR and Cambodia take number 97 and 98, respectively. Myanmar is not analyzed in the 140- country/economy report. Interesting results:
Environmental Sustainability, and Natural Resources
Individually Thailand, Indonesia, Lao PDR, and Cambodia score lower than the regional average of 3.8 on factors contributing to the sustainable development of the T&T sector. Interestingly Thailand gains 4.8 in natural resources management, outscoring the global average after its decision to close the famous Maya Bay to allow coral restoration and marine life recovery in the Phi Phi Islands National Park.
Air Transport Infrastructure, and Human Resources
Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand also outscore the global average in air transport infrastructure, and human resources/labor market. However, there’s still room for improvement in their ground and port infrastructure.
Business Environment, Safety and Security, Health and Hygiene
Cambodia fares badly in world average rankings, especially in infrastructure and factors contributing to the business environment, safety and security, as well as health and hygiene.
The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report provides a valuable tool for policy-makers and businesses to anticipate emerging trends in global T&T industry. For the ASEAN Region, it’s a key engine of growth. The role of tourism is obvious in the Thai economy. The country saw a record 38.3 million tourists in 2018, up 7.5% from 2017. Another 41 million visitors are expected in 2019. Meantime, a Mastercard survey placed Bangkok number one city on the Global Destination Cities Index for the third time in 2018.
Located on the southern coast of Bali, Canggu is known for beautiful rolling rice fields and the roar of the surf. The fast growing village is roughly half-an-hour drive from the upscale resort area at Seminyak that lies further south. Looking for good food, good vibe? Here are ten best places to eat in Canggu, from trendy café to Balinese style restaurants to cool spots to post on Instagram.
One of the favorite hangouts in Canggu, Café Organic means exactly that. Good food comes from natural farming methods. Feel the atmosphere. The interior space in shades of white is adorned with lush tropical gardens. There are healthy desserts to satisfy any sweet tooth.
A restaurant with beautiful rice field views, Warung Gouthe is well known for its home-style brochettes. The skewered meat or fish chunks grilled or roasted to perfection come in a tray with an excellent side dish of salad. You will love panini, a sandwich made with toasted Italian bread and the tantalizing aroma of a country style kitchen.
A favorite place serving breakfast and lunch, Cabina Bali is about good food, great company, and the opportunity to share the happiest moments in life. Here, food comes in a floating basket, so you don’t even have to get out of the pool. Girls in bikinis love it for the Gram.
Calm down and relax at Parachute as you take in the view of surrounding rice fields and lush vegetable gardens. If you prefer to eat alfresco, there are parachute canopies for that. Inside, coffee smells like heaven, and the aroma of baked goods will simply overwhelm you.
My Warung Canggu
Nothing beats a steak grilled to perfection. My Warung Canggu is a place to give yourself a nice treat or the ultimate indulgence. It goes together well with artistic and definitely exciting interior design. There’s even a confession room in case you think you’ve eaten too much.
Founded on the Indian Subcontinent by the Buddha around 500 BC, Buddhism is a widely followed religion across Southeast Asia, especially the Mainland. Temples and the Sangha, communities of monks, nuns, novices and laity, play a critical role in preserving good practice and his teachings to the present day. Here are 9 sacred places around the Region to visit on your long journeys through life.
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Siem Reap, Cambodia
One of the largest and most resplendent religious monuments in the world, Angkor Wat was built by King Suryavarman II who ruled the Khmer Empire in the 12th century. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple around the turn of the century. The temple complex sits on 1.6 million square meters (about 400 acres) of land in Siem Reap, a province on the northern shore of Tonle Sap in central Cambodia. The enduring pride of Khmer architecture was constructed of sandstone adorned with a breathtaking richness of sculptures in bas-relief. It was inscribed on the List of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1992. The ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2012 made Angkor Wat and Borobudur (in Indonesia) sister sites as part of an effort at promoting cultural tourism in the Region.
Among the world’s largest religious sites, Borobudur in central Java is on a par with Bagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Built in the 9th Century, it was a center of Buddhism at the time the Srivijayan Empire became the first kingdom to dominate the islands of Sumatra and neighboring Java. Borobudur is representative of Javanese architecture that blends the concept of Nirvana, the final goal of Buddhism, with the native custom of venerating ancestors. Located on a highland 40 kilometers from Yogyakarta, the magnificent Borobudur temple overlooks rolling hills, lush forests and twin volcanoes. Its nine-tiered floor plan consists of six square platforms placed one above the other, three circular atriums at the top, and pagodas. They are decorated with beautiful reliefs and a total of 504 Buddha statues. Guinness World Records make in the world’s largest Buddhist temple, while UNESCO added it to the World Heritage Sites in 1991.
THE ANANDA TEMPLE
A sea of temples and pagodas in central Myanmar is a wonder to behold. The ancient city of Bagan was capital of the Pagan Kingdom from the 9th to 13th Centuries. During that time, thousands of Buddhist temples, dome-shaped shrines and monasteries were constructed. Among them, the Ananda Temple was built by King Kyanzittha in 1105 A.D. It’s very well preserved and accessible to visitors. Inside the most revered temple of Bagan, huge Buddha statues stand facing east, west, north and south in the corridors illuminated by natural light. The building is built of white sandstone that’s characteristic of ancient Mon architecture.
THE TEMPLE OF THE EMERALD BUDDHA (WAT PHRA KAEW)
Located on the grounds of the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha was consecrated in 1784 during the reign of King Rama I, founding father of the Rattankosin Kingdom and the first monarch of the reigning Chakri Dynasty. Inside, the Emerald Buddha reposes on an elevated altar surrounded by gilded décor. The bright green stone statute of the Buddha is regarded as the palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand. The royal temple stands embraced by dome-shaped shrines, pagodas, and religious halls. The corridors are adorned with mural paintings depicting episodes from Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic of ancient India. It’s now one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist attractions.
THE SHWEDAGON PAGODA
The historic 99-meter-tall Shwedagon Pagoda stands surrounded by a sea of 68 smaller stupas. It’s also known as the Golden Pagoda for the gilded dome-shaped structure that dominates the Yangon skyline. Legend has it that the large religious monument was built some 2,500 years ago, but archeologists put its beginning between the 6th and 11th Centuries based on evidence of Mon temple architecture. Shwedagon is regarded as the most sacred pagoda for the people of Myanmar. As gestures of respect, visitors are required to remove their shoes on entering the temple compound. From past to present, people have donated gold and gemstones that go towards restoring the pagoda to its original splendor. “Shwe” is a local word for gold, while “Dagon” is the old name of Yangon.
THE TEMPLE OF DAWN (WAT ARUN)
One of the most ancient temples in Thailand, the Temple of Dawn is located across the river from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. The Buddhist temple that existed on the site was originally called Wat Makok. As the Ayudhya Period ended and Thon Buri became a new capital, the temple was renamed Wat Chaeng. In the early Rattanakosin Period, the name was changed to Wat Arun as a symbol of the first light of a new day. The Buddhist temple is renowned for its colorfully decorated pyramidal structures. The tapering conical towers, known as Prangs, are adorned with a mosaic of ceramic tiles and glass that shimmers in the sunlight. The Prangs of Wat Arun are best viewed from across the river. They were on the logo of the Bangkok Art Biennale that just ended.
The historic business hub of Bangkok is on CNN’s List of “Best Districts for Street Food” and “Top Ten Chinatowns in the World”. Whether it be fine dining or quick one-dish dinners, you can find some of the best meals in Yaowarat. Combine your favorite pastimes into one-day adventure. Living ASEAN recommends stopping by these places.
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9:00 Coffee at Ama Hostel
Start your day at Ama Hostel Bangkok, a recently renovated Chinese style building located at 191 Soi Sapanhan off Chakkrawat Road in Samphanthawong area. The café in the forward section of the hostel offers coffee that smells so good. There’s nothing like the warm aroma of a steaming cup of coffee to wake you up to a beautiful day in old Chinatown. Nearby, push cart vendors serve delicious Kuichai meals and Kuay Jub noodes.
10:00 Shop at Sampeng Market and Yaowarat
A stone’s throw away from Ama Hostel stands Sampeng Market, a shopper’s paradise for goods at bargain prices, both retail and wholesale. The area is well known for many gift shops and stores selling fabrics, clothing and accessories, toys and seasonal decorating materials. Follow Chakkrawat Road and you come to Yaowarat Road.
12:00 Lunch at the Canton House
Enjoy the pleasure of authentic Chinese food at the Canton House. Established in 1908, the restaurant has since been renovated to give it unique appeal characterized by raw construction materials. The Canton House is located at 530 Yaowarat Road, Samphanthawong area. You will love the bite-sized Dim Sum in steamer baskets, steamed pork rib with black bean sauce, and fried Mantou (buns) with condensed milk. Thai and Western meals are also on the menu.
13:00 Wat Leng Noei Yi
The historic Wat Leng Noei Yi is rooted deeply in this community of Thai citizens of Chinese descent. Founded in 1871, the temple has been involved in every facet of life of the followers of Buddhism. It sees the busiest time during the period leading to Chinese New Year celebrations. Slowly burning joss sticks are used in paying tribute to the Lord Buddha. It’s good idea to avoid getting smoke in your eyes.
14:00 Jay Noi’s Kuichai Meal
About 250 meters to the right of Wat Leng Noei Yi stands a famous push-cart business selling fried Kuichai meals. Jay Noi’s Kuichai is renowned for being one of the most delicious vegetable meals in Yaowarat. Located on Charoen Krung Road, the humble push cart vendor sells Kuichai at 10 Baht apiece. The menu also includes fried Taro and Jicama (a globe shaped root vegetable). They are equally delightful.
15:00 Cakes at Wallflowers Café
Beat the heat in the afternoon with yummy mouthwatering cakes served with frothy Thai tea with cheese. Located at 31-33 Soi Nana, Pom Prab area, Wallflowers Café sits on the upper floor of a florist’s shop, which provides inspiration for many beautiful items on its menu. The café is owned and operated by an architect who has great interest in the art of coffee making.
Thailand’s Maya Bay, the Philippines’ Boracay Island, and Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago have seen multiple disturbances in recent years. Without a doubt they need all the help they can get to accelerate the restoration of marine ecosystems. Let’s see what measures have been taken to save them.
Thailand // The Philippines // Myanmar
In Thailand, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation closed the popular tourist destination Maya Bay for four months effective June 1. Because recovery was progressing more slowly than had been anticipated earlier, the authorities announced on October 2 that Maya Bay would remain closed indefinitely. The ban was deemed necessary to let nature take its course with respect to the health and sustainability of the organisms that exist there.
Maya Bay was made famous by the 2000 drama thriller “The Beach,” starring Leonardo Di Caprio. It lies as part of the Phi Phi Islands marine park in the Andaman Sea. The day-tripper paradise gets an average 2 million visitors a year, thanks to its proximity to Phuket and Thailand’s western shore.
In the Philippines, the popular tourist attraction Boracay Island, dubbed the “Best Island in the World” in 2012 by Travel+Leisure Magazine, was shuttered for six months effective April 26, 2018. The closure was part of a wider effort at assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been damaged by humans. The tropical paradise is scheduled to reopen on October 26.
In Myanmar, from time to time the curtain falls on the islets of Mergui Archipelago in the far south of the country. The much sought-after destinations in the Andaman Sea are easily accessible from Thailand’s Ranong Province. For environmental reason, Nyaung Oo Phee Island was closed to visitors on occasions. The same applied to Cock’s Comb Island, also called Emerald Heart for its blue green water color, and Cockburn Island (Kawthoung). Check it out before you visit them.
There are other beautiful islets in Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago that have remained largely unspoiled. They include Lampi, which is part of the Lampi Marine National Park, and nearby We Ale Island.
Of course you have heard of the oldest and most famous places in world history. But, do you know that one of Google’s main ambitions is to inspire you to see them in a fun and simple way?
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With Google VR and drone footage, the multinational technology company lets you experience virtual reality of 25 historic sites in 18 countries across the globe — from Bagan, an ancient city in central Myanmar, to Thailand’s former capital Ayutthaya, to the ruins of Pompeii in southern Italy, and Al Azem Palace in Syria, which dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Also enjoyed by many is Google Arts and Culture, an online platform through which people can access images of artworks and exhibits hosted by participating museums. For the education of future generations, Google is partnering with CyArk, a non-profit organization dedicated to making historical and cultural heritage sites accessible to the public. CyArk uses laser light technology to crate 3D representations of sites of outstanding universal value.
For now, join us on incredible adventures to some of the most famous heritage sites in the ASEAN. Appreciate peace and tranquility in Bagan, an ancient city in Myanmar, and experience virtual reality of Wat Phra Sri Sanpet in Ayuttyaya, Thailand. The temple ruins were used as backdrop for scenes in one of many Hollywood movies filmed in Thailand. (https://artsandculture.google.com/project/cyark)
Going somewhere this Valentine’s Day? For inspiration, here are five heart-shaped lakes and islands around the ASEAN. Imagine waking up on the beach with crystal clear water, soaking up golden sun on the rice field, or escaping to the forest of luxuriant foliage found only in the tropics. Check out these places.
– Rih Lake / Myanmar –
Dubbed a hidden paradise, Rih Lake is off the beaten track. It’s located in Chin State bordering India and more than 480 km from Mandalay, the second largest city at the center of mainland Myanmar. The isolated, heart-shaped lake is surrounded by paddy fields and forested areas. The area is home to the Mizo people, who inhabit both sides of the Myanmar-India border. The lake, which is accessible from Rihkhawdar, a nearby tourist destination, is considered a pilgrimage site for Mizo people and the passage to their eternal home after death. Because it’s not easy to get to from within Myanmar, most visitors come here from the Indian side.
– Siit Lake / The Philippines –
Siit Lake is in Sulu, a province in the southern part of the Philippines. The heart-shaped body of water is 800 meters wide and 1.6 kilometers from one end to the other. The Sulu archipelago is part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindana0 (ARMM). The provincial capital, Jolo, is located on the island of the same name. The Sulu archipelago is accessible from Mindanao Island. Due to its remoteness, the lake is not easy to get to.
– Cocks Comb Island / Myanmar –
Located in the Andaman Sea, Cocks Comb is a small limestone atoll with a stunning heart-shaped lagoon in it. On a clam day, you can swim through a natural tunnel into the beautiful lagoon, also known as the Emerald Heart. The seawater is perfect for snorkeling and coral reef diving. Cocks Comb Island is accessible from Myanmar’s southernmost city of Kawthaung and Thailand’s Ranong Province. Many tour operators offer guided service from Ranong.
– Dao Island / The Philippines –
Dao is a beautiful private island located in Busuanga Bay, Palawan Province. The 47.9-hectare (about half a square kilometer) island boasts crystal clear waters and pristine tropical forest. The crescent shoreline of the paradise island can be seen from the east side.
– Thung Thalay Luang / Thailand –
Thung Thalay Luang is an artificial lake designed to store rainwater in the Yom River Basin. Located in the north central province of Sukhothai, the large body of water features a small heart-shaped island with a beautiful Mandapa on it. The pillared pavilion for public rituals contains soil from villages across the province as the symbolism of love and social harmony. Accessible via a well-marked entry road, the island is a sight to behold from the air.
Do you fancy a walk with Komodo dragons, or cave exploring, or taking selfies on a stunning rice terrace? Do you feel like making a trip to see snow-capped mountains? Here are ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the ASEAN that might interest you.
In all the Region is home to 38 sites on UNESCO World Heritage List. They are selected for providing, among other things, significant natural habitats, exceptional beauty of the landscape, outstanding example of human settlement, unique cultural tradition, flora and fauna, evidence of earth’s history, and the conservation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
The sites range from Komodo National Park, where Indonesia’s rare megafauna roams freely in the wild, to spectacular rice paddy terraces in Bali and the Philippines, to examples of outstanding land-use and sea-use in Vietnam. Living ASEAN presents ten sites that you might want to put on your next itinerary.
– Komodo National Park / Indonesia –
Komodo National Park is located within the Lesser Sunda Islands at the center of the Indonesian archipelago. The site was established in 1980 for the purpose of conserving the world’s largest lizards and their habitats. Proceed with caution. Although Komodo attacks are rare, the animal can be aggressive towards humans at feeding time. The giant lizard eats almost any kind of meat. They scavenge on carcasses of animals especially deer. The volcanic islands have been named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
– Kinabalu Park / Malaysia –
A beautiful place to go climbing in Southeast Asia, Kinabalu is among Malaysia’s first national parks. The 4,095-meter-high Mount Kinabalu is the centerpiece of the park. It was designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 for its outstanding universal values and biological diversity. Located in Sabah State in the northern part of Malaysian Borneo, Kinabalu National Park attracts thousands of mountaineers each year.
– Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park / Vietnam –
Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park in north-central Vietnam is known for its pristine mountain landscape, tropical forests, rich wildlife habitats, limestone karsts, and a vast network of caves. Son Dong, the biggest cave, was discovered by a local named Ho Khanh in 1991. A joint Vietnamese-British team explored the caves in 2009. The national park was open to the public for the first time in 2013.
– Jatiluwih Rice Terrace, Bali / Indonesia –
The Jatiluwih rice terrace in Bali showcases one of the most complex methods of agriculture and water management systems that have existed since the ninth century. Cut into the mountainside, the beautiful paddy fields get its water supplies from a system of canals and weirs, known as Subak. It’s the living embodiment of a traditional philosophy known as Tri Hita Karana, or the three reasons of prosperity; namely, harmony among people, harmony with nature, and harmony with God. It’s a truly amazing place to visit if you are nature lovers.
– Lorentz National Park / Indonesia –
Lorentz National Park in Papua, Indonesia, was named after the Dutch explorer who visited the island in the early 1900s. The largest protected area in Southeast Asia, Lorentzt was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 for a wealth of graphic evidence of earth’s history. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse parks in the world encompassing a full array of ecosystems from marine sanctuaries and mangroves to tidal and freshwater swamp forests, as well as rainforests, tundra, and equatorial glaciers.
The vast forest complex that covers six provinces is home to four national parks and a wildlife sanctuary. The site stretches from the Cambodian border in the east, to Khao Yai National Park in the west. Khao Yai itself lies largely in Nakhon Ratchasima and includes parts of nearby provinces such as Saraburi, Prachinburi, and Nakhon Nayok. The complex ecosystems provide natural habitats for 2,500 species of flora and 800 species of fauna. Recently a streak of 18 tigers were discovered and photographed by hidden cameras. Parts of Khao Yai National Park have been set aside for tourism and has facility for wildlife watching at night.
– Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park / the Philippines –
Tubbataha Reefs is a marine park at the center of the Sulu Sea. Its two reefs are said to have existed for 15 million years. The North Reef spans 15 kilometers that serves as nesting sites for sea birds and marine turtles. The South Reef is 6 by 3 kilometers. The pristine coral islands boast extensive lagoons that serve as habitats for marine species, such as whale sharks, sting rays, spiny lobsters, leopard sharks, giant jacks, barracudas, parrot fish, hammerhead sharks, guitar sharks, snappers, lion fish, tortoise, clownfish, grey reef sharks, and manta, a devil ray that’s sometimes seen leaping high out of the water.
Bali’s Mount Agung has begun erupting the past few days, spitting plumes of volcanic debris and ash out of the crater filled with red hot lava. Excitement mixed with fear as the current eruptions raised concern for safety of the people on the Indonesian island known for beautiful beaches, coral reefs and forested mountains.
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Here are some breathtaking pictures of the latest eruptions posted on Instagram by the people who witnessed them. Click here to see more.
Since 2013, the ASEAN as a whole has attracted upwards of 100 million visitors from across the globe. Slogans appear to have a significant role in motivating the potential tourists and travelers to make a visit. While we have grown familiar with our amazing memorable phrase, other countries have theirs. Let’s see what works across the Region.
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According to the 2016 World Economic Forum report, the ASEAN Region “continues to be one of the most exciting parts of the global economy, having grown by around 5% a year in nearly two decades.”
The WEF report said that about 104 million foreign travelers visited the Region in 2015, while ASEANstats.org, a division under the AEC Department of the ASEAN Secretariat, put the number in excess of 108 million. Of this, nearly 46 million or 42.2 percent were travelers from within the ASEAN membership. Meantime, the Region welcomed about 18 million travelers from China. A forecast indicated the number could top 20 million in 2017.
Slogans appear to have significant impact on the tourism industry. Many countries have seen great success for they provide a glimpse into pretty much everything a destination has to offer, from natural and cultural attractions to food to history and the people. All the good attributes are encapsulated in a single striking phrase.
Since 1998, “Amazing Thailand” has been the short and sweet slogan that worked best for the Kingdom. It contributed to propelling Thailand to the ninth place among the World’s Top 10 International Tourism Destinations in 2016, during which it drew up to 32.6 million foreign visitors.