Blog : Cambodia

Southeast Asia on Average Scores Poorly in Environmental Sustainability

Southeast Asia on Average Scores Poorly in Environmental Sustainability

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.

 

Java Island, Indonesia / Photo: Zak Noyle, Foundation for Deep Ecology

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.

Mekong River in Laos / Photo: Raymond Richards

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.

Plastic Pollution in Myanmar / Photo: Stijn Dijkstra

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.

Find out more at: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-travel-tourism-competitiveness-report-2019

 

9 Temples to Visit at Least Once in Your Life

9 Temples to Visit at Least Once in Your Life

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.

/// ASEAN ///

Photo: Sam Garza
Photo: Radu Micu
Photo: Anandajoti

ANGKOR WAT

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.


 

Photo: Gunawan Kartapranata

Photo: Jorge Franganillo

BOROBUDUR

Magelang, Indonesia

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.


 

Photo: Charles Kimball
Photo: www.helpfulboytravels.com

THE ANANDA TEMPLE

Bagan, Myanmar

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.


 

 

Photo: Trairat Songpao
Photo: Trairat Songpao

THE TEMPLE OF THE EMERALD BUDDHA (WAT PHRA KAEW)

Bangkok, Thailand

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.


 

Photo: www.bjornfree.com
Photo: Thomas Schoch

THE SHWEDAGON PAGODA

Yangon, Myanmar

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.


 

Photo: www.baanlaesuan.com
Photo: www.baanlaesuan.com

THE TEMPLE OF DAWN (WAT ARUN)

Bangkok, Thailand

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.


3 Apps to Check Air Pollution Levels

3 Apps to Check Air Pollution Levels

Despite the omnipresence of the Internet in society today, there seems to be a disconnect between the impact of pollution and access to the information needed to protect public health. Strange as it may sound. According to a 2017 estimate by the environmental tech company Plume Labs, only 0.246% of the earth has access to that vital information.

/// ASEAN ///

 

 As air pollution levels rise from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok to Yangon, and Phnom Penh to Jakarta, it’s wise to stay abreast of the latest developments. There are many websites and apps that measure the concentrations of both PM2.5 and PM10 and other pollutants. Here are three useful apps to check air quality wherever you are.

An example page of the Real-time AQI app.
An example of Real-time AQI’s advisory page showing air pollution values, concentrations of airborne particulates, and protective mask recommendations by Greenpeace.

– Air Quality: Real-time AQI App –

The Real-time AQI app for Android and iOS shows air quality information from more than 10,000 monitoring stations in over 60 countries, including mainland China, Korea, Japan and countries across Southeast Asia. It provides, among other things, data about the concentrations of smaller airborne pollutants (PM2.5) and larger particulates (PM10). The former refers to extremely small particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter or about 3% the diameter of human hair.

Updated hourly, the same information is linked to the developer website http://aqicn.org along with data on harmful gases and other readings such as temperatures, pressures, and humidity. The site also publishes visualized maps and protective mask recommendations from the global independent campaign organization Greenpeace. Get to know three types of masks to protect you from PM2.5 that ordinary surgical masks cannot. Whether it’s on the mobile app or the website, good infographics are worth a thousand words and a good place to start researching.


 

Plume Air Report provides air pollution levels in Yangon and Phnom Penh, which are not listed in the AQI app.
Flow, a portable instrument for checking air quality values and weather maps by Plume Air Report.

– Plume Air Report App –

Plume Air Report on the iPhone is a reporting and forecasting app that tracks real-time air pollution levels for every city in the world. The environmental tech company (website https://plumelabs.com) is the maker of “Flow,” a mobile personal air tracker that measures harmful pollutants indoors and outdoors. Real-time data including air quality indices, temperatures, UV levels, winds, and humidity are updated hourly along with pollution forecasts for the next 24 hours and statistics for the past 7 days. Flow makes it possible to track harmful air pollutants even in cities without AQI monitoring stations. The device is open for pre-order. Check the website for availability.


 

An example page of the AirVisual app showing unhealthy air pollution levels in cities across the globe. The information is updated hourly.

– Air Quality: AirVisual App –

AirVisual is a real-time and forecast air quality app that provides AQI indices for over 70 countries worldwide. Available on both Android and iOS, the free app gathers information from more than 9,000 locations via global networks of government monitoring stations and AirVisual’s own sensors. By giving historical, real-time, and forecast air pollution data, AirVisual is a pocket guide to avoiding harmful airborne particles. The AirVisual Earth Map is a good place to start tracking pollution levels and weather conditions with hourly updates.

In Southeast Asia, notably Bangkok, Chiangmai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Jakarta, thick haze of air pollution isn’t going away any time soon. As the fight for clean air continues, it pays to be in the know and avoid places with high concentrations of PM2.5 and PM10. The mobile apps mentioned above are three of many technologies designed to get the message across in the interest of public health and safety.

 

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Southeast Asia’s Car Market Updates

Southeast Asia’s Car Market Updates

Here’s an update on Southeast Asia’s automotive markets at the close of 2017. Used cars made up the largest sector in the car markets of Myanmar, and Cambodia. Thailand ranked number 12 among the world’s top motor vehicle producers. Indonesia was the largest car market in Southeast Asia. Region-wide, Toyota reigned supreme as the bestseller except in Malaysia, which was happy to stick with homegrown brands.

The ASEAN car market represents a diverse assortment of brands and a great deal of variety in the way member countries respond to their specific needs. The mix includes thriving homegrown brands, world-class motor vehicle producers, as well as heavens for new and pre-owned cars and trucks.

 

Toyota Avanza is Indonesia’s bestseller among SUV’s and APV’s.

– Thailand and Indonesia –

Thailand and Indonesia are major regional economic players. Indonesia boasted the largest automotive market, while Thailand ranked number 12 among the world’s leading motor vehicle producers. In 2017, its total production was expected to top two million units, of which more than half were exported. A slight decrease in 2017 export volumes was more than offset by a 12-percent increase in the internal car market.

The Toyota Hilux pick-up truck reigns supreme in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

The Thai automotive industry has been a success story since 2000. The country produced a little over 400,000 motor vehicles in that year. Toyota Hilux has long been the bestselling model especially in the provinces throughout Thailand. Apart from carrying goods and agricultural products, the truck was used in various forms of human transportation. But for people living in or near the city, Toyota and Honda cars were the preferred choices.

Indonesia, the ASEAN’s largest automotive market, ranked number 17 among the world’s top motor vehicle producers. Its 2017 production was expected to far exceed 1.2 million units, up from 1,177,389 in 2016, during which 1,048,134 new units were sold on the domestic market. Sport utility vehicles (SUV), all purpose vehicles (APV), and larger trucks were the favorites, considering Indonesia had the largest population in the ASEAN.

Bangkok ranks number 2 among the world’s cities with bad traffic jams. At the same time, Thailand is an automobile manufacturing hub in the ASEAN. / Photo: http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

The two countries are grappling with the same problem – traffic congestions.  A TomTom traffic index ranked Bangkok, and Jakarta number 2, and 3, respectively, among the cities with the worst midtown traffic snarl-ups. It was a high price to pay since it was the automotive industry that generated incomes from exports, employment, and tax revenues. As technology advanced, both countries were hoping to count on electric cars and new urban public transport to improve traffic flow.


 

Motor vehicles designed for left-hand-side driving cause much difficulty in Myanmar, which had adopted right-hand-side driving since independence. / Photo: Samutcha Viraporn

– Myanmar and Cambodia –

It was a different situation in Myanmar and Cambodia. Strong economic growth in recent years has seen sharp increases in demands for pre-owned motor vehicles. In both countries, new cars accounted for less than 10 percent of total sales in 2016, during which Myanmar imported as many as 120,000 secondhand vehicles from Japan. Here Toyota Probox was the favorite. Trouble was the all-purpose vehicle from Japan was designed for driving on the left side of the road (the steering wheel being on the right-hand side).  After independence, Myanmar had changed to move traffic in the right side of the path. If you are front seat passengers, watch out for passing and oncoming vehicles when you get out of the car in Myanmar. Judge the space available when getting off the bus, because you could find yourself in the middle of the road.

Suzuki Carry truck

To solve the problem, the Myanmar Government has enacted a law banning the importation of secondhand automobiles designed for driving on the left side of the road. But it would take a long time to see any results. To meet an increasing demand for new automobiles, Suzuki has recently opened a factory in Myanmar. In 2017, it produced 2,700 Suzuki Carry trucks, of which about 1,000 units were sold in the domestic market. In big cities like Yangon and Mandalay, more new cars from Europe and Japan continued to make their presence felt, albeit very slowly.  

Secondhand cars are everywhere in Phnom Penh. / Photo: Samutcha Viraporn

Meanwhile in Cambodia, secondhand Toyota Camry and Lexus SUV’s were the favorites among people in urban areas. The country imported pre-owned automobiles mostly from the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In the small new-car market, the Cambodians generally preferred the Toyota brand with pick-up trucks being the all-time bestsellers. The same was true in nearby Thailand and Laos, where the light-duty trucks were used to carry both farm products and human passengers.


 

The homegrown brand Perodua Axia is Malaysia’s bestseller.

– Malaysia –

The only ASEAN country with successful homegrown brands, Malaysia boasted the third largest automobile market in the Region. Here, new car sales exceeded 580,000 units per year with the Perodua taking the largest portion of the market. (UMW Corporation held 38 percent of shares in the Malaysian car manufacturer.) Perodua sold about 200,000 cars per year, far outranking Honda which sold a little over half that number. Proton, another homegrown Malaysian brand, came in third place, while Toyota in fourth.  


 

Singapore halts car population growth and concentrates on developing urban public transport. / Photo: http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

– Other ASEAN Member Countries –

Keep an eye on the Philippines, whose automobile market grew by a whopping 20 percent in 2016. The same was expected in 2017, during which new car sales were expected to be about 450,000 units. Singapore was an entirely different story. It was government policy to keep new car sales growth below 0.25 percent. Meantime, it was focusing on proper maintenance of existing automobiles and developing urban public transit, for which Singapore has already invested US$22.9 billion.

 

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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.

ASEAN Tourism / What a Difference a Slogan Makes!

ASEAN Tourism / What a Difference a Slogan Makes!

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.

/// ASEAN ///

 

Floating Market, Thailand / Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand

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. 

Phi Phi Le, Thailand / Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand
Breakfast is served Singapore style / Photo: Sittisak Namkham

At the same time, WEF’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report ranked Singapore as Southeast’s most tourism-friendly country, followed by Malaysia and Thailand in second and third places.

As for Cambodia, the tourism industry accounts for 28.3% of GDP and counting, thanks to Angor Wat being the country’s landmark attraction.

The Philippines has seen success in tourism as a result of having many beautiful islands, while Indonesia thrives on rich and diverse natural attractions.

Myanmar is coming back strong, albeit with a few hiccups in the areas of accommodations, conveniences, and modern amenities.

Indonesian version of the Monkey King Photo: http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangoon, Myanmar / Photo: http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

For your reading pleasure, here’s a list of tourism slogans from around the Region. Check it out.

Brunei – The Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures

Cambodia – Kingdom of Wonder

Indonesia – Wonderful Indonesia

Laos – Simply Beautiful

Malaysia – Truly Asia

Myanmar – Let the Journey Begin

The Philippines – It’s More Fun in the Philippines

Singapore – Your Singapore

Thailand – Amazing Thailand

Vietnam – Timeless Charm

Fresh fish in Laung Prabang market, Laos / Photo: Samutcha Viraporn

 

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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: www.hotsia.com

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/photasia/
The atmosphere of the Cambodian Water Festival near Tonle Sap Lake in front of the Royal Palace // Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/photasia/
Bon Om Touk or Water Festival in Cambodia // Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/photasia/

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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50 Years of Proof of the 100 Houses Project // When Traditional Khmer is Mixed with Modernism by Vann Molyvann

50 Years of Proof of the 100 Houses Project // When Traditional Khmer is Mixed with Modernism by Vann Molyvann

Bringing the design concepts of  Le Corbusier to Cambodia, the legendary architect Vann Molyvann completed his 100 Houses Project in 1967. 50 years on, what do we see there now?

/// Cambodia ///

Story: Samutcha Viraporn /// Photography: Sitthisak Namkham

 

The original structures of some abandoned 100 Houses homes remain: raised floors, kitchen chimneys, etc.
Time and neglect leave their marks. Left: living room; right: bedroom
Original stairway and metal railing

Before the Khmer Rouge period, Vann Molyvann was Cambodian architecture’s biggest star. After receiving a 1946 scholarship and studying in France he returned as Cambodia’s National Architect, combining modernist with traditional Cambodian design to produce such grand works as the Chaktomuk Conference Hall, Olympic National Sports Complex, Institute of Foreign Languages, and the “100 Houses Project,” designed as employee housing for The National Bank of Cambodia at Phnom Penh. “100 Houses” was started in 1965 and completed in 1967.

Typically a Project house is a concrete structure holding a large living room and bedroom, raised above the ground with a 7.2 meter span between support posts. Floor, door and window frames, and roof frame are of wood. The roof has a Cambodian-style slant, and for good ventilation, windows reach almost to the ceiling. Kitchen and bathroom are built separate from the main house.

Cambodian family house where Martin Aerne lives
Stairway and entrance gate

After the Khmer Rouge takeover and the massive changes it brought, Vann Molyvann moved to Switzerland. Many of his creations such as this project were abandoned and overgrown, or randomly preempted by new occupants. Living ASEAN recently visited Tuk Thla district to find out how the village looked after all this time, and met Martin Aerne, Swiss architect and teacher, who now lives in one of the “100 Houses.”

Martin Aerne’s living room becomes an architectural office
Bathroom and kitchen section separate from main house
Corner of living room, leading into bedroom
Green space. Tall windows. Houses arranged to catch the breeze and not block each other’s views.

Martin Aerne tells us about coming to Cambodia, meeting Vann Molyvann, and discussing how to preserve works from the age of New Khmer Architecture. This prompted him to rent a space and open an architecture office on the upper floor of a Cambodian family home.

Martin notes that for privacy, homes in the Project are designed with alternating levels. Bedroom windows of one house aren’t open to view from the  next. The porch of one house looks out on the garden of another. And even with no common garden, there’s green everywhere.

Martin Aerne, architect and architecture instructor in Phnom Penh
Martin Aerne’s residence

Not many of the old-style houses remain: new owners have demolished them, rebuilt, or added on willy-nilly with no thought to historical value. Two or three abandoned houses from the original project are fortunately still here, since even in their ramshackle state they’re a great aid for studying Vann Molyvann’s amazing work from the 50s  and 60s, of which on a 1967 visit Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said, “I hope, one day, my city will look like this.

Most homes in the 100 Houses Project have been demolished, added onto, or rebuilt
Blueprint of original house: http://www.vannmolyvannproject.org

Link: http://www.vannmolyvannproject.org

 

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3 Cambodian Dishes You Have to Try

3 Cambodian Dishes You Have to Try

Whether visiting Cambodia as a tourist or on business, if you want to say you’ve truly been here, there are certain delicacies you have to experience.

/// Cambodia ///

 

Most of Cambodia is a wide level plain surrounding a great fertile lake, both primary food sources producing a great abundance and variety of rapid-growing fish and vegetables. Until recently Cambodian food hasn’t received much international attention, partly due to a long period of foreign domination and partly because the country was so damaged by war. Now, though, we’d like to introduce you to three uniquely Cambodian dishes.

– Amok –

This local food is considered the national dish of Cambodia, and recommended eating for all visitors. It’s made with curry flavorings and thick coconut milk, and steamed till done. In flavor and appearance it’s very much like the Thai ho mok, but without the hot spiciness of the Thai version.

– Deep-fried Tarantula –

Its huge spider body spreads across the plate, legs and all, but no matter how scary the appearance, this is one Cambodian dish you’ve just got to try. Don’t let yourself think about how it looks, just open yourself up to an enchanting taste discovery. Some say the flavor is like a combination of cod and chicken, others like beef and crab. The bulbous abdomen has the most intense taste. Cambodians prepare it crispy-fried and spiced with salt, sugar, and MSG. There are a lot of these spiders in Kampong Cham Province, especially during rainy season, and the species eaten here is similar to varieties consumed by the northeastern Thai. It seems this dish became especially popular during the time of the Khmer Rouge regime, when the country was experiencing food shortages.

– Kampot Pepper –

Cambodia produces one truly superior product for export, and it shows up in many foods and dipping sauces, with Kampot Province’s highest quality pepper exported to Europe, America, Japan, and Korea. Kampot’s foothill geography is especially appropriate for pepper cultivation, prompting the World Trade Organization to award it a special Geographical Indication (GI). Among the many products it’s used for is Kampot pepper tea, made in combination with other herbs to give off a delightful zesty aroma. It makes a great gift, or souvenir of your Cambodian adventure.

There are many, many more Cambodian dishes worth trying: fried morning glory, red tree ants with beef and holy basil, Kuy teav Ko Kho noodles, and lots of foods flavored with fermented fish. Also there is an exceptional strain of rice, phka malis, recognized as “the world’s best rice” at a world conference of rice traders.

 

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Hotel Art Fair Bangkok 2017

Hotel Art Fair Bangkok 2017

30 leading galleries and artists from across Thailand and abroad have turned a Bangkok hotel into a vibrant art destination well worth a visit. The event, which is the fourth edition by Farmgroup, takes place on June 24-25 at the Volve Hotel on Sukhumvig 53, just off Thonglor BTS Station. Be there!

/// Thailand ///

 

Living ASEAN files this report on a glimpse into the art world. Here are 15 of the rooms that will capture your fascinated attention. Check this out.

The Barn Curated by Farmgroup

Room 202: The Barn Curated by Farmgroup

The room features a special project initiated by Farmgroup in collaboration with 11 Thai artists. Paying tribute to the Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s musical talents and passion, each distinguished artist created a vinyl record jacket design based on his or her interpretation of His Majesty’s selected compositions.

 

Pomme Chan
Pomme Chan

Room 201: Pomme Chan

The room is rich in exhibits by internationally renowned artist Pomme Chan, but this time it’s not about paintings. Intriguing exhibits include ceramics, decorative objects, and carpets from Pomme Chan’s collections.

 

C.A.P Studio and Jojo Kobe
C.A.P Studio and Jojo Kobe

Room 207: The C.A.P Studio and Jojo Kobe

Here, C.A.P Studio and Jojo Kobe worked jointly to showcase outstanding works in printmaking and a variety traditional etching and wood block printing techniques ,as well as lithography and screen printing.

 

Gallery Seescape
Gallery Seescape
Gallery Seescape

Room 301: The Gallery Seescape

The exhibit features a rich combination of works by seven artists from Gallery Seescape, including Tawatchai Puntusawasdi, Anon Pairot, Torlarp Larpjaroensook, Chol Janepraphaphan, Uten Mahamid, Silwataka Ramyananda, and Thepmetha Thepboonta. All of the works on show represent a new creative series.

 

Note Kritsada
Note Kritsada

Room 304: Note Kritsada

Here, artist Note Kritsada presents all of the portrait paintings he has done so far this year. They reflect issues of sexuality and conscience, as well as social networking and artistic temperaments.  

 

Bangkok Citycity Gallery
Bangkok Citycity Gallery
Bangkok Citycity Gallery

Room 307: The Bangkok Citycity Gallery

307 features interesting pieces of by three street artists in collaboration with the Bangkok Citycity Gallery. They include Alex Face, Beejoir & Lucas Price, and Tae Parvit. Their works in the realm of prints, paintings and installations are known for arousing curiosity and interest.

 

Dr.Apinan Poshyananda
Dr.Apinan Poshyananda

Room 403: Dr. Apinan Poshyananda

On display here are paintings that Dr. Apinan Poshyananda received from some famous artists. The show sets in motion the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 (BAB 2018), which is a new contemporary art festival. Dr. Apinan is the CEO and art director of the event, which will be held from November 2018 to February 2019 on various locations around the capital.

 

Serindia Gallery
Serindia Gallery

Room 404: The Serindia Gallery

The Serindia Gallery, in association with Art for Cancer, a charity project using art and creative ideas to raise funds to help underprivileged cancer patients in Thailand, is showcasing paintings and sculptures by its four female artists. The works selected for the show are much admired for their colors, patterns, and their reflections on women.

 

Atta Gallery

Room 406: The Atta Gallery, and Paw-Dee Lifestyle

The ATTA Gallery, in collaboration with Paw-Dee Lifestyle, a contemporary Thai crafts and lifestyle store, is featuring an intriguing array of works in contemporary jewelry by Japanese artists. Meanwhile, Paw-Dee Lifestyle also makes a prominent exhibition of decorative objects by Thai artists.

 

H gallery
H gallery

Room 407: The H Gallery

The H Gallery features a new series of paintings by five local and regional artists, including Soomboon Hormtientong, Manit Sriwanichpoom, Mit Jai Inn, Jakkai Siributr, and Sopheap Pich. All of the paintings on show are abstract art and being presented through oil, acrylic, and canvas printings.

 

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