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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

 

10 ASEAN PROJECTS WIN A+ AWARDS IN ARCHITCTURE

10 ASEAN PROJECTS WIN A+ AWARDS IN ARCHITCTURE

Our warmest congratulations to architects from the ASEAN on winning ten A+ Awards in architecture for 2019. Their outstanding works include six projects from Thailand, plus one each from Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

///ASEAN///

Story: Samutcha Viraporn / Photo: Architizer

Hosted by the online architecture community Architizer.com, the A+ Awards come in two categories; “Jury Winners” which are handpicked by reputable judges, and “Popular Choice Winners” judged by public votes. The ten A+ Award winners from the ASEAN are:

 

Commercial / Office – Low Rise (1-4 Floors)

IDIN Architects Office / Designed by IDIN Architects, Thailand

Popular Choice Winner

The home of IDIN Architects Co, Ltd is arranged in three parts; the office, the business owner’s residential unit, and a café open to the public. It’s a layout that strikes the right balance between privacy and the busy movement in Bangkok’s Ratchadapisek neighborhood. The low-rise building sits peacefully ensconced in a lush oasis. Its blackened exterior is covered in Japanese Yakisugi, cypress plank cladding traditionally charred to enhance a natural appeal. The café on the ground floor boasts a touch of Modernism that’s evident in a beautiful mix of steel, glass and concrete component parts.

 

Commercial / Showrooms

Organicare Showroom / Designed by Tropical Space, Vietnam

Popular Choice Winner

Tropical Space is an architectural firm expert in old-fashioned brick construction. Their project involved converting a 1975 brick building into a modern showroom for fish sauces and homegrown brands of organic products. Steel frames and bricks are the main materials used to improve interior and exterior design, as well as create shelving to suit every display need.

 

Concepts / Plus-Architecture + For Good

Heartware Network / Designed by DP Architects, Singapore

Popular Choice Winner

Promoting team spirits among youth organization volunteers, the design by DP Architects creates a platform of cooperation and change in behavior conducive to a positive environment that lies at the core of the Heartware Network. Its engagement ideas have enabled the charitable youth organization to connect with more than 1,500 young people per year.

 

Concepts / Plus-Architecture + Living Small

3500-Millimeter House / Designed by AGo Architects, Indonesia

Popular Choice Winner

A building 3.5 meters wide and 17 meters long is home to an architect, his wife and a son. The house walls, staircase and built-in furniture share the rigid supporting structures that enclose them. The façade that stands facing West is built of perforated metal sheets and polycarbonates to protect from the summer sun. Clever design ensures the interior living space is well lit and airy.

 

Concepts / Plus-Architecture + Renovation

Kloem Hostel / Designed by IF (Integrated Field), Thailand

Jury Winner

Kloem Hostel is built by combining three adjacent old houses into a single entity. The two Thai houses at either end are beautifully renovated. The building at the center transforms into a loft that serves as common area and relaxed hangout reminiscent of the Thai lifestyle in former times.

 

Details / Plus-Architecture + Facades

Little Shelter Hotel / Designed by Department of Architecture, Thailand

Popular Choice Winner

A small hotel in Chiang Mai boasts a façade that’s reminiscent of fine crafts. The calm and beautiful face gets its inspiration from wooden roof tiles that are symbolic of Northern architecture in olden days. A reinterpretation of handicrafts in a modern context, the intricate design of wood and polycarbonates adds a unique charm to the principal front overlooking a street.

 

Hospitality / Hotels & Resorts

Bunjob House: House of Flow / Designed by NPDA Studio, Thailand

Jury Winner

The Bunjob House is a vacation destination nestled in a family-owned coconut grove on beautiful Pha-ngan Island in the Gulf of Thailand. Its façade consists of curved concrete slabs that draw cool breezes from the ocean resulting in thermal comfort in the interior living spaces. The slabs also protect the building during a thunderstorm. Casings made of coconut trees leave their marks on the concrete texture that blends into the natural surroundings.

 

Residential / Apartments

Hachi Serviced Apartment / Designed by Octane Architect & Design, Thailand

Popular Choice Winner

The project’s most outstanding feature is the façade that’s designed to promote a healthy home life despite being in an apartment complex. The exterior architecture of the building reflects well on the type of design, balance and symmetry of the interior space.

 

Residential / Private House (XL >5000 sq ft)

Cloister House / Designed by Formwerkz Architects, Malaysia

Jury Winner

The design gets its inspiration from the courtyard house typical of long established Chinese architecture. Adapted to blend with modern tropical style, the layout consists of a framework of nine regularly spaced rooms partially open to connect with the outdoors. The building in Johor state, southern Malaysia occupies 45,000 square feet.

 

Residential / Interiors

Y/A/O Residence / Designed by Octane Architect & Design, Thailand

Popular Choice Winner

Increased natural light provides the perfect focal point in the interior reminiscent of the house with a courtyard. It’s a great way to let light create depth in the interior space. The project consists of three separate buildings; a two-level house, guest accommodation building, and car garage.

 

For a complete list of winners of the 2019 Architizer A+ Awards, please visit: https://awards.architizer.com/winners-gallery/?type=51

5 Events and Festivals Worth Waiting for

5 Events and Festivals Worth Waiting for

Southeast Asia is renowned for many joyful and exuberant festivities. For the remainder of 2018, it’s worth checking out these highly visible public and social occasions.

/// ASEAN ///

 

Living ASEAN has put together five favorite hangouts for you to pick, from art and culture to festivals and go-to party destinations. If you’re ready, let the journey begin.

Bangkok Art Biennale 2018

Bangkok, Thailand / October 19, 2018 – February 3, 2019

Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 is Thailand’s first international art show featuring works by renowned artists from across the globe including Yayoi Kusama, Marina Abramovic, Yoshitomo Nara, Elmgreen & Dragset, Choi Jeong Hwa, Wisut Ponnimit, Kawita Vatanajyankur, and Lee Bul. The four-month festival will see many exhibitions being held at thriving art scenes across the capital from Buddhist temples to historic places along the River Chao Phrya, even the busy commercial district on Sukhumvit Road. Precisely, it’s aimed at making Bangkok a world art destination.  

For more information: http://www.bkkartbiennale.com/

http://www.baanlaesuan.com/tag/bangkok-art-biennale-2018/


 

Bagan Hot Air Balloon Season

Bagan, Myanmar / October 20, 2018 – April 10, 2019

Imagine you could fly. The hot air balloon ride promises to be an inspiring experience in Bagan. It’s an interesting way to see the ancient city as you drift over the vast archeological site in that’s home to more than 2,000 Buddhist shrines in central Myanmar. The balloon season starts October 20 and lasts until next April. Because only 22 balloons are allowed each day, it’s good to make reservations in advance so that you don’t miss out on early morning flights. Take in the view over a cradle of civilization that began in the early eleventh century. The Old Bagan landscape is gorgeous at sunrise.

Photographs: https://myanmarvels.com


 

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

Bali, Indonesia / October 24-28

There’s more to the Indonesian archipelago than volcanic mountains, beaches and coral reefs. Nestled in the uplands of Bali, Ubud is a town with a quiet beauty that’s widely known for traditional crafts and performing arts. Every year writers, thinkers, as well as visual and performing artists converge on the town to participate in the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which is scheduled for October 24-28. The event in now into its 15th year.

 


 

Cambodian Water Festival – Bon Om Touk

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia / November 21-23

The Cambodian Water Festival or Bon Om Touk is celebrated on November 21-23, which coincides with the end of the rainy season based on the lunar calendar. The occasion symbolizes the abundant life that rivers bring. Cities and towns across the country join in the season of festivity, but the biggest celebration takes place in the capital. The water festival culminates in a boat race on the River Tonle Sap that runs through Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The rowing boats are a legacy from old-time naval warfare and represent the passing of knowledge from past to present generations.

Photographs: http://global-children.org


 

Zoukout Beach Festival

Siloso Beach, Singapore / December 1

In a mood for partying? Come December 1 Singapore’s Siloso Beach will play host to the largest dusk-to-dawn beach festival with plenty of water activities. The event is much sought after by electronic music fans looking forward to dancing the night away. The fun event organized by Zouk nightclub is now in its 18th year. This year’s festival features the music band Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, number 2 on DJ Mag’s Top 100 list. Partying starts at nightfall and continues until the morning after. So dance till you drop!

 

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Peranakan Moderne: A Synthesis of Chinese, Indian, and Malay Cultures

Peranakan Moderne: A Synthesis of Chinese, Indian, and Malay Cultures

The Singapore-based designer brand “ipse ipsa ipsum” has unveiled one of the finest collections of Peranakan-inspired home décor and accessories.

/// Singapore ///

 

The front and rear of the floor standing mirror. — By ipse ipsa ipsum.
Bright and beautiful colors, and design on the rear panel tell fascinating stories of the Peranakan experience. — By ipse ipsa ipsum.

Bold and beautiful, Peranakan design is the product of Chinese migration into the Malay archipelagos of centuries ago. Making its world debut at last year’s International Furniture Fair Singapore, the new product line called “Straits Reflection” included a tabletop mirror and a floor-standing mirror that told stories of a fascinating amalgam of Chinese, Indian, and Malay craft traditions.

 

The designer brand was launched in 2016 as an initiative of “Sam & Sara”, an established Indian silverware business headquartered in Singapore. Combining ultramodern materials with traditional craftsmanship skills, the new brand aimed to create original designs under the slogan, “The extraordinary for the ordinary”.

“Straits Reflection” by Jeremy Sun and Nicholas Paul was the result of collaboration between the designer brand and the Peranakan Museum in Singapore. Peranakan Chinese, or Straits-born Chinese, are the descendants of Chinese who migrated into the Malay archipelagos form the 15th to 17th centuries. Over time, their cultural heritage, architecture, design, and cuisine have become prominent landmarks in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and parts of southern Thailand.

Indian floral patterns, Chinese bird paintings, and Malay-style bold colors bespeak centuries of cultural interactions. — By ipse ipsa ipsum.

“Straits Reflection” is evidence of an artistic ability that has evolved through on-going interactions among Chinese, Indian, and Malays. Its design aesthetics combine Indian floral patterns with traditional Chinese bird paintings, and Malay-style bold colors.

A curious mix of the old and the new, “Straits Reflection” includes a tabletop mirror that displays temperatures and air quality values, and a matching floor-standing mirror that reflects on the Peranakan experience.

Sam & Sara booth at IFFS 2018

 

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Star Wars X Nathan Yong: From Star Wars to Home Decor Articles

Star Wars X Nathan Yong: From Star Wars to Home Decor Articles

Star Wars X Nathan Yong, home décor articles and sculptures inpired by the instruments of war from the epic movie series.

 

Nathan Yong’s semi abstract marble sculptures are inspired by some of the greatest moments from Star Wars.

In collaboration with Disney, Singaporean designer Nathan Yong has unveiled a new collection of marble home décor articles that got their inspiration from some of the most important Star Wars scenes. His powers of invention will continue to wow those with a lifelong love of the epic motion picture series.

Besides Jedi knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, and the greatest villains of all time, it’s the weapons and vehicles in Star Wars that have captivated millions of viewers across the globe. The same was true for the newly released Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi.

(Left) The black marbel side table gets its inspiration from the TIE-Fighter, a war vehicle of the Imperial Fleet. (Right) The white marble table is modeled after the Millennium Falcon commanded by Han Solo.

The epic moments of the story of a long time ago have inspired the Singaporean designer to create a new collection of marble home décor articles called Star Wars x Nathan Yong. Nathan, who owns the independent, foreward thinkingh brand Grafunkt recently unveiled his latest inventions at the 2018 International Furniture Fair Singapore. The collection included side tables influenced by the design of four machines and vehicles from Star Wars; namely, the Millennium Falcon, the TIE-Fighter, the all-terrain armored transport AT-AT, and the Sandcrawler. For each model, only tree pieces were made.

(Left) The side table in warm brownish hue is modeled on the mobile fortress Sandcrawler. (Right) The marble table gets its inpiration from the all-terrain armored transport AT-AT.

Why Star Wars? Nathan puts it this way. “I am stoked to have the opportunity to collaborate with Disney on this collection as Star Wars is very much a part of me and my generation’s life with its imperative pop culture impact and influence. Being a classic film while its contemporaries fade into obscurity, Star Wars remains timeless, accompanying us from boyhood through adulthood.”

His latest collection of semi abstruct sculptures debuted alongside leading European brands featured at this year’s International Furniture Fair Singapore, which took place from March 8-11.

 

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Different Names Same Good Food / Anyone for a Yong Tau Fu?

Different Names Same Good Food / Anyone for a Yong Tau Fu?

In Malaysia and Singapore, the popular noodle soup is known as “Yong Tau Fu”. In Thailand, it goes by the name “Yen Ta Fo”. Different names for the same good food!

A mix of crispy fries is readied for a Malaysian-style Yong Tau Fu.

Originally a part of traditional Hakka cuisine, the scrumptious noodle soup is enjoyed by many people across peninsular Southeast Asia. Particularly in Malaysia, it has pride of place among top 100 dishes with a national heritage status.

 Yong Tau Fu has been among many big hits on the menu for hundreds of years. Its various recipes were brought in by the Hakka people, one of major groups who migrated into the Region from southeastern China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

Malaysian-style Yong Tau Fu with a side dish of crispy fried condiments. They can be added to soups or eaten with dipping sauces.

As its name implies, the recipe is made of tofu stuffed with ground pork and then deep-fried to give it a distinctive crispy flavor. It is the perfect match for a bowl of soup, good with dipping sauces, and makes a delicious accompaniment for noodle. Nowadays near-original versions of Yong Tau Fu can still be found everywhere in Malaysia.

Meantime, the Thais like their Yen Ta Fo slightly different from the original. They treat it as a noodle dish that comes either with or without deep-fried tofu. Instead, the Thai recipe features fish balls, pleasantly crisp calamari, pig’s blood cakes, and tender shoots and leaves of water spinach. Some Yen Ta Fo joints offer pork-stuffed tofu, while others may do without it entirely.

Known as Yen Ta Fo, the Thai noodle meal with its signature pink soup is served with pig’s blood cakes and tender shoots and leaves of water spinach.
Hakka noodle, as the Thais call it, is a variation of the Yen Ta Fo recipe.

The Thai version is distinguished by the signature pink soup that gets its color from fermented red bean curd. The Thais also like their Yen Ta Fo with a variety of condiments, including taro fries, shrimp balls, jellyfish, and wood ear, aka black fungus. Some like their Yen Ta Fo the Thai way in spicy chili soups. A lot of people confuse Yen Ta Fo with a similar recipe without the pink soup. Although made with the same ingredients, the latter is known as “Kuaytaew Khae”, literally Hakka noodle.

Ingredient of Malaysian-style Yong Tau Fu
Be spoilt for choice! There’s nothing like a full-course Yong Tau Fu served Malaysian-style.

Traditionally, a Malaysian-style Yong Tau Fu begins with first-course meals consisting of a mix of crispy fries, such as tofu, purple eggplant, stuffed meals, and sweet pepper, aka bell pepper. It’s hard to beat a good dipping sauce to start with. Then it’s time to eat them with a soup and add noodle to complement a great meal. Yong Tau Fu is ranked among Malaysia’s top 100 dishes with a national heritage status, along with other big hits such as Nasi Lemak (a rice dish cooked in coconut milk with anchovies and hot sauces), Nasi Ayam (chicken rice), and Ketupat (rice dumpling in palm leaf pouch).

Queueing for a Yong Tau Fu in Singapore. If you’re patient, it will get to your turn.
(Left) A Singapore-style Yong Tau Fu comes in a noodle soup. (Right) Crispy fried anchovies, locally known as “Ikan Bilis”, add flavor to a Yong Tau Fu meal.

In Singapore, where Yong Tau Fu is a culinary success story, rice vermicelli is served on a plate along with a bowl of spicy soup called Laksa. It is recommended to try this with Chee Cheong Fun, a rice noodle roll that comes in either dry or wet versions. There are plenty of Yong Tau Fu joints to be found. The price is reasonable, but keep in mind the line is rather long. If you are patient, it will get to your turn. Enjoy your meal! 

 

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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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ASEAN Designers Shine at World Architecture Festival 2017

ASEAN Designers Shine at World Architecture Festival 2017

Your attention, please! The results are in. Designers from around the ASEAN have done it again at this year’s World Architecture Festival in Berlin.

/// ASEAN ///

Photo: World Architcture Festival

Every year, architects and interior designers from across the globe converge upon the German capital to participate in the World Architecture Festival. This year’s event took place from 15-17 November, during which both major prizes and highly-commended mentions were awarded to successful designers in many categories from architecture, to interior design, to landscaping and small projects.

World Building of the Year Winner 2017: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Project in Guangming Village, China

Among this year’s winners, a design group from the Philippines took first prize in the Small Project of the Year, while groups from Thailand and Vietnam were successful in several categories.

The Philippine group, Streetlight Taguro by Eriksson Furunes, Leandro V. Loscin Partners, and Jago Boase, won first prize for work in the Civic and Community category taking home the Small Project of the Year honor.

Vietnam’s Vo Trong Nghia Architects won first prize in the House, Office, and Education category, while the Hypothesis group of Thailand took two awards in the Mixed Use and Leisure-Led Development, and the Hotel Interior categories.

House – Completed Building Winner: Vo Trong Nghia Architects, Binh House, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Small Project of the Year Winner 2017 and Civic & Community Winner: Eriksson Furnes + Leandro V.Loscin Partners + Jago Boase, Streetlight Taguro, Tacloban, The Philppines

An Indonesian group, known as Produce.Workshop, took home one award in the Interior Display category, while Singapore triumphed with the biggest prize for 2017 taking home the INSIDE World Interior of the Year award.

From outside the ASEAN region, the Chinese University of Hong Kong took the biggest prize for the World Building of the Year category in recognition of its post-earthquake reconstruction project at Guangming Village, China.

Other winners from around the ASEAN are listed below.

Small Project of the Year Winner 2017 and Civic & Community Winner: Eriksson Furnes + Leandro V.Loscin Partners + Jago Boase, Streetlight Taguro, Tacloban, The Philppines

 

House – Completed Building Winner: Vo Trong Nghia Architects, Binh House, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 

Office – Future Projects Winner: Vo Trong Nghia Architects, Viettel Offside Studio, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Health – Future Projects Winner: Magi Design Studio, Desa Semesta, Bagor, Indonesia

 

Leisure-Led Development – Future Projects Highly Commended: Hypothesis, Krahm Restaurant, Chiang Rai, Thailand

 

Education – Future Projects Highly Commended: Vo Trong Nghia Architects, Viettel Academy Education Centre, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Hotel & Leisure – Completed Building Winner: Cong Sinh Architects, Vegetable Trellis, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 

Mixed Use – Completed Building Highly Commended: Stu/D/O Architects, Naiipa Art Complex, Bangkok, Thailand

 

INSIDE World Interior of the Year Winner 2017 and Display Winner: Produce.Workshop, Fabricwood, Singapore

 

INSIDE Hotel Winner: Hypothesis, Ir-On Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

 

INSIDE Display Highly commended: AK+, Loco Local for Hermes 2016: Spring/Summer Forever, Singapore

 

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