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LOOKING BEYOND WHEAT AND RICE F E B R UA RY 20 - 26 , 2009 A Sisyphean Challenge: Scrambling to fight US$2.50 / Bt100 ISSN 19052650 05191 recession 9 771905 265009 05191 FASTER TRANSFER TIMES We’ve developed a concept where all our member airlines come together at one terminal, under one roof: we call them Co-Location airports. It means much faster connections between flights. For instance, at Terminal One at Narita in Japan, we’ve cut the waiting times by over 50%. There’ll be six more by the end of 2008, in Bangkok, Miami, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore and Seoul. That’s one more innovation from the Star Alliance network to make your journey easier. To find out more, visit www.staralliance.com www.staralliance.com Information correct as at 02/2007 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • Vo l 4 N o 6 AFP P H OTO AFP P H OTO SPECIAL REPORT 13 BEYOND WHEAT AND RICE India must wean itself from dependence on two main grains to address long-standing nutrition deficiency issues C H INA DA I LY POLITICS 16 LIFE 26 LAW OF THE LAND THE LAST HuNTERS Thailand’s lese majeste law An ethnic minority tribe in has found a defender in China is holding on to its Prime Minister Abhisit traditional way of life Vejjajiva THE KOREA HERALD COVER STORY 8 L o v e FROm INFLATION TO RECESSION LIFESTYLE 20 ARTS AND CULTURE 28 Asian governments are reversing gear, scrambling to fight CHEmISTRY OF LOVE A TASTE OF KOREAN WINE recession Falling in love is not just a Wine-making secrets have feeling been handed down from generations of aristocrats CHINA DAI LY VIEWPOINT 7 WORLD Cup DREAm TECHNOLOGY 22 V IET NAM N EWS Even without a strong squad THE TWITTER TWITS yet, Indonesia is eyeing to Blogging is so last year. Find host the world’s biggest out who gets the most Net football event traffic these days PHOTO ESSAY 18 CHINA’S LITTLE NEW YEAR ENTERTAINMENT 24 The Lantern Festival is as OuTLAWING CHOCOLATES colourful and enchanting Can you imagine a world EXPLORE 32 as ever without chocolates? Japan RECHARGE IN LuxuRY has a new breed of animé Bai Tram has it COVER IMAGE | ILLUSTRATION BY NIPHON APPAKARN/ heroes saving the world from all—mountains, oceans, ASIA NEWS NETWORK chocolate-haters breakfast at 3pm WRITE, FAX, EMAIL Please include sender’s name and address to: firstname.lastname@example.org | Asia News Network Nation Multimedia Group Plc 44 Moo 10 Bang Na Trat KM4.5 Bang Na, Bangkok 10260 Thailand Subscription inquiries Nation Multimedia Group Plc 44 Moo 10 Bang Na Trat KM4.5 Bang Na, Bangkok 10260 Thailand Fax: (66) 0-2317-1409 Copyright © 2006 of Asia News Network. All rights reserved. AsiaNews (ISSN 1905-2650) is a weekly magazine. Printed by WPS (Thailand) Co, Ltd Subsidiary of Nation Multimedia Group Plc. ACROSS ASIA AFP P H OTO / T IZ IANA FABI Was he drunk? of Japan, has de- His officials manded the min- later said the TOKYO: Japan’s finance minister Shoichi ister’s removal. minister was un- Nakagawa’s alleged drunken behaviour Video clips of able to focus on at a press conference in Rome has Nakagawa’s ap- the text because sparked calls for his dismissal. palling perform- of some medicine Facing reporters after a Group of ance at the Rome he had taken for Seven (G-7) meeting of finance minis- press conference his bad back. ters and central bank chiefs, Nakagawa were beamed In September appeared to be desperately trying to around the world 2004, Nakagawa fight off drowsiness. His speech was and also played ad appeared at a slurred and he answered questions with nauseam on Japa- press conference, great difficulty. nese television. reeking of alco- The minister later apologised, blam- Last month, hol and with his ing his unbecoming conduct on an Nakagawa was hair in a tousled overdose of cold medicine. blasted for making state, following But Yukio Hatoyama, secretary gen- multiple errors while giving a key policy his nomination to a Cabinet post. eral of the opposition Democratic Party speech in Parliament. — KWAN WENG KIN/THE STRAITS TIMES MP quits over charge of tourism, consumer affairs ment, often advancing women’s rights nude pictures and the environment, and the infor- and issues. mation chief of the women’s wing of There is talk that the pictures, alleg- KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian her party. edly snapped without her consent or legislator Elizabeth Wong, She described the distribution knowledge, might have been taken and whose nude photographs and publication of the materials circulated by an ex-boyfriend. were being circulated, a malicious attack on her per- Women’s rights advocate Chew Mei has quit sonality, a gross outrage of her Fun said: “we are outraged by such Wong, a member of modesty and a gross invasion shameful acts of using women as sexual parliament representing of her privacy. objects. It is an outright invasion of the SIN CHEW DAILY Petaling Jaya Utara, was Wong is one of the privacy of women as well as an exploi- also the state executive most progressive tation of women for political use.” committee member in members of parlia- —NEWS DESK/THE STAR ManCity boots Thaksin Eastlands. Thailand gives stimulus money ‘Frank’, as Thaksin was called, thanks BANGKOK: Former Thai prime minister to the similarity of his surname to ‘Si- BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Ab- Thaksin Shinawatra has been removed natra’, remains a popular figure among hisit Vejjajiva said some private as Manchester City’s honourary club many City supporters, who credit him firms have offered to give discount president. with rescuing the club from financial if Thais use the 2,000 baht (US$57) Thaksin has been convicted of multi- hardship and setting up the deal with stimulus money from the govern- million-pound cor- the new, massively rich ment to buy their products. ruption and is owners. However, there “So 2,000 baht will have more AF P PHOTO/AND REW YATES presently on the were also fans who re- value,” Abhisit said. run from the au- fused to watch the club The offer prompted the govern- thorities in Thai- while Thaksin and his ment to reconsider whether to dis- land and cannot family were in control. tribute the money to workers by is- even enter the UK. The Guardian re- suing cheques or by crediting their The decision ported the new owner, accounts. government officials was reportedly Sheikh Mansour bin would receive the gift money along taken after high- Zayed al-Nahyan, and with their monthly salary. level talks over the chairman Khaldoon He said the government would past few weeks to al-Mubarak conclud- also consider widening the criteria determine what to ed it would be “inap- for handing out the gift money. do about the way propriate” to allow Currently, state officials and the former owner Thaksin to continue members of the Social Security had become an in- holding such a promi- Fund are eligible for the stimulus creasing source of nent position. money. embarrassment to — THE NATION —THE NATION THAILAND his successors at (THAILAND) 4 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS ASIA NEWS NETWORK 20 newspapers in 17 countries—covering Asia for 10 years W e K n o w A s i a B e t t e r Vi e w p o i n t Destructive Spiral The Japanese government needs to present a clearer plan to allay fears of an economy spiralling into abyss Editorial Desk The Yomiuri Shimbun T he Japanese economy appears to have strayed ures three times since summer. Those centre on ‘painkillers’ into a tunnel of a gruelling recession the likes of amid the economic deterioration such as employment meas- which it has never experienced. ures and support for companies trying to raise capital. The government said on February 16 the Although the economic stimulus package is sizable, to put country’s economy contracted in the October- a stop to the negative cycle, in which sluggish external de- December quarter, falling at an annualised rate of 12.7 per mand dampens domestic demand, a specific type of eco- cent from the previous quarter— the first double-digit de- nomic stimulus measure, in particular fiscal stimulus to cline in 35 years. make up for the lack of demand, might be necessary. The 3.3 per cent decline in gross domestic product from Despite the acute emergency, Diet deliberations on eco- the July-September nomic stimulus period was the second- measures are running largest drop in the behind. post-war period after Bills required to ex- the contraction of 3.4 ecute the second fiscal per cent in the Janu- 2008 supplementary ary-March quarter of budget are not ex- 1974, when the country pected to pass the was feeling the effects Diet until next week the first oil crisis. With or even later. Deliber- a significant contrac- ations on the bills tion also likely in the must not be dragged January-March period, out any further and the nation’s economy necessary economic in fiscal 2008 is ex- measures should be pected to post the larg- implemented quickly. est negative growth in The 2009 budget the post-war period. should also be passed The Japanese by the Diet at an early economy is deterio- date so that it will be rating at a signifi- implemented imme- cant and accelerating ENDING RECESSION: The Japanese economy is deteriorating at a significant and ac- diately from the start r a t e . T h e g o v e r n - celerating rate. A quick prescription is a must for getting the country out of the recession. of the fiscal year. ment and ruling par- It is desirable that ties must quickly present a prescription for getting the the 2009 budget be executed earlier than originally planned. country out of this recession. Also, it is necessary to start discussions on additional meas- The global recession caused Japan’s engine of growth, ures with the supplementary budget to ensure constant eco- which is fuelled by overseas demand, into reverse and the nomic stimulus. country’s economy is nose-diving even more steeply than We hope that the valuable budget will be effectively used those of Europe and the United States, where the current on growing fields in the future, including energy conserva- economic downturn originated. tion and environmentally friendly technology, and to The deteriorating economies overseas slammed the strengthen safety and security, including making schools and brakes on the country’s exports, causing production and public facilities earthquake-resistant. Projects should be capital investment to be scaled down. The number of jobs carefully examined to prevent non-essential items from be- being lost is surging as companies are accelerating their ing folded into the budget. drive to cut personnel. A fall in tax revenues is certain. Therefore, it is unavoidable Corporate restructuring has expanded to the ranks of regu- that economic stimulus measures will be funded by issuance lar workers, and consumption, which is the main pillar of of new bonds. domestic demand, has started to shrink. The economy is now To prevent long-term interest rates from rising as a result in a persistent vicious circle, in which falling consumption of new bond issuance, the government and the Bank of Ja- causes a further decline in production. pan will need to closely coordinate, including an increase in The government has compiled economic stimulus meas- the purchase of government bonds by the central bank. 6 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS Vi e w p o i n t Indonesia’s World Cup Dream Even without a strong squad yet, the largest Southeast Asian country is eyeing to host the world’s biggest football event Editorial Desk in Jakarta The Jakarta Post M ounting ques- A FP P H OTO/BAY IS MOYO tions and criti- cism emerged right after the Soccer Associa- tion of Indonesia (PSSI) an- nounced its plan to bid for hosting the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2022. But why don’t we just take a chance no matter how slim the chance may be? Few people welcomed the idea while more were pessimis- tic, if not skeptical, to hear the news, saying it was just a dream. Others said Indonesia, which has never qualified for the World Cup, should have a world-class team first before hosting such a major event. American poet Carl Sandburg said: “Nothing happens unless BURNING FLAME: Indonesian football fans light a flare during the Group B AFC Asian Cup 2011 first a dream.” That happened to football qualifiers between Indonesia and Australia at Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta on January 28. our founding president Sukarno, who had envisioned Indonesia to be among the world’s First, since Indonesia has been notorious for cor- top 10 in sports, when hosting the 4th Asian Games 37 ruption, the construction of infrastructure projects years ago. Sukarno did not only build a landmark sports is potential for graft. complex, named after him, but also put Indonesia in the Second, security has always been an issue affecting the medal tally by finishing second after Japan. country’s tourism industry. Therefore, the authorities The 1962 Asian Games was the only major event need to make sure it is no longer an issue. Indonesia had ever hosted. Indeed, should Indonesia Third, PSSI should take into account demand from win the bid, it must begin construction of 10 new sta- soccer fans that it sets up a strong national squad. The diums worth about 10 trillion rupiah (US$843.9 mil- association has revealed its Vision 2020 training pro- lion) in Bogor, Bandung, Gianyar (Bali), Jakarta, gramme, which, according to PSSI’s blueprint, aims Makassar (South Sulawesi), Medan (North Sumatra), at creating a profit-oriented soccer industry, improv- Surabaya, Tangerang and Yogyakarta with a capacity ing international achievement and hosting the 2022 of between 40,000 and 50,000 each. These stadiums World Cup. To improve international achievement, will compliment the existing three stadiums; Bung PSSI must first improve its world ranking, which now Karno Stadium in Jakarta, Sriwijaya Stadium in Pale- stands at 144th. Improving the quality of local com- mbang (South Sumatra) and Palaran Stadium in Sa- petitions—often marred with violent supporters’ brawls marinda (East Kalimantan)—all have 80,000 seats. and official disputes—is another thing to fix. However, Indonesia must compete with the other bid- With 30,000 professional and amateur soccer players ding countries of Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands nationwide joining 2,000 clubs, Indonesia has the poten- (as co-hosts), England, Japan, Russia, Mexico, the United tial to emerge as a dark horse on the international soccer States, South Korea, Qatar and Spain and Portugal (as co- stage, which has been dominated by European and South hosts). To host such a major event, Indonesia has a lot of American countries. Soccer was one of eight priority homework to do. Infrastructure—not only stadiums but sports in the school curriculum during Sukarno’s era. His also other facilities like hotels, airports, transportation landmark and his vision are his legacy that we Indone- and telecommunications—is just one of them. sians need to pursue to make our dream comes true. Despite the rosy picture, there are important issues to And who knows, eventually we can proudly say: “Wel- address. come to the 2022 World Cup in Indonesia.” ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 7 COVER STORY From Inflation To Recession Asian governments reverse gear, scramble to fight recession BANGKOK ber with the collapse of US invest- ment bank Lehman Brothers, have NOEL ADLAI O. VELASCO spilt into the real economies of Asia Asia News Network with almost all countries projecting B lower growths this year. Japan arely eight months ago, Weak exports have already pushed I Asian governments were Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore n January, Japan’s parliament too preoccupied with curb- into recession. Other Asian countries passed a 4.8 trillion yen (US$52.2 ing double-digit inflation like Taiwan and South Korea are tee- billion) stimulus plan that includes as oil and commodity pric- tering on the brink of recession. a cash payout of 12,000 yen (US$133) es surged to unprecedented levels Experts warn the current global fi- per Japanese taxpayer. never seen in decades. nancial turmoil may take a bigger toll Japan is considering additional Central banks across Asia had to on emerging Asia than the 1997-1998 measures to shore up the economy implement a series of interest rates regional crisis, despite the region’s with fresh spending likely to top 10 tril- hikes to rein in inflation. enhanced financial muscle. lion yen ($109 billion). Now, almost eight months later, Economic growth in Asia has been Japan’s economy shrank by 12.7 per Asia’s economies are fighting a differ- severely affected by the global col- cent in the fourth quarter, the steepest ent kind of battle: recession. lapse in demand for goods as a result drop in 35 years amid an unprecedent- In a bid to stimulate their econ- of the present crisis. ed collapse in exports and production omies, Asian central banks have Asian exports have plunged at dou- in the world’s second-biggest economy. been cutting key interest rates with ble-digit rates in the past month as a The drop in Japan’s GDP, in the Oc- some rates already reaching zero result of weaker European and Amer- tober-December period, far outpaces levels, a sharp reversal from the ican consumer spending. Exports ac- declines of 3.8 per cent in the US and tight monetary policies they adopt- count for about 32 percent of Asia’s 1.2 per cent in the Euro zone. ed just months ago. GDP, according to the World Bank. Japan’s economy minister Kaoru With exports plunging and millions The sharp drop underscores the Yosano says Japan now faces “the worst of workers losing their jobs, govern- vulnerability of Asia’s export-driven economic crisis” in the postwar era. ments across Asia and around the economies during global downturns Japan’s economy has now contracted world are rushing to come up with and points toward more cuts in jobs, for three straight quarters. Compared economic stimulus packages to shore production and profits in the coming to the third quarter, GDP fell 3.3 per up their faltering economies, stimu- months. cent. If that rate continued for a full late growth and avoid slipping into To counter the global slowdown, year, the economy would contract 12.7 recession. the International Monetary Fund has per cent. The effects of the global financial urged governments to “stimulate For 2008, Japan’s GDP shrank 0.7 crisis, which intensified last Septem- their economies”. per cent—the first decline in nine years. 8 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS LIU J IN/AFP It also plans to subsidise 12 per cent of the first $2,500 of each employee’s monthly wages, hike cash handouts to low-income workers by 50 per cent, and increase public sector hiring. South Korea S outh Korea’s economy is slipping into recession with a sharp fall in exports and domestic consump- tion amid a global economic downturn. Exports in January plunged by a record 32.8 per cent from a year ago to $21.7 billion, sending the trade balance swinging to a deficit of $2.97 billion. Korea’s US$970 billion economy grew 2.5 per cent in 2008, slowing from a 5 per cent expansion a year earlier. Falling exports and wobbly financial markets have taken the steam out of Asia’s fourth-largest economy, Korean officials said. “The economic downturn is sharper than what we had predicted in mid- BURGEONING UNEMPLOYMENT: Job seekers crowd booths at a job fair in Beijing. One of the December, as exports, corporate profits, Chinese government’s main worries amid the global crisis is the impact the tougher conditions household income and domestic will have on unemployment. About 20 million have already lost their jobs in the crisis, according to central government data. spending all are going downhill under the impact of the worldwide recession,” said Choi Choon-shin, an official at the Japan’s exports plummeted a record quarter. Bank of Korea. 13.9 per cent in the fourth quarter from “Our key objective in this package is In the fourth quarter, the economy the third quarter. to help Singaporeans keep their jobs,” contracted 5.6 per cent, its worst per- The IMF predicts Japan’s economy finance minister Tharman Shanmuga- formance since the Asian financial cri- will shrink 2.6 per cent in 2009, out- ratnam said. “We have to expect many sis 11 years ago. pacing the 2 per cent overall decline it more jobs to be at risk this year.” The government, aiming for a 3 per expects for advanced economies. The number of workers who lost cent growth in 2009, has allocated Due to weak global demand, Toyota their jobs last year soared to about about 140 trillion won (US$102 billion), Motor Corp, Toshiba Corp. and Hi- 16,000, a five-year high. or 15 per cent of GDP, in liquidity injec- tachi Ltd have fired thousands of work- Singapore’s economy grew by 1.2 per tions, tax cuts and stimulus packages. ers. The firings have intensified in the cent in 2008 as compared to a 7.7 per Incoming finance minister Yoon Je- last two weeks, with Nissan Motor Co., cent growth in 2007. ung-hyun told lawmakers the govern- NEC Corp and Panasonic Corp. an- Singapore has slashed its 2009 ment would revise the official 2009 nouncing a combined 55,000 job cuts. growth forecast, saying the economy growth target of three per cent set in could shrink as much as five per cent as December as fears grow that the coun- Singapore global demand for the country’s exports try’s GDP may contract this year. collapses. The IMF predicted the Korean econ- S ingapore’s government has un- “Singapore’s GDP growth is likely to be omy would shrink 4 per cent in 2009. veiled a multi-billion-dollar plan -5 to -2 per cent in 2009 lower than the —LEE SuN-yOuNG/THE KOREA HERALD to boost spending and cut taxes -2 to one per cent growth range,” Singa- in a bid to ease the worst recession in pore’s trade and industry ministry said. Taiwan the city-state’s history. The ruling People’s Action Party is T It also lowered corporate taxes, subsi- hoping the stimulus package’s array of aiwan’s economy is projected to dised wages, guaranteed bank loans and tax cuts and rebates will put cash in the grow by only 2.12 per cent in spent more on infrastructure as part of pockets of consumers and resuscitate 2009 from an expected seven- the $20.5 billion (US$13.6 billion) domestic demand. year low of 1.87 per cent in 2008. stimulus package. The government will spend S$5.1 Taiwan’s final GDP figures for Singapore slipped into recession in billion to help companies avoid layoffs, 2008 were to be released officially on the fourth quarter with real GDP con- highlighted by a cut of the maximum February 19. tracting by 3.7 per cent, following a de- corporate tax rate to 17 per cent from 18 The economy was forecast to con- cline of 0.2 per cent in the preceding per cent. tract 1.73 per cent in the fourth quarter ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 9 COVER STORY ROMEO G ACAD/AFP of 2008 from the same period a year no less than 20 trillion ago and another 0.31 per cent in the yuan. first quarter of 2009, putting Taiwan’s China’s economic economy in official recession before ex- growth has been slow- panding in the second, third and fourth ing for five consecutive quarters at 1.05 per cent, 3.79 per cent quarters. It dipped to 9 and 3.9 per cent, respectively. per cent in the third Many think tanks and economic re- quarter of 2008, the search institutes are less optimistic first growth rate below about the prospects of Taiwan’s econo- double digits in five my, with many predicting near-zero years. growth rate for 2009. Zhou Xiaochuan, the Both Polaris Research Institute and central bank governor, the Academia Sinica put the 2009 GDP said the economy could growth at less than 0.6 per cent while slow down further— the Taiwan Institute of Economic Re- from 9.9 per cent in the search predicted a 0.89 per cent expan- first three quarters of sion. The Chung-Hwa Institution for 2008 to between 8 and Economic Research gave a more opti- 9 per cent in 2009. mistic growth rate of 1.24 per cent. China reported an These estimates pale in comparison unexpectedly sharp with the forecast published by CLSA 17.5 per cent drop in Asia-Pacific Markets, which predicted January exports, the Taiwan’s GDP could possibly decline steepest decline since by as much as 11 per cent this year. records began in 1993. Total exports, equivalent to about Due to weak demand three-quarters of Taiwan’s entire econ- for exports, several omy, tumbled by a record 42 per cent companies have closed in December compared to the same shop in China, render- month in 2007. ing millions of workers To boost domestic retail spending, jobless. President Ma Ying-jeou’s administra- The government al- tion has issued NT$85.7 billion located 100 billion JOB CUTS: Government employees attempt to march to the pres- idential palace in Manila February 13 to protest planned job cuts in (US$2.5 billion) worth of shopping yuan for investment in several government agencies. vouchers to encourage consumers to the fourth quarter of spend. Each of the island’s 23 million 2008 and 20 billion yuan for recon- time in seven years. Industrial produc- citizens, as well as foreign spouses, re- struction projects this year. These are tion, which was among the main driv- ceived NT$3,600 (US$105) worth of expected to trigger an overall invest- ers of the economy, fell 0.4 per cent. shopping vouchers.The government ment of up to 400 billion yuan. The rupee fell perilously close to 50 to expects this programme alone to add China’s year-on-year GDP growth a dollar in November, an all-time low. 0.6 per cent to this year’s GDP. weakened to 9 per cent for 2008 from And, as per the government’s own ad- The government also announced 13 per cent in 2007. mission, some 65,000 jobs were lost earlier an additional NT$200 billion Analysts widely believed that the first between August and October. on top of the current NT$500 billion and second quarter of this year would Two key sectors, agriculture and in- stimulus package aimed at creating be the worst times for the Chinese dustry, were affected by the global eco- 150,000 new jobs in 2009 to combat economy, which is then predicted to nomic slowdown. This will have a seri- Taiwan’s rising unemployment rate, gain strength from the third quarter. ous effect on India’s overall growth, which climbed in December to its high- says the National Council of Applied est level since 2003. India Economics Research, an economic —THE CHINA POST think-tank. I ndia’s economy began 2008 in India has unveiled a 300-billion ru- China robust fashion but ended on a pee (US$6 billion) package to bail out note of mixed sentiment with the corporate sector. It stepped up T he Chinese government has an- the global meltdown casting an in- public expenditures and gave various nounced a 4 trillion-yuan evitable shadow. tax concessions to industry to combat (US$586 billion) fiscal stimulus New Delhi has lowered its eco- economic slowdown. package to spur domestic demand and nomic growth target for the current The government expects the econo- boost the slowing economy until 2010. fiscal year (April 2008-March 2009) my to remain relatively weak in the All provincial and municipal govern- to 6.8 per cent from the previous first quarter and to show strong recov- ments have also come up with their 7.7 per cent. ery in the second half of the fiscal year. own stimulus packages, amounting to Exports fell in October for the first —RC RAjAMANI/THE STATESMAN 10 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS Thailand ecutive director Shamsuddin Bardan Since the crisis started taking its toll said more than 10,000 Malaysians had in October, 19,443 workers have lost L ike much of export-dependent lost their jobs since January 1. jobs in the Philippines and 4,042 over- Asia, Thailand is suffering from a He said more were expected to lose seas. Most of the job cuts were in the collapse in demand from the their jobs in the days ahead as compa- electronics sector, which has suffered United States and Europe—the top nies, particularly in the manufacturing from plunging global demand. buyers of Asian goods—as they slip sector, struggled to stay afloat. Labour secretary Marianito Roque deeper into recession. Shamsuddin said the economic warned that up to 60,000 Filipinos Thailand’s exports fell 15.7 per cent downturn this time was much worse could lose their jobs this year, mainly in in December from a year earlier, after a than the one in 1997 because it was the electronics and garments indus- 17.7 per cent drop in November. more widespread globally. tries. Bank of Thailand (BOT) deputy gov- Malaysia has set an earlier target of a To pump prime the economy and ernor Atchana Waiquamdee believes 3.5 per cent growth this year but is like- generate three million jobs by yearend, the Kingdom will experience a quar- ly to revise the target downwards due to the Philippine government plans a terly contraction but not a recession the continuing uncertain outlook. 330-billion-peso (US$6.9 billion) eco- like other countries. Several economists and government nomic stimulus package. She also believes this year’s economy officials said the worse-than-expected The government has also set up a will even show continued growth, al- trade figures and slumping industrial 1-billion-peso livelihood fund for over- beit at a very slow pace. production and export figures indicate seas Filipino workers who could lose The BOT has revised the economic the government will have little choice their jobs. The fund could be used to growth target this year to 0-2 per cent, but to hope for growth to be between 1 provide loans for returning workers the lowest since 1988, citing the impact per cent and 2 per cent. who want to acquire new skills, under- of the global credit crisis on exports. In the last three months of 2008, 1.5 go retraining or start a business. BOT’s assistant governor Duangma- million lost their jobs as economic out- —NOEL ADLAI O. VELASCO/PHILIPPINE nee Vongpradhip projected the country put during October, November and DAILy INquIRER could contract for three consecutive December shrank by 6 per cent com- quarters—beginning last year’s fourth pared with the same period in 2007. Indonesia quarter. I “Thai economic growth could be The philippines ndonesia has set aside a 71.3 trillion lower than zero per cent but there is a rupiah (US$6.31 billion) stimulus W very low probability of 5.5 per cent,” eighed down by weak condi- fund to boost the economy amid the said Duangmanee. tions in major economies, the crisis. The new Abhisit Vejjajiva govern- Philippine economy grew by The package includes the 27.5 tril- ment has introduced two series of eco- 4.6 per cent in 2008, down from a 30- lion rupiah stimulus previously an- nomic stimulus packages, with 25 year high of 7.2 per cent the previous nounced. measures, aimed to restore confidence, year, but slightly higher than expecta- The new stimulus revolves around boost income, improve quality of life tions.The government had expected the tax savings worth 43 trillion rupiah, and security. financial crisis to depress 2008 growth waived taxes and import duties for The government’s first package with to 4.2-4.5 per cent. businesses and certain households, 18 measures has earmarked 116.7 bil- In 2009, the government has set a worth 13.3 trillion rupiah, as well as lion baht (US$3.3 billion) for social 3.7 to 4.7 percent economic growth subsidies and government spending of welfare and infrastructure. It is provid- target. 15 trillion rupiah for businesses. ing 2,000 baht for each Thai earning But the IMF expects the country’s Finance minister Sri Mulyani Indra- less than 15,000 baht. The seven meas- GDP to slow down further to 2.25 per wati said the stimulus was aimed at in- ures in the second package are aimed at cent this year. creasing people’s purchasing power, the bolstering the property sector, small It warned that the global economic competitiveness and sturdiness of busi- and medium-sized enterprises, venture turmoil can affect the Philippines more nesses facing the economic downturn, capital and debt restructuring. severely this year, projecting that weak- and labour-intensive infrastructure —ANOMA SRISuKKASEM/THE NATION ening demand in foreign markets and spending. (THAILAND) job cuts abroad might force foreign ex- The incentives include paying the in- change remittances and export earn- come taxes of employees—now paid by malaysia ings to dwindle. businesses, subsidising diesel, and in- Exports plunged 40.4 per cent in De- creasing infrastructure spending. T he Malaysian government has re- cember, its steepest fall in more than Indonesia’s economy expanded 6.2 leased a 7 billion ringgit (US$1.9 two decades, the government’s statis- per cent in 2008, slowing slightly from billion) stimulus package to tics office said. Shipments of electron- 6.3 per cent in 2007. stimulate the faltering economy. ics, the country’s main export, dropped The economy grew 5.2 per cent in the Deputy prime minister Datuk Seri 47.6 per cent during the period. fourth quarter of 2008, the slowest in Najib Tun Razak has promised a sec- Total exports in 2008 fell 2.86 per cent two years. ond stimulus package. from 2007, reflecting the effects of the But the government has warned that Malaysian Employers Federation ex- global financial crisis. 2009, an election year, could be tougher, ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 11 COVER STORY with growth seen at between 4.5 and 5 spending for infrastructure, housing, achieve a GDP growth rate of around per cent—below the 6 percent pace that schools and hospitals, as well as tax cuts. 6.0 per cent in fiscal year 2009, accord- analysts say is needed to prevent unem- —Vuõ HAø PHöôNG, VIEäT THAéNG AND ing to the central bank. ployment from rising among Indone- THu HAø/VIET NAM NEWS “The continuing slowdown of global sia’s 226 million people. growth, especially growth in advanced The country is getting pummelled by Laos economies, may pose a big challenge, if the global economic meltdown, with it persists for long, through its impact T December exports plunging 20 per he Lao economy grew by 7.9 per on exports, workers’ remittances, for- cent from a year earlier as overseas de- cent in the 2007-08 fiscal year, eign aid and capital inflow channels,” mand shrinks. The decline overshad- driven primarily by increased for- the central bank said in its latest quar- owed a 20 per cent rise in full-year ex- eign investment and exports of mining terly report. ports from 2007. commodities. Latest statistics tallied by The Daily Indonesia’s exports slid by 9.57 per The government plans to achieve eco- Star broadly indicate that global reces- cent to US$8.7 billion in December, nomic growth of 8 per cent in the 2008- sion has cast shadows over the exports from US$9.6 billion the previous 09 fiscal year, but many international of several items such as shrimps, leath- month. financial institutions, including the er and leather goods, electronics, ce- World Bank and the Asian Develop- ramic tableware, vegetables and other Viet Nam ment Bank, believe this target is unreal- similar products. istic due to the global financial crisis. Bangladesh formed a task force to- V iet Nam’s economy is in for a Economists predict Laos will experi- wards the end of 2008 to deal with the tough time this year. Foreign in- ence economic growth of 6 to 6.5 per impact of the financial crisis and global vestment is expected to slow cent. The government has admitted recession. But so far it has not announced down while exports and remittances GDP will be lower than expected, but any stimulus package or other measures from Vietnamese abroad are also ex- has not yet revised its targets. as seen in other Asian countries. pected to fall. The global economic slowdown has The country kept up export growth in Forecasts for this year’s growth range mainly affected tourism, exports and ready-made garments as it ships out low- from as low as 4 per cent to the govern- foreign investment in Laos. end products, which have relatively high ment’s more optimistic 6.5 per cent. The value of Lao exports reached demand on the international market. Export turnover reached nearly US$1 billion, 47 per cent of which came The Bangladesh taka has appreciated US$63 billion in 2008, up 29.5 per from exports of semi-processed miner- against many currencies such as the cent over 2007. However, monthly ex- als including gold and copper. Al- euro and Australian and Canadian dol- port turnover slowed to only US$4.2 though exports increased, Laos still has lars, making imports from those coun- billion in November and US$4.9 bil- a trade deficit of about US$80 million. tries cheaper. lion in December compared to the usu- Commerce minister Nam Vinhakhet, Remittance receipts in the July- al monthly average of more than said the volume of exports would re- October period of 2008 were up 36.5 US$6.5 billion. main unchanged but their value would per cent, compared to the same period a The government has set a 13 per cent drop this fiscal year. year ago. Most remittance to Bangla- export growth target for 2009, or total Minister to the Prime Minister’s Of- desh comes from the Middle East. exports of roughly US$72 billion. fice and government secretariat chief, —THE DAILy STAR The government has already intro- Cheuang Sombounkhan, said the gov- duced measures to protect the poor and ernment was keeping a close watch on the vulnerable against unemployment business operations in Laos and would REAL GDp GROWTH OF SELECTED and its consequences. offer assistance to companies that ASIAN COuNTRIES In percentage The government is also formulating a might need to lay off workers. stimulus package for the finance system. The government has also urged local Country 2008 2009** It will reduce selected import tariffs banks to offer low interest loans to se- Japan -0.7 -2.6 and allow selected companies to delay lected enterprises in an effort to main- Singapore 1.2 -5.0 paying tax for the first nine months of tain economic growth. South Korea 2.5 3.0 this year. —EKAPHONE PHOuTHONESy/VIENTIANE Taiwan 1.87* 2.12 It will also refund this year’s value- TIMES China 9.0 8.0 added tax paid for all materials used to India 6.8 6.0 make exports. The reduction of the Bangladesh Thailand 3.6* 0-2.0 prime interest rate five times since Oc- B Malaysia 5.8* 3.5 tober was designed to help exporters. angladesh achieved a real GDP Philippines 4.6 3.4-4.7 Prime Minister Nguyeãn Taán growth rate of 6.2 per cent in fis- Indonesia 6.2 4.5-5.0 Duõng announced plans for a stimulus cal year 2008 despite uncertain Viet Nam 6.23 4.0-6.5 package in early December. and challenging circumstances created The package was to include spending of by natural disasters and other adverse Laos 7.9 8.0 about US$1 billion and tax exemptions. domestic and external developments. Bangladesh 6.2 6.0 The package had been increased to With a resilient trend of the real *Preliminary estimates almost US$6 billion. It would include economy, Bangladesh is likely to **Forecast 12 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS S P E C I A L R E P O RT AFP Beyond Wheat And Rice Skewed agricultural policy has limited millions of poor and middle-class Indians to a diet that leans too heavily on two main crops, ignoring the nutritional value of other grains ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 13 S P E C I A L R E P O RT BANGALORE environmentalist Ashish Kothari. are the ‘monocultures of the mind’, the But a skewed agricultural policy and tendency towards centralised systems, Malini Shankar a subsidised public distribution system the pressures of agencies like the World Inter Press Service (PDS) has limited millions of poor and Bank and the World Trade Organisa- F middle-class Indians to a diet that tion as well as the power and influence ood security experts say In- leans too heavily on wheat or rice, ig- of agri-business,” Shiva said. dia must wean itself away noring especially the nutritional value Shiva pointed out that crops such as from dependence on wheat of coarse grains, said Kothari. corn, maize, rye, and millets do not en- and rice and look to the sub- “The reason only rice and wheat are joy subsidies that come in the form of a continent’s rich agro-diversi- promoted in the PDS system is because minimum support price to the farmer. ty in order to address the kind of food rice and wheat were promoted as “Wheat and rice available through the crisis that hit the country last year—as chemical monocultures under the PDS have been forcing a dietary pat- well as longer-standing nutrition defi- ‘Green Revolution’,” Vandana Shiva, tern centred around these two com- ciency issues. the internationally-known, India- modities.” Traditionally, Indians have depend- based food security expert told IPS. “The production of these other cere- ed on a vast variety of grains and cereals “Every PDS unit should have all the als has become so negligible and is now such as millet, maize, corn, barley, rye grains necessary for health and should spread over such a vast area that it will and lentils, as well as a variety of tem- be procured as close to production sites be difficult to procure and distribute perate and tropical fruits and vegeta- as possible,” said Shiva. and many consumers may not prefer bles to keep themselves in good nutri- “Inhibitions preventing a universal, it,” says professor R S Deshpande, di- tional health, according to noted decentralised, biodiverse PDS system rector of the Bangalore-based Institute 14 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS DIBYANG S H U SARKAR /AFP ment of endocrinology at the premier cent of its cropping area. All India Institute of Medical Sciences “It is significant that in the cases of in New Delhi. sorghum, little millet and finger millet “Indian agro-biodiversity is the basis a drop in the cultivated area to the tune of health and nutrition. The practice of of 50 per cent came about during a pe- cultivating crops in mixtures and rota- riod that corresponds to the processes tions does not just ensure ecological of structural adjustment and globalisa- balance, it also ensures health and nu- tion,” says P V Satheesh of the DDS. tritional balance,” Shiva asserts. A direct reason for the slow death of She pointed to Baranaja, the 12- coarse grain production is India’s agri- seed cropping practiced since ancient cultural financing policy which is un- times where different cereals are sown supportive or even hostile to rain-fed for multiple cropping complementing crops—and most coarse grains fall un- agro-climatic zones. “Soil fertility is der this category. continuously recharged by the use of Coarse grain farmers have little irri- leguminous plants like pulses.” gation support, have no subsidies for “Baranaja gives higher overall pro- farmyard manure or other inputs. Be- ductivity (apart from meeting nutri- cause they are not covered by crop in- tional and other needs)” according to surance or by government support Kothari. “Baranaja is India’s tradition- prices they are vulnerable to the vagar- al yet scientific response to monocul- ies of the market. ture and the commercialisation of ag- M S Swaminathan, one of the archi- riculture.” tects of India’s green revolution, be- Another traditional practice is Na- lieves that rehabilitating coarse grains vadanya which involves the packing of — a classification of the Food and Agri- nine different types of cereals packaged cultural Organisation—starts with re- as a wholesome food for used in differ- naming the valuable resource as ‘nutri- ent preparations including in the mak- tious grains’. ing of bread. “The calamity of micronutrient defi- GRAIN POWER: An Indian labourer But there are problems. “Inclusion of ciencies and shortages can be convert- cleans grains during the Krishi Mela all crops in the minimum support price ed into an opportunity for agro-biodi- Agriculture Fair in Bangalore. Thousands of farmers visit this fair every November scheme may cripple the natural market versity conservation by reviving the to gather information on enhancing functioning. Therefore, it can only be cultivation of these nutritious grains productivity with new improved used selectively,” says Deshpande. and enlarging the food basket,” said technology. Specialists like Deshpande also say Swaminathan. that given the vast diversity of agro-cli- “This calls for the revitalisation of on- of Socio-Economic Change. matic regions in India, ranging from farm conservation traditions, of tribal This forced dietary change, accord- the temperate to the tropical and arid and rural families with reference to the ing to experts, is now beginning to tell desert to humid coastal, calls for an ag- cultivation of such grains, and their in- on the nutritional status of Indians ricultural policy that is specific to each clusion in semi-processed and proc- with some linking it to the rising inci- state or region. essed food,” Swaminathan added. dence of diabetes in the population. According to studies AFP According to the National Family carried out by the Dec- Health Survey released in 2008, over can Development So- 50 per cent of under five children in ciety (DDS), a major India are stunted as a result of nutri- non-government or- tional deficiencies. Anaemia alone af- ganisation, sorghum fects 79 per cent of children in the lost 35 per cent of its lowest economic strata and 64 per cropping area (from cent in better-off families, according 18.56 million hectares to the survey. in 1964-65 to 11.75 “Policy changes are clearly required million hectares in to make it possible for people to adopt 1994-95). Little millet a healthier lifestyle. This should in- lost nearly 60 per cent, clude making healthy food available finger millet (ragi) lost at reasonable cost,” reasons Dr Am- 30 per cent and pearl mini Ariachery, head of the depart- millet (bajra) 16 per ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 15 pOLITICS Law Of T The lese majeste issue has drawn renewed attention within Thailand and overseas following a recent spate of complaints and charges, which have seen some accused held without bail AFP PHOTO 16 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS The Land BANGKOK Nirmal Ghosh “For some of the people who are said to be critics or ana- lysts, if their actions had been about expressing their views about the role of the monarchy as an institution in a demo- The Straits Times cratic system, that’s fine, but they are not being prosecuted T for that. They are being prosecuted for untruths that they hailand’s harsh lese majeste law has found a de- spread about the monarchy, or comments that violate the fender in Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, law,” Abhisit said. who at the same time acknowledged that it On apparent moves to undermine the monarchy, he should not be abused. said: “I think there are some people who have an interest in “A lot of countries have contempt of court drawing the monarchy into this partisan or political con- laws, because the courts have to be neutral and respected. flict. We intend to stop that.” The monarchy is a revered institution above politics and On the role of the military—and whether it is subordi- conflicts and therefore has no self-defence mechanism, nate to the civilian authority or above and separate—Ab- that’s why we have the law,” Abhisit said in an exclusive hisit said: “It’s a sensitive situation not just for the military interview with The Straits Times. but for the civil service also, that they are here to serve the He agreed however, that the application of the law “has country but they are not policymaking bodies. caused a number of problems”. “When you have a government that sets clear policies and “Unfortunately the cases that are proceeding are not exercises authority within the law, I think the civil service cases initiated during my administration; they were in the and the military simply have to perform their duties.” pipeline. But I’ve already told the police chief there are “I think since 1992, the military has stepped back. It was some concerns and sensitivities that he should be aware of during the Thaksin years that they got back into politics. when applying the law, and he has to be more careful that The way I intend to run my government is back to the post- the law is not abused or too liberally interpreted.” 1992 days,” he said. Abhisit’s comments came amid controversy following Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who ran the jailing of Australian writer Harry Nicolaides for lese the country from 2001-2006, is now in self-exile overseas majeste last month, and the prosecution of a prominent and a fugitive from Thai law. academic professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn who recently fled Abhisit said he was also in favour of amending the Con- to Britain and released a statement attacking Thai courts stitution, and would consult the opposition on that issue. as a tool of the elite and the army. “A reform process will take place, their (the op- The two cases are among a recent spate of lese majeste position’s) voices will be heard, their role will be in- complaints and charges, which have seen some accused cluded in this process.” held without bail. As a result, the lese majeste issue has Thailand faces a test of credibility when it chairs the drawn renewed attention within Thailand and overseas, Asean Summit later this month. and there are embryonic campaigns under way at home “We want to carry out our commitments as chair of and abroad, to demand abolishment of the law. Asean, so we should have the summit, and everybody Thailand’s lese majeste laws are the harshest in the knows we need a government that is strong and well pre- world and call for a jail term of up to 15 years for anyone pared for the fallout of the economic crisis. who defames, insults or threatens the monarchy. “This is when the country needs stability and to Any person can file a lese majeste complaint, and under move forward. I will dissolve the House when I think the law the complaint cannot be rejected but must be fol- it’s appropriate.” lowed up by the police. On whether he worries about Thaksin’s next move, he Media reporting on such cases is muted, partly because said “No”. repeating the basis of the charge also leaves one open to “I worry about the people of Thailand, not about his being accused of lese majeste. problems,” he said. ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 17 pHOTO ESSAY 18 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS China’s Little New Year T E XT A N D P H OTOS BY CHINA DAILY T he Lantern Festival traditionally marks the end of the series of celebrations starting from the Chinese New Year, thus, it is also known as the ‘Little New Year’. It is celebrated on the 15h day of the first month in the lunar year of the Chinese calendar. It is an occasion for family reunions and people en- joy beautiful lanterns on display in parks or markets, and eat Yuanxiao, small dumpling balls made of gluti- nous rice flour and sweet fillings. ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 19 LIFESTYLE Chemistry of love There is a scienTific explanaTion To everyThing, including falling in love SINGAPORE “The dysfunction of the frontal cortex could impair character judgment and blind Wong Mei Ling you to the other person’s flaws,” said Dr The Straits Times Francis Ngui, a senior consultant psychia- S trist and medical director at Adam Road hakespeare, in his famous 18th Medical Centre. sonnet, gushed over love saying: Indeed, love can more than blind the “Shall I compare thee to a smitten. They become obsessive, losing sleep summer’s day? Thou art more over it. They cannot eat and they cannot lovely and more temperate.” stop thinking about the other person. Somewhat jaded by the time he penned Sorry, poet types, there is a rational sonnet number 148, he lamented: “O cunning explanation for all this. love! With tears thou keep’st me blind.” Blame it partly on a drop in the brain Today’s scientists will concede that love chemical called serotonin, which keeps a is indeed blind. person calm, said professor Donatella Had Shakespeare understood something Marazziti of Italy’s Pisa University, in a about the science of love, he would have 1999 study. known that it was really the frontal cortex Serotonin, which controls mood, emo- of his brain that was blinded while his tions, sleep and appetite, is produced in the stress hormones worked overtime. central nervous system and intestinal tract. Studies show that a large part of the Being in love is stressful too. Marazziti frontal cortex located at the forehead—as- found in later studies that both men and sociated with judgment and planning—is women in love have considerably higher deactivated when one is in love. levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which 20 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS Some scientists opine that When couples find themselves romantic love is not an emotion, fighting all the time, they should put but a reward system. down their unsolved issues and do a American biological anthro- ‘time out’ like going on a short trip to pologist Helen Fisher, an expert put them in a better mood. on the science of human “When in a good mood, couples can attraction, found that when a communicate better, increasing their person is in love, the ventral chance of resolving issues,” she said. tegmental area (VTA) located in the middle of the brain—where the the reward system is ‘I love youfrom the located— becomes very active. Her study was published in bottom of my brain’ The Journal Of Neurophysiol- ogy in 2005. The VTA is where the brain A latest research has shed more scientific explanation to love through the help of brain images, chemical called dopamine is hormones and genetics. released, inducing feelings of Bianca Acevedo of Albert Einstein pleasure, want, craving and College of Medicine in New York and motivation when a person is in his research team of this research has love. identified tiny regions in the brain which form the basis of love and Keeping love hormones heartbreaks. active These regions are called, ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus As the novelty of new love accumbens, the ventral pallidum and wears out, these hormonal rages raphe nucleus. also start to simmer down and VTA was found to be the most return to normal levels. interesting for its teardrop shape and “It’s like if you suffer a pain its importance in determining every day, over time it will no long-lasting and deep bonding in love. longer be that painful. It’s the VTA lit up among newly in love people way the body adjusts to the and those still deeply in love even after other person as a stimulus,” said 20 years of marriage. is produced by the adrenal glands associate professor Chia Sing Joo, Scientists also studied heartbreak located just above the kidneys. senior consultant and head of the and found an additional activity in the And if cortisol is not enough to keep department of general surgery at Tan nucleus accumbens region of their the blood pressure high, another stress brains. Tock Seng Hospital. They said the brain responds to love hormone, norepinephrine, is released, This is why Chia, who specialises in the same way as it does to some which increases heartbeat and the in sexual dysfunction and subfertil- drug addiction. So love can quite be feeling of excitement. ity, said couples need to have sex to called a romantic addiction and, Testosterone levels vary in men and keep the love hormones active and alarmingly, the addiction factor women who are in love too. Men were remind the body of the desire, seemed stronger in case of heartbreak. found to have lower levels of the male bonding and attachment when they “The brokenhearted show more sex hormone testosterone, which were first in love. evidence of what I’ll call craving… makes them less aggressive, while “Love alone is not enough. You must Similar to craving the drug cocaine,” women had higher levels of testoster- have some spice. If there’s no love said Lucy Brown, a neuroscientist also one, which increases sexual drive. making, there’s no kick,” he said. at Einstein medical college. However, the real stuff of love—the Couples should also constantly bonding, trust and attachment— create new activities together, like comes from a chemical in the brain picking up a new sport or musical called oxytocin, otherwise known as instrument, said associate professor the ‘love hormone’, said Ngui. Tsai Fen-Fang from the department of This is induced by touching and psychology at the National University hugging, and is produced mainly in of Singapore. the brain’s hypothalamus. Oxytocin is then distributed to other parts of the brain and spinal cord. “The shared participation in novel activities helps create new excitement in the relationship,” Tsai said. L o v e ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 21 TECHNOLOGY TWIT FRIENDS: A collage of Mark Pesce’s followers on Twitter. Pesce is one of the early pioneers in virtual reality and the author of five books and numerous papers on the future of technology. The Twitter Twits Blogging traffic slows while the usage of Twitter and Plurk explodes SINGAPORE Plurk—a newer platform than Twit- ter—was even more popular: It attract- Tan Weizhen ed 184 per cent more users than Twit- The Straits Times ter last month. B Checks done in Singapore show that logging is so last year. netizens who used to blog incessantly Now, the latest rage are switching to the new platforms, among netizens is the In- known collectively as micro-blogs. ternet form of SMS, using Undergraduate student Jerrick Lim, tools such as Twitter or 20, who used to update his blog a few Plurk to give friends an instant update times a week in the past, confesses that on their lives, on subjects ranging he now does so only twice a month. from good makan places (places to Now, he says, he “twitters and plurks eat) to news events. like a maniac”. According to research firm Hitwise, “Blogging is getting to be a hassle. I blogging traffic slowed last year, think about and write a lengthy post, while the usage of Twitter and Plurk and then get only three comments,” has exploded. he said. The number of Singaporean users The main attraction of micro-blog- visiting and using Twitter’s site jumped ging, say enthusiasts, is that they func- 602 per cent between January last year tion as instant messaging as well as so- and last month, said Hitwise, which cial networking tools. does not reveal absolute figures. Other advantages, they say, are that 22 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS these ‘Internet SMSes’ can reach a The exploding popularity of ‘twitter- Let’s Do The Twit worldwide audience, and generate re- ing’ or ‘plurking’, as they are known in sponses almost instantaneously. Us- Net parlance, in Singapore echoes a Twitter was founded by Biz Stone, Jack ers can also send messages without similar trend elsewhere. Dorsey and Evan Williams being tethered to a computer, unlike In the United States, Twitter visits They got a TechCrunch award for best blogging. jumped 343 per cent between Septem- mobile startup All you need to start a micro-blog is ber 2007 and the same month last year, On April 22, 2008, Twitter created a version to create an account at the Twitter according to Nielsen Online. for Japanese users (twitter.com) or Plurk (plurk.com) Last December, Israel became the Japanese is now the second most used website. You can then log in from your first government to hold a press con- language on Twitter computer or mobile phone, or send an ference via Twitter, taking questions In 2008, CNN began setting up Twitter SMS, to file a post of not more than 140 from the public about the country’s pages for some of its anchors and reading characters in length. war with Hamas. tweets during broadcasts Third-party sites like twitter.sg and Perhaps the most famous ‘twitterer’ During the 2008 Mumbai attacks, eye- widgeo.us provide a local number to is US President Barack Obama. As of witnesses sent an estimated 80 tweets every send text messages to, so you pay local February 4, the ardent fan of micro- five seconds as the tragedy unfolded phone rates. Last month, Janis Krum, a passenger of Just as with social the ferries that rushed to help evacuate pas- networks, users can sengers at the US Airways ditched in Hudson ‘invite’ friends, both river, took pictures of the downed plane and here and overseas, to sent them via TwitPic before traditional media join their circles. Some arrived micro-bloggers have Last week, Australia’s county fire au- thousands of people on thority used Twitter to send out regular alerts their networks, and all and updates regarding the Victorian bushfires can be reached in an Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd instant. also used his Twitter account to send out in- formation on the fires, how to donate money and blood, and where to seek emergency help Who Twits? blogging has 231,646 ‘followers’—users US President Barack Obama during his who have added him to their list of campaign ‘friends’ to see his postings. Mr Obama Israeli ministry of foreign affairs for a added another 234,840 as ‘friends’. press conference on Hamas He used Twitter heavily during his The website of the British Prime Minis- successful election campaign last year. ter Gordon Brown Professor Zhang Wei Yu of the Com- The Los Angeles Fire Department during munications and New Media pro- the 2007 wildfires gramme at the National University of Large businesses such as Cisco Sys- Singapore said micro-blogging is get- tems, Jet Blue, Sun Microsystems, IBM and Full-time national serviceman Bren- ting popular mostly because it is sim- Whole Foods Market to provide product or nan Neoh, 22, a Plurk user, said he can ple, highly interactive and can mass- service information get 10 or more responses to a question communicate messages quickly. NASA to break the news of the discovery just seconds after he posts it. For all the popularity of Twitter of what appeared to be water ice on Mars and “It’s addictive, fast and very useful. and such, many netizens say that other projects And it means my friends know about, blogging, though less popular now, Pop culture icons and celebrities like and can respond to, what happens in still has a place. Lily Allen, Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross, John my life immediately.” They say blogs allow for deeper dis- Cleese, Richard Bacon, Will Carling, Alan Carr, He added that it is a great way to stay cussions on more serious issues, some- Shaquille O’Neal, John Mayer, Lupe Fiasco, in touch with loved ones: His mother thing that is impossible on Twitter and Philip Schofield, Taylor Swift, Gregg ‘Opie’ reads his Plurk updates while he is in other similar sites. Hughes, Chris Moyles, Justin Hawkins, Adam camp. “We can’t bring in smart phones Said Prof Zhang: “Blogs serve many Ficek, Soleil Moon Frye, Ashton Kutcher and with cameras. The only way to update more functions than keeping friends Demi Moore is through SMSes to Plurk or Twitter,” posted. Many bloggers post lengthy Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson ad- he said. opinions...something they cannot do vertises jobs on Twitter on Twitter.” Source: Wikipedia ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 23 ENTERTAINmENT CHOCO HEROES: The protagonists in the movie Chocolate Underground. Outlawing Chocolates imagine a TOKYO world where Kumi Matsumaru The Daily Yomiuri noT only c hocolates are all around us chocolaTes these days, even after Valen- tine’s Day. It is difficult, yet somehow enjoyable, to choose buT also all just the right ones from among the tonnes of varieties. So, oTher sugary could you imagine a life in which not only chocolates but also all other sTuff are sugary stuff were totally banned from tomorrow? And what would you do under such strict laws? ToTally This is the main theme of Bootleg, a novel written by Alex Shearer, and the banned basis of the Japanese animated film , which recently opened in Japan. In the book, first published in 2002 in Britain, the Good For You party passes a law that bans chocolate and other sweets, claiming the tasty treats are harmful to your health. The 24 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS government steps up surveillance and really cannot enforce a law people chocolate recipe book to Smudger and tracks down those who break the law. don’t like, which is why Prohibition Huntley. Mr Blades is a young, Those who do not abide the Chocolate failed. nice-looking man in the comic and Prohibition Law are sent to a reeduca- The novel garnered readers mainly film, but is an old, chubby guy in tion centre to reform their diet among 8- to 12-year-old boys in the Bootleg, although he is depicted as a consciousness. English-speaking world, according to chocolate addict in all versions. Protagonists Huntley and Smudger, Shearer. A young female character also was two chocolate-loving teenagers, fight In Japan, a comic version by manga added to the Japanese versions as one to win back their freedom to indulge in artist Aiji Yamakawa was carried in the of three protagonists, possibly to draw the sweet flavour. With the help of Mrs monthly girls’ magazine Margaret, more women into the audience, as the Bubby, who runs a sweet shop and is published by Shueisha Inc, in two film appears to be for slightly older, bitter about being obliged to sell installments a year ago, in line with more female viewers, while the book is healthy but tasteless food to her the production of the film. The comic geared more toward boys. customers, they launch a secret well depicts the characters of the two But Shearer believes the film underground chocolate factory to boys, cool-headed Huntley with his conveys the sprit of his book, whose bootleg the sweets. strong sense of justice and bold, active Japanese translation has sold nearly But of course the factory is uncov- Smudger with lots of ideas. 120,000 copies. “I think the film is ered, and their fate, along with that of The visual portrayal of the boys in true to the sprit in the book, fighting chocolate itself, looks grim... the film and the manga also seem to be for the freedom and the right to The British author said he came up faithful to images inspired by the book. choose. with the idea of banning chocolate Huntley appears to be a mild-man- “It is very interesting to see how from the world when he saw his wife nered and quiet-looking boy in another culture takes the idea and trying to make their children eat pictures released to the media, while adopts it in a way to appeal the vegetables. Smudger is shown in a trendy outfit audience in the other culture,” he said. with earrings and ear cuffs. Shearer, who also writes film and Still, there are some television scripts in Britain, added that differences between the he did not have a hand in writing the book, the comic and the film, although it was suggested that he animation. do so, as he does not know anything “The animation is lots about Japanese culture and life. more futuristic than the He said the idea that nobody can get book. The machines in the rid of your fond memories is another animation are very interest- theme of the book. ing,” Shearer said, referring “When you are a child you often to robotlike machines used associate a happy memory with food. by the chocolate troops. French writer Marcel Proust also wrote Shearer pointed to another in Remembrance of Things Past about difference, Mr Blades. He is a a memory that was triggered by a man who runs an old madeleine (a small cake). The same bookstore and gives a thing can happen with chocolate,” said Shearer, whose own favourite chocolate brand is “And I thought it might be a thing Cadbury’s, the famous like American Prohibition (the British confectioner. 1920-33 US ban on alcohol). Then the Shearer remembered an two ideas came together,” Shearer told incident when some schools The Daily Yomiuri during a recent in Britain stopped selling interview on the eve of the opening of snacks and banned chips to the film. protect the health of children. “It also was a time the UK govern- “Then, at one school, mothers ment, when Tony Blair was in power, came to the gate and pushed was becoming more concerned with the chips through the gate to the life of people, like a nanny state. It the children,” Shearer said was like, ‘You have to eat well, not with a smile. “You can’t force drink,’” he said. laws that people don’t like.” Shearer said that, through the book, Chocolate Underground, he wanted to express the idea that you in Japanese, is playing. ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 25 LIFE The Last Hunters An ethnic minority tribe in China is holding on to its traditional way of life... but many fear the end of an era PHOTOS BY YA N G S H U H A I /C H I NA DA I LY BEIJING About 300km away from the tribe’s mountaintop settlement, a Miao Miao well-furnished village was built five China Daily years ago for Suo’s tribe members. N About 231 Ewenki people have obody knows the age of started a new life here. Suo Maliya, female leader Suo, however, intends to stay with of an Ewenki ethnic five or so hunters on her remote minority tribe that lives mountaintop, where all her ancestors deep in the forests of were buried, until she too dies. Greater Hinggan Mountains, Inner When Suo passes away it could be Mongolia autonomous region, though the end of an era and a traditional way she appears to be in her 80s. of life for the Aolu Guya Ewenki tribe. She lives much like her ancestors Aolu Guya is the name of the place have done for hundreds of years. She where Suo’s tribe settled and means has more than 300 reindeers worth “flourishing poplar forest”. about 5,000 yuan (US$735) apiece, The tribe migrated from the Lena which makes her worth about 1.5 River Valley in Russia 300 years ago million yuan ($219,000), the richest and settled down in China. and most authoritative member of her Since Ewenki tribes people elsewhere society. had already given up their nomadic 26 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS doing the same now. “I have no idea about what Yi Su is The 32-year-old woman is living in talking about, the Internet, Jay Chou, a temporary shelter after the local Jackie Chan, none of that is my government started an improvement business,” Yi Lie responds. project of the villagers’ housing. Most youngsters born in the 1980s “Our house will be transformed into would rather stay in the cozy village and a two-storey ‘villa’,” Suo Ronghua says their villas, rather than go back to their with a big smile. Like others in the former primitive houses in the forest. village she uses the Internet to send “Why should we go back to starving sample photos and negotiate with and a poor life?” Yi Su asks. clients around the country. The incomes of the villagers have Though some of the tribes people risen over the past five years and as a have left their remote mountain home, result attitudes have changed. they still want to retain their tradition “The younger generation lives a of letting their reindeer roam and graze. modern life. There’s no need to be cold and worry about HOMELAND: Tribal leader Suo medical treatment. Maliya is determined to live—and It’s really dramatic die—on the remote mountaintop. progress to us,” says an old hunter A Rongbu. Even so, some people are worried the tribe’s culture will be OLD-FASHIONED: Ewenki tribesman A Rongbu lost soon. “The welcomes the dramatic essence of pre- changes that progress has serving culture is brought, but continues to daily life. If this live the traditional way. core is lost, (the tribe’s) culture can only be found in printed words lifestyle, the Aolu Guya and in history Ewenki were referred to displayed at a as “China’s last hunting museum,” says tribe”. Nuo Min, a Daur The group that settled in houses five The local government has set up five minority musician. years ago have adapted remarkably hunting spots in the forest with feed In contrast, tribes person Zhang Li quickly to modern life. provided. There is also plentiful lichen, the now works in the tourism business Each household has 50sqm of space favoured food of reindeer. Villagers raising after graduating from university. “We and has basic furniture, cable televi- reindeer can use these areas in turn. really have a quite small population. sion, a toilet, water, telephone and Yi Lie, 29, is one of the few young- Nobody can guarantee that our race central heating, which are all supplied sters left who is happy taking care of will survive even when we chose to live by the government. Flowers and his reindeer in the forest. in the forest,” she says. vegetation are planted in some His younger brother by 4 years, Yi “Modern culture is helpful, our courtyards. Su, has a different take on life, traditional reindeer grazing methods Members of the tribe sit in cane however, and is about to become a cannot be improved without modern chairs in the shade with eyes closed, cleaner. For Yi Su, his brother’s life is techniques. cozy and warm. Nursing homes, school rather colourless. “We should keep up with the pace of and shops are also provided. “I’m not interested in those things the times. Some traditional things Suo Ronghua was the pioneer trader that Yi Lie does. I’ve heard enough might go missing but we will strive to of antler products in the new village, from my grandfather about those hold on to distinguished aspects of our but there are more than 10 other shops forest stories,” he says. culture.” ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 27 ARTS & CuLTuRE SEOUL Heo Shi-myung The Korea Herald T he best time to taste Korean wine is February. Baekseju, brewed with rice harvested in late fall and fermented at a low temperature matures at the end of January or early February. The name baekseju, meaning 100-day wine, comes from the 100 days it takes for the liquor to become clear. The wine is ready in time for Korea’s biggest holi- day, Lunar New Year’s Day. Holiday get-togethers often involve some drink- ing, and the taste of homemade wine is often a highlight. The introduction of a liquor tax in the early 20th century for- bade homebrewing, and accordingly, homemade wine disappeared for a while. However, wine brewed at home is becoming more popular. The Seoul City Intangible Cultural Treasure Exhibition Hall (+82 2 747 0303) is hosting an exhibition about samhaeju in February. The hall is at the edge of Bukchon Hanok Village near Anguk Station on Subway Line 2. Two of 25 master brewers showcase their work. The samhaeju master brewer is THE KOREA HERALD PHOTOS Gwon Hui-ja. Gwon married a de- scendent of a son-in-law of the king. In Korean society, the princess used to ac- company her maid-servants when she MASTER: The married outside of royalty and lived samhaeju master with her in-laws. Her maid-servants brewer Gwon Hui-ja. often handed down royal court recipes, which is how Gwon’s family began to make samhaeju at home. Gwon inher- A Taste Of ited the recipe from her mother-in-law. Samhaeju—the wine of Seoul The Seoul City Intangible Cultural Treasure Exhibition Hall displays a va- Korean Wine riety of seasonal wines made with sam- haeju. ‘Seasonal wine’ refers to the wines designed to be consumed on spe- cial days such as seallal. Koreans used to drink green pepper drink on Dano (May 5 in the lunar cal- endar), sindoju made with new crop wine-making secreTs have rice on Chuseok (August 15 in the lu- nar calendar) and chrysanthemum been handed down from wine on Junggu (September 9 in the lunar calendar). These seasonal wines generaTions of arisTocraTs are supposed to be drunk in special ways and carry symbolic meanings. 28 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS WINE TASTING: Baesangmyun Brewery’s Sansawon Gallery in Yangjae-dong. The seasonal wines turing Association, a Gwon showcases at company founded the event include by makgeoli manu- dosoju (literally ‘evil facturing companies spirit-expelling wine’), in Seoul by merging guibalgi wine (literal- them into one. Mak- ly sharp-ear wine), geoli, meaning and chobaekju (Japa- roughly filtered nese pepper and ori- wine, is also called ental arborvitae wine). takju, meaning Supposed to have the cloudy wine, because power to drive away it is opaque. Makge- evil spirits, chobaekju oli was once the is consumed with sev- most popular alco- en peppercorns and holic beverage in seven pine needles Korea— it account- picked from a twig ed for 70 per cent of that stretches out to alcohol consump- the east. Dosoju, which is said to pre- bab. When the godubab tion in the 1970s. With vent diseases, is a herb wine that Kore- is cooled, it is mixed with the urbanisation and ans drink on New Year’s Day after per- malt and treaded for a Westernisation, howev- forming ancestral rites. In Korea, while to make it as gluti- er, its consumption has seniority is extremely important and nous as possible—the fallen to 3-4 per cent observed rigidly as an important part of more glutinous the now and beer has taken table manners. When it comes to doso- godubab and malt batter over its place. ju, the youngest, male or female, is the the better the wine is. Makgeoli is also re- first to drink and the oldest the last. The Korean Tradi- ferred to as nongju (lit- Gwibalgi wine is associated with Dae- tional Wine Institute of- erally meaning farm liq- boreum (January 15 in the lunar calen- fers a three-hour wine uor in Korean) as it is dar). Those who drink it early in the brewing class for a popular with farmers. It morning are supposed to hear good group of five or more for usually has an alcohol news and keep free from ear diseases. 60,000 won (US$41) content of around 6 per- In this respect, Koreans drink wine per person. Reservations cent, which means that not just for flavour or taste but for su- are required. The fly in one bowl is enough to perstitious reasons as it is believed to the ointment is that have an effect. Farmers bring good luck and thwart diseases. participants cannot taste the wine they drink makgeoli when they take a break make that day. They have to wait for at because they say it helps them work Wine-brewing event least a week for the wine to ferment. without feeling tired. In a big city such In May, Namsangol Hanok Village They can take their wine home or pick as Seoul, makgeoli is no longer con- hosts the ‘5,000 Years of Taste and Fla- it up later. sumed for that purpose. vour’ festival, which includes Korean The Bukchon Culture Centre run by One of the places where makgeoli is traditional winemaking and tasting. Seoul City also offers a wine-making sold most in Seoul is the entrance to a The Korean Traditional Wine Institute class led by Nam Seon-Hui (+82 10 mountain trail. Some people climb the (+82 2 389 8611), which sponsors the 4767 6411), who has been teaching that mountain with a bottle of makgeoli in event, has offered visitors the opportu- class for seven years. Located at the en- their backpacks to drink at the summit, nity to experience Korean traditional trance to Bukchon Hanok Village, the while others enjoy it served with tofu wine-making. center offers two classes a day from when they climb down. They say there Korean traditional wine brewing 10am to 12nn and 2pm to 4pm in the is nothing like makgeoli to satiate hun- consists largely of two parts: rice malt afternoon on Wednesdays and Thurs- ger and thirst. According to them the making and brewing with steamed days from March. Those who do not best way to appreciate makgeoli is to rice. Malt is an essential ingredient of participate in the class can watch and, if first climb a mountain. Korean traditional wine. It is made they are lucky, taste the wine that is The makgeoli that has the largest with crushed wheat, which is then made. The centre also offers a custom- market share in Korea is Jangsu placed in a wooden box to be treaded. ised wine-making lesson for foreigners makgeoli manufactured by the Seoul Malt treading with feet is an exciting on reservation only. Rice Wine Manufacturing Associa- experience for foreigners as they often tion. If you are interested in learn- say it is as unique as the taste of Korean makgeoli and Insa-dong makgeoli ing how makgeoli is made, call the traditional wine. The Makgeoli festival is held every Dobong Brewery (+82 2 999 8184) The rice is steamed in an earthenware year in Insa-dong under the sponsor- of the Seoul Rice Wine Manufactur- steamer to make a batter called godu- ship of the Seoul Rice Wine Manufac- ing Association. ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 29 T H E STAR P H OTOS ExpLORE LEGENDARY: Imperial animal motifs on Xu Guo’s memorial arch and its unique eight-pillar construction are testament to his lofty standing at the Ming court. Hamlet Of The Ox life-giving waTer flows Through The unesco world heriTage siTe of hongcun, which looks like a black-and-whiTe chinese ink-wash painTing 30 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS HONGCUN channels carrying water along the sides A short distance away is Shexian, of the houses are the ox’s intestines. All soul of the Huizhou region and best Ziying’s Brush this water flowing through the commu- known for its memorial stone archways The Star nity naturally brings prosperity and erected to honour individuals for vir- N good fortune which perhaps explains tues such as loyalty, filial piety, charity early a decade ago, a Chi- why, even now, 900 years after its and even chastity. nese wuxia (martial arts) founding, Hongcun remains a thriving I remember Tangyue village’s seven movie directed by Taiwan’s community. arches which I visited 10 years ago. Ang Lee took the world by To top it off, the same year (2000) Raised between the 15th and 19th storm. Crouching Tiger, that Ang Lee’s movie won the much centuries to honour members of the Hidden Dragon (Wohu Canglong) so coveted Oscar, Hongcun was added to Bao family, two of them were dedicated captured the imagination of audiences Unesco’s list of World Cultural Herit- to virtuous widows. According to our and movie-makers in the West that age sites. guide, Huizhou widows of old were ex- Hollywood awarded it the Oscar for Some 140 old residences and clan pected to fast for nine days in mourn- Best Foreign Film at the 2000 Acade- halls dating back to the Ming and Qing ing for their husbands, a practice which my Awards. periods form the backbone of the ham- often led to their death. But those who One of the most memorable mo- let’s heritage status. Chief among these survived and remained chaste for 30 ments of the movie was the fleeting are the houses of salt merchants whose years qualified for a memorial arch. night sequence where actress Zhang wealth paid for elaborate Ziyi, playing a Qing dynasty official’s carvings on the sturdy daughter, nimbly skips over the surface wood beams and col- of a pond bordered by enigmatic houses umns of the interiors. with discoloured whitewash walls and Judging by its sprawl- dark roofs. ing parking lot, I should The setting looked so much like a have guessed what to ex- Chinese ink-wash painting that one pect at Hongcun. All too could easily be forgiven for thinking it soon, the tranquillity of was shot on a movie set. But no, the the village was broken by World Heritage site of Hongcun, where hordes of tourists and some of the movie’s scenes were filmed, g u i d e s w i t h m i c r o- is exactly like that and even more pic- phones turned to the turesque when a soft shower ripples the maximum. There were tranquil lotus pond at the south gate. so many people that it From Huangshan, the drive to was impossible to cram Hongcun takes just 50 minutes through lovely green hills with groves It seems Shexian used to of fern-like bamboo, carefully tended have over a thousand memo- fields and patches of chrysanthe- rial archways but most were mum with small, pale yellow flowers. destroyed in the Cultural Hongcun is supposedly shaped Revolution, leaving only like a water buffalo or an ox at rest about 80 today. and while much of what our guide Arguably the most elabo- said about a pair of trees represent- rate of these is the one con- ing the horns passed me by, it is evi- structed in 1584 for Xu Guo; dent the moment you set foot into tutor to princes and prime the hamlet that the fengshui must be minister under three Ming good. After all, it is backed by misty emperors, he also served in hills to the north and looks out over a the Board of Rites. body of water to the south. With two pillars on each of At the heart of the settlement is a its four sides, Xu Guo’s loom- small reservoir known as Moon Pond, into the merchants’ homes or hear ing extravagant archway is covered with surrounded by white-walled houses above the din. calligraphic inscriptions as well as a mul- with dark grey roofs typical of the ver- When it began to pour shortly after titude of carved animals normally associ- nacular ‘Huizhou’ architecture of the our lunch at a quiet farmhouse sur- ated with the imperial court, namely region. And this, according to our rounded by vegetable plots, we decided dragons, phoenixes, cranes and deer. guide, is where that famous scene of to cut short our visit. Battling through As if that wasn’t enough, 12 stone lions Zhang Ziyi’s character fleeing over wa- an army of umbrellas in the narrow guard its pillars. The structure may lack ter was filmed. lanes, we made our way across the lotus grace and beauty but there can be no mis- It is said that the Moon Pond’s shape pond’s slippery stone bridge and fled taking its message—Xu Guo was the represents the belly of the ox, while the the over popular heritage site. most exalted official of the Ming Empire. ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 31 ExpLORE Recharge In Luxury, Naturally bai Tram bay has iT all—mounTains, ocean, breakfasT aT 3pm BAI TRAM BAY herbs and sweet and sour fish sauce— rounded by verdant mountains. were tasty treats that no traveller The resort’s entrance offers guests a My Duyen should miss. splendid view of the entire area, Viet Nam News We continued our journey on the including sandy beaches and green L 5km road leading to Bai Tram Bay in fields. eaving the airport near the Xuan Canh Commune about 30km Developed and city of Qui Nhon, we em- from Quy Nhon. Though the road was managed by the Amster- barked by car on National steep and winding, it offered a glimpse dam-based La Perla Highway 1A and went of the area’s natural beauty and local International Living, the southward to Bai Tram Bay traditions. resort consists of 200 in Phu Yen Province, a central coastal The surrounding landscape of the villas designed in a area famed for its seductively sandy village market, rice fields and shrimp Vietnamese style, spread beaches. and green mussel farms all created a over 90ha of land with a It was early morning and the road vivid picture of the area’s rural lifestyle. secluded beachfront, was all but deserted. The surrounding Here, tourists can sleep overnight in giving the place a true countryside was a sparkling, lush green a simple homestay or relax at Bai Tram hideaway sensation. and we could feel the freshness of the Hideaway’s luxury villas, a newly “All of the villas were ocean air. opened five-star resort. designed to ensure that Before reaching Cu Mong Lagoon in From Bai Tram Bay, the entire area visitors enjoy the ultimate Xuan Tho fishing village near the bay, below the Cu Mong Pass, which is a beachfront lifestyle in a VI ET NAM N EWS PHOTOS we decided to stop at a small roadside gateway to the central coastal region, tropical ambience, where restaurant to stifle our hunger pains. can be explored. the daily stress of modern The dishes—green bean and pork Overlooking the ocean, the resort living can be forgotten,” porridge, boiled liver and organ meats Bai Tram Hideaway is nestled inside a Khanh Van, marketing served with banh hoi (rice noodle), 900m crescent-shaped beach sur- manager of La Perla VNS P HOTOS HONG VO 32 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS the interior is equipped with modern hill to watch the sun rise. facilities to ensure the best comfort,” Exploring the bay’s surroundings is Van says. an alternative for those who are more Stephen Post, La Perla Interna- physically active. tional Living’s hospitality director, In the late morning, we chose to says the concept of Bai Tram gives walk while other guests rode motor- guests the opportunity “to recharge bikes. The trekking offered us interest- their batteries in a short time with a ing insights into the local culture. long-lasting effect”. By late afternoon, we departed by The main building of the resort, boat from the beach to view the sea, which overlooks the ocean, has a rocks and shrimp farms around the Cu lounge, restaurant, bar and swim- Mong Lagoon. ming pool. We were astonished to see how blue Entering the building, guests walk and clean the deep sea was and were down a small path that crosses a rice excited to spot a few local residents field and fruit and herb garden, which netting fish from the ocean. are taken cared of by locals and Although some of the resort staff farmers who work as resort staff. were with us, we were still a little The organically grown rice, vegeta- frightened as it was the first time that bles and herbs provide the resort’s some of us had been offshore in a boat. kitchen with a wealth of fresh food for In the late afternoon, guests can opt use in local and international dishes. to go fishing in the lagoon while “What you eat in Bai Tram is healthy watching the sun set behind the and of high quality. We use these mountains. ingredients in our cooking classes,” The resort’s kitchen staff is available Stephen says. for most of the day and evening to NATURAL REFUGE: Surrounded Sascha Spiegel, the resort’s acting prepare dishes made with freshly by mountains on one side and a general manager, says guests, espe- caught fish. white, sandy beach on the other, cially children, can learn more about Before having dinner, our group Bai Tram Hideaway is a truly rural life by working in the fields and visited a small fishing village in secluded vacation spot. garden or taking part in the cooking Xuan Binh Commune, about a classes held in a cottage on a rice field. 20-minute drive from Bai Tram, an Bai Tram is famous for lobster area famous for its seafood, particu- fishing, and freshly caught grilled larly snails and crabs. lobster is a specialty of the restaurant, Surprisingly, there were no tables at International Living (Viet Nam), said. Sascha says. the floating restaurants in the village, “We focused on building an environ- Meal times at the resort are flexible, so we all sat down on a floor mat. It mentally friendly resort so the villas unlike many other hotels. was the freshiest seafood that I had were built with a coconut-leaf roof and “We have a no time limit policy,” ever had, two-thirds the price of clay walls, keeping it natural, though says Stephen. “That means if you want similar dishes in HCM City. to have breakfast at After a hard, long day of touring and 3pm, it’s not a trekking, we opted for a facial and foot problem. Guests can treatment late at night. The spa and choose their favourite massage treatments at the resort were location to enjoy a a stimulating but soothing end for our meal. It can be near weary city souls. the mountain, on the beach, on the rice How to get there field, or in the villa, the restaurant or beside the lap pool.” L eaving Phu Cat Airport in the central coastal city of Qui Nhon, about 700km from HCM City, take National Highway 1A Taking advantage southward to Bai Tram Bay in Song Cau of all the resort has to District, Phu Yen Province. If you are offer, we warmed up staying at Bai Tram Hideaway, the resort in the early morning will pre-arrange your transport by car. by swimming in our For details, please call Bai Tram SEAFOOD GALORE: A restaurant villa’s private pool on stilts in a fishing village near Hideaway Resort at Tel: 84 57 372 2561 or Bai Tram Hideaway serves fresh while other guests visit its website at: www.bai-tram.com. seafood and local rice wine. took to the beach after climbing up the ASIANEWS • FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 33 P H OTO COU RT E SY OF BE C T ERO ENT ERTAINMENT DATEBOOK BANGKOK Jazz, Funny Honey and When You’re Good To daily, with 2pm matinees on Saturday CHICAGO Mama spice up the musical based on the and Sunday 1924 murder trials in Chicago, Illinois. It’s not Where: Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre C hicago the musical dances into Thai- land’s capital in performances filled with broadway music, dance and stories of lust, too late to catch up with Roxy, Velma and the rest of the girls in the murderer’s row. Tickets: 1,000 baht ((US$28) to 4,000 baht ($113) Info: ChicagotheMusical.com love and murder. Killer tunes like All That When: Until February 22, 7:30pm Thaiticketmajor.com RISHIKESH INTERNATIONAL YOGA FESTIVAL T he International Yoga Festival at the Par- math Niketan Ashram always attracts great yogic masters from all over the world, who arrive by the banks of the Ganges in India to demonstrate and explore the major tradi- tions of yoga (hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, mantra, laya and jnana). The ‘yoga capital of the world’ boasts of numerous yoga schools which offer classes from world-class yoga teachers. The festival explores the eight limbs of yoga and how they apply to our lives whether we consider ourselves yoga students or not. When: March 1 - 7 Where: Parmath Niketan Ashram ILOILO CITY BA L I pARAW REGATTA GALuNGAN T his is an annual sailboat race in the strait between Guimaras Island and Iloilo City. The beaches and shorelines that line the G alungan, Bali’s major festival, cele- brates the triumph of virtue (Dharma) over evil (Adharma). All the Balinese gods resenting goodness itself. Galungan culminates with Kuningan, the last and most important day of the festival, strait are crowded with people who want to are thought to descend to earth for the fes- when beautifully-made offerings are given witness the longest running sailboat race in tivities, which centre on the mysterious at temples to bid farewell to celestial spirits the Philippines, which covers 36.5km. Barong dance. and ancestors for another year. Barong dancers wear a large puppet When: March 1 head resembling a shaggy lion of sorts, rep- When: March 18 to 28 34 FEBRUARY 20-26, 2009 • ASIANEWS HGRS_AsiaNewsAdvtv2_080807.qxp:Layout 1 8/31/07 9:29 AM Page 1 Building Asia together. Whether you’re building or investing in factories, homes, bridges, schoolhouses or shopping malls we’re the perfect partner to make your project happen. As the No. 1 supplier of building materials in Asia we can deliver the right solutions when and where it counts. Holcim in Asia-Pacific: Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam www.holcim.com Strength. Performance. Passion.
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