Friday, August 31, 2007

ประเทศมาเลเซีย สันต์วันเกิดนะครับ

Our neighbor Malaysia is celebrating their 50th Year of Independence from the British monarch. Half a century of glorious nationhood and I shout with my Malaysian brothers "MERDEKA!"

From Nasi Lemak, my favorite food to The Petronas, my favorite architectural wonder. From Teh tarik, my favorite after-clubbing drink to the beaches of Perhentian, Langkawi and Redang -- my favorite beaches! Thank you for sharing it with us.

I gotta admit...I'm a little jealous that the best of Asia is in one country --Malaya, China, India -- you guys showed us that a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-belief society is possible.

From Vietnam to the Philippines, from Indonesia to Burma, from Brunei to Cambodia and Laos, from your neighbors to the South; Singapore to your loving neighbors to the north; THAILAND...our hats are off to you.

Malaysia is a special place on Earth.


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Some photos from Malaysia's Merdeka Day.

Malaysia's new King Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin
and his wife Queen Nur Zahirah.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,
the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and British Prince Andrew.

Our Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand
with his wife, Princess Srirasm.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

My personal hero and master Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
and his wife Siti Hasmah.

Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur



Photos from Associated Press

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

OUR TREASURES: The Banaue Rice Terraces

The Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines is one big majestic spectacle. Paddies carved on steep mountains 1,500m above sea level. It is said that it is so huge, that when each paddy is connected from end to end – can circumnavigate the Earth halfway!

The Ifugao people live here – the highlanders of Luzon Island. This is the land of their ancestors and this rice terraces is the center of their lives and society for thousands of years. More than 2,000 years ago, Banaue was carved into the mountains using bare hands and a few tools! *If you don’t call that ingenuity, you are either a dog or a big fat lizard.*

Rice terraces are quite common in Asia. Other famous ones are the Tigalalang in Indonesia, Chiangmai in Thailand and Sapa in Vietnam. Even the Yamagata in Japan or Longsheng in China…but they are not as grand and as ancient as the Banaue.

The Banaue Terraces is actually a part of the much larger group Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordillera which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Other parts of this collective group were carved 6,000 years ago! *When Nafertiti has just invented the eye shadow*

I’ve seen this place once back in 2000 and I promptly finished 3 film cartridges the instant I saw it! Banaue is not easy to reach and you have to find the best spot to get better view. Philippine tourism is not so organized – it’s the group of little private tour operators that would take you there.

That was when I was 21 doing my grand ASEAN sweeping tour for the first time. I had to dismiss my tour guide because he is f*cking up the trip. He is obviously unskilled and disorganized. I asked him to find me a nice local family to lodge me for the night and he can go home and leave me alone -- he did. And the rest is an adventure of a lifetime.

“Intaku manlo-loglog.
Intaku manlo-loglog.
Dangdang ay, sidang ilay
Insinali dumaay.”

“Intaku mansasakdu,
Intaku mansasakdu.
Dang dang ay, siding ilay
Insinali dumaay....."

I can go on and on and on singing this song those nice Igorot families taught me. It’s a song about, what else? rice harvesting. I ended up staying with them for 3 weeks in the mountains of Cordillera. No hotel, no fancy service, no toilet! I learned their custom, their folklores, their songs and dance! *panting* OH! OH! If I can show you how to dance their dance in loin clothyou all gonna love me! It's a dance imitating a flying eagle on a hunt.

The Philippines is one of the few countries close to my heart. I am eager, I am so interested to learn their culture – that in a span of 2 years --I lived in their magacities, I lived among the Tausugs, the Samals and the Badjaos in the south, the Ifugaos and the Igorots in the north – an adventure not all Filipinos would have the chance to do in their lifetime.

There is something magical about this place.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

PERFECT SPECIMEN: Nadya Hutagalung

The artist. The model. The humanitarian. The legend.

Nadya is one of Southeast Asia’s true superstars – Nadya Hutagalung is a household name even well beyond this region. She started fame as a VJ with MTV Asia; her exotic looks and cosmopolitan appeal made her to become one of the legendary ones.

Nadya started modeling when she was 12 in Tokyo and worked her way to Southeast Asia and Australia. She recently launched her own jewelry line called “O-Sel” and this is what keeps her busy these days aside from TV and events presenting.

She is also an active advocate for the preservation of endangered species. Nadya is also an artist – which she had numerous exhibits for humanitarian causes like the Tsunami Relief fund, fund raising for the Bali bombing and Jogakarta Earthquake victims, to name a few.

Her full name is Nadya Yoti Boru Hutagalung and she was born on 28 July 1974 in Sydney to an Indonesian father and an Australian mother.


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Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Asiatic hazel eyes. Aquiline nose. Exotic looks.

Superb body.

Anthony is a Filipino-German model. He was born in Germany on 4 December 1982 and currently under management of Cream Model Agency of Frankfurt. Anthony is in the Philippines at the moment trying his luck in the local entertainment industry.

More pics here...


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Monday, August 27, 2007


They are called Xe Lam in Vietnam, Bajaj in Indonesia, Traysikel in the Philippines, Thone bein in Burma and Tuk tuk in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Naïve tourists would call them “tuktuk” altogether as long as they have 3 wheels. Some call it “motorized rickshaw”. *oh puhleze!* Bottomline is – there are proper names to call these fast, agile, noisy, law-breaking piece of machineries.

These, of course, are not original Southeast Asian. But as inventive and resourceful as we are – we get to create our own versions that reflect our cultural identity.

The original Tuk tuk was first manufactured by Daihatsu in Japan and was exported to Europe, South and Southeast Asia in the midst of the world "small vehicle" craze.

The Thai Tuktuk (left) was first manufactured around 50 years ago. The name “tuk tuk” came from the sound of the earlier single stroke models that goes “tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk” *hilarious!*. And of all these 3-wheel wonders, Thai Tuk tuks are the only ones that can run in reverse!

Lao Tuk tuks (right) are relatively taller and looks slimmer! It’s bigger (but slower) than Thai or Cambodian ones but the design is similar to the tuktuks of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. It’s actually a modified common motorcycle with its rear wheel removed and fitted with a passenger area. Vietnamese "Xe Lams" are imports from Thailand and Japan. The Vietnamese government are planning to phase them out!

The Philippine version “Traysikel” (left) came from the Americans after World War II. It has become a major transportation icon for Filipinos since then. Local manufacturers have different styles of “traysikels” – but actually, it’s an imported motorcycle fitted with a sidecar and amazingly decorated (like the Jeepney).

The Bajaj *pronounced as “ba-djai”* of Indonesia originated from India. Where it is one of the most famous means of transportation. The Bajaj is very common in Jakarta but it’s never promoted as a cultural icon.

Of all these 3-wheeled wonders, I only get to drive the Thai tuktuk, the Lao tuktuk and the Philippine Traysikel. As adventurous *read as crazy* as I am, I really gotta try and drive them myselfso, I did.

The Thai tuktuk landed me an overnight in jail. The Lao tuktuk made me slam it onto a light post (which was standing on my way) and the Philippine traysikel rolled over to its' sidewhile I'm still on it.

There. Take that!

Clockwise: The Xe Lam of Saigon, Tuktuk of Phnom Penh, and Bajaj of Jakarta.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007


If there would be one single symbol that would best represent Laos in its entirety – it would be the breath-taking Pha That Luang in Vientiane. It is the country’s most important monument like that of Luneta, the Merlion, Sultan Abdul Samad building, the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the Shwe Dagon or the Monas. It’s one of those: “you-never-been-there-if-you-haven’t-seen-it” kind of place.

Pha That Luang is a Bhuddist temple built in the 1500s under the instructions of the Lao King Setthathirat. He wanted it to be built on the ruins of a Khmer temple that was built 300 years earlier – which was in turn constructed on the ruins of an Indian temple built by Buddhist missionaries 1,000 years earlier.

But actually, the Pha That Luang that we see today is relatively new. When the whole of Vientiane was destroyed in the Siam-Lao war in 1828, it was restored in the 1900s. And because it was badly done, it was rebuilt again in its original design in 1933.

Legend has it that the exact place where Pha That Luang is built contains the relics of the Buddha brought by the missionaries to this area.

The main stupa in the center of the temple is 45m high. The design refelects the shape of a lotus – Buddhism’s most famous symbol and everything is painted gold! There are also other beautiful temples, children’s park and the monument of King Sethattirat on the compound. Talat That Luang (local market) is just across the road as well.

Vientiane is best seen on a bike or a motorcycle. Pha That Luang is just 3km away from the city center and you can reach it in less than 15 minutes (Vientiane has no traffic jam!). From the President’s Palace, follow the Lane Xang Road until you reach Patuxay (Vientiane’s Arc de Triomphe). The road will fork after the rotunda; take the right one – That Luang Road. Keep following it and when you see something like a beautiful gigantic bunch of gold and you go: “Whooooaaaa!” – It’s Pha That Luang. You can’t miss a monument as beautiful as this.

Pha That Luang temple represents the enduring perseverance and patience of the Lao people.

That no matter how many times this temple was destroyed over the centuries, it’s still standing in its glorious splendor.


--other photo Credits: Craig Raskin

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