Thursday, January 31, 2008


Indonesia calling...

...waiting for us.

No screeching divas with irritating high notes...

...just pure Indonesia.

Come and visit.


*One of the videos claimed 17,508 islands. I better change my referrence.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


One heritage icon of Southeast Asia that spans half of our region is the elegant Kebaya. It is a traditional chemise *ok, blouse!* worn by women in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Southern Thailand. It is usually made with translucent fabric, lace or linen and worn together with a sarong or other traditional textiles.

Some says the Kebaya originated from the Middle East; more likely because they share religious background with them. Some claimed it came from a type of blouse worn by Javanese women in the 1400s; but others also claim it originated from China which spread through the region a hundred years earlier.

As the Kebaya extends 6 different countries over hundreds of years, it is also interesting to note that styles vary with cultural infusions…

One familiar style is the Sarong Kebaya; the uniform of flight attendants of Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines. *If you see it on a male cabin attendant, that’s another story*

Kebaya Indonesia is worn with sarong batik, colorful songket and a long thin scarf called salendhang. There are notable variations by province.

The Nyonya Kebaya is worn by the classy women in Malacca, complete with sarong and beaded shoes. This is one of the most famous *and indecently expensive* styles of this elegant outfit. A book written by Mahmood Endon shows how beautiful the Nyonya Kebaya is. The Pua T’ng The is the version of Hokkien ladies in Penang.

And Bruneian ladies wear it with particular elan. Simply lovely.

In the early days, women used to wear it just for going out of the house. And it’s very nice to see those old Malayan movies where all women wears one and dang! Does it look good on them or what?! But sad to say nowadays, it is mostly reserved to be worn only in special occasions. *sigh*

Maybe because Kebayas are too expensive nowadays? Maybe – a modern piece costs at least 1,000 Ringgit (US$320/ 11,200 Baht/€218) in Malaysia alone. I say, they should make it more affordable so that the Kebaya won’t die with it.

The Kebaya is a heritage that we should not lose with time.
It is the collective identity of our graceful women.

Because women in Kebaya, and wears it with pride --
are the most beautiful women in the world.


Photo credit: Mahmood Endon & Javajive.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Lower those dang eyebrows! Yes its 2006 data. You got a problem with that? Ha! Unless you got the 2007 data, I would kneel down before you and beg. But I know you don’t. So shut up.

Let's get on with it, shall we? Here…

The 10 Perfect Paradise countries of the ASEAN got a combined total of 237,450,700 tourist arrivals in 2006. Where did most of the tourists go?

1. Malaysia 73,550,200
2. Thailand 57,957,600
3. Singapore 40,547,000
4. Indonesia 24,428,900
5. Vietnam 14,274,000
6. Philippines 11,442,300
7. Cambodia 5,664,400
8. Laos 4,563,000
9. Burma 2,784,300
10. Brunei 2,238,900

Almost 43% of those tourist arrivals came from usSE Asians! Where did most of us go?

1. Malaysia 56,738,800 - Don’t we all just loooove Malaysia?! Woohoo!
2. Thailand 14,861,800
3. Singapore 14,835,400
4. Indonesia 10,935,800
5. Laos 3,266,100
6. Vietnam 1,968,400
7. Brunei 1,880,800
8. Cambodia 917,400
9. Philippines 796,200
10. Burma 261,400

And 57% of the total tourist arrivals came from the European Union, Japan, China, Korea, USA, Australia, Taiwan, India, Hong Kong (Top 10), etc.

Where did most of them go?

1. Thailand 43,095,900 Ha! Do I need to elaborate?
2. Singapore 25,711,600
3. Malaysia 16,811,400
4. Indonesia 13,493,100
5. Vietnam 12,305,600
6. Philippines 10,646,100
7. Cambodia 4,747,000
8. Burma 2,522,900
9. Laos 1,296,900
10. Brunei 358,100

I’m sure the 2007 data is very close to these figures because it was Visit Malaysia Year, all-the-world-knows-Thailand and Changi Airport forever.

Please don’t forget that 2008 is Visit Indonesia Year – so let’s go and head over to Indonesia! They are waiting for us!

Be good to yourself. Travel more.


*Data source: The ASEAN Secretariat

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Southeast Asia has a total coastline of more than 106,000 km. We are continually battered by beautiful waves from the Andaman and the Indian Ocean in the West, the mighty Pacific Ocean in the East and the unforgiving Arctic Ocean in the South – all beautiful gifts for surfers! *Sweet!*

The world has already recognized Indonesia as a surfing mecca with more than 150 known surf sites. Thailand and Malaysia has their share of attractions. Vietnam and Timor Leste are being noticed lately and the Philippines has the potential to be the next surfing mecca.

Padang Padang, Uluwatu, Koh Kradan, Mentawai or Pururan may not mean anything to those who are not familiar. But these surf sites are “sacred” in the surfing world.

With the help of some of BISEAN’s friends in the circuit, we will feature the greatest surfing sites of Southeast Asia in our coming blog posts. This means mobilizing more than 20 seasoned surfers to visit, rate and of course, ENJOY these gifts from the gods of the ocean.





Saturday, January 26, 2008


The last time I visited my grandparents in Ayutthaya was April last year. So I went for a visit today. It's an hour drive from Bangkok. And as usual, I came unannounced because I don’t want the whole town waiting for me at the gates.

Ayutthaya, for those who don’t know…is the ancient capital of Thailand with lots of historical ruins, old ancestral houses and quite sleepy. Ok? Ok.

This is also a chance to see the old house again where “lives a Vietnamese.” A very curious house I have to pass by on my way to grandma’s.

When I was a kid, mother and I used to pass that old house. She would always point to the second floor and say: “There, lives a Vietnamese.” She always does this each and every time we pass the darn house as if a 6-year old kid gives a sh*t! *Ha!*

So, like an experimental chimp in a laboratory, mother conditioned my brain that “There, lives a Vietnamese.” *Ok, ok! I got it! Shut it already!* – And now that I’m grown up, I still remember that “There, lives a Vietnamese.” Although I never have actually seen the Vietnamese she was talking about. Duh!

Grandmother, as usual, is tending her acres and acres of orchids when I arrived…

“Hello, grandma.” I went to hug and kiss her.

She frowned. She hates it when I don’t "wai" and greet her in Thai. I could almost taste dinner as extra-extra-extra hot later on. This is her way of letting me know she’s pissed. She adds more chilies to the already hot-as-hell food to get me.

To calm her down, I spoke in Thai… (But for your sake, I’ll write it in English)

"Grandma, does the Vietnamese still lives in that old house down the road?"

Without looking at me, still tending her darn orchids, she said annoyed “Can you stop doing that stupid accent?”

"What accent?”

“That! That accent! Speak proper Thai. Didn’t your mother teach you proper Thai?” I can tell from where I’m standing, grandma is pissed.

“Grandma, I just wanna know if that Vietnamese still lives there. Why are you so angry?” I said softly trying to calm her down.

She ignored me, silent treatment. This is how they are -- traditional old people want you to submit to them. Ok, I’ll play the game…

In a calm voice, I said slowly “Grandma, I just wanna know if that --“

“What Vietnamese?!!” She retorted.

*sigh* “That old house that mother used to tell me when I was a kid, over and over, that a Vietnamese lives there.” I said trying my best Thai intonation. “Maybe he was a refugee in the 70s war?” I added, winking my eyes trying to be cute.

“Why would she tell you that?”

“I don’t know. You tell me.” Keeping my Thai enunciation in perfect form.

“Tell you what?”

*sigh* “If that Vietnamese still lives there! GRANDMA!” I said the ‘grandma’ part with a little hint of impatience, so I brazed myself for retaliation. I looked away.

Then grandma spoke in a manner of a true Thai aristocrat... her choice of words were obsolete and will haunt me forever…

“I lived all my life in Ayutthaya. On this same road, on this same house….”

I was listening intently, mesmerized. Then she continued…

“There was no Vietnamese that ever lived in that house.”



Friday, January 25, 2008

OUR CULINARY GEMS: Shrimp Spring Rolls | Gỏi cuốn

Simple, no cooking needed, healthy and refreshing! Try this fresh spring rolls recipe from Vietnam this weekend and impress your friends.

The beauty of this classic Vietnamese rolls preparation is you can substitute the ingredients with just about anything you want. If you don’t like prawns, sub it with minced chicken (cooked, of course) and if any of the ingredients are not available in your country – improvise!

We'll also toss in the recipe of its partner -- the Peanut & Lime Sauce (Nước chấm)

Try it! Here...

Cooking Time: 0
Preparation Time: 30 mins
Serves: 8


8 oz Prawns, shelled, blanched & chopped
1 large Cucumber, deseeded & shredded
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 head leaf lettuce, shredded
12 mint leaves, shredded
12 cilantro, shredded
8 oz fresh bean sprouts

1 package dried rice vermicelli
1 pack 10" Rice spring roll sheets


1. Mixed the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Soak vermicelli in boiling water until soft. Drain and let cool.

3. One at a time, immerse a rice sheet in a bowl the warm water to soften the sheets for handling. Work with only 4 sheets at a time. Quickly remove it and spread flat on a dry towel. Do not let the sheets touch each other.

4. Place the filling onto the rice softened rice paper (quantity as desire but not too much because it will be hard to wrap).

3. Fold up the bottom third of the rice paper. Press filling together tight. Fold one side of the paper over the filling, then the other side. Roll from bottom to top to completely enclose the filling. Continue until all of the filling is used.

4. Serve with peanut sauce mixed with crushed roasted peanuts or Nuoc Cham.

How to make Nuoc Cham…

Peanut & Lime Sauce Nước chấm


1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons chili oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crushed toasted peanuts


Combine all ingredients in small glass bowl.
Vinaigrette can be made 3 days ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate.


*Photo by Wye Jon Lee

PERFECT SPECIMEN: Taya Rogers | เทย่า โรเจอรส์

The girl with something to prove.

Taya Rogers is a Thai-American model and actor in Thailand. She was born on 15 September 1985 in California. Her father is American and her mother is Thai-Chinese.

Her name can also be spelled as “Teya” because there is no standard romantization of Thai names. The closest pronunciation is “Teh-ya”.

Taya was controversial in the early days of her career; especially when she landed in the cover of LIPS (Thailand’s most prestigious fashion magazine). A lot of girls in the modeling circuit questioned the decision saying they are more beautiful than her – oh, really now, honey?

Taya has proven them all wrong.

More photos of Taya here...

(Click photo for larger view)

Eurasians are the hottest people on Earth.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A TEST OF FAITH: The Thaipusam Festival | தைப்பூசம்

Today is an extraordinary day for our Hindu brothers in Malaysia and Singapore. The celebration of Thaipusam Kavady – the feast for the Lord Subramaniam (Murugan), the youngest son of Shiva and Parvati. This is the day when the star Pusam appears.

Hindus in Singapore show their devotion by walking 3 kilometers from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Chettiar Temple, carrying offerings to Lord Subramaniam. Hindus in Malaysia gather in Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Gunong Cheroh in Ipoh and Jalan Waterfall in Penang. This is one of the biggest annual-tourist-c’mon of Malaysia.

A day of thanks giving, asking favors, and simply wishing good things. The air is festive and everybody is in a good mood.

You think that’s it? Well, listen to this…some devotees would raise the stakes to get the Lord Subramaniam’s favor. They would pierce pins, fish hooks, knives, swords and just about any skewers in sight into their cheeks, back, arms, legs and even testicles! *Ouch! Stop poking me, goddammit!*

But here’s the kicker. With all those piercing and poking, there is no bleeding at all! Not even scars afterwards! It is said that Lord Subramaniam stops the bleeding and heals the wounds as if nothing happened at all.

The Thaipusam Festival was brought to our region by Tamil/Hindu immigrants in the British Colonial era. It is celebrated on the full moon of the Hindu month of Thai, which falls around January and February. There is also a similar festival in Thailand called the "Vegetarian Festival" in Phuket. But that happens around November.

This is one festival in our region that takes nerves and lots of faith *and guts!* Let me show you what I'm talking about...

Here... but not for the faint-hearted...

A W E S O M E !



Tall, dark and handsome.

William was born William DeVaughn Stumpf on 27 February 1983 in Budingen, Germany. His father is Filipino-African American and his mother is German.

He came to the Philippines for a short holiday when he tried modeling for telly ads including McDonald’s. He is now one of the country’s most familiar faces and top male models. William recently came 3rd place in the reality TV Big Brother Philippine Edition.

More photos of Will here...

(Click photo for larger view)

Eurasians and Biracials are the hottest people on Earth.


*Thanks to Moira for the photos.

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