Best weather, best safety, no racism, no agism, best value, best happiness.
Southeast Asia is the hub of the world. OK, maybe not for military strength. Also not for economic power. And not for football, pop music, gourmet pleasures, medical inventions, or financial services. But Southeast Asia is the hub of the world for those seeking a pleasant life, or even just life-long pleasure.
Southeast Asia maybe doesn’t have the most beautiful architecture of the world, and may not produce the most beautiful cars, but Southeast Asia has the most beautiful people.
And no other part of the world is as welcoming to foreigners from about anywhere around the world. Southeast Asian countries have gentle societies, largely void of agism, and have the most tolerant societies, respecting personal freedom and emphasizing compromise-seeking in social conflicts. There are more good reasons why it makes sense for those privileged enough to make Southeast Asia there home, regardless of where they have been born.
Southeast Asia has extreme variety. At least 10 different alphabets, and at least double that number of religions. You can have islands or mountains, beaches or jungles, leisure or adventure, beef or pork, rain or shine, and if you have transportable housing, or a motorhome, or a campervan, you can have it all, at the same time, or at least in short sequence.
Get yourself a ticket for Southeast Asia, if you can afford it, and get yourself a new life, a real life.
Lifestyle and residency consultation – Click here!
Fingerprinting in Cambodia
Every tourist or visitor on other purposes who enters Cambodia has his mugshot taken, and all 10 fingers fingerprinted by a computerized system.
It is an open secret that all of this data is sold to Western private security companies which, basically, aim to keep a data file on every human being on the surface of this planet, and a good number of those under it. These private security companies are not named in this article in order not to come up when these companies run Google searches on themselves.
These private security companies not only cooperate with the NSA and government agencies with the same agenda in other countries. They sell their data to anybody willing to pay for it. This “anybody” includes police departments anywhere in the world, tax collection offices, as well as management consultancies.
In the case of Cambodia, your personal information also ends up with NGOs on the hunt for foreign child molesters.
Do not underestimate the completeness of the file on you as it is kept by these security companies.
Your fingerprints taken at Cambodian immigration checkpoints are combined with the meta data of your phone connections, and of course, the traces you leave on the Internet.
Trust me, Cambodia is not worth a visit. Angkor Wat is overrated. It is much newer of age than ancient Greek and Roman buildings, and from the perspective of architectural skill, less impressing. The Cambodian countryside is boring, the weather is shitty hot, and the risks of malaria and dengue fever are substantial. Small dosages of marijuana can land you 15 years in jail, and the women you consider potential romances are mostly hookers and ex-hookers, widely infected with AIDS. That they now also engage in commerce with your fingerprints and mugshots should finally convince the rest: don’t go to Cambodia.
Thailand / History
1238 – Taking advantage of the weakening of the Khmer empire, two local Thai princes, Khun Bang Klang and Khun Pa Muang, both of them actually officials of the Khmer occupation government in Sayam (later, and until the present, Sukhothai) start a rebellion against the Khmers. Khan Lampong, a Cambodian General, tries to subdue the Thais but is defeated.
Sukhothai thereby becomes a truly independent state. Khun Bang Klang is crowned King of Sukhothai under the title Sri Inthrathit. Khun Pa Muang is only given a major government post, far inferior to the reward of Khun Bang Klang. The reason for this is his marriage with a Khmer princess – a matter that casts doubt on his trustworthiness in the Thais’ eyes. The Principality or Kingdom of Sukhothai grows rapidly in the following years – as a result of military conquest as well as rather diplomatic annexations of other Thai principalities formerly ruled by Khmers. These diplomatic annexations become possible because according to today’s knowledge, Sukhothai is an attractive state to join. It is much more liberal than most states of the time, knowing no slavery nor excessive taxation by the monarchy. Being a new kingdom, the rulers have not progressed on the typical path of becoming distant from their subjects. Kings are not considered god-kings as it had been under Khmer rule.
1254 – Kublai Khan, Mongolian ruler in central China conquers the Nanchao Kingdom, several hundred kilometers to the north in today’s southern China. Great waves of Thai migrants flood Sukhothai from Yunnan enhancing Sukhothai’s population and power base.
1262 – Prince Mengrai of Nanchao, after having escaped the wrath of Kublai Khan, establishes the Lannatai Kingdom with himself as king. To serve as his capital, he founds the town of Chiang Rai. In the following years, he integrates several neighboring Thai principalities into his kingdom. Although relations with Sukhothai are cordial for the first decades and in spite of the fact that many former Nanchao subjects become citizens of Sukhothai, the two kingdoms do not unite. Lannatai will later first become an ally of the Burmese against the Thai Kingdom of Ayutthaya (Siam) and then be a Burmese vassal or integrated into Burma for several centuries. It is noticeable in present-day Thailand that, except in Chiang Mai and the utmost north of today’s Thailand, Thais have much less sentiments about the kingdom of Lannatai than about Sukhothai, even though the independent history of Lannatai is considerably longer than that of Sukhothai (a mere 140 years).
1279 – Ramkhamhaeng, the third of three sons of Sri Inthrathit becomes king of Sukhothai. He is however preceded on the throne by his elder brother Ban Muang (not to be confused with Prince Pa Muang who had joined Sri Inthrathit in overthrowing the Khmer rule). But there are no records on when Sri Inthrathit died or for how long Ban Muang ruled. As there are no records it was most probably an exceptionally peaceful time. This changes when Ramkhamhaeng ascends to the throne. In the following years Ramkhamhaeng’s armies conquer an area encompassing most of what is now Thailand plus the eastern part of what is today Burma plus almost the whole of the Malayan Peninsula. Ethnically speaking, he ruled not only over Thais but also over Burmese, Mons and Shans in the west, Malays in the south and Khmers and Laotians (ethnically closely related to the Thais) in the east. As the relations between King Mengrai of Lannatai and King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai have remained cordial, Ramkhamhaeng does not touch his northern neighbor. Impressing as they may be, Ramkhamhaeng’s military exploits are by far not his only achievement. He also creates the Thai alphabet that is basically still in use, codifies the law and conducts a reform of Buddhism practiced in his realm by establishing stricter rules for the behavior of monks. The Thai alphabet invented by him draws on Sanskrit and Pali (both languages of Indian origin) as well as the written languages of the Burmese and the Khmers, both of which are also Sanskrit and Pali based. But not only are the letters of neighboring languages used to provide for a written Thai language. Terms from Pali, Sanskrit and the immediate neighboring languages are also integrated into Thai (which otherwise is quite different from Burmese and the Khmer language). The development of the Thai language in southeast Asia, in spite of it’s origin in China, explains why a large number of Royal titles or religious designations are quite similar to those of the Khmer or Burmese (the Thais adopted Buddhism only in southeast Asia, not during their history in what is now south China where Buddhism arrived only at a time when the Thai majority had already migrated to southeast Asia). 1282 – How Chow Chi, a Chinese Mandarin comes to Sukhothai and negotiates a treaty of amity between China and Sukhothai.
1283 – King Mengrai of Lannatai conquers the Mon Kingdom of Haripungaya (present-day Lamphun), making it a long lasting part of his realm. Later kingdoms of the Mons will all be located at the western side of the mountain range that today separates the territories of Burma and Thailand.
1300 – Death of Ramkhamhaeng; the throne is ascended by his son, Loetai. Sukhothai begins its decline. In the following years, most of the non-Thai principalities ruled by King Ramkhamhaeng and many of the Thai principalities as well become rather independent from Sukhothai.
1338 – The major Thai principality of Phayao east of Chiang Mai is annexed to the Lannatai Kingdom.
1330-1350 – The principality of Utong (near today’s town of Suphanburi, close to Ayutthaya, becomes a regional power, largely due to the military skills of its leading general. A personal name of this general is not known. (It must be noted here that in Thai or Siamese tradition, personal names have much less bearing than in the western culture. Typically, a man changed his name when he assumed additional power, either by being promoted or by usurping it. Many of the names under which important Thai or Siamese personalities are known in history are anyhow rather titles than names. One important example of later times is the designations Chao Phaya. Chao Phaya, aside from being the name of the main Thai river, is a Thai title, designating the highest government officials; typically the leading general of a principality was named Chao Phaya – as for example several hundred years later Chao Phaya Chakri, the founder of the current Thai dynasty who had first been the leading general of King Taksin of Thonburi). The leading general of Utong (who didn’t bear the title Chao Phaya during his life-time but would later be designated as such) gains for his principality several adjourning areas which have so far been ruled by the king of Sukhothai. He is the initiator of the Ayutthaya period of Thai history.
1347 – Prince Lutai (Tammaraja I) , a son of King Loetai, becomes King of Sukhothai. It is not known how long Sukhothai was ruled by King Loetai. The accepted theory is that after King Loetai died, there was heavy competition for the throne; most probably a king with the name Nguanamthom ruled for a period of time between the reigns of Loetai and Lutai Tammaraja I. King Lutai concentrates rather on religious than political matters, a fact further contributing to the loss of political power of Sukhothai. Tammaraja, a name he acquires posthumously, is a religious rather than political title.
1370 – King Lutai dies and is succeeded by his son Prince Sai who becomes King Tammaraja II.
1371 – King Boromaraja I of Ayutthaya invades Sukhothai territory, capturing several towns.
1375 – Phitsanulok, the substitute capital of Sukhothai, is taken by Boromaraja’s forces and prisoners are turned into slaves.
1378 – King Tammaraja II is forced to become a vassal of the King of Ayutthaya. This marks the end of the independent Thai Kingdom of Sukhothai after 140 years of existence.
1350 – The leading general of Utong, upon the death of the kingdom’s ruler, becomes King of Utong himself and assumes the title Rama Tibodi I. One of his first decisions is to transfer his capital some 50 kilometers (31mi) to the east, to the thriving trade town of Ayutthaya. (The similarity to the beginning of the Bangkok period in Thai history is striking; 432 years later, it is again the leading general of a preceding king who becomes king; at both instances, one of their first tasks is to transfer their capitals; contrary to what is often read in English language guide books, both towns, Ayutthaya and Bangkok, are not “founded” by the two kings but were already well established settlements, though with no political functions.)
Country and People / History / Colonial Times
In 1824 the first Anglo-Burmese war breaks out. In 1826 peace is sealed with the contract of Yandabo. The Burmese surrender the old fiefdom Arakan and the southern province Tenasserim to the British.
After in 1852 the Burmese service arrested two British captains and released them again only after being paid ransom, the second Anglo-Burmese war breaks out. Without any particular effort the British occupy Yangon and southern Myanmar.
In 1853 Mindon Min succeeds his brother Bagan Min, who is notorious for the atrocities he committed, on the Burmese throne and modernizes the Burmese state system during his reign, which lasts until his death in 1878. In 1857 he transfers the seat of his government to Mandalay, which he has newly founded.
After the death of Mindon Min in 1878 Thibaw becomes the new Burmese King. During his reign relations with the British Empire deteriorate.
In 1886 another trade conflict causes a military confrontation between the British Empire and the Burmese state that is, the remaining part of the country, which is not yet occupied by the British. After a short campaign in the course of the third Anglo-Burmese war the British occupy northern Myanmar and the capital Mandalay, as well. Thus entire Myanmar falls under British colonial reign. In the following decades infrastructure measures of the colonial masters cause an unprecedented economical boom in Myanmar. From 1855 to 1930 the area of the Ayeyarwaddy delta used for cultivation of rice increases ten times to roughly 4 Million hectare.
In 1930 first in Yangon, then also in other towns, antiIndian transgressions take place. During the previous decades the British colonial masters had true to the proverb Divide And Conquer brought a large number of Indian administrative officials to Myanmar, who were followed by Indian settlers in even larger numbers.
Between 1930 and 1942 Burmese nationalists agitate increasingly for an end of the colonial reign and Burmese sovereignty, especially in the AllBurma Student Movement under the leadership of Aung San and U Nu.
In 1936 the British grant Myanmar a certain degree of autonomy. After it has for decades been part of the crown colony India, in 1937 Myanmar finally becomes an autonomous colony in the British Empire. The British allow Myanmar a constitution and a parliament of its own.
Travel Information / Immigration Regulations
For a stay not exceeding 60 days, visas are not required for nationals of the Arab Emirates, Argentine, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan. Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain. Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan (passport coded MEA or M), Thailand, Turkey, the United States, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. Entry and departure must he through the airports of Polonia (Medan), Batu Besar Batam, Simpang Tiga (Pekanbaru) Tabing (Padang), Soekarno-Hatta (Jakarta), Juanda (Surabaya), Ngurah Rai (Bali), Sam Ratulangi (Manadol) Pattimura (Ambon) Frans Kaisiepo (Biak), El Tari (Kupang) Soepadio (Pontianak) or Sepinggan (Balikpapan), Bandung and Ujung Padang, or through the seaports of Belawan (Medan), Batam, Bintan, Tanjung Priok (Jakarta), Tanjung Perak (Surabaya), Tanjung Mas (Semarang), Benoa and Padang Bai (Bali), Bitung (Manado) or Yos Sudarso (Ambon).
For other ports of arrival and departure, visas are required. Visas for a period of 30 days can he obtained from any Indonesian embassy or consulate overseas. For holders of Hong Kong Certificates of Identity, travel should be in tour groups and visas are issued by the Indonesian Consulate General in Hong Kong.
For nationals from other countries, other than the above mentioned, tourist visas for 30 days may be obtained from any Indonesian Embassy or Consulate. Two photographs must be provided and a small fee is charged.
No employment is allowed on these visas or on the visa-free entry facility. All visitors must have passports valid for at least six months and proof of onward passage.
Dining Guide / Chinese Cuisine
Of all non-Thai cuisines Chinese is the most prevalent in Thailand – actually there are many similarities between Thai and Chinese dishes, and often it cannot be distinguished whether a dish was originally Thai or Chinese.
A unique Chinese food is dim sum. Actually dim sum is more than just a category of dishes; it’s an eating habit. Dim sums are small dishes taken for snacks or tea time (in Chinese: yam cha); they are served in restaurants on a trolley. Most of the dim sum dishes are steamed but they may also be fried or braised. Common to all dim sums is that they are small portions, in bite size, and normally strongly flavored. Dim sum is of Cantonese origin and very popular not only in Thailand but also in Hong Kong.
As it is the case in Thai cuisine, noodles occupy an important position in Chinese cuisine. Actually, the Chinese were the inventors of noodles, and they were brought to the European noodle country, Italy, by Marco Polo only in the 13th century.
Unlike the Italians who can’t explain why their spaghetti are impractically long the Chinese do have a seemingly very logical reason why the longer the noodles are the better; to the ever superstitious Chinese long noodles mean long life. Making noodles the traditional Chinese way is an acrobatic art. The dough is pulled and whirled through the air in order to stretch it through centrifugal force; but today machines use other techniques.
There are two kinds of noodles in Chinese cuisine, egg noodles or mien, and rice noodles or bijon (in English sometimes referred to as glass noodles because they just look like they were made of glass). Whereas egg noodles are mostly in the shape of thin spaghetti, rice noodles are also commonly served as ho fan (wide noodles like the Italian fettuccine and tagliatelle).
In Chinese cuisine, noodles can be served three ways: in a clear soup with meat and some vegetables, or mixed with meat and with a thickened sauce poured over or without sauce; whereas for noodles with sauce egg noodles (mien) are commonly used, it’s bijon noodles if served without sauce.
Egg noodle dishes with sauce appear on Chinese menus with English translations often specified as fried. This is grossly misleading as they are mostly just barely sauted. There is nothing crisp in such a “fried” dish, and the rather tasteless cornstarch sauce gives the dish a porridge texture.
Those who want to eat dishes that are fried by Western standards must order deep-fried dishes in Chinese English terminology. Deep-fried dishes include spring rolls, shrimp, and prawns.
Except for the already mentioned clear soups with noodles, there also are many thickened soups in Chinese cuisine. The thickening is produced normally from cornstarch. Like clear soups the thickened soups may contain meats, fish, seafood and vegetables. In contrast to Western cuisine, Chinese cooking commonly uses lettuce in soups but not in salads.
The two most famous Chinese soups, shark fin soup and bird’s nest soup appear to be thickened but the glutinous texture does in neither case result from the addition of cornstarch but from the two main ingredients, shark fin and bird’s nests which are simmered for many hours.
As the Chinese are the only people who can make a sensible use of shark fins they are imported by Chinese traders from all over the world – to Hong Kong and also to Bangkok.
The nests in making bird’s nest soups are exclusively those of swallows. They are built by the birds mainly of sea weed that is cemented together by their own saliva. Swallow nests are mainly found in high cliffs as for example on the Southern Chinese coast. The Chinese term for swallow nests is ni do. A rich area for bird’s nests is Northern Palawan in the Philippine archipelago. There a town meanwhile famous for its cliffs has been baptized in honor of the bird’s nests: El Nido.
As rice is processed into noodles, another common Chinese agricultural product, soy beans, is processed into bean curd. Bean curd didn’t make it as far as Italy. It was, however, also integrated into Thai cuisine. Bean curd (in Chinese: to kua) accompanies original Chinese meals as normally as potatoes accompany German dishes (where they are not taken as vegetables). However, bean curd is used in Chinese restaurants in Bangkok less as an independent side dish but rather as an ingredient in many dishes.
As bean curd is not commonly known in the Western world, it may be described shortly. Bean curd has the appearance and texture of soft cheese and is produced by milling soy beans and forming large cakes of it that can be stored for quite a while. It can be cut into slices, and as it is fairly tasteless by itself (just as noodles), it easily adopts the taste of sauces and the other ingredients of a dish.
A by-product of bean curd which has a less stable texture (like thickened milk) is commonly sold in Thailand by ambulant vendors. They walk through the streets, equipped with two large aluminum baskets, the one containing the bean curd by-product, and the other some sauces, syrups, and other toppings.
Prominent as noodles may be in Chinese cuisine, the most basic staple food is rice. The Chinese word for rice is fan (remember the ho fan – wide rice noodles).
Chinese restaurants in Thailand offer a wide variety of fan loi dishes. Fan loi dishes also play a dominant role in Thai cuisine, here named rat khao. Fan loi, just as rat khao, has been literally translated as “rice with toppings”, and this basically means that it is a bowl of rice with some bits of meat and/or vegetables on top.
However, to serve food in portions for a single person is very untypical of Chinese dining habits. Usually, the side dishes to rice are not served individually but family style with large plates placed in the center of a table. This eating order is still strongly reflected in the way Chinese restaurants are furnished. Often there is inadequate space for people who come alone or in pairs. Mostly large round tables can be seen, with a round board in the middle that can be turned so everyone, using the chopsticks, can help himself or herself to a few bites from every plate.
It’s commonly known that the Chinese invented chopsticks as a set of instruments to be used when eating but the reason behind that is not commonly known. Actually, the Chinese where taught to use chopsticks long before spoons and forks were invented in Europe (the knife is older, not as an instrument for dining but as weapon). Chopsticks were strongly advocated by the great Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC).
He reasoned that, as a matter of advancement in civilization, instruments used for killing must be banned from the dining table. Therefore, knives cannot be permitted, and that is why Chinese food is always chopped into bite size before it reaches the table. The Thais, originating from a region that is today China, have fully adopted the Chinese philosophy on cutlery (if one wants to extend this term to encompass chopsticks).
Chinese cooking is not complicated in the manner that French cuisine is complicated. Much less depends on temperatures of ingredients and exact timing for frying, baking, or cooking. Most Chinese dishes are just cooked in water or oil. Of course, there are many delicacies but most of them do not require such an elaborate processing in the kitchen as does one of China’s most famous dishes, Peking duck (thin slices of barbecued duck, wrapped in thin pancakes together with onion, radish, etc and eaten with a sweet plum sauce).
But while Chinese cuisine may not beat French cuisine in the degree it is complicated to prepare dishes, Chinese cuisine certainly wins the prize for stranger ingredients.
Now, while the French have their strange and hard to find ingredients like truffles, they cannot come up with an ingredient like the previously mentioned bird’s nests.
The Chinese have a refreshingly unemotional approach to edibles. One may think that as long as eating something doesn’t cause a disease there must be a way it can be prepared deliciously.
Therefore, birds nests are not the only strange food stuff used in Chinese cuisine. Others include sea weeds, shark fins, etc. There are no forbidden foods like pork in Islamic countries and beef for Hindus. On the contrary, many foods are recommended in the Chinese cuisine for a variety of medical purposes, several of them to restore sexual power.
This goal, for example, allegedly is achieved by consuming Soup No 5 which contains the testicles of various animals and which is served in a number of Chinese restaurants in Bangkok.
Many animals with a phallic look are also supposed to help men’s sexual power, as for example eel and snake. Snake meat is highly valued in Chinese cuisine rather for a number of alleged pharmaceutical effects than the taste (it tastes like chicken). Snake is supposed to be particularly good in winter because it is regarded as heart warming. Eating the snake’s gall bladder is supposed to bring sure relief from rheumatism. A dish named Dragon, Phoenix, Tiger is prepared of snake, chicken and cat and is supposed to be an especially powerful agent to restore youth and vigor.
Of course there is nothing wrong with eating cats, snakes, and bird’s nests; most probably these foods are even nutritious; it’s just the idea of it that cannot convince Westerners to enrich their diet with these delicacies. Especially cats, being considered pets, receive in Western tradition sympathy to a degree that is never afforded less cute animals such as pigs or chickens.
Furthermore, what criteria makes some kinds of animals a clean food and others unacceptable to the Western diner are just perceptions based on ignorance. Shrimp live in mud and preferably near sites where waste is drained into the sea, and those who believe chickens only eat clean food may observe them pecking on dung-hills. Who after these elaborations doubts that the Chinese have a more enlightened approach to food than Westerners.
China is a vast country and it is therefore no surprise that there are many regional variations in Chinese cuisine. In general one can say that the Southern Chinese, Cantonese, cuisine puts more emphasis on fish and seafood and the Northern Chinese, Peking, cuisine includes more meat. Of all meats pork is most common in all Chinese cuisines. Actually the pig is so respected by the Chinese that the Chinese character for “home” is a combination of the characters for “roof” and “pig”.
The central Chinese regions of Sichuan and Hunan have the spiciest food in all of China. Garlic as well as chili are extensively used. Helmsman Mao Zedong who was Hunanese once claimed that the more chilies one eats the more revolutionary one becomes. It was meant as a joke (most probably) but the statement is in accordance to the Chinese belief that diet makes a great difference in the well-being of a person. Anyhow, Mao Zedong’s theory fails to explain why Thais who certainly eat loads of chili are in general rather conservative than revolutionary.
In the case of exclusive dining, Chinese have a different orientation than Westerners. First, the ambience of a restaurant is much less important; even first-class Chinese restaurants tend to be simply and inexpensively furnished. Second, unlike European custom a dish doesn’t become much more expensive when prepared by a much better cook.
In Europe a certain meal (for example baked duck) can cost many times as much in an exclusive restaurant than it does in an ordinary restaurant; in the case of Chinese restaurants it’s less the particular preparations that make a restaurant first-class but more the use of fancy and more expensive foods.
An exclusive Chinese restaurant for example will serve foods like abalone (a large marine snail; only the foot, about fist size, is served) which cost many hundreds of Baht per dish.
But it’s not the preparation that makes these foods so expensive, it’s just the price of the raw material. Many more ordinary Chinese dishes do not cost much more in first-class Chinese restaurants than they do ier kinds.
Tea is preferred by the Chinese as a drink during all meals less for it’s own taste but to clear the palate of a former dish before proceeding to the next. And as proclaimed by the Hong Kong Tourist Association in their official guide, “the Chinese don’t ruin the tea with such alien substances as milk, r lemon.”
A typical addition to the names of Chinese restaurants is Garden. Usually, Chinese restaurants designating themselves as Gardens are better class.