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Asean-China Free-Trade Zone - Are You Ready?

There are! But if like me you are only a regular citizen, we will not notice it or even bother with these new things from the ASEAN organization. Example, the Asean-China Free-Trade Agreement, heard of it? Maybe, but most of us did not pay attention.

Here's the news, the Asean-China FTA will take effect when the clock strikes midnight of January 1, 2010 UTC+0800. That means, all trade goods under the agreement will have no more tariffs (and some goods will have less import taxes instead).


Ancient Angkorian Highway

A map of the most important Khmer sites during the Khmer Empire! There are stone highways, canals, and bridges connected to the Angkor-Phimai temples, Angkor-Wat Phou temples, Angkor-Sambor prei kuk temples, Beng Melea-Wat Phou, Angkor- Roy et, and many many more!


WAT PHU CHAMPASAK, LAOS — From Saturday's Globe and Mail Published on Saturday, Feb. 04, 2006 2:37AM EST Last updated on Sunday, Apr. 05, 2009 1:26AM EDT

Standing below the ruins of Wat Phu Champasak, it's easy to see why kings and temple builders lavished attention on this spot for several hundred years. At midmorning on a weekday, it's less obvious why I can see just three other Westerners visiting one of the most venerated shrines in Southeast Asia.

The crumbling pile of palaces, galleries and balustrades occupies the lower slope of a mountain long sacred to the people of southern Laos. Water said to be holy seeps from the rocks behind the exquisitely carved sanctuary at the temple's highest level, and I can just pick out the Mekong River's muddy brown flow a few kilometres to the east. The location is as remarkable now as it must have been in the fifth century, when the first stones were laid.

This astonishing ancient monument, home to a festival attended by thousands every February, was linked for centuries by a stone road to the fabled Angkor temples of what is now northwestern Cambodia and on to a host of related sites in Thailand. [size=5][size=5]If it still existed today, it would be a cultural and historical superhighway comparable to the Inca Trail or the Silk Road,[/size][/size] but the route was already long overgrown by the time the region's modern borders were drawn in the colonial era. The revolutions of the 1970s closed temples and borders alike.

Geography and security issues have long made it cumbersome and dangerous to visit these ruins as a united whole. While Thailand is accessible to visitors, Cambodia and Laos have been slow to open up.

The last political barrier has finally fallen in the past couple of years, allowing adventurous tourists to transit a remote and unofficial border area less than 100 kilometres from Wat Phu. When the infrastructure improves, there's every chance that tourist demand will resurrect the historic connection between Laos and Cambodia.

For now though, overland travel along this route remains something of an adventure. I've picked up the trail at Angkor and its gateway town, Siem Reap, where tourist arrivals reached nearly 700,000 last year.

It's becoming impossible to find the kind of solitude that used to prevail here -- a disappointment for those hoping to play Indiana Jones or Laura Croft, but a welcome development for mainstream visitors and the Cambodian economy. Security is no longer a major issue, new hotels and restaurants are opening every week and road development is making it simple to visit formerly remote ruins such as Beng Melea and Koh Ker.

However, the tarmac does not extend to Laos, just 200 kilometres to the northeast. So, although it's possible to cheat and take a 45-minute flight across the border, the next leg of my trip begins with a ride on a fast boat south to Phnom Penh.

Just after dawn, our ferry leaves the chaotic landing of Chong Khneas, winds down a spindly river and guns its motors at the mouth of Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. I sit on the speedboat's roof for the whole five-hour trip, trying to avoid sunburn but unwilling to miss sights of the stilt homes and dry-season rice paddies flashing past.

Phnom Penh was my home for three years and it is the hub of Cambodia's slowly improving transportation network, so I feel a wave of nostalgia when the boat deposits us at the capital's doorstep. I book a ticket on a small "minibus" -- a creaky van, really -- heading north the next morning.

When dawn breaks, our driver already has us outside the capital and is laying steadily on the horn as he weaves across both lanes, forcing smaller oncoming vehicles to the shoulder, as per Cambodian custom. We pass through Skuon -- a crossroads known for fried spiders, a local delicacy -- before half the passengers have even woken up. We pass Kampong Cham and turn onto a rutted red-dust road.

We are entering a part of the country that is geographically distinct from tabletop-flat central Cambodia -- rice fields give way to scrub forest as we climb slowly into the highlands that lead to Vietnam. There are also cultural differences; beside one particularly dusty stretch of road sits a mosque used by the Cham, Cambodia's main religious minority.

It has been barely five hours by the time we arrive in the riverside town of Kratie, and I have a decision to make. Stay the night, or push closer to the border? A glance at the town and a grumbling in my stomach persuade me to stay, and I'm rewarded with the kind of afternoon that comes only with travelling overland: I watch Irrawaddy dolphins on the Mekong, peruse the town's crumbling French-colonial architecture and join locals at the riverside to watch a fiery sunset.

Early the next morning, I'm aboard another minibus with Laos in my sights. The road to Stung Treng has much in common with the road to Kratie, except that there's even less pavement. We slowly navigate over potholes the size of truck beds and the dust from passing trucks begins to filter in through the bus's tattered floorboard. It's early afternoon by the time we reach Stung Treng -- just in time to catch another speedboat.

However, unlike the heavy-duty vessel that carried tourists south from Siem Reap, this boat feels fragile -- little more than a few planks of wood with a large outboard motor. For an hour and a half, my knees get intimate with my chin as we slalom through a course of rocks, sandbars and whirlpools. It's the dry season and the Mekong's waters are low.

Docking at the Cambodian border post is obviously a cultural experience for the five other tourists crammed into the speedboat, and for the six energetic French seniors we meet passing through in the other direction. Bargaining strategy is plotted as the groups negotiate with guards over the size of bribe -- this is, after all, an "unofficial" crossing. My basic Khmer language skills get me off the hook for half the others' rate: about $1.20 instead of $2.30. But I have no such privileges on the Lao side of the river. At least I'm finally across the border.

Although the southern tip of Laos is more than 700 kilometres by road from Vientiane, the capital, there is plenty to see in this region. Just north of the border, the Mekong widens to reveal a delta of sandbars and rapids known as Si Phan Don --- literally 4,000 islands -- where there is a low-key but growing tourism industry. Pakse and Savanakhet are old French market towns whose colonial shop houses are crumbling into picturesque neglect even as proximity to nearby Thailand fuels their new economies.

But I haven't spent three long days in the sticks for anything but the holiest temple ruins in Laos, and Wat Phu Champasak fails to disappoint. Ground was broken here under the Chenla civilization that ruled Cambodia and southern Laos in the fifth century, but the structures remaining today were built several hundred years later, during the Angkor period.

The similarity to Cambodia's temples is striking as I walk down an entrance causeway between two dry reservoirs and pass matching sandstone palaces, barely restored despite the temple's 2001 designation as a World Heritage Site. One suspects this will change if the moneyed masses start arriving.

I can feel the late-morning heat as I climb a sagging laterite staircase through a corridor of white-blossomed frangipani trees. This sanctuary is much higher than what you see south of the border, where builders were forced to construct their own mountains. The lintel carvings here are as exquisite as any of its type, speaking to the fact that this began life as a Hindu monument, like many Khmer ruins converted to modern Buddhist use.

With a quiet moment to spare, I pause near the bottom to consider a tiny structure just south of the stairs. [size=5]Beside it are several chunks of rock imbedded in a row -- remnants of the 1,000-year-old stone road leading south to Angkor.[/size] They lead nowhere now but the dense undergrowth, yet I remain impressed -- after all, this remains the second-best road from Cambodia.


A Trip to Koh Kong

A Land dubbed as the next Hong Kong

This article is about my trip and my impression over this land. I actually travelled to its city, Koh Kong city, but have reached some destinations along the road there. What I can tell about this land is that it has both potential for tourism and industrial revolution.

The journey to Koh Kong was quite a long one, if you prefer to drive in a reasonable speed to enjoy the beauty of nature surrounding there. It took me 5 and a half hours to reach Koh Kong city. The road was in good condition, there were several spots that need repairing or more attentions. But all in all, the road is reliable. Reaching Koh Kong, we can witness plenty types of landscape, ranging from mountainous to sea side. We can relax during our travelling hour because the scenic views of nature along the road will sap away your stresses. In past time, it is difficult and requires more time to reach Koh Kong, but the government built four important bridge to make the journey faster and easier. The four bridges are Srae Ambel Bridge, OngDong Tek Bridge, Tropeng Roong Bridge and Ta Tai Bridge.

We can say that with these four bridges, it is less costly to travel to Koh Kong as well, because there used to be ferries rent to transport us to other shore, now it is unnecessary. The road could be a long.dragging one because there are hundreds of turning point and the driver needs to have extra cautions in order to maintain the overall safety of the travel. However, there is no many accidents reported, so no need to worry. You can also rest for every time you reaches any of the four bridges, because there will be villages locate there and you can find several things to can buy.

For 5 hours of travelling, you'll arrive at Koh Kong, a land of a new hope for Cambodia. It has several interesting areas such as the Koh Kong resort, Koh Kong Special Economic Zone, Koh Kong Safari World Prey Koang Kang and many other areas. Eventhough beach is scarce at Koh Kong city, we can access the beach through the Koh Kong resort. The beach is good enough for a good sea sight, but not for some other activities because the area is located near the disputed area and the Thai troops will not welcome any "intrusion." In Koh Kong city, you can also find the longest bridge in Cambodia, which is 1,900 meters long and serve as a connection to Koh Kong resort. Koh Kong Special Economic Zone is the most interesting topic, because it is hinted that a Korean vehicle assembly factory will be built there, and many more to come. The Zone is the prospect of the future economic development of Cambodia and for this, Koh Kong has been considered to rise rivals to Hong Kong. The Zone is easily found, but I could not provide details about entry. One other interesting part of Koh Kong city is Prey Koang Kang, which is a mangrove tropical forest. It was initially preserved and re-structured in 1997 and in present day, it is opened for tourists and there is a handful of projects related to the area like hotels, restaurants, and other resorts. Koh Kong Safari World Is another places to visit and we can enjoy our moments with the animals.

Koh Kong, along with Kep and Shihanouk Ville, can give you all a great time with the sea and the mountains. It is also part of Cardamom Mountains and Kirirom National Parks thus nature is abundant . I recommend this place for a "getting-away-from-the-hard-day" resting visit because Koh Kong would offer us many kinds of activities and scenic views. The fresh air is also a healer of stressful head and headaches.


Cambodia becomes permanent member of World Heritage Committee

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) — Cambodian Prime Minister on Tuesday expressed his warmly welcome as Cambodia becomes the permanent member of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO in 17th general assembly in France.

“ It is a new pride for our country that became fully permanent member of the world heritage committee,” Hun Sen told over 2,000 students in graduation ceremony of a university in Phnom Penh. “ Itwill promote the image and prestige of the Kingdom of Cambodia on the world arena,” he added.

On behalf of new permanent member of the WHC, Cambodia will implement its mission with high responsibility and will strengthen the cooperation with other countries, he said.

“ We will enhance capacity building and study multi experiences with the world heritage committee, UNESCO, and other international forums,” he stressed.

Moreover, Hun Sen said that Cambodia will do more to follow the common purposes in the WHC that has been working on conservation, culture and heritage development. “ We have to enhance more international cooperation to move forward of conservation and heritage development.”

The Kingdom of Cambodia was elected as a member of the WHC thanks to her richness in cultural properties and history including intangible cultural properties, several of which were inscribed on the World Heritage List, namely the Royal Ballet, the Shadow Theater, Angkor area, and the Temple of Preah Vihear, the premier said.

Cambodia becomes one of 21 permanent members which represent 186 countries in the world in the 17th general assembly of world heritage committee that is held from Oct. 23 to 28, 2009 in Paris, France at UNESCO Headquarters.

Cambodia became a member of UNESCO in 1951.


Some Malaysian Food Scenes

In Malaysia, the golden word of the Malaysian society is 'makan', which means 'eat' in Malay. Indeed, food is Malaysia's favourite, if not national pastime. This is due to the wide and diverse variety of cuisines available, a reflection of the country's multicultural society. This national love of food makes it Malaysia's most powerful uniting factor, which is why despite the recent race politics rocking the country the Malay will still unhesitatingly enjoy roti canai, the Indian his steaming hot plate of char kuay teow and the Chinese ordering nasi lemak without thinking twice.

Malaysia's cuisine does not only consists of Malay, Chinese, Indian and the lesser-known Dayak, but Nyonya food as well. Nyonya food is a fusion of Chinese and Malay recipes and styles of cooking as the community itself is a result of intermarriages between the Chinese and Malays in olden times. Local cuisines can be widely found in hawker stalls (sometimes called mamak for those serving Indian food), kopitiams (coffee shops) and restaurants as well; although the more popular places for enjoying local food would be at the former two. In fact, it is not uncommon to see people of varied financial and social status eating next to each other under the din of coffee shop chatter or clouded by sweet-smelling smoke and steam arising from the hawkers' humble woks.

Of course, as Malaysia moves alongside other nations of this world, foreign cuisine makes its way to the country and into the welcoming stomachs of eager Malaysians. In fact, foreign cuisine is enjoyed as much as local cuisine is and both exist harmoniously on the menu. Examples of common foreign cuisine available in this country are Western and other Asian varieties, such as Japanese, Thai, Middle Eastern and others. Popular franchises such as KFC, McDonald, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks are also easily found and softens the impact of cultural shock. However it is also not uncommon to see these fast-food outlets offering local twists to their menu.

Malaysia has an active food scene, with new eating hang-outs popping up every now and then. This topic aims to introduce Malaysia's inimitable food scene - from what's good to eat, to where as well as various good food blogs - which while eagerly embracing foreign tastes also takes fierce pride in its local gastronomic heritage.

Nasi Lemak
Nasi lemak basically means 'rice in cream', as the rice is first soaked in coconut cream and then steamed. This gives the rice its distinctive light, creamy flavour. Sometimes pandan (screwpine) leaves will be added as the rice steams to give it some fragrance.

Nasi lemak usually comes with accompaniments such as a slice or two of hard-boiled egg, sambal ikan bilis (spicy anchovy condiment), cucumbers slices and salted fish. It is traditionally served on banana leaf or oil-absorbing brown paper, but nowadays you can find it in a polysterene lunchbox or simply wrapped in plastic. You may also have it served on a plate.

Nasi Dagang
Means 'trader's rice' in Malay. Also known as Nasi Dagae in the Kelantanese dialect. It is a popular dish of the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, especially in Kelantan and Terengganu. Consists of reddish-brown rice cooked in coconut milk and accompaniments like kerisik (toasted grated coconut), acar (pickled vegetables, pronounced 'achar'), hard-boiled egg and fish curry.

Nasi Kerabu
Yes, the rice is blue! A concise description from flickr:
This rice dish is a regional specialty from Kelantan and the rice is tinted blue from petals of flowers called bunga telang (clitoria).

The blue rice is then served with a combination of fresh aromatic herbs, or known as ulam, hence the other name for this rice dish - Nasi Ulam. The Ulam here consists of local mint, basil, lemongrass, kaffir lime/ turmeric leaves, bunga kantan (torch ginger flower buds) etc and is served with raw vegetables (bean sprouts, long beans etc), salted egg, kerisik (grated coconut), tumis (pounded chilli paste) and a good serving of ground black pepper.

Nasi Paprik (also known as Nasi Goreng Paprik)
While Nasi Paprik is considered part of the Malay cuisine in Malaysia, it is actually Thai in origin. It is also known as Nasi Pad Prik, with Pad Prik being a Thai phrase (I looked up somewhere and it said pad = stir-fried, prik = chilli). It is rice fried in chilli or tomato sauce with a topping of stir-fried chicken and vegetables. This picture features sambal belacan (shrimp paste condiment) in the background.

Nasi Paprik
Nasi Goreng Kampung
Means 'Village-Style Fried Rice'. A simple but delicious consisting of rice fried with anchovies, shallots and vegetables. There are several versions, but the fried anchovies and shallots are what makes it a nasi goreng kampung. This dish can also be fried with soy sauce, which would give it a dark colour.

Ketupat is basically rice wrapped in woven palm leaf. Uncooked rice is first filled into the woven pouch and then boiled. The grains will then expand and the rice becomes compressed. Usually served during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, a Muslim festival also known as Eid ul-Fitr in other countries. It is eaten with curry or rendang, or served as an accompaniment to satay. To eat the ketupat, simply slice the pouch into half. Traditional ketupat is usually plain, but nowadays other varieties are made by adding spices, corn, etc.

Kangkung Belacan
One of the popular dishes in Malay cuisine that is also a common household dish due to the simplicity of its nature. Consists of kangkung (water spinach) stir-fried in belacan (shrimp paste). Chilli is commonly added in the wok as well for extra oomph, although one can opt out of it. Kangkung can be quite a challenge to chew due to its stringy (and some say rubbery) characteristic for the uninitiated, but once you get over that this simple dish is a delight to eat.

Ayam Percik
Spicy barbequed chicken and easily found in roadside stalls in Kelantan. The chicken is marinated with salt, sugar, chilli powder and turmeric powder. The spice paste on the other hand is made of candlenuts, garlic, dried chillies, red chillies, ginger and shallots. The paste is then fried with tamarind (for the sourness) and lemon grass (for flavour and fragrance), after which water, coconut milk, sugar and salt are added to make a spicy gravy. The chicken is then barbequed over 'a low charcoal fire or under a grill, basting frequently with the gravy, until the chicken is cooked' (

Beef Rendang
A dish brought to Malaysia by Minangkabau settlers, it is a popular serving at Malay feasts and festivals. It takes around 3 hours to cook, during which it boils until it is almost dry, moist only with the thick gravy that is left behind. The meat is also tenderised during this period and absorbs the spicy condiments, which makes this dish such a burst of flavours. It is in a nutshell, a spicy beef stew cooked in coconut milk.

Serunding is basically the dry, floss version of rendang and has a long shelf life. I LOVE serunding. One can munch on it as a snack or eat it with a steaming hot plate of rice.

Ikan Bakar
Fish barbequed/grilled with turmeric, chilli or a spicy sauce.

Keropok Lekor
A specialty of Terengganu and other east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia. A recipe borne out of the largely fishing communities there. It is basically shredded fish and batter deep-fried, and usually eaten as a snack with chilli sauce.

Disclaimer: text and photos is taken from ... The thread is posted by member by the sn "Crystalized Dream" Thus these photos and texts are not in our possessions.