Meet Clarissa Goenawan, the multinational citizen at heart

Posted by - September 20, 2018

Find out why this Indonesian-born author is the epitome of the saying, “Home is where the heart is”. Source: Shutterstock.
Clarissa Goenawan is living proof that you can be a multinational citizen at heart no matter where you are, as long as you feel a connection with the place.
Born and raised in Indonesia but currently has her footing in Singapore where she lives and with an immense appreciation for anything and everything Japanese, Goenawan’s love for discovery and travel, be it through the words she pens or real-life adventures, is admirable.
By day she is award-winning Rainbirds author Clarissa Goenawan, a strong believer in equality and inclusivity. All other times she juggles multiple roles between being a daughter, a wife, and a mother.
Come October, she will be at The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2018 in Ubud on the Indonesian paradise island of Bali, where she will be speaking at The Big Read: Telling Tales and It Takes A Village.
Credit: Choo.
Let’s get to know her a little bit better:
In Rainbirds, you penned a story about a young Japanese man’s path to self-discovery. Was it hard to write about a country or a culture that wasn’t your home ground? Why (or why not)?
Writing is challenging whether or not you write about your own country or culture. When writing outside my domain, I try my best to approach the subjects with care and respect.
Plenty of research always helps, and so does getting opinions from people who are familiar with the culture.
What do you love most about the Japanese culture and how would you describe it to someone who has never been to Japan?
There are too many things to love!
From the delicious food to the beautiful temples and gardens to the wide breadth of traditional and contemporary art, Japan has plenty to offer.
Source: Clarissa Goenawan.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the toilets. Japan has the most hi-tech toilets in the world. Heated toilet seats in cold weather are divine.
Japan is a kaleidoscopic mix of the old and new. It’s fascinating.
For curious travelers who have never been to Japan, what things to do or places to eat you would highly recommend?
I could go on and on, suggesting hundreds of things to do, but I’ll try to keep it short.
Located in Shibuya, Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the emperor and his empress. It takes a 10-minute stroll from the massive torii gate into a tranquil forest before you reach the main complex.
Source: Clarissa Goenawan.
In the early morning, the place is so peaceful. It makes me feel like I’m being transported to the past.
Just a short walk from Meiji Jingu, there is Harajuku, the place for the young and fashionable.
The main focal point of Harajuku is Takeshita Dori, a street lined with quirky vintage boutiques, trendy stores, and alternative fashion shops. Many youngsters gather in the area, dressed in their individual style.
The contrast between Meiji Jingu and Harajuku is captivating. Even though they’re right next to each other in Shibuya, they couldn’t be more different.
Source: Clarissa Goenawan.
There are a couple of crepe shops in Harajuku, such as Santa Monica, Marion, and Angel’s Heart. Take your pick from a huge display of appetizing sweet and savory variations. You can never go wrong with any of them.
Not far from Harajuku, Luke’s Lobster Roll in leafy Omotesando is to-die-for. A generous portion of fresh lobster meat chunks slapped over a warm and crispy bun.
Source: Clarissa Goenawan.
Go for the US size instead of the regular, and don’t be surprised if you still crave more.
Being an Indonesian-born who has spent so much time in Singapore, which culture do you feel you relate to better?
I was born and raised in Surabaya. It’s my hometown. No matter what, Indonesia will always have a special place in my heart.
When I was 16, I migrated to Singapore and have lived here ever since. My family is here too. This is where we build our lives. To me, Singapore is home.
Source: Shutterstock.
It’s impossible for me to choose just one. I relate strongly to both countries and their cultures. They form a crucial part of my heritage and my identity.
What are some of your biggest takeaways and learnings from working in Singapore?
It’s perfectly fine to follow your heart and passion. If you don’t go after your dream, it will never come true.
Be willing to take a calculated risk. Good luck favors those who work hard and never give up.
Describe how you feel about going home to Indonesia to speak at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.
Incredibly excited and honored! Also, kind of nostalgic.
When I still lived with my parents in Surabaya, our family used to drive to Bali every year for a holiday. Sometimes, we went twice a year.
Source: Shutterstock.
Bali is a gorgeous place, and the locals are so friendly. I can’t wait to go back.
Tell us why this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is not to be missed.
With a strong line-up of speakers such as Dee Lestari, Hanif Kureishi, Geoff Dyer, and many others, you know it’s going to be a magical and inspiring once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati.
It was first conceived of by Janet DeNeefe, co-founder of the foundation, as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing.
Stay tuned to their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates.

Collateral damage: Tourism industry jolts as natural disasters strike Asia

Posted by - September 19, 2018

For the past 25 years, global tourism has been in full upswing. People are travelling more than ever leaving no stone unturned, but one thing that can stop us in our track is natural disasters like typhoon and earthquakes.
But travellers are sensitive to changes in local conditions that can upset their plans. Environmental disasters and geopolitical conflicts are significant disruptions to a trip. Events that can affect the security and safety of the traveller can stray away tourists or travel managers from a popular destination too.
The cancellations and modifications of travel when a disaster strikes ignite a series of cause-and-effect relationships in the tourism industry. Here’s a look at how:
Intense calamities
Earlier this week, Hong Kong and China witnessed the fury of Typhoon Mangkhut leaving aviation, tourism, and transportation at standstill. Reports claimed that Hong Kong Airport and aircrafts parked at HKG were severely damaged. Hong Kong Airport is considered as a central transit point in Asia and its shutting down caused almost 1,000 flights to halt services or delay them.
The Las Vegas of the East – Macau also shut the doors of its casinos during the typhoon. In Guangdong, the high-speed rail and subway system were stalled.
Locals and visitors in Hong Kong and mainland China have taken to social media to post videos of the widespread destruction, shaking buildings, caused by winds of more than 250kph and waves over 12 meters high.
Prior to causing havoc in Hong Kong and China, Typhoon Mangkhut ripped the Philippines leaving dozens dead in landslides. Some tourist destinations in the Northern Luzon were submerged in floods that officials say will take a month to subside.
Typhoon Mangkhut is not an isolated case, Japan, especially Osaka, suffered greatly following Typhoon Jebi and Lombok area in Indonesia suffered from a series of earthquakes as well as the Hurricane Florence that affected the East Coast. And all of this in just the past month.
Disasters thwart tourism
According to the World Economic Forum, the tourism industry accounts for 9.8% of global GDP, supports 277 million jobs around the world and represents 6% of global exports. Moreover, the industry has potential for further growth, with the current 1.1 billion international tourist arrivals set to reach 1.8 billion by 2030.
For the past few years, the impact of natural disasters has been more profound. This can be attributed to the changing weather patterns around the world brought about climate change. Tourism is regarded as the lifeblood of some regions depending on the influx of local and international tourists. As an industry, several factors affect tourism both positively and negatively like natural disasters that occur unexpectedly.
“Tourist destinations can recover from terrorist attacks quicker than they would an environmental disaster”
The effect of natural disasters varies depending on the magnitude of the disaster. Earthquakes and hurricanes can destroy structures that change the landscape of the affected region. Travel analysts believe that tourist destinations can recover from terrorist attacks quicker than they would an environmental disaster.
Natural disasters can also hamper tourism. As mentioned above, flights are cancelled, local transportation is paralyzed, and tourist attractions may be damaged. In a chain reaction, the economy also suffered, especially in regions that depend heavily on tourism.
As natural disasters intensify and become more frequent, they are getting costlier as well. In 2009, natural disasters cost insurers about USD 110 billion, while in 2010, the cost was doubled USD 218 billion.
Natural disasters cannot be prevented unless we overhaul our environmental problems. It is important for the tourism industry to take into account the possibility of natural disasters to ensure business sustainability. Moreover, it is good to welcome the idea of avoiding the creation of tourism sites in areas that are likely to be affected by natural disasters due to their geographic location.
Aside from carefully choosing tourism sites, it is important for tourism companies to have a disaster emergency plan in place. This will make it easy for the place as a whole to recover faster from the disaster and at the same time, it will mitigate the damage from the disaster.
Opportunities abound
While natural disasters have an adverse effect on tourism, it is not all bad news. In some places, natural disasters bring more tourists. For example, the village of Boscastle in Cornwall, England witnessed the worst flash floods in 2004 destroying everything in sight. However, within the next few years, the central government spent millions of dollars in reconstruction which brought in more jobs and businesses.
Moreover, the media coverage of the disaster and rehabilitation of the place brought publicity to the place, which in turn increased the number of tourists. Similar can be said to Haiti when it was struck with a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010. However, such instances are far and few.
Lastly, disasters tend to invite enthusiasts like storm chasers and photographers that want to capture the destructive beauty of calamities.
In most cases, natural disasters have a negative impact on the tourism industry and the economy it supports. For this reason, it is important to have a disaster plan and be prepared at all times in place when nature strikes with her fury.

In pictures: Okinawa, where people live the longest

Posted by - September 19, 2018

It sounds like Okinawa’s residents knew the secret to life all along. Source: Shutterstock.
KARATE is spread across many places, from India to China to Japan.
It is believed to have been developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom of Japan prior to its 19th-century annexation. Karate was made popular by the The Karate Kid film series and today, it is one of the most popular martial arts in the world, loved by millions around the globe.
But despite its fame, the original and traditional karate has been preserved in Okinawa, with its principles carefully guarded.
Okinawa prefecture, Japan’s southernmost prefecture, is home to many dojos (a room or a hall in which martial arts are practiced) where tourists can enjoy tours and experience karate.
Its handful of bookstores sell rare books about karate and karate-related stone monuments are some of its many tourist attractions. But its tourist attractions are not limited to karate alone.
The prefecture comprises more than 150 pristine islands in the East China Sea between Taiwan and Japan’s mainland and boasts a pleasant tropical climate, on top of broad beaches, and coral reefs.
The largest island, also named Okinawa, played a critical role in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Afghanistan war, and Iraq war, which explains its many World War II sites such as old battle sites, various memorial monuments, and museums.
Perhaps contradictory to its dark past, the island is also where people live the longest, with 34 centenarians per 100,000 people, five times more than the rest of Japan.
Gyokusendo Cave in Okinawa island, Japan. Source: Shutterstock.
Okinawa is also home to some natural and marine wonders such as the Gyukusendo Cave, a soaring underground cave with over a million stalactites and pools of water.
For those who want to get up close and personal with whale sharks, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world, is a must-visit.
Churaumi, which means beautiful or graceful (chura) and ocean (umi), houses the gentle giants and their majestic manta ray friends alongside many other colorful fish species.
Also worth mentioning is the “unboring” Okinawan food, which goes beyond just sushi or yakitori. Its signature dish, goya champuru (which means “something mixed) is the region’s culinary heritage on a plate.
Be sure to slurp up a generous serving of delectable Okinawan soba as well. Thick wheat noodles swimming in a clear broth of pork, bonito fish flakes and konbu (kelp).
Take a look at what Okinawa prefecture has to offer:

7 laws all travelers should know before visiting these Asian nations

Posted by - September 17, 2018

Getting arrested on vacation is a sure fire way to ruin a trip. Source: Shutterstock
TRAVEL INSURANCE is essential whenever you leave home and embark on a journey.
Insurance covers you for accidental loss and damage, flight delays, and medical expenses. But no travel insurance policy covers the cost of bailing you out of jail.
Which is why it is essential to know about the laws in the country you’re visiting.
While some crimes are universal such as stealing, assault, and vandalism, there are plenty of everyday actions you may take for granted.
Everything from an “innocent” game of blackjack in India to a peck on the lips in Dubai have consequences ranging from an on-the-spot fine to imprisonment.
Here are a few laws to acquaint yourself with before you travel to avoid, at worst, going to jail and at best, being ridiculed and ousted by locals.
Sri Lanka Tattoos of Buddha and selfies with statues of Buddha are banned in Sri Lanka.
The Indian Ocean island off the southeast coast of India has a majority ethnic Sinhalese population who devoutly practice Buddhism.
In 2014, a British woman was deported for having a tattoo depicting Buddha on her arm and in 2012, two French tourists were given suspended prison sentences for kissing a Buddha statue.
Thailand The easiest way to offend Thai authorities is by disrespecting the royal family, namely King Vajiralongkorn.
It is illegal to verbally insult the royal family. It is also against the law to stand on Thai Baht which has the king’s face printed on it.
The lese-majeste law was created in 2014 after the Thai military took power. The law aims to punish those who defame the royal family.
The penalty for doing so ranges from three to 15 years in jail.
Dubai Dubai is well known for its strict laws affecting alcohol consumption and public displays of affection, as a British couple discovered in 2010 when they were reported, fined and imprisoned for kissing on a beach.
However, a lesser known rule is the prohibition of dancing in public.
The act of grooving to a beat outside your home is seen as “indecent and provocative” and can land you in jail.
There are however licensed bars in Dubai where you are free to dance until the sun comes up.
Japan If you are heading to Japan and have a cold, you will need to think twice about what medication you plan on taking as codeine is banned.
Medications such as Vicks and Benylin contain codeine. If you are found to be traveling with this drug you could be put in detention and deported.
Singapore Chewing gum loudly or spitting it out in public is considered rude in many nations. However, in Singapore it is illegal.
The import of chewing gum has been illegal in Singapore since 1992 because of the mess it caused on the country’s transport system.
If you’re found importing chewing gum, you can face jail time and chewing bubblegum is still a no go.
However, therapeutic gums such as those containing nicotine or no sugar are allowed.
India A quick game of snap will not land you in jail in India, but if you start putting money on the table, you could find yourself in big trouble.
Gambling is widely restricted in India apart from lotteries and horse racing, which means poker and the plethora of other casino games are banned outside of registered venues.
Penalties for illicit gambling include hefty fines and up to five years imprisonment.
Maldives Being a primarily Muslim nation, the selling of alcohol is widely restricted throughout the archipelago.
However, the import of alcohol by foreigners is wholly forbidden.
Customs workers have the right to take any alcohol off you and not return it.
So before you relax into your vacation and begin dancing to a funky beat in a Dubai bazaar or get a commemorative stick and tattoo Buddha on yourself, spare a thought for the consequences of your actions.

Replacement for aging Tsukiji fish market officially opens

Posted by - September 17, 2018

This picture taken on Feb 13, 2018 shows trading floors partitioned by an automatic door at the new Toyosu fish market in Tokyo. Source: AFP PHOTO/Kazuhiro NOGI.
LAST MONTH, Tsukiji fish market announced it would stop admitting tourists to watch its pre-dawn tuna auctions starting Sept 15, 2018.
This is to facilitate its upcoming move east to Toyosu, the site of a former gas plant, on Oct 11, 2018.
The move was originally scheduled for November 2016 in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but several delays set back the timeline, including the discovery of soil contamination at Toyosu.
In June 2017, plans to move were restarted but the move was again delayed to autumn of 2018.
But it has finally happened.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (C) and other officials cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony of Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market in Tokyo on Sep 13, 2018, which will officially open next month. Source: AFP PHOTO/Behrouz MEHRI.
Last week, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike led the opening ceremony for the new fish market. During the ceremony, she assuaged concern about the soil contamination at the site.
“Safety has been ensured,” JapanToday quoted her as saying. “Steps have been taken.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by hundreds of government and fisheries industry officials although the sprawling waterfront facility won’t be open for business until Oct 11, 2018.
Koike told the crowd that Toyosu, which is almost twice the size of Tsukiji at 407,000 square meters, would carry on the “Tsukiji brand,” which represents a food culture loved around the world.
Aerial view of the new Toyosu Fish Market. Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market
Considered a must-see for the curious traveler in Tokyo, the exciting auctions at Tsukiji fish market see over a hundred tourists visiting on the daily, with some tourists lining up as early as 2am.
Tsukiji is also highly popular for its array of restaurants and shops selling anything from the freshest seafood to household items like Japanese knives.
The market handles hundreds of kinds of seafood worth US$14 million daily, with is pre-dawn tuna auctions sold to everyone from top Michelin-star sushi chefs to ordinary grocery stores.
Japan hopes the new Toyosu market will also become a tourist attraction.
The new Toyosu Fish Market is located near Shijomae Station on the Yurikamome Line in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, about two kilometers east of Tsukiji’s current location.
According to Tokyo Cheapo, the complex will include more tourist-oriented stuff in the future such as a hotel, hot spring. and in 2022, a shopping street called Senkyaku Banrai.
The Tsukiji fish market will officially close on Oct 6, 2018. Its land area will be transformed into a transport hub during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The world’s most Instagrammed airports

Posted by - September 17, 2018

Airports have become more than just a place where a trip begins or ends. Source: Justin Lim/Unsplash
WE live in an age of digital connectivity and social media acceptability has progressively become one of the most important factors in choosing a vacation destination.
In fact, a study released last year by Scholfields revealed that 40 percent of the of 1,000 millennials surveyed picked a holiday spot based on how Instagrammable it is.
But many people don’t wait until they’ve summited a mountain or are laying on a powder-sand beach to update their Instagram as airline ticket provider Globehunters found out when it analyzed the Instagram mentions of airports around the world.
South Korea’s Incheon International Airport proved to be most popular among traveling #wanderlusters with over a million posts. After all, the airport has been voted as one of the world’s best airports for 12 years running.
As well as innovative facilities, Incheon International Airport also offers travelers immersive cultural workshops and exhibitions in two areas near the duty-free zone. Outbound travelers can learn how to make hanji (traditional Korean paper), among other activities, all free of charge.
Globehunters gathered its findings by searching each airport’s full name as well as location name, airport code, and airport name in its native language.
Asia-based airports claimed 18 spots on the 50 most Instagrammed airports list.
Europe nabbed 15 spots with England’s London Heathrow Airport taking the second position on the list with 557,239 posts.
The Americas racked up 17 of the world’s most Instagrammed airports including O’Hare International Aiport in Illinois with 161,768 posts and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport with 95,099 posts.
Asia’s airports claimed over a third of the spots on the list.
Here’s a rundown of Asia’s most Instagrammed airports.
Tokyo, Japan: Haneda Airport – 339,376
Singapore: Singapore Changi Airport – 323,269
Tokyo, Japan: Narita International Airport – 184,052
Dubai, UAE: Dubai International Airport – 139181
Bangkok, Thailand: Suvarnabhumi Airport – 132,846
Tangerang, Indonesia: Soekarno-Hatta International Airport – 122,213
Tokoname, Japan: Chubu Centrair International Airport – 85,630
Hong Kong, China: Hong Kong International Airport – 64,216
Doha, Qatar: Hamad International Airport – 52,058
Mumbai, India: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport – 34,211
Taipei, Taiwan: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport – 30,321
New Delhi, India: Indira Gandhi International Airport – 23,955
Shanghai, China: Shanghai Pudong International Airport – 15,826
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur International Airport – 12,403
Beijing, China: Beijing Capital International Airport – 12,370
Guangzhou, China: Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport – 4,694
To see the full list of the world’s most Instagrammed airports head over to Globehunters.

Asian countries that have declared war on cigarettes

Posted by - September 12, 2018

What you need to know before lighting a cigarette in these Asian countries. Source: Shutterstock.
SMOKING is a looming health epidemic, and Asian countries are taking measures against smoking.
In addition to banning tobacco advertising and slapping graphic images of smoking health hazards on cigarette packaging, a handful of Asian countries have also regulated smoking in indoor public places and more recently, some outdoor public places as well.
This includes children’s playgrounds, exercise areas, carparks, markets, al fresco dining areas, and more.
Last week, the Malaysian Health Ministry announced it would be making smoking at open-air mamak and hawker stalls illegal from December.
The motion was tabled during a sitting at the Parliament by Deputy Health Minister Dr. Lee Boon Chye under the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017.
“This gazettement is Malaysia’s commitment as a member state to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and adheres to the guidelines under Article 8 of the World Health Organisation (WHO),” The Star Online quoted him as saying.
Currently, Malaysia’s Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017 prohibits smoking in 21 areas including hospitals, public toilets, lifts, government premises as well as air-conditioned shops and offices. Others include parks and government premises.
It carries a penalty of RM10,000 (US$2,409) or a jail term of not more than two years.
Here are the other countries that have further strengthened some of the strictest tobacco regulation in Asia:
Singapore In July 2016, the island city-state restricted smoking in hawker centers, coffee shops, cafes, and fast food outlets. Establishments with an al fresco dining area are allowed to set aside 10 – 20 percent of the area for smoking, but they would have to be clearly marked to avoid confusion.
The regulations were later extended to bus interchanges and shelters, public toilets, public swimming complexes, entertainment nightspots, all children’s playgrounds, exercise areas, markets, underground and multi-story carparks, ferry terminals and jetties.
It was also extended to non-air conditioned areas in offices, factories, shops, shopping complexes and lift lobbies.
Source: Shutterstock.
Rule breakers will be fined SGD200 (US$145) while the owners of the establishments are fined SGD200 (US$145) and SGD500 (US$363) for a subsequent offense.
Singapore is now looking to phase out tobacco by preventing the supply of tobacco to Singaporeans born from the year 2000.
Japan 50 years ago, around half of Japanese smoked. That has now dropped to 18 percent and smoking areas have been dramatically restricted.
There are no set smoke-free regulations in Japan but smoking is forbidden on the streets of the Chiyoda, Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Nakano wards of Tokyo for reasons of child safety and Tokyo’s wards have the ability to fine people for smoking on the streets.
It is also generally understood that smoking is prohibited on public transport and subway platforms, while above ground train station platforms typically have smoking areas.
Source: Shutterstock.
In 2010, Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture implemented the nation’s first prefecture-wide smoking ban, banning smoking in public facilities, including hospitals, schools, and government offices. It requires large restaurants and hotels to choose whether to become nonsmoking or create separate smoking areas.
Three months ago, the Japanese capital city of Tokyo passed a tough anti-smoking law that will effectively ban smoking in most of the city’s bars and restaurants in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Hong Kong Under the government’s Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap. 371), first enacted in 1982, smoke-free regulations to include indoor workplaces, most public places including restaurants, internet cafes, public lavatories, beaches, and most public parks.
It was later extended to some bars, karaoke parlors, saunas, nightclubs, lifts, public transportations, cinemas, concert halls, airport terminals, escalators, shopping centers, department stores, supermarkets, banks, and game arcades.
On the cross-border trains between Hong Kong and mainland China, however, smoking in the restaurant car and the vestibules at the end of the cars are allowed but not in the seating area.
Any person who smokes or carries a lighted tobacco product in a no smoking area will be fined a maximum fine of HKD5,000 (US$637).
However, the Hong Kong government has yet to clarify how this will be enforced against non-Hong Kong ID cardholders and tourists since the offender has 21 days after the ticket issue to pay up.
Indonesia There are approximately 57 million smokers in Indonesia. Of Indonesian people, 63 percent of men and five percent of women reported being smokers, a total of 34 percent of the population.
The smoking restrictions started in the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, which banned smoking in the mega-metropolis’ restaurants, hotels, office buildings, airports, public transportations, and overall public areas.
Restaurants which want to allow smoking were required to provide a separate smoking space, but only half of the establishments have built separate facilities for smokers.
Source: Shutterstock.
Smoke-free regulations were later extended to Indonesia’s paradise island, Bali. This affected restaurants, hotels, playgrounds, traditional and modern markets, schools, government buildings, public transportation, places of worship and other public places.
Smokers caught doing the deed in smoke-free zones can be reported to the authorities and carries a penalty of IDR50,000 (US$3.36) or a jail term of three months.
South Korea The rules for smoking was not always strict in South Korea, but after discovering that male smoking is among the highest at 36.2 percent among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, it was clamped down.
The government aims to take down male smoking rate to the OECD average of 29 percent by 2020 by making the country one of the world’s most difficult places to smoke.
This includes significant price hikes, mandatory warning photos on cigarette packs, advertising bans, financial incentives and medical help for quitting.
Smoking is now illegal and strictly prohibited in all bars and restaurants, cafes, internet cafes, government buildings, kindergartens, schools, universities, hospitals, youth facilities, libraries, children’s playgrounds, and private academies.
It is also not allowed at subway or train stations and their platforms and underground pathways, large buildings, theaters, department stores or shopping malls, large hotels and highway rest areas.
The ban also entails a KRW100,000 (US$88.78) fine and up to KRW5 million (US$4,439) fine on shop owners not following the law.
Thailand In November 2002, Thailand rolled out indoor smoking restrictions in all indoor air-conditioned establishments (except entertainment areas) throughout the country.
Tobacco advertising was banned, and cigarettes were required to display graphic pictures since 2005.
Further restrictions were announced in February 2008, banning smoking in both indoor and outdoor establishments open to the public including restaurants, bars, and open-air markets.
Those who fail to comply will be fined THB2,000 (US$60) while establishments face a TBH20,000 (US$609) fine for not enforcing the ban, including not displaying mandated “No smoking” signs. They may also be arrested.
Source: Shutterstock.
Thailand also banned smoking on 20 popular tourist beaches last year in its bid to end pollution caused by discarded cigarette butts. Those caught lighting up could face a year’s imprisonment.
Bhutan This remote Himalayan Kingdom, fondly known as the happiest country in the world, made headlines for becoming the first country in the world to go entirely smoke-free.
In 2004, the national assembly of Bhutan banned the sale of tobacco throughout the country as well as smoking in public places, private offices, and recreation centers like bars and pubs.
Under the law, any individual found selling tobacco can face imprisonment for a period of three to five years.
Bhutan also passed the Tobacco Control Act in 2010, under which smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco became a non-bailable offense.
Those in possession of tobacco could face imprisonment for a minimum of three years if the person is unable to produce a receipt declaring payment of import duties for the products.

Lainey Loh | @laineyx
A certified daydreamer, when she's not physically travelling, she's often going places in her head. Her first love is coffee & her second, wine – & she accepts bribes in either forms. She's also entirely capable of deep conversations about life & random musings just for laughs, but do excuse her if she appears AWOL mid-chat – she's just going places in her head.

The Japanese aren’t fans of this major city in Japan

Posted by - September 11, 2018

Should you visit the least liked city in Japan? Source: Shutterstock.
JAPAN is home to many major cities, from the bustling Japanese capital of Tokyo that is known for being a pleasant assault on the sense to the quieter city of Kyoto that oozes old-fashioned charm.
But not all of them are fast favorites with Japanese residents.
In fact, according to a recent survey, Japanese residents have found Nagoya the least appealing among all of the country’s cities.
The survey gathered responses from 3,344 participants ranging in age from of 20 and 64, all of whom had lived in one of the cities for at least five years, SoraNews24 reported.
Located in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya is the largest city in the Chūbu region of Japan and Japan’s third-largest incorporated city and the fourth-most-populous urban area.
However, it finished at the bottom of the list for the most appealing city (3.5 percent of the respondents) and on top of the list for the least appealing city (31.9 percent of the respondents).
The city skyline of Nagoya, Japan. Source: Shutterstock.
This is not the first time that Nagoya has ended up with less impressive results in a survey. A previous survey, which ran in 2016, also resulted in the city coming out last on the list.
Why aren’t the Japanese fans of Nagoya?
Other cities in Japan have high-profile attractions which could easily overshadow anything that Nagoya has to offer. Tokyo has the Tokyo Skytree, Kyoto has the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and Yokohama has the annual Pikachu Outbreak.
When asked about what made Nagoya appealing, the most common response (33.1 percent of the respondents) was “Nagoya Castle.”
The second-most common answer (28.1 percent of the respondents) was “I can’t really think of anything.”
The beautiful Nagoya Castle in Nagoya, Japan. Source: Shutterstock.
But Nagoya has more surprises up its sleeve than you’d expect.
For example, aside from the beautiful Nagoya Castle right smack in the middle of the city, Nagoya is also known for being a gastronomical adventure, serving up local specialties like tebasaki chicken wings and tonkatsu pork cutlets.
It also boasts the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, a museum tracing history of Toyota vehicles, with chronological displays of rare and classic cars.
And when the highly anticipated Studio Ghibli theme park opens in Nagakute in 2022, Nagoya will be the closest largest city to the park.
A night out on the colorful streets of Nagoya, Japan. Source: Shutterstock.
Meanwhile, the city that was voted the most appealing was surprisingly not Tokyo.
22.8 percent of the survey respondents voted for Sapporo, the capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Sapporo is notably famous for its beer, skiing, and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival, one of Japan’s most popular winter events featuring enormous ice sculptures and snow art.
Tokyo came in second on the list with 22.4 of the respondents voting in favor while Kyoto snagged the third spot with 18.1 percent of the respondents casting their votes for the former Japanese capital.

10 countries in Asia that are LGBT-friendly

Posted by - September 7, 2018

These countries in Asia recognize everyone’s right to love. Source: Shutterstock.
YESTERDAY, India’s Supreme Court legalized gay sex, a ruling that overturns a 2013 judgment that upheld section 377 under which gay sex is categorized as an “unnatural offense”.
The 157-year-old section 377 states that gay sex is punishable by a 10-year jail term.
Not only that, the court also ruled discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation a fundamental violation of rights.
“Thursday’s decision was delivered by a five-judge bench headed by India’s outgoing chief justice Dipak Misra and was unanimous,” BBC reported.
“Another judge, Indu Malhotra, said she believed ‘history owes an apology’ to LGBT people for ostracising them.”
The historic decision was celebrated by many, with campaigners outside the court cheering and breaking down in tears of joy.
While the average person living in the bigger cities such as Delhi, Bombay, Kolkatta, Chennai, and Bangalore are generally unaffected by the verdict, religious groups and conservative rural communities are still strongly opposing it.
It is hoped that with the ruling, attitudes will change and the communities will find full acceptance.
Source: Shutterstock.
On the other end of the spectrum, Malaysia made international headlines this week when two Malaysia Muslim women were caned in public for attempting to have lesbian sex.
The sentence, which was passed in the state of Terengganu under the Syariah law, drew the ire of lawmakers and rights activists from around the globe.
“Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and may amount to torture,” Amnesty International Malaysia said in a statement.
“People should not live in fear because they are attracted to people of the same sex. The Malaysian authorities must immediately repeal repressive laws, outlaw torturous punishments and ratify the U.N. Convention Against Torture.”
Source: Shutterstock.
For many in Malaysia, it is too close for comfort as the incident follows a brutal attack which took place in the state of Negeri Sembilan, south of Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, just a couple of weeks prior.
A transgender woman, Suki was beaten up by eight men with sticks and plastic pipes which left her with broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, and head injuries that required seven stitches.
The assailants have since been arrested by the police, but the growing hostility towards gay and transgender people in the country is evident.
If you are an LGBT traveler hoping to visit some Asian destinations, here are some countries where homosexuality is not illegal:
India Azerbaijan Turkey Bahrain Jordan Nepal China Japan South Korea Taiwan

The many faces of Mount Fuji

Posted by - September 5, 2018

The traveler’s guide to catching a glimpse of Japan’s most majestic peak. Source: Shutterstock.
ONE OF the most elusive sights in Japan is undoubtedly the country’s pride and joy, Mount Fuji, more affectionately known to locals as “Fuji-san”.
At 3,776 meters, Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest peak but it’s known for being extremely shy, showing up only 80 days in a year. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration when attempting to “hunt” the majestic peak down such as location and season/weather.
Thus, the chances of seeing Mount Fuji in person are really low, about a 20 percent chance.
Luckily for you, Tokyo-based Japan Map Center has released a special map, entitled Fuji-san Koko, which roughly translates as “Mt. Fuji Here”, which indicates the best areas where the mountain can be observed.
This means people will easily be able to discover the different faces of Japan’s pride.
Prime spots where Mount Fuji can be observed is overlayed on the map and indicated with “flags”.
According to the map, Mount Fuji can be observed from as far away as mountains straddling the Mie and Wakayama prefectures more than 300 kilometers to the southwest.
On top of being easy to use, it’s also traveler-friendly as it allows you to change the language to English and switch the background to a variety of backdrops ranging from satellite images, topographic data, and prefectural and municipal borders,
Each “flag” pop-up details the distance between the destination and Mount Fuji, accompanied by a photograph taken from that location.
Aside from making Mount Fuji more accessible to people, the map can help travelers make new discoveries.
One such discovery is a phenomenon called Diamond Fuji, which occurs when the sun rises or sets behind the mountain, making the summit dazzle like a sparkling diamond.
“Mt. Fuji Here” is one of seven maps of Geospacial Information Authority of Japan with additional information provided by the center that are disclosed online.
The project is being led by Hiroshi Tashiro, a geographer known for his love of Mount Fuji, who helped compile the map through topographical calculations.
It’s available for viewing here.