Tag Archives: Southeast Asia

ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network foundation

The ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network (ASEAN-OSHNET) and its predecessors have a long history, extending back to the 1980s. It is a network of 10 ASEAN countries’ government OSH institutions, OSH departments of the ministries of labour (MOL), or respective bodies or institutions in the jurisdiction of the MOL.

Its origin can be traced from the ILO Programme for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment (PIACT) in 1976.

An ILO seminar, held in 1984 for the ASEAN countries, recommended the establishment of a regional centre to collect and disseminate information in ASEAN, and to manage research and training for the improvement of working conditions and environments.

The idea to develop a project network for improving working conditions was agreed by the First ASEAN Labour Technical Working Group Meeting, held in October 1984 in Manila, and the proposal was approved by the Fifth ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting, held in Manila at the same time.

In 1995, the ASEAN Secretariat obtained United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funding to conduct a feasibility study on the establishment of an ASEAN training centre and network for the improvement of working conditions and environments.

Offshore inspection by management team onboard of a self-propelled unloading barge in reclamation project in Indonesia.

Establishment and development

Feasibility study was conducted in 1996, and a workshop to review the results was convened in Manila in October of the same year, attended by the head of the Philippine National OSH Centre and national experts from seven ASEAN countries. They agreed upon the following recommendations:

  1. To establish ASEAN-OSHNET among the national OSH institutions in ASEAN
  2. To form an ASEAN-OSHNET Coordinating Board, comprising the heads of the national OSH centres or their equivalents – which report directly to the ASEAN Subcommittee on Labour Affairs (ASCLA) – to oversee the operation of ASEAN-OSHNET, and the planning and implementation of its Plan of Action.
  3. That the ASEAN-OSHNET Coordinating Board will meet once a year, and its immediate task will be to establish the secretariat of the network.
  4. That ASEAN-OSHNET be considered a flagship project of the ASEAN Economic Charter
  5. To include six projects in the Proposed Four-Year Plan of Action.

The development history of ASEAN-OSHNET can be divided into four stages:

  1. Foundation – establishment of the network, defining the mission and objectives, building infrastructure, and agreeing on division of work (2000 – 2005).
  2. Policy, and substantive capacity development – earning official recognition by the ALMM, focusing on programme areas, content and methods, training capabilities, and learning networking practices (2006 – 2010).
  3. Revitalizing – evaluating the achievements, identifying strengths and challenges, showing results, raising the OSH profile, and expanding scope and coverage (2011-2015).
  4. Integration, regional and global – combining objectives from several policy dimensions for the overall development of work life within the framework of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) vision 2025, and the ALM labour ministers’ Work Plan 2016 – 2020, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals in collaboration with the Plus Three and global partners, ILO, ISSA, the IALI, and ICOH.

Indonesia’s leading role

From the beginning, the development of the network has been continuous and progressive. After 15 years of activity ASEAN-OSHNET is well established, active, and productive. An extensive report, Turning Visions into Action, was published in 2015 for the 15th anniversary of the network,
and it documented full achievement of the objectives set in the foundation meetings.

Indonesia ministry of manpower held the 20th ASEAN Coordinating Board Meeting (CBM), which is held annually by rotating hosts among Southeast Asian countries, in Yogyakarta in 2019.

Speaking at the opening meeting, Directorate General of Labor Supervision and Occupational Safety and Health secretary Budi Hartawan said the meeting aims to collect and disseminate information, research and training to improve the environment and working conditions in ASEAN.”

It was the third time Indonesia had become host and chairman of the CBM, after 2000 and 2010.

Status and constitution

The foundation of the ASEAN-OSHNET is based on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the members’ OSH administrations from the year 2000.

Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam have formally recognized the ASEAN-OSHNET as an important instrument for the development of ASEAN OSH policies and practices in the region, and have delegated key tasks in the implementation of the ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting (ALMM) OSH strategy.

In 2006, OSH was added as the sixth priority area for ASEAN. The ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting (ALMM) has formally recognized ASEAN-OSHNET as an instrument for the ASEAN OSH policy implementation, such as in 2017 when they adopted a Statement on Improvement of Occupational Safety and Health for Sustainable Economic Growth.

ASEAN-OSHNET can demonstrate high productivity and impact at the level of policy support for the prevention and management of occupational hazards, accidents, and diseases. This has been done through the implementation of the network’s own, OSH strategies, development of strategic planning and national OSH programmes, development of OSH framework and infrastructures, development of research, information, human resources, and their competence through training, and guidelines and methods for good practices in OSH and in inspection.

Read also: BMIS integrated management system of ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, OHSAS 18001:2007 certifications, audit assistance by ASPI

Provision of occupational safety for BMIS workers at a jetty construction in Bintan, Indonesia


A Southeast Asian city narratives by photographer turn artist

It’s All About the Story, Past, Present, Future is a solo exhibition by mixed-media artist Robert Pearce, held in Galeri Kertas, Depok. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the exhibition that runs from 1 to 31 May 2019. To visit their official site, go to http://www.studiohanafi.com, or @galerikertas_art

Rob Pearce performs on the opening site of his solo exhibition at Galeri Kertas, 1 May 2019. Photo by Arhan, courtesy of Studio Hanafi.

During the 1000 days of mourning for his parents passing years ago, a common social behavior in parts of Asia, 57 year-old Robert Pearce, residing in Indonesia, drowned himself into period of contemplation.

Then, in frenzy collage, he glued pieces of cut photos of his parents, words from the books he read, leaves from plants on his lush yard, pasted it on the wall and had it photographed.

More than a visual object, it became a shrine where he left flowers as if he was in the cemetary, visiting his memories with them.

His intricate works are also composed of advertising posters he ripped on the streets and underpasses of Jakarta he had noticed during one of his his photography projects.

It took months to execute all the pieces together, and who knows how long to muster the idea. Judging from the finished objects, craft knife and paint are presumably tools he often uses.

Douglas Ramage, an avid collector of Hanafi’s works which he first came to know some 20 years back, said that in those time he would not have seriously thought about buying a photograph that he deemed of no artistic value. But Rob Pearce, whom he first met when he was a photographer, changed that notion.

“Rob loves to tell stories of his photos. I believe he can’t create something without telling the story,” Doug said in fluent Indonesian during the public discussion. His favorite is the medium format 2×1 photowork containing fragments of Jakarta, and interestingly, after a much closer look, the artist’s late mother.

He added that Rob tried to put his mother inside the frames, hidden in a rich selection of colors 

Hanafi is also notable for his preference to colors, the collector said.

“There is depth in Hanafi’s colors,” he said.

Hanafi said that within Rob is a soul that will never stop delving into the torned pieces, looking for each of the memory kept inside.

“Jakarta made me a better person, more tolerant, more patient,” Rob said, while adding that he hates the portrayal of Jakarta as another exotic Asian cosmopolitan city. Among his notable portfolio about Jakarta were Marunda Water (1999-2000), and Ripped Faces, 8008km (2001-2003).

The youth Rob came for the first time to Jakarta in 1970, before settling since the 1990 as an English teacher. His return in the 2000s after taking bachelor degree in Documentary Photography, University of Wales, Newport, began the journey that turned him from a photographer to a widely-recognized artist, a move he described as self-learning and mind-liberating.

Asked about the motivation behind the move, the artist who also obtained bachelor degree in Southeast Asian Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury, in 1983, said being a photographer is driven by his view of both romanticism and machoism, that of having oneself in a new place, investigating one case to another.

The downside is that the job is an instructed routine that can be mind-numbing. He wanted to tell more stories in creative ways and possibilities of his own making.

Looking into his works, the trace of photography are commonplace, but they have become less of an art photography and more of a mixed media art, uniquely shaped by the artist’s fragments of past memory, the current “Asian” state of being, and the way he visualizes the country he lives in.

Lembaran Kelengkapan. Rob Pearce. Joss paper, book pages, acrylic paint, acrylicink on aluminium composite. 2019.

Nevertheless, he said that the intuition shaped in the years of “tukang foto” still persist. He just feels lucky and seems grateful enough to be able to make narratives the way he wants to now.        

He credited Jakarta as his aesthetic teacher, saying, “My artworks came to be owing to Jakarta. They are inspired by the raucous noise, dust, and smoke around the city streets and flyovers.”

Lontar Foundation founder John H. McGlynn, on the opening day filled with lively ceremony and the line-up of musicians such as Oppie Andaresta, explained that Rob exhibit what used to be simple photoworks he had taken decades before they transformed into complex, impassioned artworks. Hence he suggested that each piece has an enriching story to be understood, learned by the audience.

It‘s All About the Story, Past, Present, Future by Rob Pearce is Galeri Kertas first exhibition of this year. On this occasion they simultaneously introduce their 2019 tagline: Let’s fill this town with artists.

As what has been the usual agenda of Galeri Kertas, Rob Pearce art exhibition precedes a workshop by the artist for selected young, aspiring artists, a public discussion, and the eventual workshop exhibition.

Curator Heru Joni Putra said the main source of material of Rob’s artwork is the books he read. Moreover, the torned pages he attached to joss “ghost” papers in Chinese ritual, for instance, showed Rob’s perseverance on exploring the paper-based artwork material, and how it conforms to Galeri Kertas mission to light up the exploration and promote the particular medium.

Asked why the displayed works are not signed with date of completion, it is revealed that Rob has phobia with his own signature, which explained why he decided to put it at the back of the frame.

For a supposedly dyslexic person, Rob left a somewhat articulate note on the wall to tell the visitors about the journey from his suburb home-garden in Cipayung to Hanafi’s art studio in Parung Bingung.

There was no eureka moment just the drip drip drip of learning. Observing that which can lead you in the direction of partial understanding. Of looking for opportunities and celebrating mistakes, as it is here that can lead to something new. The joy of randomness and the pleasure in work can come together, meshing and weaving intertwined threads with the aim of producing a piece that pleases the eye and tweaks the intellect.

The politics tower

Bangunan UMNO

As the name suggests, the glass-facade, 40-storey Bangunan UMNO is the headquarters of Malaysia’s largest political party, the United Malays National Organization, remaining in power since the nation birth in 1957. They lead a coalition called Barisan Nasional consisting of mainly three parties, the other two being the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), against some smaller opposition parties.

The country holds a multi-party system, but the coalition has always been enjoying landslide victories throughout time, to the extent where some, within the party, has voiced concern over the absolutism that hardly gets in check.

UMNO’s towering power

“90% majority (vote) is too strong. We need opposition to remind us if we are making mistakes. When you are not opposed you think everything you do is right,” said former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in 2005.

Prime minister succession in his country had all come from UMNO. He was the fourth, and the longest serving.

Democratic or not, all countries have each of their own predominant political organization, but few have a party akin to Malaysia’s that could stay in power uncontested since the birth of the nation.

And among those few, none have the privilege to build a stoic headquarters 175 meters tall which is arguably the world’s tallest building that conspicuously bears the name of a political organization, not to mention the future plan to develop a super bloc PWTC KL housing luxury hotel, convention center, and a 70-storey skyscraper to mark 70 years of age for UMNO by 2020.

Opened in 1985 for mainly commercial-use, Bangunan UMNO is also called the Dato Onn Tower, named after the party founder Dato Onn Jaafar.

The Communist Party of China certainly has the land and all the resources to flaunt grandiose headquarters as they did when they came to power by building a central government office that also houses the ruling communist party office to be bigger than the Forbidden City. However, they did not come close to construct skyscrapers or a business district at the city center and put the letter CPC on top of it.

Its neighbor Indonesia was once ruled by a party whose power went uncontested for 32 years. Having had bolstered an image as the initiator of the country’s economic development, yet they did not construct Golkar Tower whatsoever. Instead, their new office complex showcases an interesting design.

But there are similar instances elsewhere to compare.

High-rise party headquarters

Ušće Tower, built in 1964, remained the tallest building in Serbian capital Belgrade to date. It was home to the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, the country’s communist party. Its supreme political status made it an airstrike target by NATO forces during the Balkan crisis in the late 90’s, despite of no strategic value. Several years later it underwent a revamp to add a shopping mall, thus restored the prime sense of modernity at the city center.

Named also after a leading political figure, Metzudat Ze’ev is an example of a high-rise office for political party in Israel, Likud. Ze’ev Jabotinsky was central in the 60’s Revisionist Zionism, a movement that sees a unified territory of Israel as opposed to the Arab-Jewish States of Palestine. Among the tallest building in 1963 at 60 meters high, it is now one of the oldest buildings in Tel Aviv, and remained a home for Likud-affiliated movement centers, institute, and museums, while the rest other space leased for private businesses.

Too high to afford

In the same year, London also saw the completion of Millbank Tower, an 118 meters building that housed the countries’ Labour and Conservative parties, although this was merely coincidental. The general function for office use subjected the parties to rents which steadily rises to the point where Labour party decided to vacate its headquarters a decade ago due to high annual rents. The United Nations soon followed suit.

In 2013, the ruling political party in Uganda constructed a 27-floor tower to house the National Resistance Movement headquarters in the capital Kampala. The ruling president helped raise funds to build the USD12.5 million Movement House by a hundred thousand of party members donation, and other means he initiated. It will become a mixed-use high-rise structure accommodating retail space, financial, office, and other leisure amenities.

Jazz di alam Indonesia


Jazz gunung adalah pagelaran musik tahunan yang diadakan tanpa putus sejak 2009 di kawasan wisata Bromo atau Taman Nasional Tengger Semeru, Jawa Timur. Musisi yang pernah tampil di antaranya adalah Djaduk Ferianto, yang pada awalnya juga adalah penggagas konsep acara ini. Ia hampir selalu tampil setiap tahunnya bersama sekian musisi seperti Kua Etnika, Trie Utami dan Idang Rasjidi. Selain itu ada pula Syaharani, Balawan, Dewa Budjana, Tohpati Ethnomission, Kulkul, Benny Likumahuwa beserta anaknya Barry Likumahuwa, vokalis Iga Mawarni, hingga musisi di ranah indie dan pop seperti Banda Neira atau Yovie Widianto, dan Rieke Roslan.

Gunung Bromo yang merupakan tanah vulkanik yang terkenal dengan keindahannya memberikan pengalaman yang berbeda. Penikmat jazz tidak hanya mendapatkan pengalaman auditif namun juga visual yang diberikan oleh keindahan alam Gunung Bromo. Jazz Gunung yang diadakan selama 2 hari merupakan bentuk apresiasi yang diberikan kepada para penikmat jazz.

Jazz Atas Awan merupakan rangkaian acara yang diselenggarakan dalam Dieng Culture Festival di kawasan Gunung Dieng, Jawa Tengah. Jika Jazz Gunung hanya menampilkan satu pagelaran konser, Dieng Culture Festival memadukan kebudayaan tradisional dengan sisi modern, yaitu jazz.

Jika selama ini jazz hanya diasosiasikan ke penikmat musik kalangan tertentu, Jazz Atas Awan menawarkan pagelaran yang lebih terkesan merakyat. Berlatar belakang artefak Candi Arjuna, Jazz Atas Awan tidak memberikan sebuah panggung megah yang memisahkan pemusik dan penonton. Konsep ini ditawarkan agar jazz dapat dinikmati semua orang.

Kedua pagelaran tersebut menawarkan keindahan alam terbuka, kebudayaan, peninggalan sejarah dan musik jazz dalam satu kemasan. Sama-sama diadakan di ketinggian 2000 meter di atas laut, siapkan pakaian musim dingin karena suhu yang tak biasanya rendah di alam terbuka.

Acara-acara serupa turut bermunculan, seperti Ngayogjazz di Yogyakarta, Prambanan Jazz, Banyuwangi Jazz Festival, Maratua Jazz yang juga mempopulerkan pariwisata Kepulauan Derawan, Mahakam Fiesta Jazz Samarinda, Jazz Pinggir Kali Purbalingga, dan Ijen Summer Jazz yang berlatar belakang pegunungan Merapi. Kedua terakhir digelar untuk pertama kalinya tahun ini. Ubud Village Jazz Festival yang berlangsung selama dua hari setiap tahun sejak 2012, diikuti oleh sejumlah grup internasional, dan di antara musisi lokal terdapat Salamander Big Band dan Sandy Winarta.

The capsule city Makati


Ika Warastuti loves exploring words. She has great respect to Pramoedya Ananta Toer for the man’s grandiose artistry in narrating monoto-nous, ignorable occasions in life into emotional passages that blow her away. She works as an analyst and occa-sionally manages a blog at warastuti.com. She her accounts of Manila, Philippines below, featured in the sixth volume of the international edition of think archipelago magazine.

Panorama Manila

The taxi driver nodded following my request and took the right line of the road, taking us through the fly over toll road heading to Makati City of Manila. The view below us was complicated and dense: Flocks of residences intersected by a railway and minor traffic jam in several spot.

The view indicates a conglomeration of those with economic dependence to the existence of the city.

The toll road brought me to a contrast view when I arrived in Ayala Avenue, the nuclei of Makati, many people said. The skyscraper of Bank of the Philippine Islands stood on the right side of our way.

Another pivotal institution, the Philippine Stock Exchange, is also located on the avenue. Most of individual spaces are built vertically in a massive number of towers so that it forms concrete jungle which can block the sunlight due to its heights.


The weather was good during my visit. So I and friends could enjoy an evening at the Ayala Triangle, a spacious park where people can jog, meet up with friends or just sit and sip a cup of coffee.

Similar parks are rarely seen outside the city. It was like entering a capsule city, where the quality of the air, the anthem and the habits of the people are completely different with the supporting regions around it.

Life in Makati

Makati has its own circadian cycle. The life in the city is lit up by the white collars marching to their offices and dimmed when the office hours is over.

Around 400,000 people are estimated to be dwelling the city. The number is boosted on weekdays to become one million due to the incoming workers from the surrounding Manila.

Manila, PhillipinesThe local government has implemented advance policies to regulate the city dwellers. The ban on plastic bag usage has been effective since around a year ago. Each shopper needs to bring their own non-plastic reused bag for loading their groceries at supermarket.

Smoking is also strictly regulated. These two policies have classified Makati high above the other regions of Manila where environmental concern remains low.

Living cost

A friend who has spent her last three years in the city said however, that life in the city is quite pricey. The living cost in Makati is relatively higher compared to other Southeast Asia’s metropolitan hubs like Bangkok and Jakarta.

The rent and property price are 1.5 higher than in other big cities. The electricity supply in Makati is managed under private entity, which eventually leads to 2-3 times higher price.

Social diversity

Perhaps, due to mixed culture and international network which are based in the city, the city dwellers have more intense exposure to foreign culture. Many youths raised in the city no longer speak Tagalog.

If I can describe Manila in two-sided coin, Makati represents the side of 21th modern century while the rest regions seem stuck in nineties. Will this sophisticated civilization be contagious to the surrounding? Otherwise the capsule city will remain a contrast, like a winner who stands in loneliness.

Manila, Phillipines

A tale of the past


Mia P. Tanujaya, a full time dreamer and reader, is currently working as a marketer in Vietnam. She is fond of teaching and always believes in Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” It is her dream to travel around the world and write a book about it.

The Japanese Covered Bridge that connected 2 parts of town
The Japanese Bridge is Hoi An’s signature landmark used widely as an emblem of the town. It was built by Japanese merchants in the 16th century. The bridge was originally constructed to connect the Japanese community with the Chinese quarter separated by a small stream of water, a symbolic gesture of peace.

Hoi An, an enchanting ancient town located in Quang Nam province, central Vietnam, was once a major trading port of Southeast Asia in the 16th century. It was previously known by various names—Fayfo, Haifo, Kaifo, Faifoo, Faicfo, Hoai Pho—meaning “peaceful meeting place”.

With the total area of 60 square kilometers, Hoi An has plenty distinct Chinese architecture with low tile-roofed houses and narrow streets, some of the first built ones remained almost intact. This little town is nominated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich cultural heritage.The entrance to Tan Ky HouseMost of the town’s grand heritage listed buildings date back to French colonial times in the late 19th and early 20th century. The oldest houses have passed four at least 5 generations, and are quite distinct from those of the colonial era. A handful of these older merchant houses are open for visitors. The three top houses to visit are Duc An, Tan Ky and Phung Hung.

Group of Tourist marching the streetHoi An’s old streets are packed with houses dating back to its emergence as an important Asian trading port in the 18th century.

The houses reflect the architectural styles of the major trading partners of the time—China, Japan, as well as the former European occupying force in Indo China, France.

You will be greeted by old yellow buildings with their Chinese-ornamented windows and doors neatly lined up along the small street. Hoi An is not big.

It only consists of a few blocks. But it is also one of so many factors that makes tourists feel immensely satisfied roaming the streets and eager to explore every hidden corner in this small town . Motorists are not allowed to enter the streets in the main area except at certain hours, which makes it a very tourist-friendly place.

The Street at dawnThere is something inexplicable about this little town, something that induces a feeling of longing that chants ” I’m coming…here I am”.

Nostalgic is probably the closest word to describe the feeling. Even if it is the first time you set foot there, you will stop for a moment to take a breath and say to yourself, “I’m home”. You could feel that every wall and corner sing a tale of the past.

The windblow  from the sidelines between a small alley seem to try to gush, “I witnessed a lot of tales from time to time”.

The old man in pajamas and a bowl of magic


Mia P. Tanujaya, a full time dreamer and reader, is currently working as a marketer in Vietnam. She is fond of teaching and always believes in Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.” It is her dream to travel around the world and write a book about it.

Lion Dance vietnam

In Vietnam the Mid-Autumn Festival (Tet Trung Thu) is the country’s second most important holiday after the Vietnamese New Year (Tet). Tet Trung Thu usually takes place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.

The best place in Vietnam to observe Tet Trung Thu is Hoi An ancient city in Quang Nam province. The town’s Old Quarter is densely packed with shops, thus attracting the lion dancers. The river is teemed with floating lanterns, and the atmosphere is magical.

Flowers for offerings, vietnam

Since the town is so small, groups of lion dancers often encounter each other. They will put on fierce dance battle in an attempt to establish dominance. In the end this holiday is all about fun, and it is great to see groups of people marching and dancing through the streets, following the lion dancers’ way to every stop.

Weather could be quite tricky at this time of the year as wet season approaches, but it would not stop the people from carrying out the tradition. They would still make it through the rain and visitors are excitedly joining in.

the view from inside an old houseFor those who miss the Mid-Autumn Festival, they can always make time on every 14th day of the lunar month which is a Buddhist day of worship. Residents place offerings and burn incense on their ancestral altars and visit one of Hoi An’s many pagodas.

The scent of incense and the sounds of people singing add to the town’s enchanted atmosphere. On the evenings, visitors will get a rare glimpse into another era. These nights are warm reminders of life’s unforeseen beauty.

Cao LauVisitors to Hoi An always remember Cao Lau, which is considered by Quang Nam people as a special symbol for Hoi An. It is rice noodle served with thinly-sliced, soy-simmered pork, crispy fresh lettuce, assorted herbs such as basil, cilantro and mint, and crackly squares of deep-fried flour cracker.

It is said that Cao Lau cannot be made well outside Quang Nam. The secret lies in the water. Authentic Cao Lau is prepared only with water drawn from ancient Cham (ancient ethnic group) wells hidden around Hoi An and across Quang Nam Province.

Morning cruise in the Strait of Malacca

V4 Nov 2013The morning sea view from the highest deck of Italian mega ship Costa Atlantica cruising the Strait of Malacca graced the cover of the fourth international edition of think archipelago magazine, November 2014. Here are several photographs on board of the ship that was not found in the article Night at the cruise ship. Now we publish it online for the first time.

Costa Atlantica viewing deck

Costa Atlantica viewing deck

Costa Atlantica stern deck

Sunrise in Malacca Strait

Costa Atlantica cruise upper deck

Costa Atlantica cruise upper deck

Night at the cruise ship

Costa Atlantica deck at night

Costa Atlantica deck's bar
Recently boarded passengers chat at one of the deck’s bars.

A few men isolated themselves on the deck of Costa Atlantica from over 2,500 passengers, most of which have just boarded the ship two hours prior to departure.

A small group remained stuck in the crammed lobby to get through time-consuming but necessary boarding arrangements. Most others had started discovering every interior part of the lavishly decorated ships.

Many stayed in their rooms to get a break from the mass tourist.

On the deck, the gathering place at the top level of the ship where only very few people have had the thought to look at, the peace in vacation was found.

Minutes of departure

Under the dark sky and facing dark seas, people did not notice that the ship had just departed the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore. The main engine was hardly heard or felt. Their conversation was louder than the sound of waves.

Costa Atlantica viewing deck at night
Work hour: A crew member walks past the panorama deck as the ship begins the 5-day itineraries across three Southeast Asian countries.

Costa Atlantica picked Singapore as the port of origin in one of its cruise line maiden journeys in Southeast Asia.

In the late evening that does not differ much in temperature than in daylight, it set sail to two cities along the Strait of Malacca—the city of Malacca, Penang—and ended its journey in Phuket Island.

The visit to three ports and return trip southward to Singapore took five days to complete. The Strait of Malacca was barely challenging, as calm waters and windless days remained so for the entire vacation on board.

Crew members were on duty the entire day and they made up around a third of the total number of passengers.

Costa Atlantica lobby
Cruise staff seemed leisuring in the glitzy lobby. “Cruising in Italian Style” makes them able to mix professional on-duty hours with relaxing attitude.

Money spenders of Asia

Due to the economic slowdown in the western continents, cruise business activities have shifted to the east. People in the region with curiosity for the experience and cash are more than willing to fill the vacant rooms.

Thus, Costa Cruises Group operate their Asian cruise lines from Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal. They become the pioneer in international cruise lines making Asia as homeport.

People in the region now can take a cruise vacation without having to fly to European ports beforehand.

Nonetheless, this is still a luxury vacation, yet at a relatively affordable rate considering the cost the Asian riches had to pay to get such a holiday at the time when cruise lines operations were concentrated in far-flung regions.

Costa Atlantica at the Strait of Malacca
New business frontier: Costa Atlantica sails off the Strait of Malacca.

The ship looked empty on day as most passengers disembarked to quick visits at one of the ports of destination along the Strait of Malacca.

Cruise journeys benefit the coastal cities situated along the course. Money spenders of Asia make the tourism and hospitality businesses all the more promising.

Budget flights and hotels gain a strong foothold in Asia. The ship garners some success in its new venture in Asian territories due to the operator’s ability to align themselves with Asian behavior in terms of meticulousness in leisure spending.

Tiziano Restaurant of Costa Atlantica
Dining at Tiziano Restaurant of Costa Atlantica

Cruise dining

At one section of the cruise, Tiziano Restaurant offers not only fine dining experience and exquisite interior lightings, but also a pleasant surprise by the well-clad waitresses who show a love of Italian rhythm and melodies.

More than just a gastronomic indulgence, Italian culinary feast on an Italian cruise is a mixture of delightful taste and vacation life style. This is a culture that celebrates every bite of food, every musical note, and each colorful moment in life.

To see more photographs of Costa Atlantica, go to Morning cruise in the strait of Malacca.

Chinese Chamber of Commerce office George Town

Chinese Chamber of Commerce, George Town
On one hand, preserving old building brings a big return from tourism sector. Yet conservation cost aside, it actually pays a hefty price in the land scarcity needed to make way for economic development of bigger size and population. Is it worth it?

Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s branch office in Penang, Malaysia, dated back in 1928, at the decline of Qing dynasty and the rise of Nationalist movement in China, is one of the examples of Chinese preserved buildings overseas.

More than just protecting the site amid the modernisation—as seen across the block—conservation of such buildings in Penang, is a guarantee for indefinite time.

Penang has also preserved a number of Chinese ancestral temples.

This is an extraordinary commitment considering that keeping old buildings is inefficient as low-density offices cost space. Especially in a town that sits on a small island, separated by a strait from the rest of the country, space is extremely limited.

What the commerce says about conservation

High-rise buildings have in the past few decades slowly scraping the skies of Penang, keeping up with demand for space. But supplying office space within these low-density old buildings deserves a praise.

This is part of the solution to ensure continuous growth for commercial and tourism sector, although economic gains to land value ratio does not look too good.

In Singapore, for instance, the policy favors land reclamation, while the city administration in Jakarta compromises the protection of heritage sites for the sake of supplying new, high-density office spaces. In many ways, however, it is hardly that each cases be compared.