2004年07月25日

今天蕾蕾没给我打电话,估计是生我气了,只好一会给她写信哄哄她了。

今天一直在忙着看Business Research Methods ,但今天是最近最闲的一天了,要不也没时间给杨蕾打电话。

今天还看了《中国医学论坛报》,有篇文摘说用于治疗乳腺癌的芳香酶抑制剂,有可能成为治疗女孩因提前进入青春期而导致身高增长不足的新药。雌激素是导致男孩和女孩骨骼成熟和骨生长面闭合的主要激素,因女孩在青春期产生的雌激素比男孩的要多,所以部分促使女孩比男孩矮13cm。雌激素是通过芳香酶从睾酮转换而来,,若能阻断睾酮转换成雌激素,就能延长或停止骨生长面的闭合。

 

Business Research Methods

Preface

In each revision we strive to make the new edition more student and faculty friendly. No matter how the instructor choose to teach-by lecture or discussion, with written or video cases, with student projects or not-we’re convinced the eight edition of Business Research Methods will be just right. It’s crammed full of all the elements that our reviewers-student and faculty-assure us are essential to a great learning experience in research methods. Here’s how we’ve delivered on the primary goals for eighth edition.

 

Enhance the Decision-Making Focus

 

Four NEW Additions to Our Process Model Series

The research process model ( you’ll find in on the inside cover as well as in Chapter 3. Exhibit 3-1) is the graphical representation of the key teaching tool around which the text is based. We’ve listened to our reviewers and simplified the model, sometimes breaking it into smaller pieces or pilling out parts, enhancing the use of color to make the phases and steps clearer, and adding new process model exhibits to several chapters. Overall, the process model series now has 22 exhibits placed throughout the chapters.

Research by Example

We’ve given you even more examples of real research decisions in this eighth edition. With more than 255 examples that cross all business disciplines, you’re sure to find ones that help you learn and retain text material. Within the example group, you’ll find more than two dozen examples focused on global scenarios and another two dozen examples involving the internet.

We’ve shared these examples in several ways:

Snapshot boxes continue to offer brief but detailed research profiles. You’ll find 53 of these research gems overall, including 30 NEW ones.

PicProfiles are a new feature in the eighth edition. These 16 research profiles have a more narrow focus, and a distinctive visual is linked with each scenario. At first they might look like just another photograph. But look more closely. In the extensive caption you’ll find research decision richly detailed. Many of these had their start in recent news headlines.

Photograph with captions are included to make a quick point. You’ll find that research companies, research sponsors, and those that serve the research industry have opened their advertising archives and share their corporate photos throughout the eighth edition.

Tips are gems of wisdom that researchers have shared with us. There will help the student of research do better research or avoid the pitfalls of less than professional research. When you see the distinctive TIP icon, read with a more care.

End-of-Book Cases. The 27 returning favorities-14 with datasets on CD and 2 with written data tables-are enriched by the addition of 2 new cases: State Farm: Dangerous Intersections an The Catalyst for Women in Financial Services, both exclusive to the eighth edition.

New Topics in Depth

With our Close-Up feature, we showcases topics that are often given inadequate attention; and we show how there are applied. In the eighth edition, we’ve added five new Close-Ups on proposals, child-oriented research, sampling, advanced searching of secondary sources, and the Simalto+Plus analytical technique. By boxing these topics in a Close-Up, we’ve made it easy for faculty to choose whether to cover the topic in the depth that is offered, at a lesser level of depth, or not at all.

A Renewed Commitment to Ethical Research

Certainly, the Enron situation has focused increasing attention on the ethical decision in business. But we’ve always had strong emphasis, devoting a chapter to the intricacies of such issues. The 8th goes a step farther, shining the spotlight on ethical research dilemmas in the news via additional Snapshots and PicProfiles.

 

Enhance the Student’s Visual Memory Cues                       

 

More Than 250 Exhibits

We’ve explored some creative ways to make the book easier and more appealing to explore, and to ensure that the major points receive standout attention. Not just more photograph and exhibits-although you’ll surely see more- but also a better use of our palette. With more than 250 graphical exhibits, this was a daunting task and has kept the artists hopping.

74 exhibits have been color-enhanced for clarity of material.

9 exhibits have been reconstructed for clarity of material.

24 new exhibits have been added, developed around material that reviewers said needed more attention or clarity.

We’ve also kept all the other learning features our student reviewers demanded:

Bolded key terms make terminology easier to find and reinforce that more attention should be given to this material while reading.

Tip icons hint of ways to do better quality research, especially for those students doing research subjects manager-student buying research.

Pull-out lists, whether these are numbered or just have bullets, help distill a larger body of work into its essential points; a time-saver that student depend on.

Margin notes help keep the reader focused on the obvious threads running through the text, from chapter to chapter, and bring material read sometimes weeks earlier back to the forefront of memory.

Five types of discussion questions, each drawing upon a different level of understanding, challenge students to know the material. Each chapter has one or more questions in this eighth edition.

Terms in Review test recall of concepts and terminology.

Making Research Decisions encourages students to test their understanding at an applied level.

From Concept to Practice encourages students to put chapter exhibits to use in learning concepts.

Bringing Research to Life leads students back to the opening vignette to test their ability to find concepts within these real-research-based scenarios.

Web exercises showcase the wealth of research assistance to be found on the Internet, starting with our text website (www. Mhhe.com/business/copper8).

Comprehensive Sources on CD and in Appendix A have expanded with 39 new sources and dozens of updated links.

Glossary has new terms and it’s still located both on the student CD and on our website.

Summary still ties the chapter learning objectives to the text material.

Examples Index helps students locate an example they remember and want to use-now they can find it again.

 

Enhance Assistance for Student Projects

 

Besides the research process model exhibits, we retained features that students doing research projects appreciate: the sample project in the appendix, Tips, and the PowerPoint Tutorial on our website.

We’ve added a Close-Up sample proposal as Appendix D.

We’ve added a second sample proposal to our website.

We’ve enhanced the exhibits in Chapters 4 and 15-20, to make it possible for the student to better visualize a report and its various parts.

We’ve created a Snapshot that addresses over-coming the fear of making a presentation.

 

Recognize Unflagging Support

 

Family, both real and extended, are the foundation of any effort this large. So we send a very special thank you to the following:

Judith Violette, Director, Helmke Library, Indiana University-Purdue Fort Wayne, who continue to find ways to make searching secondary sources easier and more effective.

Kelly Maguire, Student Director 2001, and Bryan Simpson, Student Director 2002, Center for Applied Management, Wittenberg University, who took on numerous duties that allow the authors to concentrate on research and writing.

Paul Cooper, Graphic Designer, for conceptualizing our efforts on another powerful cover.

Jeff Stevens, for digesting and condensing the literature on Simalto+Plus. as well as writing the new section on LISREL.

We couldn’t develop the wealth of examples found in the eighth edition without the gracious contributions of numerous research practitioners, especially those who worked with us on PicProfiles, Close-Ups and the two new cases. Thank you, Paulette Gerkovich, Catalyst; John Nepomuceno, State F arm; Megan Nerz, MLN Research; Tina Glover, L&E Research; Anne Hart Lamb, Bissell, Inc.; Christin Nowakowski, Informative, Inc.; Kellie Harris, Compaq; Ronna Chrles, Poly Vision, Inc.; and Tim Gabel, RTI internatioal.

Our reviewers bring us insights that help clarify the changes we need and want to make in each edition. For their new perspective and the inspiration to create new solutions we thank; John Ballard, College of Mount St.. Joseph; Robert Balik, Western Michigan University-Kalamazoo; Marcia Carter, University of Southern New Hampshire; David Dorsett, Florida Institute of Technology; Robert Wright, University; Cecilia Tempomi, Southwest Texas State University; Don English, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Raul Chavez, Eastern Mennonite University; Larry Banks, University of phoenix; Caroll M. Belew, New Mexico Highlands University; Michael P. Dumler, Illiois State University; Alan G. Heffner, Silver Lake College; Burt Kaliski, New Hampshire College; Iraj Mahdavi, National University; and Randi L. Sims, Nova Southeastern University.

Like all ongoing creative projects, this book has evolved because of past contributions. We recognize J.K. Bandyioedyay, Philip Beukema, Alan D. Carey, Francis Connelly, Thomas H. Dudley, William J. Evans, Hamis Falatoon, Robert Fetter, Stewart E. Fleige, Frederick A. Grodeckoi, John Hanke, Claude McMillian, Ralph J. Melarango, Jay S. Mendell, hamid Noori, Walter Nord, J. Paul Perter, Harold F. Rahmlow, Elizbeth E. Regimbal, perri J. Stinson, Craig Swenson, Alexander Coloatta, Richard A. Wald, Eric Rusnak, Sarah Arntsen Schatz, and Carol Young.

The McGraw-Hill/Irwin team makes every revision a reality. WE thank Scott Isenberg, Executive Editor; Christina Sanders, Developmental Editor; Zina Craft, Manager, Keith McPherson, Design Director; Rose Hepburn, Keith McPherson, Design Director; Rose Hepburn, Senior Production Supercisor; Cathy Tepper, Lead Supplement Coordinator; Jeremy Cheshareck, Photo Research Coordinator; Jermy Cheshareck, Photo Research Coordinator; and Tony Sherman, Mdia Technology Producer.

We hope you find the eighth edition meets your ever-increasing expextations.

 

Donald Cooper

Pamela Schindler

 

 

 

Vietnam

Most visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the sublime beauty of the country’s natural setting: the Red River Delta in the north, the Mekong Delta in the south and almost the entire coastal strip are a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats.

There are some divine beaches along the coast, while inland there are soaring mountains, some of which are cloaked by dense, misty forests. Vietnam also offers an opportunity to see a country of traditional charm and rare beauty rapidly opening up to the outside world.

Despite its ongoing economic liberalisation and the pressures of rapid development, this dignified country has managed to preserve its rich civilisation and highly cultured society.

It has discarded its post-war fatigues and the boom in budget travelling, coupled with the softening of government control, have enabled more contemporary and relevant portraits of the country to gain currency in the West.

Full country name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Area: 329,566 sq km
Population: 81.62 million
Capital City: Hanoi (pop 3.5 million)
People: 84% ethnic Vietnamese, 2% ethnic Chinese, also Khmers, Chams (a remnant of the once-great Indianised Champa Kingdom) and members of over 50 ethnolinguistic groups (also known as Montagnards, ‘highlanders’ in French)
Language: Vietnamese, Russian, French, Chinese, English
Religion: Buddhism is the principal religion but there are also sizeable Taoist, Confucian, Hoa Hao, Caodaists, Muslim and Christian minorities
Government: Communist state
Head of State: President Tran Duc Luong
Head of Government: Prime Minister Phan Van Khai

GDP: US$24 billion
GDP per capita: US$300
Annual Growth: 8%
Inflation: 8%
Major Industries: Rice, rubber, food processing, sugar, textiles, chemicals
Major Trading Partners: China, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan

Facts for the Traveler

Visas: Bureaucratic hassles will be your first problem in getting a visa – expect delays of five days or more; Bangkok is the best place to get one. It’s usually best to get your visas through a travel agency. Expense is the other problem; tourist visas valid for a single 30-day stay cost about US$40 in Bangkok.
Health risks: Dengue Fever, Hepatitis, Malaria, Rabies, Typhoid, Tuberculosis
Dialling Code: 84
Electricity: 220V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric

 

When to Go

There are no good or bad seasons to visit Vietnam. When one region is wet, cold or steamy hot, there is always somewhere else that is sunny and pleasant. Basically, the south has two seasons: the wet (May to November, wettest from June to Aug+ust) and the dry (December to April). The hottest and most humid time is from the end of February to May. The central coast is dry from May to October and wet from December to February. The highland areas are significantly cooler than the lowlands, and temperatures can get down to freezing in winter. The north has two seasons: cool, damp winters (November to April) and hot summers (May to October). There is the possibility of typhoons between July and November, affecting the north and central areas.

Travellers should take the Tet New Year festival (late January or early February) into account when planning a trip. Travel (including international travel) becomes very difficult, hotels are full and many services close down for at least a week and possibly a lot longer.


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Events

Special prayers are held at Vietnamese and Chinese pagodas on days when the moon is either full or the merest sliver. Many Buddhists eat only vegetarian food on these days. Some of the major religious festivals follow a lunar calendar. They include: Tet (late January or early February), the most important festival of the year, which lasts a week (with rites beginning a week earlier), marking the new lunar year; Wandering Souls Day (Trung Nguyen), held on the fifteenth day of the seventh moon (August), is the second-largest festival of the year, when offerings of food and gifts are given to the wandering souls of the forgotten dead; Tiet Doan Ngo (Summer Solstice Day) in June sees the burning of human effigies to satisfy the need for souls to serve in the God of Death’s army; and Holiday of the Dead (Thanh Minh) in April commemorates deceased relatives.

Money & Costs

Currency: dong

Meals

  • Budget: US$1-2
  • Mid-range: US$3-8
  • High: US$20+

    Lodging

  • Budget: US$3-10
  • Mid-range: US$15-40
  • High: $US50+

Travellers staying in budget accommodation and eating in small cafes should be able to get by on around US$20 to US$25 per day, plus long-distance transport costs. Those wanting to stay in mid-range hotels, eat out at moderate restaurants, charter occasional taxis and enjoy the nightlife should budget on around US$65 a day.

Until recently, many upmarket hotels insisted that you pay in US dollars, but now all businesses (except Vietnam Airlines) must accept payment in dong. In practice, many still display their prices in US dollars. It’s advisable to bring traveler’s checks in US dollars as well as a little US currency.

US dollars and travellers cheques are your best bet. There are four ways to exchange currency: at a bank; through authorised exchange bureaus; at hotel reception desks; and on the black market. The best rates are offered by the banks, but the exchange bureaus are generally more conveniently located and have longer opening hours. The black market rate is worse than the legal exchange rate, so if you’re offered better rates than a bank it’s bound to be some sort of scam. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and JCB credit cards are accepted in the major cities and towns popular with tourists.

It’s virtually impossible to exchange travellers cheques outside the major cities and tourist areas. Visitors heading off the beaten track will either need to stock up on dong, or conduct a private cash transaction on the black market. It’s a good idea to bring a small calculator with you for currency conversions, unless you’re the kind of person who can divide or multiply by large numbers in your head.

Government-run hotels and tourist restaurants usually add a 5% service charge to bills so there’s no need to tip (although staff may not get any of it). Leaving a small tip in other restaurants will be greatly appreciated by the staff. You should consider tipping hired drivers and guides, and it’s polite to leave a small donation at the end of a visit to a pagoda. Bargaining is commonplace but should be engaged in with a smile and considered a form of social discourse rather than a matter of life and death.

Attractions

Hanoi

Hanoi has shaken off its hostile attitude to travellers and has become one of the most beguiling cities in Asia. It is slow-paced and pleasant, with a lovely landscape of lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks, colonial French houses and astounding modern skyscrapers.

Hanoi’s enchanting Old Quarter is rich with over a thousand years of history. Surface from its thronged labyrinth to explore the city’s lakes, pagodas, historical houses and strange preponderance of turtle imagery. The museums will help make sense of it all.


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Dalat

The city of Dalat is the jewel of the southern Central Highlands region. The cool climate and park-like environment (lathered with Vietnamese-style kitsch) makes it one of the most delightful cities in Vietnam. Dalat is also a good base for trips into the surrounding highlands, which remain tranquil. Make sure you visit the Hang Nga Guesthouse & Art Gallery, nicknamed the Crazy House by locals. It’s a counter-cultural gem created by artist and architect Mrs Dang Viet Nga (known as Hang Nga).

Emperor Bao Dai’s Summer Palace is stuffed with interesting art and artefacts, and is well worth a look. It’s also interesting to stroll around the old French Quarter, which is little changed since the French departed. The Valley of Love, 5km (3mi) north of the city centre, is a bizarre place with a carnival-style atmosphere where you can hire a paddle boat on the lake, or a horse from one of the Dalat Cowboys (no relation to the Dallas Cowboys), who are, indeed, dressed as cowboys.

There are some pleasant walks or rides (on horseback or bicycle) in the countryside around the city, but be aware that areas signposted with a C-sign are off-limits to foreigners. Further out, you can visit the villages of some of the hill tribes, such as Lat Village and the Chicken Village (with a huge statue of a chicken).

Dalat is famous for its cafes and is a paradise for people who love fresh vegetables. It’s extremely popular with domestic tourists and honeymooners, so there’s a wide range of accommodation options. You can fly to Dalat from Ho Chi Minh City, but the airport is 30km (19mi) from town; express buses also link the two cities.


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Halong Bay

Magnificent Halong Bay, with its 3000 islands rising from the clear, emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, is one of Vietnam’s natural marvels. The tiny islands are dotted with innumerable beaches and grottoes created by the wind and waves. The most impressive of the grottoes is the Hang Dau Go, a huge cave of three chambers, while the Thien Cung Caves are also very impressive. The name Ha Long means ‘where the dragon descended into the sea’, and refers to a legend about a dragon who created the bay and islands with its flailing tail. There’s even a modern legendary creature, the Tarasque, said to haunt the area.

Taking a tour of the bay is the main activity here; most book a tour at a cafe or hotel in Hanoi. If you want to arrange things independently, be ready for lots of hard sell from touts in Halong Bay City. To see a lot, choose a fast boat. If you want a romantic experience but with the risk of getting hardly anywhere, look for one of the old junks. You have to charter the whole boat, but there are usually enough travellers around to make up a party and keep costs down.

The main town in the region is Halong City, which is in two halves, bisected by a bay. Bai Chay (the western part) is the more scenic and has the most hotels, restaurants and persistent touts. Hon Gai (the eastern part) is connected to Haiphong by a ferry. Masochists might try seeing the bay on a day-trip from Hanoi.


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Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh City is the heart and soul of Vietnam. It’s a bustling, dynamic and industrious centre, the largest city in the country, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.

Ho Chi Minh City has several excellent museums that explore its dramatic history; the best of them can be visited on foot. Inside you’ll find everything from harrowing images of the war and revolution to political art. Botanical gardens, temples, pagodas and churches also await.


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Hué

Traditionally, Hué has been one of Vietnam’s main cultural, religious and education centres. Its Thien Mu Pagoda is one of the most famous structures in Vietnam. The remains of the huge, moated Citadel (Kinh Thanh), constructed by the Emperor Gia Long from 1804, contain many interesting sights, such as the Ngo Mon Gate, Nine Holy Cannons, Thai Hoa (the Palace of Supreme Harmony), Nine Dynastic Urns and the Halls of the Mandarins. Sadly, the intriguing Forbidden Purple City was largely destroyed during the Vietnam War. About 15km (9mi) south of Hué are the splendid Royal Tombs, of the Nguyen emperors. Hué has many other places of religious and dynastic importance, and some good museums.

You can do sampan trips up the Perfume River, which include visits to some of Hué’s main attractions. If you want to get out of the city for a swim, head 13km (8mi) northeast to Thuan An Beach, where there’s a lagoon and a hotel. It can be reached by sampan or bus.

There’s a range of accommodation in Hué to suit most budgets, and the city is famed for its fine restaurants. Hué has a long tradition of vegetarian food, which is prepared at pagodas for the monks. Stalls in the markets serve vegetarian food on the 1st and the 15th days of the lunar month, and there are also several restaurants serving it all the time.

Hué is about 700km (430mi) from Hanoi and 1100km (680mi) from Ho Chi Minh City. The Reunification Express train running between those cities stops here, and there are frequent flights and buses to both cities.


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Nha Trang

Although it has the potential to develop into a flashy resort such as Thailand’s Pattaya Beach, Nha Trang is still a good place to go for sun and partying. But see it while it lasts. With very clear turquoise waters (except for the wet season), snorkelling, diving and fishing are prime activities, and just lazing on the town beach is an experience in itself. You’ll be offered everything from lunch to a manicure.

When you tire of the beach, there are some interesting sites nearby, such as the Long Son Pagoda, and 2km (1.2mi) to the north of town are the Cham towers of Po Nagar, built between the 7th and 12th centuries on a site that had been used for Hindu worship as early as the 2nd century.

Nha Trang’s dry season runs from June to September (which is different from Ho Chi Minh City’s). To cater for the growing influx of visitors, many new hotels have been built in town. Nha Trang is a major fishing port, so excellent seafood is available. The exotic dragon fruit (thanh long) grows only in the Nha Trang area. It’s about the size and shape of a small pineapple, but tastes something like a kiwifruit. The fruit is in season from May to September, when you can find it served as a drink.

Express and regular buses link Nha Trang with Ho Chi Minh City; express buses take about 12 hours. Express trains run to both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and there are daily flights to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Off the Beaten Track

Dien Bien Phu

Dien Bien Phu, in the heart-shaped Muong Thanh Valley near the Lao border, is in one of the remotest parts of Vietnam. The valley is surrounded by steep, heavily forested hills and the area is inhabited by hill tribes, notably the Tai and H’mong. Dien Bien Phu was the site of that rarest of Vietnamese military events, a battle that can be called truly decisive. It was here in 1954 that Viet Minh forces overran the beleaguered French garrison after a 57-day siege, forcing the French government to abandon its attempts to re-establish colonial control of Indochina. The site of the battle is marked by a small museum, which eloquently tells the story of Vietnamese determination to be rid of the colonial forces.

You can fly to Dien Bien Phu from Hanoi, but getting to the town overland is half the fun since the surrounding mountains are so beautiful. Buses are generally too crowded for you to appreciate the splendid scenery, though, so do yourself a favour and hire a jeep. It’s a two-day, 420km (260mi) trip from Hanoi, so count on hiring a jeep for five days.


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Ha Tien

Situated on the Gulf of Thailand, 8km (5mi) from the Cambodian border, the town of Ha Tien and its surrounding area are famous for their warm-water, white-sand beaches and fishing villages. The area is also noted for its seafood, black-pepper tree plantations and towering limestone formations. The rock formations around the town support a network of caves, many of which have been turned into cave temples. Ha Tien is a 10-hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City. Because of uncleared land mines and booby traps, be wary of travelling off the beaten track near the Cambodian border.


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Hoi An

An important, picturesque and enchanting river port 30km (19mi) south of Danang, Hoi An is rich in history and has a unique character. It was a contemporary of Macau, attracting Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese trading vessels, and it retains the feel of centuries past. Its magnificent collection of almost 850 older structures and intact streetscapes just beg to be explored. They include merchants’ homes, pagodas, public buildings, a Japanese covered bridge and a whole city block of colonnaded French buildings.


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National Parks

Cuc Phuong, 140km (87mi) from Hanoi, preserves 222 sq km (87 sq mi) of primary tropical forest. It’s home to an amazing variety of animal and plant life, with animals such as the yellow macaque and the spotted deer, 320 species of bird and has many grottoes, one of which has yielded prehistoric stone tools. Hiking is possible here.

Even more beautiful though, is Cat Ba Island, 30km (19mi) east of Haiphong. Its diverse ecosystems include tropical evergreen forests, freshwater swamp forests, coastal mangroves, freshwater lakes and waterfalls, grottoes, caves, sandy beaches and offshore coral reefs. It’s home to monkeys, boars, deer, squirrels and hedgehogs, is on the migration route for waterfowl and its offshore waters are also heavily populated by fish, molluscs, arthropods, seals and dolphins. It is hoped that plans to designate further areas of land as national parks in Vietnam go ahead.


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Sam Mountain

In the Mekong Delta, 3km (2mi) from the riverine commercial centre of Chau Doc and not far from the Cambodian border, this area is known for its dozens of pagodas and cave temples. Favoured by ethnic-Chinese pilgrims and tourists, the shrines feature tombs and fine examples of traditional Vietnamese design and artisanship. The views from the top of the mountain are spectacular.


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Sapa

Located at an altitude of 1650m (5400ft) in the remote northwest, Sapa entrances most visitors with the spectacular scenery that exists nearby. Built as a hill station for the French in 1922, Sapa went into a long decline from which it has only recently recovered. More and more travellers are braving the bad (but improving) roads and flocking here for the climate (cold in winter, though) and to visit the hill tribes (mostly H’mong, Dao and Kinh people) who live in the area. The Saturday market is the best place to buy handicrafts. Accommodation can be tight, especially on weekends when tour parties visit. Just 9km (5.5mi) from Sapa is Fansipan (3143m/10,309ft), Vietnam’s highest mountain. A hike to the top and back takes about four days, and you’ll need a guide and decent equipment, as it is usually wet and cold. You can get to within 30km (19mi) of Sapa by train from Hanoi. Once you reach Lao Cai, you’ll need to transfer to a local bus.


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Western Central Highlands

The western region of the Central Highlands area, along the border with Cambodia and Laos, still sees few visitors. Although much of the forest has been destroyed, the region’s varied agriculture and the presence of up to 31 distinct ethnic groups make it a fascinating destination. Towns such as Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku and Kon Tum are peopled by ethnic minorities, while Tua and Ban Don (a gateway to Yok Don National Park) society is matrilineal and matrilocal.

Activities

Vietnam has 3450km (2140mi) of coastline, and you can hire snorkelling and diving gear at most beach resorts. The most popular beaches include Vung Tau, just north of the Mekong Delta (which suffers from polluted water, although there are cleaner beaches nearby); Nha Trang, near Dalat; and the 30km-long expanse of beaches named China Beach, near Danang – but be careful of the currents. There is good hiking, horse riding and cycling in the beautiful countryside around Dalat, while some of the national parks are also good for hiking. Vietnam is a favourite place for long-distance cycling because much of the country is flat and the shortage of vehicles makes for light traffic off the main highways.

Spelunkers should head for the spectacular Pong Nha river caves, north-west of Dong Hoi. Those interested in the Vietnam War can walk part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a series of roads, trails and paths used as supply routes by the North Vietnamese during the war. It ran from North Vietnam southward through the Truong Son Mountains and into western Laos. Those with a 4WD can drive a 60km (37mi) stretch between Aluoi and Hué. The network of tunnels at Cu Chi (35km – 22mi – from Saigon) and Vinh Moc (near the old border between North and South Vietnam) enable visitors to experience the claustrophobic life led by villagers and guerrillas during the war.

History

The sophisticated Bronze Age Dong Son culture emerged around the 3rd century BC. From the 1st to the 6th centuries AD, the south of what is now Vietnam was part of the Indianised kingdom of Funan, which produced fine art and architecture. The Hindu kingdom of Champa appeared around present-day Danang in the late 2nd century and had spread south to what is now Nha Trang by the 8th century. The kingdom existed in part through conducting raids in the region. The Chinese conquered the Red River Delta in the 2nd century and their 1000-year rule, marked by tenacious Vietnamese resistance and repeated rebellions, ended in AD 938 when Ngo Quyen vanquished the Chinese armies at the Bach Dang River.

During the next few centuries, Vietnam repulsed repeated invasions by China, and expanded its borders southwards from the Red River Delta, populating much of the Mekong Delta. In 1858, French and Spanish-led forces stormed Danang after several missionaries had been killed. A year later, Saigon was seized. By 1867, France had conquered all of southern Vietnam, which became the French colony of Cochinchina.

Communist guerillas under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh resisted French domination during and after WWII. Ho Chi Minh’s declaration of Vietnamese independence in 1945 sparked violent confrontations with the French, culminating in the French military defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

The Geneva Accords of 1954 temporarily divided Vietnam into two zones (the Communist north and the anti-Communist, US-supported south). Political and ideological opposition quickly turned to armed struggle, prompting the USA and other countries to commit combat troops in 1965. The Paris Peace Agreements, signed in 1973, provided an immediate cease-fire and signalled the withdrawal of US troops. Saigon eventually capitulated to the Communist forces on 30 April 1975.

Going straight from the fat into the frying pan, Vietnam had barely drawn breath from its war with America when it found itself at loggerheads with Khmer Rouge forces along the Cambodian borders. A protracted round of fighting eventually saw China enter the fray in support of Cambodia and the killings continued until the UN brokered a deal, with Vietnamese forces being pulled out of Cambodia in 1989. Although the Khmer Rouge continued to snipe from the borders, it was the first time since WWII that Vietnam was not officially at war with any other nation. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR in 1991 caused Vietnam and Western nations to seek rapprochement.

In July 1995 even the intransigent USA re-established diplomatic relations with Hanoi, although Hanoi initially refused to sign trade agreements with the US in 1999 (this was finalised the following year). The US, on their part, talked about normalising relations but over 25 years later there’s still a lot of soul-searching, hand-wringing and post mortems going on, accompanied by a slather of angst-ridden films and a handful of unplugged guitar tunes. John McCain, on a visit to Hanoi, talked about ‘the wrong guys winning the war’. Vietnam went through something of a postwar economic boom, before suffering the economic setbacks that plagued the entire region when the foreign investment bubble burst in the late 1990s. It has recently recovered part of this ground with some pundits predicting it will be the next Asian ‘tiger’ economy.

Culture

Four great philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. Over the centuries, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have melded with popular Chinese beliefs and ancient Vietnamese animism to form what is known as Tam Giao (or ‘Triple Religion’).

Vietnamese (kinh) is the official language of the country, although there are dialectic differences across Vietnam. There are dozens of different languages spoken by various ethnic minorities and Khmer and Loatian are spoken in some parts. The most widely spoken foreign languages in Vietnam are Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), English, French and Russian, more or less in that order.

Popular artistic forms include: traditional painting produced on frame-mounted silk; an eclectic array of theatre, puppetry, music and dance; religious sculpture; lacquerware and ceramics.

Vietnamese cuisine is especially varied – there are said to be nearly 500 different traditional dishes that include exotic meats (but think twice before you eat a rare animal) and fantastic vegetarian creations (often prepared to replicate meat and fish dishes). However, the staple of Vietnamese cuisine is plain white rice dressed up with a plethora of vegetables, fish (which is common in Vietnam), meat, spices and sauces. Spring rolls, noodles and steamed rice dumplings are popular snacks, and the ubiquitous soups include eel and vermicelli, shredded chicken and bitter soups. Fruit is abundant; some of the more unusual ones include green dragon fruit, jujube, khaki, longan, mangosteen, pomelo, three-seed cherry and water apple. Vietnamese coffee (ca phe phin) is very good; it’s usually served very strong and very sweet.

Environment

Vietnam borders Cambodia, Laos and China and stretches over 1600km (1000mi) along the eastern coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. The country’s two main cultivated areas are the Red River Delta (15,000 sq km/5400 sq mi) in the north and the Mekong Delta (60,000 sq km/23,400 sq mi) in the south. Three-quarters of the country is mountainous and hilly; the highest peak at 3143m (10,310ft) is Fansipan in north-west Vietnam.

Vietnam is made up of equatorial lowlands, high, temperate plateaus and cooler mountainous areas. The country lies in the intertropical zone and local conditions vary from frosty winters in the far northern hills to the year-round subequatorial warmth of the Mekong Delta. At sea level, the mean annual temperature is about 27°C in the south, falling to about 21°C in the far north.

Although Vietnam has diverse wildlife, it is in precipitous decline because of the destruction of habitats, illegal hunting and pollution. Fauna includes elephants, rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, black bear, snub-nosed monkey, crocodile and turtle. Less than 30% of the country remains forest-covered, and what remains is under threat from population pressure and the growth of industry. The situation has improved since 1992, following the banning of unprocessed timber exports, education programs and reforestation projects.

Despite being little visited by travellers, Vietnam has 10 national parks and an expanding array of nature reserves. The most interesting and accessible national parks are: Cat Ba, Ba Be Lake and Cuc Phuong in the north; Bach Ma in the centre; and Nam Cat Tien and Yok Don in the south. In an attempt to prevent an ecological and hydrological catastrophe, the government has plans to improve existing parks and open up new ones.

Getting There & Away

Ho Chi Minh City’s (Saigon) Tan Son Nhat Airport is Vietnam’s busiest international air hub, followed by Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airpot. A few international flights also serve Danang. Bangkok has emerged as the principle embarkation point for Vietnam but it’s still possible to get direct flights from a number of major Asian cities and a few Australian cities. Buying tickets in Vietnam is expensive. Departure tax is US$14, which can be paid in dong or US dollars.

There are currently six border crossings for travellers coming to Vietnam, but more may open soon. All crossing points suffer from heavy policing and often requests for ‘immigration fees’.

For getting to/from China, it’s become very popular to cross the border at Friendship Pass, or Dong Dang, 20km (12mi) north of Lang Son in northeast Vietnam, to get to/from Nanning. There is a twice-weekly international train between Beijing and Hanoi that stops at Friendship Pass. The other popular border crossing with China is at Lao Cai in northwest Vietnam, which lies on the railway line between Hanoi and Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province. There’s also a seldom used crossing at Moi Cai.

It’s possible to enter Laos from Lao Bao in north-central Vietnam; there’s an international bus from Danang to Savannakhet (Laos). The other crossing is at Keo Nua Pass/Cau Treo, west of Vinh. The only crossing to Cambodia is via Moc Dai; an international bus links Phnom Penh with Ho Chi Minh City.


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Getting Around

Vietnam Airlines has a near-monopoly on domestic flights, which are relatively expensive. The departure tax on domestic flights is about $US1.50, payable in Vietnamese dong only.

Ultra-cheap buses and minibuses criss-cross the country in an impressive network of routes but you should think long and hard before taking one. Apart from being ramshackle, extremely slow and hugely overcrowded, the notion of safety on Vietnam’s roads is a loose and hazy concept that doesn’t bear too much investigating. There are ‘express’ buses, but even these rarely average more than 50kmh (31mph). The alternative, used by many foreigners, is to charter a minibus. They cost more but are much more comfortable; ask at budget hotels and cafes for details.

While sometimes train travel can be slower than bus travel, it is safer, more relaxed and you’re likely to have decent legroom. There are several types of train, including the famous Reuinification Express; but think twice before you take a crowded, snail-paced local train. Petty theft can be a problem on trains, especially in budget class. Children throwing things at carriages, everything from rocks to cow dung, is another problem, and you’re advised to keep the metal shield on the window in place.

Hire cars and drivers are available at reasonable prices. You’ll still be stopped by the police to pay all sorts of ‘fines’, but at least you’ll have a local with you to do the negotiating. You can hire a motorcycle to drive yourself if you have an International Driver’s Permit endorsed for motorcycles, but you’ll need nerves of steel.

Travelling through Vietnam, and around the towns and cities, by bicycle is worth considering, though the traffic is still a hazard on highways without wide shoulders. Trains and buses will carry your bike when you want a break.

Other than a few ancient and infrequent buses, local transport is by taxi (some metered, some not) or cyclo (pedal-powered vehicles that are cheap and plentiful). If you’re in a hurry and have nerves of steel, try flagging down any passing motorbike. Many people will be happy to give you a lift for a fee a little higher than the equivalent cyclo fare.

Further Reading

  • Vietnam: A History by Stanley Kurnow is a very readable account of Vietnam’s history from prehistoric times until the fall of Saigon. A good overview of the reunification period is provided in Melanie Beresford’s Vietnam: Politics, Economics and Society
  • Dispatches by Michael Herr takes a cold hard look at the Vietnam War through the eyes of an American correspondent. The war from the point of view of a North Vietnamese (who by no means is anti-American) is described by Bao Ninh in The Sorrow of War
  • A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan is a highly acclaimed biographical account of the war.
  • Vietnamerica by Thomas Bass brings the Vietnam War home to America in a more poignant and personal form, following the fortunes of the children fathered by American soldiers in Vietnam.
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1954) is set during the last days of French rule and is probably the most famous Western work of fiction on Vietnam.
  • The Lover by Marguerite Duras provides a French perspective on colonial life in Vietnam.
  • Hitchhiking in Vietnam by Karen Muller is a travelogue detailing a woman’s tumultuous seven-month journey through Vietnam.

 

 

Philippines

The 7000-odd islands that comprise the Philippines are the forgotten islands of southeast Asia. Off the main overland route and with a recent history of martial law and endemic corruption, the country has struggled to attract tourists in the numbers many of its South-East Asian neighbours have.

However, most of the Philippines is laidback, stable and relatively safe. The locals are, by and large, an exceptionally friendly and helpful bunch. On top of this, transport is cheap, the food is good, accommodation is plentiful and (for the monolinguistic) English is widely spoken.

The Philippines has been dogged by trouble. In 2000 a Brussels-based research centre declared the Philippines the most disaster-prone country on earth. It named typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, garbage landslides and military action against Muslim insurgents as just some of the problems both locals and tourists have had to deal with.

Warning

Authorities in the Philippines are on heightened alert, especially around Manila, expecting terrorist actions to coincide with the inauguration of the new president on 30 June, 2004. Travellers should avoid demonstrations and government buildings which might be targets and stay aware of the situation.

Travellers are also advised to avoid travelling to most of Mindanao, an island in the southern Philippines, especially the Zamboanga peninsula and the Sulu archipelago, where ethnic and religious animosities fuel ongoing violence. Boat safety is also a concern throughout the country.

Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group, is responsible for bombings, kidnappings and murders targeting foreigners, including tourists. They operate principally on Mindanao, but have also claimed responsibility for bombings further north.

The other major issue to be aware of is boat safety. The Philippines archipelago is serviced by a flotilla of ferries, some of them little more than rickety tubs that are often overcrowded and under-serviced. There are 100 ferry accidents a year in the Philippines, many of them causing a high number of fatalities. If you feel uncomfortable boarding a ferry that looks shonky, leaky or overcrowded, look for an alternative boat or catch a plane.

Full country name: Republic of the Philippines
Area: 299,000 sq km
Population: 84.61 million
Capital City: Manila (pop: 10 million)
People: Predominantly descendants of Malays, Chinese and Muslim minorities and a number of mestizos (Filipino-Spanish or Filipino-Americans)
Language: English
Religion: 82% Roman Catholic, 9% Protestant, 5% Muslim, 3% Buddhist
Government: republic
Head of State: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

GDP: US$310 billion
GDP per capita: US$3,700
Annual Growth: 3.9%
Inflation: 4.4%
Major Industries: Electronic and electrical products, textiles
Major Trading Partners: USA, Japan, Taiwan

Facts for the Traveler

Visas: For most foreign visitors visas are not needed for stays of less than 21 days. Three-month visas can be obtained in advance and cost around US$35. Multiple-entry visas (lasting six and 12 months) are also available but are expensive and only allow for stays of 59 days at a time. Visa extensions are possible and generally faster to obtain in regional areas.
Health risks: Cholera, Hepatitis, Rabies, Malaria, Typhus
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +8
Dialling Code: 63
Electricity: 220V ,60Hz
Weights & measures: Metric

 

When to Go

Generally, the best time to travel is in the typhoon off-season from September to the middle of May. In the Christmas and Easter breaks, however, everyone is travelling and you’ll have trouble getting a seat on any form of transport.

The most colourful and lovely festivals fall between January and May, the rice terraces of Luzon look best in March and April, and the best time for island-hopping is between October and March.


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Events

New Year’s Day is celebrated with great vigour and plenty of fireworks. On 9 January, the Black Nazarene Procession, the largest procession in the country, carries a life-size, blackwood statue of Jesus through the streets of Quiapo in Manila, and the procession happens again during Passion Week (the week following Palm Sunday at Easter). The Filipino version of Mardi Gras is the three-day Ati-Atihan, celebrated in Kalibo on Panay in the third week in January. On Good Friday, there are many scourges throughout the country, which have become popular attractions, especially those at San Fernando (Pampanga), near Manila. Independence Day is celebrated on 12 June with military parades. During the week leading up to 1 November (All Saints’ Day) Christian cemeteries throughout the archipelago are spruced up and given a fresh coat of whitewash; if you happen to be in Manila on All Saints’ Day don’t miss the huge party at the Chinese cemetery. There are local festivals taking place just about every week of the year somewhere in the Philippines.

Money & Costs

Currency: Philippines Peso

Meals

  • Budget: US$2-3
  • Mid-range: US$3-5
  • High: US$5-15

    Lodging

  • Budget: US$10-30
  • Mid-range: US$30-100
  • High: US$100-400

As with the other Asian Tigers, the Philippines economy has been fluctuating fairly wildly in recent years. Generally speaking, however, the Philippines are slightly more expensive than other countries in the region. You’ll get the best value for money in North Luzon, while you’re more likely to shell out on Boracay and Cebu.

The US dollar is the most recognised currency in the Philippines, and is often easier (and cheaper) to change than travellers’ cheques; in Manila you should have no trouble changing British pounds or euros. Large denomination US bills will get you a particularly good rate, but only clean banknotes are acceptable. If you want to use cheques, the bigger brands will be accepted by most banks throughout the country. ATMs are all over the place, particularly in the big cities, and they operate 24 hours daily. You can use MasterCard and Visa in them.

Whether you tip or not is up to you. Restaurant staff will generally expect one, even if there is a service charge included. If you’re catching a taxi with a working meter, round up the amount. When shopping, especially in markets, it’s worth trying to get a 10% discount – most Filipinos will aim for one. As a tourist you’ll probably be quoted a higher than usual price anyway.

Attractions

Manila

Modern Manila is a teeming metropolis, with huge towerblocks crowding those few examples of colonial architecture that survived the bombing of the city during WWII. Many people use it only as a base for further travel, but the more persistent will discover its friendliness and charm.

Perhaps because Manila is such an overwhelming place, most foreign visitors don’t stay long. However, there are attractions for those prepared to overlook Manila’s flaws – from vibrant markets and historic buildings to museums celebrating every aspect of the Philippines’ unique cultural mix.


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Banaue

The spectacular rice terraces around Banaue, in north Luzon, have been described (like a lot of other places) as the eighth wonder of the world. Carved out of the hillside by Ifugao tribespeople 2000 to 3000 years ago, these remarkable terraces stretch like stepping stones to the sky – some reaching an altitude of 1500m (4920ft).


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Boracay Beaches

The famous white beaches of the island of Boracay, off the northwestern tip of Panay, regularly appears in those ‘Best Beaches of the World’ lists that travel rags are so fond of compiling. Unchecked tourist development has, however, caused waste-disposal problems. Environmental tests in 1997 found the water off Boracay to be contaminated and unsafe to swim in. Follow-up tests declared the waters to be within acceptable pollution limits and Boracay’s beaches certainly look pristine.


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Other Attractions

There are countless spectacular sights scattered throughout the archipelago, including the strange Chocolate Hills of Bohol in the Visayas; the volcanic crater Lake Taal, southwest of Manila; the burial caves of Sagada, 18km (11mi) from Bontoc; the easygoing port town of Cebu City, where Magellan marked the beginning of Christianity in the Philippines by erecting a cross; and 5,000 uninhabited islands to explore.

Off the Beaten Track

Lake Sebu

A beautiful inland sea on the island of Mindanao, this lake is nested into the southern Tiruray Highlands at an altitude of almost 300m (984ft). The chance to delve into traditional lifestyles and culture, rather than modern attractions, is the highlight in this remote area. The local tribespeople, the T’boli, live in almost total seclusion and are known for the quality of their brassware and weaving. Their Saturday market is especially colourful.


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Remote Islands

For real Robinson Crusoe fare, try the islands north of Bohol. Around Gutob Bay, between Culion and Busuanga islands, try Dibutonay, Maltatayoc and Horse islands. The Batanes Islands in the north are surprisingly unspoilt and differ from other Philippines islands because of their isolation. They offer the chance to visit remote villages, where you may even get to stay with the mayor.


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Vigan

In north Luzon, the Unesco World Heritage Site of Vigan displays precious remnants of the splendid architectural legacy of the Spaniards. The well-preserved colonial structures create a unique 17th-century European atmosphere. The town has several museums, thanks to it being the birthplace of several national heroes.


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Viriato

On the island of Samar, in the Visayas, Viriato lies along one of the most scenic coastal roads in the country. The road runs past mountains, steep cliffs, distant islands and scenic boat-filled bays. The town also boasts a large waterfall and good hiking opportunities.

Activities

Several travel agents in Angeles offer tours to Mt Pinatubo which erupted violently in 1991 and left an amazing landscape. Walk among the ravines, drive up in a jeep or arrange a scenic flight. You can also climb Mt Mayon, in southeast Luzon, once described as the world’s most perfect volcanic cone. This 2462m (8075ft) active volcano has erupted four times since 1968, most recently in June 2001. It takes about two days to climb and guides can be found in Legaspi. Other appealing climbs include the Mt Taal, south of Manila, described as one of the smallest and most dangerous volcanoes in the world; and the Philippines’ highest peak, Mt Apo (2954m/9689ft), on Mindanao.

There are wonderful hiking and trekking opportunities along Luzon’s eastern noast, especially in Quezon province. A trek through the awesome rice terraces around Banaue and Batad is a real highlight. For those who want to escape motorised transport completely, nothing beats walking on Batan Island or Lubang, where the horse cart still retains its place as the primary mode of transport, and where most people get around on bicycle or on foot. Wildlife enthusiasts should visit Calauit Island, where the wildlife sanctuary has been breeding African animals successfully for nearly 20 years: you’ll get to see gGiraffes, zebras and gazelles here.

With 7000 islands, the Philippines has a wealth of opportunities for diving and snorkelling. Favoured spots are Boracay, Alona Beach (Bohol), Puerto Princesa (Palawan) and the island of Apo. Canoeists can shoot the rapids in Pagsanjan, 70km (43mi) southeast of Manila. If it looks familiar in places, that’s because Coppola filmed parts of Apocalypse Now on the river. Spelunkers can explore Palawan’s Underground River (8km/5mi), a long meandering network of caves in Sabang’s Puerto Princesa Subterranean National Park.

History

The first inhabitants of the Philippines arrived around 250,000 years ago, probably migrating over a land bridge from the Asian mainland. The Negrito people arrived 25,000 years ago, but they were driven back by several waves of immigrants from Indonesia, followed by maritime immigrations of Malayan people. In 1380, the Arab-taught Makdum arrived in the Sulu archipelago and began to establish what became a powerful Islamic sphere of influence over the next hundred years.

Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521 and claimed the archipelago for Spain. Magellan was killed by local chiefs who quite naturally disapproved of this notion. Ruy Lopez de Villalobos followed in 1543 and named the territory Filipinas after King Philip II of Spain. Permanent Spanish occupation began in 1565, and by 1571 the entire country, except for the strictly Islamic Sulu archipelago, was under Spanish control.

A Filipino independence movement grew in the 19th century and Filipinos fought on the side of the Americans in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. When the Spanish were defeated, General Aguinaldo declared the Philippines independent. The USA, however, had other plans, and promptly purchased the islands from the Spanish for US$20 million.

The USA eventually recognised the Filipinos’ desire for independence and Manuel L Quezon was sworn in as President of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935 as part of a transitional phase pending full independence. Japan invaded the Philippines in 1942 brutally interrupting this process and ruled until the USA re-invaded two years later. The Philippines received full independence in 1946.

Ferdinand Marcos was elected president in 1965, declared martial law in 1972 and ruled virtually as a dictator until 1986. His regime was attacked by both communist and Muslim guerrillas, and he was accused of ballot-rigging and fraud. The assassination of prominent opposition figure Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr in 1983 sparked massive anti-government protests. A snap election in 1986 saw the opposition parties rally around Aquino’s widow, Cory. Both parties claimed victory, but Aquino was widely believed to have polled most votes. She initiated a programme of nonviolent civil unrest which resulted in Marcos fleeing the country.

Aquino re-established the democratic institutions of the country, but failed to tackle economic problems or win over the military and the powerful Filipino elite. US strategic influence in the country diminished following the 1991 Mt Pinatubo eruption which destroyed the US Clark Airbase, and after the Philippine Senate refused to ratify the lease on the Subic Bay Naval Station. Aquino survived seven coups in six years and was succeeded by her Defence Minister Fidel Ramos in 1992. Ramos attempted to revitalise the economy, attract foreign investment, cleanse corruption and expand provision of utilities.

The Philippines government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed a peace accord in September 1996 ending, formally at least, the MNLF’s 24-year struggle for autonomy in Mindanao. The peace agreement foresaw the MNLF being granted considerable autonomy in many of island’s provinces. Peace in the area remains elusive, however, following the rise of a splinter group, the militant Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which opposes the agreement. The government continues to conduct military operations in MILF-held areas in Basilan and Sulu.

In 1998, Ramos was replaced as president by the Philippines’ answer to Bruce Willis, Joseph Estrada. Estrada, a former movie star elected more because of the popularity of his on-screen persona than because of any political experience, promised a lot economically and delivered it – not to the general population, however, but into his own pocket. He was impeached and brought to trial in late 2000 on charges of taking bribes from gambling syndicates, and using the proceeds to line his own dens and to build extravagant houses for his mistresses. When Estrada and his political allies tried to derail the trial by blocking prosecutors’ access to his financial accounts, the people decided they’d had enough and staged mass demonstrations in the streets of Manilla.

Estrada finally threw in the towel on 19 January 2001 and the next day his former vice-president, Gloria Arroyo, was sworn in as the new president of the Philippines. In an inauguration speech which must have sounded eerily familiar to the people of the Philippines, Arroyo promised to wipe out poverty and corruption; she refused to grant Estrada an amnesty for his crimes with the intention of letting the courts decide his fate. He stands accused of perjury and of dishonestly amassing four billion pesos.

Since then, Arroyo’s presidency has been sorely tested. Various separatist movements in the south have been linked to global terrorism, prompting the US to send military assistance. A military coup attempt on 27 July 2003 underscored the tensions below the surface in the country. A standoff lasting 20 hours ended when Arroyo issued a five-hour ultimatum.

Culture

The Philippines has developed a mixed culture from the blending of foreign influences with native elements. Today some of the isolated tribes are the only people whose culture remains unadulterated by earlier Muslim and later Spanish and American influences.

Although traditional theatre, literature and kundimans (love songs) in the national language have experienced a resurgence since Cory Aquino’s People Power movement, visitors are more likely to witness beauty contests, lurid soap operas, violent and sentimental Filipino movies, and local bands perfectly imitating Western pop tunes.

About 10% of Filipinos (the so-called cultural minority groups or tribal Filipinos) retain their traditional culture. There are some 60 ethnological groups, ranging from the Badjao of the Sulu archipelago, who are sea gypsies, to the head-hunting Kalinga north of Bontoc.

The Philippines is the only Christian country in Asia. Over 90% of the population claim to follow Christian faiths. The largest of the minority religious groups is the Muslims, who live chiefly on Mindanao and in the Sulu archipelago. There is also a Philippine Independence Church, some Buddhists, and a small number of animists.

The geography and history of the Philippines have conspired to produce a multiplicity of languages, some 80 dialects in total. The concept of a national language developed after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and Tagalog was declared the national language in 1936. There were several other contenders for this role, including Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Ilocano. A compromise reached in 1973 confirmed Pilipino as the national language. This is based on Tagalog, but has linguistic elements of other Philippine languages. Despite this, English remains the language of commerce and politics in the Philippines.

Filipino cuisine has Chinese, Malay and Spanish influences. Popular morning and afternoon snacks are called merienda, and pulutan (small morsels) are served with alcoholic drinks. Barbecued sticks of meat or seafood are popular evening snacks. Standard dishes, always served with rice, include meat and vegetables cooked with vinegar and garlic, grilled grouper (or groper), meat stews and a huge variety of soups: rice, noodle, beef, chicken, liver, offal and sour vegetable. Side dishes include strips of unripened papaya, fermented fish or shrimp paste and bite-sized pieces of crispy pig skin. Halo-halo is a dessert made from crushed ice mixed with fruit preserves, sweet corn, young coconut and various tropical delights, topped with a wad of crème caramel and a scoop of ice-cream..

Environment

The Philippines consists of 7107 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, only 2000 of which are inhabited. Luzon and Mindanao are by far the largest, and comprise roughly 66% of the country’s area. Only about 1000 islands are larger than one sq km (0.4 sq mi) and 2500 aren’t even named. The Philippines’ nearest neighbours are Taiwan (north), Eastern Malaysia and Brunei (southwest), and Indonesia (south).

The archipelago has a volcanic topography and experiences frequent seismic activity. There are 37 volcanoes in the archipelago and the highest peak is Mt Apo (2954m/9689ft) in Mindanao. About half the country is under cultivation and about a third remains forested, despite tree-felling and slash-and-burn agriculture. There are more than a 1000 species of birds and animals, notably wild dwarf buffalo, mouse deer, crocodiles and pythons. There are over 10,000 species of tree, shrub and fern, the most common of which are palms and bamboos.

The Philippines is hot and humid year-round. The weather pattern across the archipelago is complex, but can be roughly divided into the dry season (September to May) and the wet season (June to September). The average annual temperature is 25°C (77°F). The best time to visit is between December and May, but avoid Manila in May when temperatures can reach 40°C (104°F).

Getting There & Away

Basically the most common way to get to the Philippines is by plane; Manila and Cebu City are the only major entry points. There are flights between the Philippines and plenty of Asian cities, Australia, Canada, continental Europe, UK, New Zealand and the USA. There are also flights between Davao in Mindanao and Manado on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Departure tax is 20; confirm onward flights at least 72 hours before departure.

It’s possible to travel by sea between the Phillipines and nearby parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. Scedules and rates are very liable to change, however, so it’s best to be flexible in your plans.


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Getting Around

There are several airlines offering domestic flights between Philippine cities. There is only one operating railway line, on the route from Manila to Naga in southern Luzon, so long-distance buses are the main overland alternative. There are plenty of ferries and boats operating between islands, though the safety and quality of services vary. Car rental is also available, and international agencies have offices in most major cities. Local transport includes jeepneys (originally reconstructed jeeps), metered taxis, small taxis without meters, vans (minibuses, or FX vans) and tricycles (motorbikes with sidecars).

 

 

Myanmar

Since 1988 Myanmar has been under the military rule of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) – formerly known as Slorc – an abominable military junta. Prospective travellers should monitor events in Myanmar and weigh up the arguments in support of and opposition to travel.

Dissent is suppressed, and political prisoners are jailed for expressing their opinions. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi advocates boycotting all forms of travel to the country as a means of isolating the government and forcing reform.

Inside Myanmar, there are a number of people who support her stance. This pro-boycott group argues that much of the money from tourism goes directly and indirectly into the pockets of the very generals who continue to deny Burmese citizens the most-basic civil rights. However, others involved with Burmese politics, including many current or former members of the NLD, feel that a travel boycott of Myanmar is counterproductive. They maintain that tourism is not only economically helpful, but vital to the pro-democracy movement for the two-way flow of information it provides.

Warning

Should you go to Myanmar?

The decision as to whether or not to travel to Myanmar is best made after an appraisal of the pros and cons of such a visit.

Reasons Not to Go

  • International tourism can be seen to give a stamp of approval to the SPDC
  • Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD have called on the international community to boycott travel to Myanmar until the candidates elected in 1990 are allowed to form a government
  • The government keeps travellers away from areas where forced labour or repression of minorities is occurring
  • It is difficult to avoid some government-owned businesses, tourism sites and transport.
  • Forced labour has been used to construct some of the country’s tourism infrastructure

Reasons to Go

  • Tourism remains one of the few industries to which ordinary Burmese have access. Any reduction in tourism means a reduction in local income-earning opportunities
  • It is becoming increasingly possible to travel in Myanmar without staying in government-owned hotels, using government-owned transport etc
  • Many pro-democracy activists within Myanmar itself argue that sanctions are counter-productive, and that economic development can lead to political liberalisation
  • Keeping the Burmese isolated from international witnesses to internal oppression may only cement the government’s control

If You Decide to Go

In order to maximise the positive effects of a visit among the general populace, while minimising support of the government, follow these simple tactics:

  • Stay at private, locally owned hotels and guesthouses
  • Avoid package tours connected with Myanmar Travel and Tours
  • Avoid MTT-sponsored modes of transport, such as the Yangon-Mandalay Express trains, the MTT ferry between Mandalay and Bagan, and Myanma Airways (MA) flights
  • Buy handicrafts directly from the artisans, rather than from government shops
  • Avoid patronising companies involved with the military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings. Companies with solid links to the Tatmadaw (armed forces) are often called Myawadi or Myawaddy
  • Write to the Myanmar government and to the Myanmar embassy in your country expressing your views about the human-rights situation there

Full country name: Union of Myanmar (Burma became Myanmar in 1989 after the State Law and Order Restoration Council decided that the old name implied the dominance of Burmese culture; the Burmese are just one of the many ethnic groups in the country)
Area: 671,000 sq km
Population: 45 million
People: 65% Burmese, 10% Shan, 7% Karen, 4% Rakhine and Chin, Kachin, Mon, Chinese, Indian and Assamese minorities
Language: Burmese, Karen, Shan, Kachin
Religion: 87% Theravada Buddhist, 5% Christian, 4% Muslim, 3% animist
Government: military regime
Head of State: Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council General Than Shwe

GDP: US$67 billion
GDP per capita: US$1,500
Annual Growth: 1.1%
Inflation: 30%
Major Industries: teak, rice, jute and illegal opium poppies
Major Trading Partners: Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan, India

Facts for the Traveler

Visas: Entry into Myanmar requires a passport valid for at least six months from the time of entry. 28-day tourist visas are issued and cost US$18.
Health risks: Cholera, Hepatitis, Malaria, Rabies, Typhoid
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +6.5
Dialling Code: 95
Electricity: 230V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Imperial

 

When to Go

Climate wise, the best season for visiting Myanmar is November to February, when it rains least and isn’t too hot. If you’re hitting the hill stations or the Rakhine coast, try March to May – on the other hand, Bagan and Mandalay are intolerable during these months. Myanmar is least crowded in May, June and September.


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Events

Festivals are drawn-out, enjoyable affairs and generally take place or culminate on full-moon days. There’s often a country fair atmosphere about these celebrations, and they may feature stalls, pwes, music and boxing bouts. Independence Day on 4 January is marked by a seven-day fair in Yangon. Around the middle of April, the three-day Thingyan (water festival) starts the Burman new year. This is the height of the hot season, and it is sensibly celebrated by throwing buckets of cold water at anyone who dares venture into the streets. Girls chase boys through the streets, covering their bound victims in soot and parading them about; later, cows and fish are dressed up, adorned and set free by processions of dancing drummers. In October, the sober three-month Buddhist ‘Lent’ ends and the Festival of Light celebrates Buddha’s return from heaven. For three days Myanmar is lit up by fire balloons and paper lanterns and families make offerings at the local pagoda.

Money & Costs

Currency: Kyat

Meals

  • Budget: US$2-3
  • Mid-range: US$3-15
  • High: US$15+

    Lodging

  • Budget: US$5-10
  • Mid-range: US$10-25
  • High: US$25+

Myanmar’s compulsory exchange requirement, which compelled foreigners to change US$200 dollars to FECs (Foreign Exchange Certificates) upon arrival in the country, was scrapped in September 2003. As travellers’ cheques cannot be changed into the local currency, and there are no ATMs, cash is the only way to go. US dollars give the best exchange rate.

Costs will vary depending on whether you use officially approved hotels and transport or take the increasingly available opportunity to arrange your own. US$2 a day will get you a room in a budget hotel.If you’re travelling very cheaply, you can get by on about $10 a day. If you want your own bathroom and a choice of restaurants, budget $25-30 a day. Flying or taking express trains would add about $5 a day to that budget. If you want to stay somewhere fancy, you can pay anywhere between $25 and $300 a night.

Tipping is not really part of the Burmese culture, but ‘presents’ are. A minor bribe will get you a long way with Burmese bureaucrats. Money isn’t necessary – cigarettes and pens will speed things up a bit, foreign t-shirts will work miracles.

Attractions

Yangon (Rangoon)

Yangon lies in the fertile delta country of southern Myanmar on the wide Yangon River about 30km (19mi) from the sea. Although the population hovers around 4 million, the city seems so full of trees and shade that some neighbourhoods are practically jungle, giving it a totally different feel from other Asian cities of comparable size. At night, Yangon’s wide boulevards come alive with hordes of stalls selling delicious food and piles of huge cigars. If you can close your eyes to the decay of the old colonial architecture downtown, you’ll probably agree that this is one of the most charming cities in Asia.

Yangon is home to the gold-plated Shwedagon Paya, which dominates the city from its hilltop site. Legend has it that the original stupa was built to enshrine eight of Buddha’s hairs. Today’s mighty monument was built in the 18th century and is surrounded by an incredible assortment of statues, temples, shrines, images and pavilions. The Shwedagon was called ‘a beautiful winking wonder’ by Kipling and it truly is a magical place. Other sights include the colonial architecture of the legendary Strand Hotel, the colossal reclining Buddha in Chaukhtatgyi Paya and the peaceful Kandawgyi and Inya Lakes. Pro-democracy landmarks include the Martyr’s Mausoleum and Aung San Suu Kyi’s House.

Since the privatisation of the hotel industry in 1993, there has been an explosion of hotel and guesthouse development in Yangon. The cheapest guesthouses are near the river in the western part of the city, and there are other clean and friendly options near the railway station. The best authentic Burmese cuisine is in the Shwedagon Paya area, but there are lots of places around the city centre. Be aware that hardly any food is available anywhere in the city after about 9 pm.

Apart from the impossibly crowded buses, getting around Yangon is not too difficult. Myanmar’s version of the trishaw (sai-kaa) is good for short trips; catch a car taxi or one of the many tiny three-wheeled Mazdas for anything longer.


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Bagan

This bewildering, deserted city of fabulous pagodas and temples on the banks of the Ayeyarwady is one of the wonders of Asia. Bagan’s period of grandeur stretched from the 11th to the 13th centuries, and an enormous number of magnificent buildings were constructed here. The city was sacked by Kublai Khan in 1287 and never rebuilt. There are some 5000 temples, the most interesting of which are Ananda, Thatbyinnyu and Gawdawpalin.


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Bago (Pega)

During the Mon dynasty, Bago was a fabulous city, a major seaport and capital of lower Myanmar. The city was destroyed by the Burman in 1757 but partially restored in the early 19th century. When the Bago River changed its course and cut the city off from the sea, Bago failed to return to its previous grandeur. Sights include the Shwemawdaw Pagoda, which dominates the town, the Hintha Gone Pagoda and the 55m-long (180ft) reclining Shwethalyaung Buddha.


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Mandalay

This sprawling cultural centre is the most Burman of Myanmar’s cities. It was the last capital of Myanmar before the British took over and is the country’s second-largest city. Highlights of Mandalay include Shwenandaw Kyaung, the sole remaining building of the once extravagant moated palace; Mandalay Hill, with its spiralling stairways, temples and sweeping views; and the ancient Rakhine Buddha image at Mahamuni Paya. Bustling markets with produce and handicrafts from all over Upper Myanmar are another feature of Mandalay. There are four ‘deserted cities’ nearby: Amarapura, Sagaing, Ava and Mingun. Mingun is the most appealing of the four; not only are there some wonderful monuments in various states of disrepair, but just getting there is half the fun. Mingun is only accessible by river, and the boat ride from Mandalay is a treat.

Off the Beaten Track

Kengtung (Kyaingtong)

Tucked away in a far eastern corner of the Shan State is the sleepy but historic centre for the state’s Khün culture. Built around a small lake and dotted with aging Buddhist temples and crumbling British colonial architecture, Kengtung is probably the most scenic town in the Shan State. Its opening to foreigners in 1993 came as a complete surprise, considering that this is one of the most remote inhabited mountain valleys in Myanmar. Access is difficult and restricted to flights from Myanmar’s interior or a rough overland trip from Tachilek. Apart from the temples and monasteries in the area, it’s fun to check out the water buffalo market on the western outskirts of town. Held daily, it’s like a used-car lot, with pedlars extolling the virtues of their animals while buyers point out their flaws. When finally a price is agreed upon, money changes hands and the new owners walk off leading their buffaloes by the nose.


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Mawlamyine (Moulmein)

If you’re wondering what Yangon and Mandalay looked and felt like at the start of the decade, come to Mawlamyine where the atmosphere of post-colonial decay is still palpable. Once a major teak port, this tropical, hillside town south of Thaton is now known for its scenic surrounds, elephant labour and beautiful pagodas. Thanbyuzayat, 60km (37mi) to the south, has an Allied cemetery – the resting place of prisoners who died building the infamous ‘death railway’ during WWII. Mawlamyine is the only place in Burma that Rudyard Kipling, author of the famous Road to Mandalay, actually visited.


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Mrauk U (Myohaung)

Hidden in the encroaching jungle, in hill country close to the Bangladesh border, Mrauk U is reached only by riverboat – well off the beaten track! It is noteworthy for its Arakanese art and architecture, and its Buddhist temple ruins. Important ruins include the 80,000 Pagoda (so named because of the 80,000 Buddah images found there) and an ordination hall. Mrauk U is accessible from Sittwe in western Myanmar.


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Pathein (Bassein)

Located in the Ayeyarwady delta about 190km (118mi) west of Yangon, this premier port city is noted for its handicrafts (pottery and hand-painted umbrellas) and the Shwemokhtaw Pagoda (which was built by the three lovers of a Muslim princess). A major festival is held at the pagoda over the full-moon period in May. You can’t fly to Pathein, and the train trip is laborious. Your best bet is the 18-hour overnight ferry trip from Yangon, travelling along the Twante Canal and through the delta waterways.


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Pyay (Prome)

Two days south of Bagan by riverboat, the town of Pyay is close to the few remaining ruins of the ancient Pyu capital of Thayekhittaya (Sri Kshetra). The remote site – with its pagodas, ruined walls, quaint railway station and small museum – has been the centre of the most intensive archaeological work carried out in Myanmar this century. Other Pyu cities can be seen at Halin and Beikthano. The hilltop Shwesandaw Pagoda and enormous seated Buddha are Pyay’s main points of interest. The nearby Gautama Hill contains countless Buddha images in niches.

Pyay is about 300km (186mi) northwest of Yangon via a decent sealed road. The trip by boat from Bagan is pleasant, but you are advised to take your own supplies of food and water.


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Thaton

Long before the rise of Bagan, a Mon kingdom thrived here, trading as far afield as Cambodia. Today little remains of the ancient city: traces of the massive city walls can be seen, and there are some interesting pagodas. The town’s core is a leafy area situated on either side of the highway with a pleasing mix of colonial mansions and thatched-roof homes. A picturesque canal network irrigates rice fields and fruit orchards. Thaton is on the main road and rail line between Bago and Mawlamyine. Nearby, at Taikkala, there are ruined fort walls and an ancient pagoda.

Activities

Myanmar isn’t exactly bursting with opportunities to get out and stretch your legs, and most lung-inflating activity is still restricted by the government. Out-of-town hiking is permitted in parts of Shan State, and you can hire guides in Kalaw and Nyaungshwe. You can make day-hikes to minority villages around Kalaw and Pindaya, do some jungle hiking on the island of Lampi Kyun or head uphill at Mt Kyaikto.

It’s fine to bring your own bike into Myanmar and cycle anywhere in the unrestricted areas. The terrain is rough and unsuited to anything but the sturdiest mountain bike, and parts are very difficult to come by. You can hire Indian and Chinese bikes in Mandalay.

Diving tours are almost non-existent. About the only organised diving is around the Myeik Archipelago – liveaboard cruises are run out of Phuket and Kawthaung. Plenty of big-league diving sites have been identifitied, and business should be booming within the next couple of years.

History

Myanmar’s prehistory begins with the migration of three groups into the country: the first were Mons from what is now Cambodia, then came Mongol Burmans from the eastern Himalayas and later came Thai tribes from northern Thailand. The 11th-century Burman kingdom of Bagan was the first to gain control of the territory that is present-day Myanmar, but it failed to unify the disparate racial groups and collapsed before a Tartar invasion in 1287. For the next 250 years, Burma remained in chaos, and the territory was not reunified until the mid-16th century when a series of Taungoo kings extended their domain and convincingly defeated the Siamese. In the 18th century, the country fractured again as Mons and hill tribes established their own kingdoms. In 1767, the Burmans invaded Siam and sacked Ayuthaya, forcing the Siamese to move their capital to Bangkok.

Occasional border clashes and British imperialist ambitions caused the British to invade in 1824, and then again in 1852 and 1883. Burma became a part of British India and the British built the usual colonial infrastructure, and developed the country into a major rice exporter. Indians and Chinese arrived with the British to complicate the racial mix.

In 1937, Burma was separated from British India and there was nascent murmuring for self-rule. The Japanese drove the British from Burma in WW II and attempted to enlist Burman support politically. The Burmans were briefly tempted by an opportunity for independence, but a resistance movement soon sprang up. In 1948, Burma became independent and almost immediately began to disintegrate as hill tribes, communists, Muslims and Mons all revolted.

In 1962 a left-wing army revolt led by General Ne Win deposed the troubled democratic government and set the country on the path of socialism. The Burman economy crumbled over the next 25 years until, in 1987 and 1988, the Burman people decided they had had enough. Huge demonstrations called for Ne Win’s resignation and massive confrontations between pro-democracy demonstrators and the military resulted in 3000 deaths in a six-week period. Several puppets were appointed by Ne Win and then a military coup (believed to be instigated by Ne Win) saw General Saw Maung and his State Law & Order Council (SLORC) take control. The new leader promised elections in 1989.

The opposition quickly formed a coalition party called the National League for Democracy (NLD), under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of independence hero Bogyoke Aung San. In 1989, the government placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest, but despite her imprisonment, the National League for Democracy scored an overwhelming victory at the polls.

The junta prevented the elected party leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, from taking office and then went about the brutal business of quashing Karen rebels and engaging the private army of drug baron Khun Sa. Reports of Khun Sa’s ‘house arrest’ at a cushy villa in Rangoon with personal aides, luxury cars, a military escort and a hotel and real estate empire has given rise to the suspicion of a smacked-out peace deal between Rangoon and Khun Sa’s Heroin Inc.

During Aung San Suu Kyi’s imprisonment, she won several international peace prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Much to the joy of the Burmese people and her supporters abroad, the government released her in July of 1995. However, she was prevented from travelling outside of Rangoon, and was arrested again in September 2000 after trying to leave the city.

By October 2000, Aung San Suu Kyi was holding secret talks with the government through a United Nations negotiator that lead to her release in May 2002. Both sides pledged to continue discussions, with Aung San Suu Kyi optimistic of bringing democratic reform to her country.

However, in May 2003 Suu Kyi was arrested again following a violent clash between her supporters and a pro-government mob while she was visiting northern Myanmar. Around 70 NLD supporters and local villagers were allegedly beaten or shot dead in the attack. Suu Kyi was officially ‘freed’ in November, but remains under house arrest at her home.

Prime minister General Khin Nyunt drafted a seven-point ‘roadmap’ to ‘disciplined democracy’ in September 2003, but this was dismissed as a diversion by the US, which along with the EU and Japan, tightened sanctions against Myanmar following Suu Kyi’s re-arrest. Efforts to bring both parties back to the table continue, however real democratic reform seems unlikely unless, or until, the military leadership decides to relinquish control.

Culture

Art has been closely intertwined with religion and royalty in Burman history. Temples, pagodas and palaces displayed the artistic skills of painters, wood carvers and sculptures. Temples and pagodas were traditionally built of brick and many are still standing. The great palaces, however, were made of wood, and only one badly-deteriorating example of these beautiful carved structures remains today. Art and architecture, which relied on royal support, faded when the last royal kingdom collapsed.

Although court culture has been extinguished, popular street-level culture is vibrant and thriving. Drama is the mainstay of this culture, and just about any celebration is a good excuse for a pwe (show). Performances may recount Buddhist legends, or be more light-hearted entertainments involving slapstick comedy, dance, ensemble singing or giant puppets. Burman music is an integral part of a pwe; it originates from Siam and emphasises rhythm and melody. Instruments are predominantly percussive and include drums, boat-shaped harps, gongs and bamboo flutes.

Over 85% of the Burman population is Theravada Buddhist, although it is not the official state religion and since the Ne Win government takeover, it has actually officially occupied a less central role in Burman life. In the Rakhine region, towards Bangladesh, there are many Muslims. Christian missionaries have had some success among hill tribes but many remain staunch animists.

Burmese is the predominant language and has its own alphabet and script. Though you’re hardly going to have time to master the alphabet, it may be worth learning the numerals, if only so you can read the bus numbers. English is spoken by a few Burmans, particularly by the older generation.

It’s easier to buy authentic Burman dishes from food stalls rather than restaurants. Chinese and Indian eateries predominate, and hotel restaurants tend to remove much of the chilli and shrimp paste from their Burman dishes. Rice is the core of any Burman meal. To this is added a number of curry options and a spicy raw vegetable salad, and almost everything is flavoured with ngapi – a dried and fermented shrimp paste. Chinese tea is generally preferable to the over-strong, over-sweet and over-milky Burman tea. Sugar-cane juice is a very popular streetside drink, and stronger tipples include orange brandy, lychee wine and the alarming-sounding white liquor and jungle liquor.

Environment

Myanmar shares borders with Thailand, Laos, China, India and Bangladesh. Southern Myanmar borders the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. The central part of the country is characterised by wide rivers and expansive plains. The major river, the Ayeyarwady (formerly spelt Irrawaddy) is navigable for 1600km (900mi) of its length and its flood plains form the country’s main agricultural centre. Mountains rise to the east along the Thai border and to the north to meet the eastern end of the Himalayan range. The highest peak, Hkakabo Razi (5881m/19,290ft), is on the Myanmar-Tibet border. It’s the highest peak in South-East Asia.

Almost half of Myanmar is covered by forest, but if timber concessions (and smuggling) to Thailand and other Asian countries continue at current rates, widespread deforestation is inevitable. About 15 per cent of total land is cultivated, mainly with rice. Burma used to be the world’s largest exporter of rice but exports have diminished considerably. Two thirds of the population is employed in agriculture and less than 10 per cent in manufacturing. According to UN standards, Myanmar is now one of the 10 poorest countries in the world.

There are three distinct seasons: the cool, dry winter from November to February; the unpleasantly hot summer from March to May; and the wet, humid monsoon from May to October.

Getting There & Away

Although Myanmar essentially remains a ‘fly in, fly out’ destination, the good news is that the military government has gradually extended visa stays, resulting in more and more airlines putting Rangoon on their itinerary. The $US10 departure tax can be payed for in dollars or FECS.

There are some road border crossings at the Thai/Myanmar border (noticeably the Mae Sai-Thakhilek and Ranong-Kawthoung crossings) but they’re currently closed because of guerrilla and bandit activity in the area. In times of certainty, foreign travellers can travel the famous Burma Road and enter Myanmar via the Yunnan province in China, although border traffic is all one way. It’s not possible to cross back into China from the same checkpoint. Several entry points have also opened along the Thai border.

One persistent rumour is that the Chin State is about to open its borders to limited tour groups which may parlay in the not too distant future into permission for individual travellers to traverse the state via the Chin River, all the way to the Indian border at Tamu.


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Getting Around

Travel in Myanmar tends to be uncertain and uncomfortable. Many visitors are tempted to take internal flights because of the restricted 28-day stay regulation, but the terrible safety record and ‘flexible’ notion of schedules of Myanma Airways and, to a lesser extent, Air Mandalay can be a deterrent. Not many visitors use buses for long-distance travelling because they tend to be extremely crowded and the government bus line is so slack it refuses to take a stab at the arrival times of its buses. Pick-up trucks with benches have recently begun to appear, and although they can be equally uncomfortable when crowded, it is possible to charter them. There is a daily express train between Yangon and Mandalay; forget the ordinary-class trains which are dirty, slow and unreliable.

The delightfully ancient buses in Yangon and Mandalay are very cheap and convenient, although you may end up hanging out the side. There are horse carts in Mandalay and trishaws just about everywhere; negotiate fares in advance.

 

 

Malaysia

Most visitors to Malaysia stick to the insane headlong rush of Kuala Lumpur, the colonially soothing Cameron Highlands Hill Station or the hedonistic torpor of Langkawi. However, the island of East Malaysia offers spectacular wildlife, longhouses and the awe-inspiring Mt Kinabalu.

Malaysia is one of the most pleasant, hassle-free countries to visit in South-East Asia. It’s buoyant and wealthy, and has moved towards a pluralist culture based on a vibrant and interesting fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures and customs.

Warning

Visitors are advised to be extra vigilant when travelling in eastern Sabah and to altogether avoid the islands off Sabah’s east coast, including Sipadan and Pandanan, there is a risk of kidnapping and terrorist attacks, particularly targeting foreigners.

Full country name: Federation of Malaysia
Area: 329,750 sq km
Population: 23 million
People: 50% Malay, 33% Chinese, 9% Indian, plus indigenous tribes such as Orang Asli and Iban
Language: Malay, English, Tamil,
Religion: 52% Muslim, 17% Buddhist, 12% Taoist, 8% Christian, 8% Hindu, 2% tribal
Government: constitutional monarchy
Head of State: Yang di-pertuan agong (King) Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail
Head of Government: Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

GDP: US$99 billion
GDP per capita: US$4,530
Annual Growth: 2%
Inflation: 4%
Major Industries: Tin, rubber, palm oil, timber, oil, textiles, electronics
Major Trading Partners: Singapore, Japan, USA

Malaysia

Facts for the Traveler

Visas: Commonwealth citizens and most European nationals do not need visas for visits of less than three months. Visitors are usually issued an extendable 30 or 60-day visa on arrival.
Health risks: Dengue Fever, Hepatitis, Malaria, Rabies
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +8
Dialling Code: 60
Electricity: 240V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric

 

When to Go

Malaysia is hot and humid all year so you’re going to have sunshine and sweat pretty much whenever you visit. It is, however, best to avoid the November to January rainy season on Peninsula Malaysia’s east coast if you want to enjoy the beaches. The time to see turtles on the east coast is between May and September.


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Events

The major Islamic events are connected with Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The major Malaysian festival is Hari Raya Puasa, which marks the end of Ramadan with three days of joyful celebrations. Hari Raya Haji marks the successful completion of the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) with a two-day feast of cakes and sweets. Chinese New Year, in January or February, is welcomed in with dances, parades and much good cheer. The festival of Thaipusam in late January is one of the most dramatic Hindu festivals (now banned in India) during which devotees honour Lord Subramaniam with acts of amazing masochism – definitely not for the squeamish. In KL, devotees march to nearby Batu Caves; in Penang, the event is celebrated at the Waterfall Temple. The Kota Belud Tamu Besar is a huge tribal gathering held in May at Kota Belud near Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. It includes a massive market, traditional ceremonies, ornately decorated horsemen, medicine men and tribal handicrafts. A smaller tamu is held in Kota Belud every Sunday if you’re not visiting during May.

Malaysia

Money & Costs

Currency: Malaysian Ringgit

Meals

  • Budget: US$3-4
  • Mid-range: US$4-15
  • High: US$15+

    Lodging

  • Budget: US$8-20
  • Mid-range: US$30-80
  • High: US$80+

If you’re travelling on a budget, you can get by in Peninsular Malaysia on about US$20-25 a day. This involves staying in cheaper Chinese hotels, eating in local restaurants or street stalls and travelling mainly by bus. If you’re travelling with a partner, your accommodation expenses will be significantly reduced.

If you want to stay in comfortable hotels with private bathrooms, eat out at mid-range restaurants and catch taxis to get about locally, expect to spend around US$65 a day. Those more interested in creature comforts than their credit card limit can live in relative luxury on US$100 a day. Note that Sabah is more expensive than Peninsular Malaysia, so add about 30% to your budget when spending time there.

Malaysian banks are efficient and typically charge around US$2-3 for foreign exchange transactions. Moneychangers do not charge a commission but their rates vary, so make sure you know the current rate before approaching one. For cash, you’ll generally get a better rate at a moneychanger than a bank. Moneychangers are also generally quicker to deal with.

All major credit cards are accepted at upmarket hotels, shops and restaurants. If you have a credit card with a personal identification number (PIN) attached, you can obtain cash advances from ATMs. Banks in Malaysia are linking to international banking networks, which allow you to withdraw money from overseas savings accounts through ATMs. Check with your bank at home to see if you can withdraw money from your home account while in Malaysia.

Tipping is not customary in Malaysia. The more expensive hotels and restaurants add a 10 per cent service charge to their bills. All hotel rooms are subject to a 5 per cent government tax, though many cheaper hotels quote a price inclusive of this tax. Bargaining is commonplace in markets and in many tourist shops. Treat it as a polite form of social discourse rather than a matter of life and death.

Attractions

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is an Asian tiger that roars: in 130 years, it has grown from nothing to a modern, bustling city of almost two million people. Take in its high-flying triumphs from the viewing deck of the world’s tallest building and explore its cultural depths in the back lanes of Chinatown.

KL’s boom periods have produced an intriguing mix of architecture throughout the city, elegant colonial buildings contrasting with soaring modern edifices such as the twin Petronas Towers. Add the ground level bustle of the numerous street markets, and you have a city that rewards exploration.


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Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands, in the centre of Peninsular Malaysia, comprise a series of hill stations at altitudes between 1500 and 1800m (4920 and 5904ft). This fertile area is the centre of Malaysia’s tea industry and it’s the place where locals and visitors come to escape the heat of the plains. Attractions include jungle walks, waterfalls, tours of tea plantations, beautiful gardens and plenty of wild flowers. The cool weather tempts visitors to exertions normally forgotten at sea level – like golf, tennis, and long walks – but this is really Malaysia’s R ‘n’ R capital par excellence for those who don’t like the beach and enjoy a bout of colonial nostalgia. Most of the budget hotels are in the village of Tanah Rata. The more expensive options are scattered between Tanah Rata and Brinchang.


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Georgetown – Penang Island

The 285-sq-km (177-sq-mi) island of Penang, off Peninsula Malaysia’s northwestern coast, is the oldest British settlement in Malaysia and one of the country’s premier resort areas. The island’s beaches are touted as the major drawcard but they’re somewhat overrated. What makes Penang Island really tick is the vibrant and intriguing city of Georgetown on the island’s northeastern coast. This city has more Chinese flavour than either Singapore or Hong Kong, and in its older neighbourhoods you could be forgiven for thinking that the clock stopped at least 50 years ago. Georgetown is a compact city and it’s a delight to wander around. Set off in any direction and you’re certain to see beautiful old Chinese houses, vegetable markets, temple ceremonies, trishaws, mahjong games and all the other to-ings and fro-ings of Asian street life.

You can still see the time-worn walls of Fort Cornwallis in the centre of Georgetown where the first Briton, Captain Light, set foot in 1786 on what was then a virtually uninhabited island. He established a free port here and the stone fort was finished a few decades later. The area within the fort is now a park liberally sprinkled with cannons, many of them retrieved from local pirates. Seri Rambai, the largest and most important cannon, has a chequered history dating back to 1600. It’s famed for its procreative powers, and childless women are recommended to place flowers in the barrel of ‘the big one’ and offer special prayers.

Penang has many kongsis (clan houses that operate partly as temples and partly as meeting halls for Chinese of the same clan or surname), but Khoo Kongsi is easily the finest. The original building was so magnificent and elaborate that no-one was surprised when the roof caught fire on the very night it was completed. This misfortune was taken merely as a sign that the building had been too grandiose, so a marginally less magnificent structure was built. One wonders at the opulence of the original, since the present structure is a dazzling mix of dragons, statues, paintings, lamps, coloured tiles and carvings.

Kuan Yin Teng Temple right in the centre of the old part of Georgetown is nowhere near as impressive, but it’s one of the most popular temples in the city and there are often worshippers burning paper money at the furnaces, night-time puppet shows or Chinese theatre performances. For the best view of the city and the island, catch the funicular railway up Penang Hill which rises 830m (2722ft) above Georgetown and provides cool relief from the sticky heat below. There are pleasant gardens, a hotel, a Hindu temple and a mosque at the top. The view is particularly good at dusk when Georgetown, far below, begins to light up.

Most of the popular budget hotels in Georgetown are along Lebuh Chulia; more expensive options line Jalan Penang. There are plenty of Chinese and Indian restaurants, but be adventurous and try the succulent local dishes on offer from the street stalls, which appear at night along the Esplanade behind the Penang Library.


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Melaka

Melaka is an interesting blend of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and British influences and is considered Malaysia’s most historic city. It was once the most important trading port in the region, but is now little more than a sleepy backwater. Ancient-looking junks still sail up the river, imbuing the waterfront with a timeless charm, and the city remains full of intriguing Chinese streets, antique shops, temples and nostalgic reminders of the now-departed European colonial powers.

The most imposing relic of the Dutch period in Melaka is the massive pink town hall, Stadthuys, built between 1641 and 1660. It’s believed to be the oldest Dutch building in Asia and displays all the characteristic features of Dutch colonial architecture (read incredibly weighty doors and pleasant louvred windows). The building houses government offices and an excellent Ethnographic Museum, which highlights aspects of local history and culture. The imposing ruins of St Paul’s Church, built by the Portuguese over 400 years ago, stand in a beautiful setting atop St Paul’s Hill. It was regularly visited by St Francis Xavier, who was buried here for a short period before being transferred to Goa in India. The church fell into disuse when the Dutch arrived, but is still surrounded by old Dutch tombstones. The Brits, with great sensitivity, used the church as a gunpowder store.

For those who prefer their religious architecture to be a little more colourful, the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple in the old part of the city is the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia. It was founded in 1646, and all of the materials and all of the artisans who built it were imported from China. The old part of Melaka is a fascinating area to wander around, and this is where you’ll find many of Melaka’s famous antique shops; a stroll along Jalan Hang Jebat will pass the best of them.


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Tioman Island

This picture-postcard island lies off the eastern coast of Peninsula Malaysia in the South China Sea. It boasts beautiful beaches, clear, coral-filled water, technicolour marine life, virtually unpopulated jungle highlands, crystal-clear streams, and the dramatic peaks of Batu Sirau and Nenek Semukut. Tioman has been blessed with exotic place names like ‘Palm-Frond Hill’ and ‘Village of Doubt’ and is generally quoted as the setting for the mythical Bali Hai in the film South Pacific. The permanent population on Tioman is low, and locals are usually outnumbered by tourists. June and August are the peak tourist months, but during the heavy November to January monsoon the island is almost deserted.

The island’s west coast is dotted with villages and is home to a classy resort. Pulau Tioman is the most popular travellers’ destination, while Kampung Nipah is the place to go if you really want to get away from it all. You can get to Tioman by boat from Mersing and Singapore. The island’s largest village, Kampung Tekek, has an airstrip.

Off the Beaten Track

Peninsular Malaysia

Just off the coast of Perlis are the 104 islands of the Langkawi group. The islands are little visited, despite their good beaches, and the main island, Langkawi, has direct boat connections with Thailand.

Low-key Taiping, in Perak, has beautiful lake gardens, well-preserved Anglo-Malay buildings, a good night market and hardly any tourists. Also in Perak is the historic royal town of Kuala Kangsar, which has fine mosques and palaces, and was the birthplace of Malaysia’s rubber industry. Ipoh, Perak’s capital, has elegant mansions and impressive cave temples.

Although pretty inaccessible, a visit to Tasik Chini in central Pahang state is well worth the effort. It’s actually a series of 12 lakes surrounded by beautiful jungle territory, with great treks, and it’s rumoured to be the haunt of a cousin of the Loch Ness monster.

Taman Negara National Park, accessible only by boat, offers a rare opportunity to visit one of the most pristine primary rainforests in the world. The park covers 4343 sq km (2693 sq mi), sprawling across Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu. The wildlife is varied and abundant, but more evident on extended treks or boat trips away from the more frequented areas.


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Sabah

Scenic grandeur and fascinating wildlife are the main attractions in (expensive) Sabah. Just offshore from the capital, Kota Kinabalu, the huge Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (4929 hectares or 12,174 acres) is made up of the islands of Gaya, Mamutik, Manukan, Sapi and Sulug. The islands have some of the best beaches in Borneo and wildlife varies from monkeys and bearded pigs to corals and tropical marine life.

Not far from the Kalimantan border, Batu Punggul has an adventure-camp resort, jungle walks, canoeing and cave visits. The resort is accessible only by boat, and the area is home to many longhouse-dwelling tribes. North of the capital, Kota Belud is the venue of one of Sabah’s largest open-air Sunday markets and get-togethers (called a amu). It attracts all manner of vendors, selling everything from magic pills to cattle.

Inland, Mt Kinabalu is one of Sabah’s major attractions. It’s one of the easiest mountains in the world to climb and the views from the top are sensational – especially at sunset.


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Sarawak

Sarawak offers ever-shrinking areas of untouched jungle, the chance to visit longhouse-dwelling Dayak tribes and a good system of national parks. The area around the capital city, Kuching, has remote coastal villages, such as Pandan and Sematan, and unspoilt tropical rainforest, beaches and walking trails in the Bako National Park. Longhouses are found along the Rejang River and its tributaries – central and southern Sarawak’s ‘highway’. The areas downriver from Kanowit and Song are generally less frequented. In the northeast, the Niah Caves, accessible only by longboat and a 3km (1.86mi) hike, are unforgettable for their rock paintings, forest wildlife, jungle trails and night walks to see the luminous mushrooms. Visitors to Sarawak cannot fail to notice the extent to which logging is affecting the environment and the habitat of the Dayak tribes. Acquainting yourself with the issues surrounding Malaysia’s logging practices is recommended before visiting the province.

Activities

Diving and snorkelling enthusiasts can take their pick of several excellent east-coast islands, including Tioman Island, Pulau Kapas, Pulau Redang and the Perhentian Islands. For the landlubber, the favourite bicycle touring routes are up the east coast of the peninsula and a cross-peninsula route from Butterworth to Baling. There is great trekking, fishing and bird-watching in the Taman Negara National Park in Pahang, and jungle treks, canoeing and fishing trips can be organised at beautiful Tasik Chini in Pahang.

In Sarawak, Gunung Mulu National Park has a number of spectacular caves, including the 51km long Clearwater Cave, one of the longest in the world. Adventure-caving expeditions can be arranged. The park also has good trekking, especially the four-day hike to the summit of Gunung Mulu (2377m).

In Sabah, Pulau Tiga National Park off Kuala Penyuh has good walking trails across the volcanic island and several snorkelling spots. Many visitors to Sabah climb Mt Kinabalu. Turtle Islands National Park, 40km (25mi) north of Sandakan, is a good place to see green turtles between July and October, when they come ashore to lay their eggs. The Terengganu coast, in north-eastern Peninsular Malaysia, Pulau Pangkor off Lumut, and Selingan Island, north of Sabah, are other favoured turtle-watching locations.

History

Aboriginal Malays (Orang Asli) began moving down the Malay peninsula from south-western China about 10,000 years ago. The peninsula came under the rule of the Cambodian-based Funan, the Sumatran-based Srivijaya and the Java-based Majapahit empires, before the Chinese arrived in Melaka in 1405. Islam arrived in Melaka at about the same time and spread rapidly. Melaka’s wealth soon attracted European powers, and the Portuguese took control in 1511, followed by the Dutch in 1641. The British established a thriving port in Penang in 1786 and took over Melaka in 1795.

The British traded for spices and colonised the interior of the peninsula when tin was discovered. East Malaysia came into British hands via the adventurer Sir James Brooke (who was made Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after suppressing a revolt against the Sultan of Brunei) and the North Borneo Company (which administered Sabah from 1882). Gradually, the Federated Malay States were created in piecemeal fashion over the course of the 19th century.

The final pieces of the Malaysian mosaic fell into place when Britain took formal control of both Sabah and Sarawak after WWII. The indigenous labour supply was insufficient for the needs of the developing rubber and tin industries, so the British brought large numbers of Indians into the country, altering the peninsula’s racial mix.

The Japanese overran Malaya in WWII. Communist guerrillas, who fought the Japanese throughout the occupation, began an armed struggle against British rule in 1948 and Malaya achieved independence in 1957. Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore combined with Malaya to establish Malaysia in 1963, but two years later Singapore withdrew from the confederation. The formation of Malaysia was opposed by both the Philippines and Indonesia, as each had territorial claims on East Malaysia.

Tension rose in 1963 during the ‘Confrontation’ with Indonesia. Indonesian troops crossed Malaysia’s borders but were repelled by Malaysian and Commonwealth forces. In 1969, violent riots broke out between Malays and Chinese, though the country’s racial groups have since lived in relative peace together. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has been in power since 1974. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is keen to exert his influence on the world stage as a pan-Asian leader, presided over a booming economy until 1997, when tumbling Asian currencies dragged the ringgit down with them.

In September 1998 the country hosted the Commonwealth Games, but the public relations aspect of the competition came apart when students and citizens protested against the unfair sacking and later imprisonment of deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Continuing street protests,calling for the resignation of Dr Matahir Mohamad, have unsettled Malayasia’s reputation as one of the most politically stable of South-East Asian countries. By the time the 21st century rolled around, social upheavals had faded to a distant rumble and the Malaysian economy had clawed its way back into the game, ‘tho it remains a little proppy. Dr Mahathir Mohamad remained a controversial figure until the end. Just before his resignation in October 2003 after 20 years at the helm, the PM addressed a meeting of Islamic countries hosted by Malaysia, and exhorted them to collectivise against an alleged world Jewish conspiracy.

Culture

Malaysia is a multicultural society, with Malays, Chinese and Indians living side by side. The Malays are the largest community. They are Muslims, speak Bahasa and are largely responsible for the political fortunes of the country. The Chinese comprise about a third of the population. They are Buddhists and Taoists, speak Hokkein, Hakka and Cantonese, and are dominant in the business community. The Indians account for about 10% of the population. They are mainly Hindu Tamils from southern India, they speak Tamil, Malayalam, and some Hindi, and live mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula. There is also a sizeable Sikh community. Eurasians and indigenous tribes make up the remaining population. Despite Bahasa Malaysia being the official language, when members of these different communities talk to each other, they generally speak English, which was recently reinstated as the language of instruction in higher education.

The main indigenous tribe is the Iban of Sarawak, who number 395,000. They are largely longhouse dwellers and live along the Rejang and Baram rivers. The Bidayuh (107,000) are concentrated on Sarawak’s Skrang River. The Orang Asli (80,000) live in small scattered groups in Peninsular Malaysia. Traditionally nomadic agriculturalists, many have been absorbed into modern Malaysia.

Malaysian music is heavily influenced by Chinese and Islamic forms. The music is based largely around the gendang (drum), but includes percussion instruments (some made of shells), flutes, trumpets and gongs. The country has a strong tradition of dance and dance dramas, some of Thai, Indian and Portuguese origin. Other artistic forms include wayang kulit (shadow-puppets), silat (a stylised martial art) and crafts such as batik, weaving and silver and brasswork.

It’s not easy to find authentic Malay food in Malaysian restaurants, though you can take your pick of Chinese, Nyonya (a local variation on Chinese and Malay food – Chinese ingredients, local spices), Indian, Indonesian or (sometimes) Western cuisines. Satays (meat kebabs in spicy peanut sauce) are a Malaysian creation and they’re found everywhere. Other dishes include fried soybean curd in peanut sauce, sour tamarind fish curry, fiery curry prawns and spiced curried meat in coconut marinade. Muslim Indian dishes have developed a distinctly Malaysian style. The variety of wonderful tropical fruits and fruit juices available is huge, and strange sweet concoctions include cendol (sugar syrup, coconut milk and green noodles) and ais kacang (beans and jellies topped with shaved ice, syrups and condensed milk).

Environment

Malaysia is divided into two distinct parts: Peninsular Malaysia and the East Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak in North Borneo. The two regions are 650km (403mi) apart, separated by the South China Sea. Peninsular Malaysia shares borders with Thailand and Singapore. Sabah and Sarawak border Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo), and Sarawak surrounds the tiny enclave of Brunei. The Andaman Sea is on the west coast of the peninsula. The east coast of the peninsula, Sabah, and Sarawak all adjoin the South China Sea.

Peninsular Malaysia accounts for 40 percent of the country’s land mass. Several mountain ranges run north-south along the spine of the peninsula. There is a wide, fertile plain on the west coast, and a narrow coastal plain on the east. Sabah and Sarawak are covered by dense jungles and have large river systems. Mt Kinabalu (4101m/13,450ft) in Sabah is one of the highest peaks in South-East Asia.

More than 60 per cent of the country is still rainforest, but a government plan to build a huge hydroelectric dam in Sarawak is expected to decimate 27,600ha (69,000ac) of forest, which does not augur well for the future. There are 8000 species of flowering plants in Peninsular Malaysia alone, including 2000 tree species, 800 different orchids and 200 types of palm. Fauna includes elephants, rhinos, tigers, leopards, tapirs, sun bears, orangutans and gibbons. East Malaysia has one of the most abundant and varied bird populations in the world.

Malaysia is hot and humid all year. Temperatures are usually between 20-30°C (68-86°F); humidity is usually 90 per cent. The region has a monsoonal climate, but only the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia has a real rainy season. The wettest season on the west coast of the peninsula is between September and December; on the east coast and in Sabah and Sarawak it’s between October and February. Rain, when it comes, generally interrupts the sunshine only briefly; most of it falls in short, strong bursts.

Getting There & Away

Malysia’s new international airport – at Sepang, 50km (31mi) south of KL – opened in June 1998. Most tourists either fly into Sepang or arrive overland from Thailand or Singapore. However, Penang also has international flights, and Kuching in Sarawak and Tawau in Sabah have flights to/from Kalimantan. There is a departure tax of US$40 on international flights, but if you buy your ticket in Malaysia the tax is already included in the ticket price. Departure tax for flights to Singapore and Brunei is only US$5.

There are five road border crossings between Malaysia and Thailand (two on the west coast, one in the centre and two on the east coast). There is also a west-coast rail link. To get to/from Singapore, you can cross the causeway at Johor Bahru, catch a ferry or take the train. There are three ferry services between Malaysia and Indonesia (Penang-Medan, Melaka-Dumai and, in East Malaysia, Tawau-Tarakan). There’s also a difficult road link between Sarawak and Kalimantan.


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Getting Around

Malaysian Airline System (MAS) is the main domestic airline, servicing both the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak. Fares are reasonable but it’s unlikely that you’ll need to fly in Peninsula Malaysia unless you’re in a real hurry. It’s cheaper to fly to East Malaysia from Johor Bahru than from KL. In East Malaysia, flying is often the only quick way to get around. Note that flights in East Malaysia are frequently fully booked during school holidays and are prone to delays due to the vagaries of the weather.

Peninsula Malaysia has a fast, economical and widespread bus system, and this is generally the best way to get around. Sabah has excellent roads, and minibuses ply the main routes. Buses ply Sarawak’s major trunk road, but hardly anywhere else. Peninsula Malaysia has a comfortable and sensibly priced railway system, but there are basically only two lines: one linking Singapore to Thailand via KL and Butterworth, and the other branching off this at Gemas and heading north-east to Kota Bharu. In Sabah, there’s a narrow-gauge line through the Pegas River gorge from Tenom to Kota Kinabalu which is well worth catching.

In Peninsula Malaysia, long-distance taxis are twice the price of buses but they’re a comparatively luxurious and efficient way to travel. If you want to get around by car, all major car-rental firms have KL offices. There are no boat services between Peninsula and East Malaysia, but fast boats ply the rivers of both Sabah and Sarawak.

Local taxis in Malaysia are metered. Rickshaws have all but disappeared in KL, but they are still a viable form of local transport in provincial areas. KL has a notoriously bad public transport system, and peak-hour travel in the city should be avoided at all cost.

 

Laos

Laos’ isolation from foreign influence offers travellers an unparalleled glimpse of traditional South-East Asian life. From the fertile lowlands of the Mekong River valley to the rugged Annamite highlands, Laos is the highlight of South-East Asia.

This is the least developed and most enigmatic of the three former French Indochinese states. A ruinous sequence of colonial domination, internecine conflict and dogmatic socialism finally brought the country to its knees in the 1970s, and almost 10% of the population left.

Now, after two decades of isolation from the outside world, this landlocked, sparsely populated country is enjoying peace, stabilising its political and economic structures, and admitting foreign visitors – albeit in limited numbers due to a general lack of infrastructure.

Warning

Although travel in Laos is generally hassle-free, travellers should be aware of the risk of rural banditry, unexploded ordnance and sporadic violence in and around Vientiane. Travellers have been inadvertently targeted in several attacks on buses travelling to and from the capital.

Ask around in Vientiane or Luang Prabang to check security before travelling the western portion of Rte 7 in Xieng Khuang Province, between Muang Phu Khun and Phonsavan, or Rte 13 between Vangviang north to Muang Phu Khun through to south of Luang Prabang.

Small bombings and attempted bombings in Vientiane continue sporadically. The Saisombun Special Zone, considered a ‘troubled’ area, is definitely not safe. Permits, required for all visits to the zone, are not being issued.

Full country name: Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Area: 236,000 sq km
Population: 5.5 million
People: 50% Lao Loum (lowland Lao), 30% Lao Theung (lower-mountain dwellers of mostly proto-Malay or Mon-Khmer descent), 10-20% Lao Sung (Hmong or Mien high-altitude hill tribes) and 10-20% tribal Thais
Language: Lao, French, English
Religion: 60% Buddhist, 40% animist and spirit cults
Government: Communist state
Head of State: President Khamtai Siphandon
Head of Government: Prime Minister Boungnang Vorachith

GDP: US$9.7 billion
GDP per capita: US$1,700
Annual Growth: 4%
Inflation: 6%
Major Industries: Rice, tobacco, coffee, tin mining, timber, and opium
Major Trading Partners: Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan

Facts for the Traveler

Visas: Fifteen-day visas are now available for US$30 on arrival at Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport and at the International Friendship Bridge at the Nong Khai border crossing between Laos and Thailand, though you’ll need to meet a series of conditions to get one. Fifteen-day and 30-day visas are generally issued through embassies, consulates and authorised travel agencies.
Health risks: Cholera, Dengue Fever, Hepatitis, Japanese B Encephalitis, Malaria, Rabies, Typhoid
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +7
Dialling Code: 856
Electricity: 230V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric

 

When to Go

The best time to visit is between November and February – during these months it rains least and isn’t too hot. If you’re heading up into the mountains, May and July can also be pleasant. Roads can be washed out during rainy season (July to October), but there’s plenty of river travel. Peak tourist months are December to February and during August, although there are relatively few visitors at any time.


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Events

Festivals in Laos are generally linked to agricultural seasons or historical Buddhist holidays. The lunar new year begins in mid-April and the entire country comes to a halt and celebrates. Houses are cleaned, offerings are made in wats and everyone gets dowsed by water. Bun Bang Fai (the rocket festival) takes place in May. It’s an irreverent pre-Buddhist celebration with plenty of processions, music and dancing, accompanied by the firing of bamboo rockets to prompt the heavens to send rain. The week-long That Luang Festival in Vientiane in November has the whole repertoire of fireworks, candlelit processions and music.

Money & Costs

Currency: Kip

Meals

  • Budget: US$0.50 -1
  • Mid-range: US$1-3
  • High: US$3+

    Lodging

  • Budget: US$2.50-8
  • Mid-range: US$8-15
  • High: US$25+

Staying in Vientiane will cost you more than accommodation elsewhere – expect to pay from US$5 in the capital and about $1.75 in the country for a basic room. In a flashier tourist hotel you’ll pay from about $15 a night, up to around $60. An average meal will set you back less than $2 – a cup of coffee costs about 15c, a bowl of rice noodle soup about 50c to $1 and a litre of beer about 70c. All up, you could get by on US$8 a day in the big cities, $6 a day in the country, but that’s for the rockiest of rock-bottom budgets. If you want air conditioning, hot water and foreign food, you’ll be paying between $25 and $75 a day.

The Lao kip is the only legal currency, but Thai baht and US dollars are regularly accepted, particularly in the cities. Often you’ll be asked for kip for cheap purchases, baht for mid-range buys, and dollars if you want something expensive. In Vientiane you’ll be able to change most major currencies, but in the country you should stick to US dollars or baht – you may also have trouble with travellers’ cheques outside the capital. Banks will give you a better rate than moneychangers, and you’ll get more for travellers’ cheques than cash.

There’s no need to tip in Laos, except at upscale restaurants where around 10% is expected. If you’re buying things in markets or hiring a vehicle, always bargain; at shops it’s usually worth a try. Keep it low-key: Laotians are generally gentle hagglers.

Attractions

Vientiane

The capital city and seat of government sits on a bend in the Mekong River amid fertile alluvial plains. Despite its chequered past, Vientiane (pronounced ‘Wieng Chan’ by the locals) is a laid-back city with a number of interesting wats and lively markets. The most important national monument in Laos is Pha That Luang (the Great Sacred Stupa), which is a symbol of both Buddhism and Lao sovereignty. Other sights of interest include Wat Pha Kaew, a former royal temple which is now a museum, and Wat Si Saket, the oldest temple in Vientiane. Xieng Khuan is a collection of compelling Buddhist and Hindu sculptures located in a meadow, 24km (15mi) south of Vientiane.

Vientiane has around 10 top-end hotels and as many guesthouses – many of them are moderately expensive, but plenty of lower-priced rooms have become available in the last few years. Most of the accommodation is in central Vientiane. You can eat at cafes, street stalls, beer halls or restaurants that offer everything from rice noodles to filet mignon. For good Lao meals, try the Dong Palan Night Market on the east bank of the Nong Chan ponds.

Vientiane is not the illicit entertainment palace it was in the early 1970s: brothels are now prohibited, the marijuana stands have disappeared from the markets, and beer has replaced opium as the nightly drug of choice. Entertainment ranges from live music and discos – usually electrified Lao folk music or Western pop – to Thai, Chinese, Indian and even Bulgarian films. Tribal crafts, fabrics, jewellery and furniture are all good buys in Vientiane.


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Luang Prabang

This ‘city’ is just barely waking from a long slumber brought on by decades of war and revolution. Luang Prabang has only 16,000 residents and few concessions to 20th-century living, save for infrequent electricity and a few cars and trucks. Rush hour occurs when school students are let out and the streets fill with bicycles.

Its main tourist attractions are its historic temples – 32 of the original 66 built before French colonisation still stand – and its lovely setting encircled by mountains at the confluence of the Khan and Mekong rivers. Sights include the Royal Palace Museum, Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Wisunlat. Just 25km (15.5mi) along the Mekong River are the famous Pak Ou caves, some of which are filled with Buddha images, while 29km (18mi) south of the town are the beautiful Kuang Si waterfalls.

Off the Beaten Track

Bolaven Plateau

The Bolaven Plateau is a fertile area where Laven tribespeople grow some of the most highly regarded coffee in the world. Fruit, cardamom and rattan are also grown here. The plateau is a centre of Mon-Khmer culture, with Alak, Katu, Ta-oy and Suay villages in the area. Katu and Alak groups live in circles of thatched houses and are known for their yearly buffalo sacrifice, the centrepiece of some pretty spectacular ceremonies. Alak, Katu and Lawae women traditionally tattooed their faces, but this custom is dying out. The plateau also has some lovely waterfalls: Tat Lo plunges into a large pool that is gorgeous for swimming.


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Ho Chi Minh Trail

For those interested in war history, the Ho Chi Minh Trail is a network of dirt paths and gravel roads running parallel to the Laos-Vietnam border. The trail was used by the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War and by the Viet Minh against the French in the 1950s. Although the North Vietnamese denied the existence of the trail, and the USA denied bombing it, 1.1 million tons of explosives were dropped on the area between 1965 and ‘69, as well as massive quantities of herbicides. The trail is fairly remote, so there’s been little in the way of tidying up: you’ll see helicopters, fighter planes and a whole heap of other war junk. The closest town is Sepon, about 600km (370mi) southeast of Vientiane. Sepon was flattened during the war, and its now little more than a collection of shacks. You can get there by bus from Savannakhet.


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Plain of Jars

The mysterious Plain of Jars is an undeveloped area near Phonsavan in Xieng Khuang Province where huge jars of unknown origin are scattered, the biggest weighing as much as six tonnes (6.6 tons). The jars have been fashioned from solid stone, which doesn’t seem to have come from the area. Many of the smaller jars have been taken away by collectors, but there are still several hundred in the five major groups. Thong Hai Hin, the biggest and most accessible site, has two pavilions and toilets, as well as the largest jar on the plain.

Activities

Due to the underdeveloped tourist infrastructure in Laos, there are virtually no organised activities. For the adventurous and resourceful, this can be a real boon. The hilly nature of the country makes it perfect trekking territory, though overnight camping is not allowed; ask around towns for a local guide. Mountain-biking is the next best way to take advantage of the terrain; there are bikes for hire in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. On Don Khon, an island in the Mekong River, there’s an interesting walk across the southern tip of the island, which offers the chance to see Irrawaddy dolphins in the late afternoon between December and May.

History

The country has long been occupied by migrating Thais (including Shans, Siamese and Lao) and slash-and-burn Hmong/Mien hill tribes. The first Lao principalities were consolidated in the 13th century following the invasion of south-west China by Kublai Khan’s Mongol hordes. In the mid-14th century, a Khmer-sponsored warlord, Fa Ngum, combined a number of scattered principalities around Luang Prabang to form his own kingdom, Lan Xang (‘a million elephants’). The kingdom initially prospered, but internal divisions and pressure from neighbours caused it to split in the 17th century into three warring kingdoms centred on Luang Prabang, Wieng Chan (Vientiane) and Champasak.

By the end of the 18th century, most of Laos came under Siamese (Thai) suzerainty but the territory was also being pressured by Vietnam. Unable or unwilling to serve two masters, the country went to war with Siam in the 1820s. This disastrous ploy led to all three kingdoms falling under Thai control. By the late 19th century, France had established French Indochina in the Vietnamese provinces of Tonkin and Annam. The Thais eventually ceded all of Laos to the French, who were content to use the territory merely as a buffer between its colonial holdings and Siam.

During WWII, the Japanese occupied Indochina and a Lao resistance group, Lao Issara, was formed to prevent the return of the French. Independence was achieved in 1953 but conflict persisted between royalist, neutralist and communist factions. The USA began bombing North Vietnamese troops on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in eastern Laos in 1964, escalating conflict between the royalist Vientiane government and the communist Pathet Lao who fought alongside the North Vietnamese. By the time a ceasefire was negotiated in 1973, Laos had the dubious distinction of being the most bombed country in the history of warfare.

A coalition government was formed, but when Saigon fell in 1975, most of the royalists left for France. The Pathet Lao peacefully took control of the country and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic came into being in December 1975. Laos remained closely allied with the Vietnamese communists throughout the 1980s. Although many private businesses were closed down after 1975, there has been a relaxation of rules since 1989, and the move towards a market economy has led to a small-scale economic revival. Laos cemented ties with its neighbours when it was welcomed into ASEAN in July 1997. In 1998 former prime minister Khamtai became president.

By the late 1990s, the economy was in such poor shape – having experienced inflation of over 100 per cent and a depreciation of the kip by more than 500 per cent – that the resolutely socialist country did something that they’d never done before. They devised a ‘Visit Laos’ campaign in order to attract the tourist dollar. Although not an overwhelming success, the kip has been dragged back from its death bed and inflation reined in a little. Perhaps more significantly, there have been unofficial reports of disaffected Laotians rattling the chains of the Politburo and hard liners of the draconian Lao People’s Revolutionary Party.

Culture

About 60% of Lao, mainly the lowland Lao and a sprinkling of Thai tribes, are Theravada Buddhists. Every Lao Buddhist male is expected to become a monk for a short period of his life, usually between school and starting a career or getting married. The main non-Buddhist ‘religion’ is phii worship, a spirit cult which is officially banned. Hmong/Mien tribes practise animism and ancestral worship, and some follow a Christian version of the cargo cult, believing Jesus Christ will arrive in a jeep, dressed in combat fatigues. A small number of Lao – mostly the French-educated elite – are Christians.

The official language of Laos is Lao, as spoken and written in Vientiane. As an official language, it has successfully become the lingua franca between all Lao and non-Lao ethnic groups in Laos. There are five main dialects in the country, each of which can be divided into further subdialects. All Lao dialects are closely related to the languages spoken in Thailand, northern Myanmar and pockets of China’s Yunnan Province.

Traditional culture in Laos has been heavily influenced by various strains of Khmer, Vietnamese and Thai cultures. The lowland Lao share the same ancestry as many Thai tribes, so the similarities between Lao and Thai culture are especially strong. This can be seen in Lao sculpture, classical music, dance-dramas and cuisine. Lao folk music is more indigenous, based around the khaen (a double row of bamboo reeds fitted into a hardwood sound box). Folk music is often accompanied by dancing or bawdy theatre. The focus of most traditional art has been primarily religious and includes wats (temples), stupas and several distinctively Lao representations of Buddha. The Lao remain skilful carvers and weavers, but traditional silversmithing and goldsmithing are declining arts.

Rice is the foundation for all Lao meals, and almost all dishes are cooked with fresh ingredients such as vegetables, freshwater fish, poultry, duck, pork, beef or water buffalo. Lime juice, lemon grass and fresh coriander give the food its characteristic tang, and various fermented fish concoctions are used to salt the food. Hot chillies, garlic, mint, ground peanuts, tamarind juice, ginger and coconut milk are other seasonings. Dishes are often served with an accompanying plate of lettuce, mint, coriander, mung-bean sprouts, lime wedges or basil – diners then create their own lettuce-wrapped tidbits.

Getting There & Away

There are flights from Vientiane’s Wattay airport to Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma) and Kunming in China. There is a US$10 departure tax.

It is now legal for non-Thai foreigners to cross the Mekong into Laos at the following points: Nong Khai (near Vientiane), Chong Mek (near Pakse), Nakhon Phanom (opposite Tha Khaek), Chiang Khong (opposite Huay Xai) and Mukdahan (opposite Savannakhet). Boarder crossings are open between 6am and 6pm. Use of the Friendship Bridge spanning the Mekong at Nong Khai is hampered by controls on foreign-registered vehicles, but individual travellers should experience nothing more harrassing than a slight delay. It’s possible to cross to or from Vietnam via Lao Bao or Kuen Neua if you have a valid visa. It may also be possible to cross into Cambodia at the border town of Voen Kham, in Champasak Province. Entry to Laos is also possible from China’s Yunnan Province at Boten.


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Getting Around

It is now possible to travel to every province in Laos by some form of public road transport. Regular buses ply Rte 13 between Luang Prabang and Savannakhet. Other routes in the South, eg, Pakse to Sekong, typically use flat-bed trucks mounted with carriages and seats. The alternative mode of getting around is river transport. The main thoroughfares are the Mekong, Nam Ou, Nam Khan, Nam Tha, Nam Ngum and Se Don. With the increase in road travel, river passenger services are declining year by year, but you can still catch long-distance ferries (called heua duan, express boats, not to be confused with the extremely fast heua wai, speed boats) between Huay Xai and Vientiane. For shorter trips it’s usually best to hire a river taxi or, in the upper Mekong, a speed boat.

There are a few taxis in the larger towns, plenty of three-wheeled motorcycles and, for shorter distances, pedicabs. Bargaining skills will be required. Small 100cc motorbikes can be rented in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet. Bicycles can be rented in Vientiane, Savannakhet, Don Khong and Luang Prabang.

 

 

Indonesia Introduction – 2003

http://www.theodora.com/wfb2003/indonesia/indonesia_introduction.html
SOURCE: 2003 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


Background: Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago; it achieved independence from the Netherlands in 1949. Current issues include: alleviating widespread poverty, implementing IMF-mandated reforms of the banking sector, effecting a transition to a popularly-elected government after four decades of authoritarianism, addressing charges of cronyism and corruption, holding the military and police accountable for human rights violations, and resolving growing separatist pressures in Aceh and Papua.

 

NOTE: The information regarding Indonesia on this page is re-published from the 2003 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Guinea Geography 2003 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Indonesia Introduction 2003 should be addressed to the CIA.

Indonesia Geography – 2003
http://www.theodora.com/wfb2003/indonesia/indonesia_geography.html
SOURCE: 2003 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


Location: Southeastern Asia, archipelago between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean


Geographic coordinates: 5 00 S, 120 00 E


Map references: Southeast Asia


Area: total: 1,919,440 sq km
water: 93,000 sq km
land: 1,826,440 sq km


Area – comparative: slightly less than three times the size of Texas


Land boundaries: total: 2,830 km
border countries: East Timor 228 km, Malaysia 1,782 km, Papua New Guinea 820 km


Coastline: 54,716 km


Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM


Climate: tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands


Terrain: mostly coastal lowlands; larger islands have interior mountains


Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Puncak Jaya 5,030 m


Natural resources: petroleum, tin, natural gas, nickel, timber, bauxite, copper, fertile soils, coal, gold, silver


Land use: arable land: 9.9%
permanent crops: 7.2%
other: 82.9% (1998 est.)


Irrigated land: 48,150 sq km (1998 est.)


Natural hazards: occasional floods, severe droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, forest fires


Environment – current issues: deforestation; water pollution from industrial wastes, sewage; air pollution in urban areas; smoke and haze from forest fires


Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Marine Life Conservation


Geography – note: archipelago of more than 17,000 islands (6,000 inhabited); straddles Equator; strategic location astride or along major sea lanes from Indian Ocean to Pacific Ocean

Indonesia People – 2003
http://www.theodora.com/wfb2003/indonesia/indonesia_people.html
SOURCE: 2003 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


Population: 234,893,453 (July 2003 est.)


Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.7% (male 35,437,274; female 34,232,824)
15-64 years: 65.4% (male 76,743,613; female 76,845,245)
65 years and over: 4.9% (male 5,086,465; female 6,548,032) (2003 est.)


Median age: total: 25.8 years
male: 25.4 years
female: 26.2 years (2002)


Population growth rate: 1.52% (2003 est.)


Birth rate: 21.49 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)


Death rate: 6.26 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)


Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)


Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2003 est.)


Infant mortality rate: total: 38.09 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 32.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 43.5 deaths/1,000 live births


Life expectancy at birth: total population: 68.94 years
male: 66.54 years
female: 71.47 years (2003 est.)


Total fertility rate: 2.5 children born/woman (2003 est.)


HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)


HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 120,000 (2001 est.)


HIV/AIDS – deaths: 4,600 (2001 est.)


Nationality: noun: Indonesian(s)
adjective: Indonesian


Ethnic groups: Javanese 45%, Sundanese 14%, Madurese 7.5%, coastal Malays 7.5%, other 26%


Religions: Muslim 88%, Protestant 5%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 2%, Buddhist 1%, other 1% (1998)


Languages: Bahasa Indonesia (official, modified form of Malay), English, Dutch, local dialects, the most widely spoken of which is Javanese


Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 88.5%
male: 92.9%
female: 84.1% (2003 est.)

Indonesia Government – 2003
http://www.theodora.com/wfb2003/indonesia/indonesia_government.html
SOURCE: 2003 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Indonesia
conventional short form: Indonesia
local long form: Republik Indonesia
former: Netherlands East Indies; Dutch East Indies
local short form: Indonesia


Government type: republic


Capital: Jakarta


Administrative divisions: 27 provinces (propinsi-propinsi, singular – propinsi), 2 special regions* (daerah-daerah istimewa, singular – daerah istimewa), and 1 special capital city district** (daerah khusus ibukota); Aceh*, Bali, Banten, Bengkulu, Gorontalo, Jakarta Raya**, Jambi, Jawa Barat, Jawa Tengah, Jawa Timur, Kalimantan Barat, Kalimantan Selatan, Kalimantan Tengah, Kalimantan Timur, Kepulauan Bangka Belitung, Lampung, Maluku, Maluku Utara, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Papua, Riau, Sulawesi Selatan, Sulawesi Tengah, Sulawesi Tenggara, Sulawesi Utara, Sumatera Barat, Sumatera Selatan, Sumatera Utara, Yogyakarta*; note – with the implementation of decentralization on 1 January 2001, the 357 districts (regencies) have become the key administrative units responsible for providing most government services
note: following the 30 August 1999 provincial referendum for independence that was overwhelmingly approved by the people of Timor Timur and the October 1999 concurrence of Indonesia’s national legislature, the name East Timor was adopted as the provisional name for the political entity formerly known as Propinsi Timor Timur; East Timor gained its formal independence on 20 May 2002


Independence: 17 August 1945 (proclaimed independence; on 27 December 1949, Indonesia became legally independent from the Netherlands)


National holiday: Independence Day, 17 August (1945)


Constitution: August 1945, abrogated by Federal Constitution of 1949 and Provisional Constitution of 1950, restored 5 July 1959


Legal system: based on Roman-Dutch law, substantially modified by indigenous concepts and by new criminal procedures code; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


Suffrage: 17 years of age; universal and married persons regardless of age


Executive branch: chief of state: President MEGAWATI Sukarnoputri (since 23 July 2001) and Vice President Hamzah HAZ (since 26 July 2001); note – the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President MEGAWATI Sukarnoputri (since 23 July 2001) and Vice President Hamzah HAZ (since 26 July 2001); note – the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected separately by the People’s Consultative Assembly or MPR for five-year terms; selection of president last held 23 July 2001; selection of vice president last held 26 July 2001; next election to be held in July 2004; in accordance with constitutional changes, the election of the president and vice president will be by direct vote of the citizenry
note: the People’s Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat or MPR) includes the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat or DPR) plus 195 indirectly selected members; it meets every five years to elect the president and vice president and to approve broad outlines of national policy and also has yearly meetings to consider constitutional and legislative changes; constitutional amendments adopted in 2001 and 2002 provide for the MPR to be restructured in 2004 and to consist entirely of popularly-elected members who will be in the DPR and the new House of Regional Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah or DPD); the MPR will no longer formulate national policy
election results: MEGAWATI Sukarnoputri elected president, receiving 591 votes in favor (91 abstentions); Hamzah HAZ elected vice president, receiving 340 votes in favor (237 against)


Legislative branch: unicameral House of Representatives or Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR) (500 seats; 462 elected by popular vote, 38 are appointed military representatives until 2004 election when military seats expire; members serve five-year terms)
election results: percent of vote by party – PDI-P 37.4%, Golkar 20.9%, PKB 17.4%, PPP 10.7%, PAN 7.3%, PBB 1.8%, other 4.5%; seats by party – PDI-P 154, Golkar 120, PPP 58, PKB 51, PAN 35, PBB 14, other 30; note – subsequent to the election, there has been a change in the distribution of seats; the new distribution is: PDI-P 153, Golkar 120, PPP 58, PKB 51, PAN 35, PBB 13, other 32
elections: last held 7 June 1999 (next to be held April 2004)


Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Mahkamah Agung (justices appointed by the president from a list of candidates approved by the legislature); note – the Supreme Court is preparing to assume administrative responsibility for the lower court system, currently run by the executive


Political parties and leaders: Crescent Moon and Star Party or PBB [Yusril Ihza MAHENDRA, chairman]; Federation of Functional Groups or Golkar [Akbar TANDJUNG, general chairman]; Indonesia Democracy Party-Struggle or PDI-P [MEGAWATI Sukarnoputri, chairperson]; National Awakening Party or PKB [Alwi SHIHAB, chairman]; National Mandate Party or PAN [Amien RAIS, chairman]; United Development Party or PPP (federation of former Islamic parties) [Hamzah HAZ, chairman]


Political pressure groups and leaders: NA


International organization participation: APEC, ARF, AsDB, ASEAN, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-15, G-19, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, MONUC, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, UN, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNMIBH, UNMOP, UNMOT, UNOMIG, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO


Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador SOEMADI Brotodiningrat
chancery: 2020 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
consulate(s) general: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco
FAX: [1] (202) 775-5365
telephone: [1] (202) 775-5200


Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Ralph L. BOYCE
embassy: Jalan Medan Merdeka Selatan 4-5, Jakarta 10110
mailing address: Unit 8129, Box 1, APO AP 96520
telephone: [62] (21) 3435-9000
FAX: [62] (21) 385-7189
consulate(s) general: Surabaya


Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and white; similar to the flag of Monaco, which is shorter; also similar to the flag of Poland, which is white (top) and red

Indonesia Economy – 2003
http://www.theodora.com/wfb2003/indonesia/indonesia_economy.html
SOURCE: 2003 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


Economy – overview: Indonesia, a vast polyglot nation, faces severe economic development problems stemming from secessionist movements and the low level of security in the regions; the lack of reliable legal recourse in contract disputes; corruption; weaknesses in the banking system; and strained relations with the IMF. Investor confidence will remain low and few new jobs will be created under these circumstances. In November 2001, Indonesia agreed with the IMF on a series of economic reforms in 2002, thus enabling further IMF disbursements. Negotiations with the IMF and bilateral donors continued in 2002. Keys to future growth remain internal reform, the build-up of the confidence of international donors and investors, and a strong comeback in the global economy.


GDP: purchasing power parity – $663 billion (2002 est.)


GDP – real growth rate: 3.5% (2002 est.)


GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $3,100 (2002 est.)


GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 17%
industry: 41%
services: 42% (2001 est.)


Population below poverty line: 27% (1999)


Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 4%
highest 10%: 26.7% (1999)


Distribution of family income – Gini index: 31.7 (1999)


Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11.9% (2002 est.)


Labor force: 99 million (1999)


Labor force – by occupation: agriculture 45%, industry 16%, services 39% (1999 est.)


Unemployment rate: 10.6% (2002 est.)


Budget: revenues: $26 billion
expenditures: $30 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)


Industries: petroleum and natural gas; textiles, apparel, and footwear; mining, cement, chemical fertilizers, plywood; rubber; food; tourism


Industrial production growth rate: 4.9% (2002 est.)


Electricity – production: 95.78 billion kWh (2001)


Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 86.9%
hydro: 10.5%
other: 2.6% (2001)
nuclear: 0%


Electricity – consumption: 89.08 billion kWh (2001)


Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2001)


Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2001)


Oil – production: 1.451 million bbl/day (2001 est.)


Oil – consumption: 1.045 million bbl/day (2001 est.)


Oil – exports: NA


Oil – imports: NA


Oil – proved reserves: 7.083 billion bbl (January 2002 est.)


Natural gas – proved reserves: 2.549 trillion cu m (January 2002 est.)


Agriculture – products: rice, cassava (tapioca), peanuts, rubber, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, copra; poultry, beef, pork, eggs


Exports: $52.3 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)


Exports – commodities: oil and gas, electrical appliances, plywood, textiles, rubber


Exports – partners: Japan 19.2%, US 14.5%, Singapore 11.6%, South Korea 6.6%, China 5.6%, Taiwan 3.7% (2002)


Imports: $32.1 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)


Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment; chemicals, fuels, foodstuffs


Imports – partners: Japan 18.2%, South Korea 9.6%, Singapore 8.4%, China 7.9%, US 7.6%, Australia 5.0% (2002)


Debt – external: $131 billion (2002 est.)


Economic aid – recipient: $43 billion from IMF program and other official external financing (1997-2000)


Currency: Indonesian rupiah (IDR)


Currency code: IDR


Exchange rates: Indonesian rupiahs per US dollar – 9,311.19 (2002), 10,260.8 (2001), 8,421.77 (2000), 7,855.15 (1999), 10,013.6 (1998)


Fiscal year: calendar year; note – previously was 1 April – 31 March, but starting with 2001, has been changed to calendar year

Indonesia Communications – 2003
http://www.theodora.com/wfb2003/indonesia/indonesia_communications.html
SOURCE: 2003 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


Telephones – main lines in use: 5,588,310 (1998)


Telephones – mobile cellular: 1.07 million (1998)


Telephone system: general assessment: domestic service fair, international service good
domestic: interisland microwave system and HF radio police net; domestic satellite communications system
international: satellite earth stations – 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Pacific Ocean)


Radio broadcast stations: AM 678, FM 43, shortwave 82 (1998)


Radios: 31.5 million (1997)


Television broadcast stations: 41 (1999)


Televisions: 13.75 million (1997)


Internet country code: .id


Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 24 (2000)


Internet users: 4.4 million (2002)

Indonesia Transportation – 2003
http://www.theodora.com/wfb2003/indonesia/indonesia_transportation.html
SOURCE: 2003 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


Railways: total: 6,458 km
narrow gauge: 5,961 km 1.067-m gauge (125 km electrified); 497 km 0.750-m gauge (2002)


Highways: total: 342,700 km
paved: 158,670 km
unpaved: 184,030 km (1997)


Waterways: 21,579 km total
note: Sumatra 5,471 km, Java and Madura 820 km, Kalimantan 10,460 km, Sulawesi (Celebes) 241 km, Irian Jaya 4,587 km


Pipelines: crude oil 2,505 km; petroleum products 456 km; natural gas 1,703 km (1989)


Ports and harbors: Cilacap, Cirebon, Jakarta, Kupang, Makassar, Palembang, Semarang, Surabaya


Merchant marine: total: 710 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 3,045,673 GRT/4,106,508 DWT
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Greece 1, Hong Kong 2, India 1, Japan 2, Malaysia 1, Monaco 3, Panama 1, Philippines 1, Singapore 11, South Korea 1, Switzerland 1, UK 2, US 1 (2002 est.)
ships by type: bulk 42, cargo 400, chemical tanker 15, container 56, liquefied gas 3, livestock carrier 1, passenger 9, passenger/cargo 13, petroleum tanker 127, refrigerated cargo 2, roll on/roll off 16, short-sea passenger 9, specialized tanker 11, vehicle carrier 6


Airports: 631 (2002)


Airports – with paved runways: total: 153
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 48
under 914 m: 43 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 46


Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 478
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 25
under 914 m: 450 (2002)


Heliports: 9 (2002)

Indonesia Military – 2003
http://www.theodora.com/wfb2003/indonesia/indonesia_military.html
SOURCE: 2003 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


Military branches: Army, Navy (including marines and naval air arm), Air Force


Military manpower – military age: 18 years of age (2003 est.)


Military manpower – availability: males age 15-49: 65,665,721 (2003 est.)


Military manpower – fit for military service: males age 15-49: 38,290,550 (2003 est.)


Military manpower – reaching military age annually: males: 2,213,727 (2003 est.)


Military expenditures – dollar figure: $1 billion (FY98)


Military expenditures – percent of GDP: 1.3% (FY98)

 

 

【服 务 业】 在国民经济中占有主要地位,其产值占国民生产总值的52%左右。近几年来,服务业产值逐年增长。1995年为3453亿比索(按1985年不变价格计算),比上年增长4.92%。1996年服务业产值为3660亿比索,比1995年增长6%。1997年服务业产值为411亿美元,比1996年增长5.6%。1999年、2000年和2001年服务业产值分别为314亿美元、322亿美元、335亿美元。

  【旅 游 业】 是菲外汇收入重要来源之一。1999年接待游客217万人次,收入26亿美元,占GDP3.6%。主要旅游点有:百胜滩、蓝色港湾、碧瑶市、马荣火山、伊富高省原始梯田等。

  (资料来源:菲旅游部)

【交通运输】 以公路运输为主。铁路不发达,均集中在吕宋岛。航空运输主要由国家航空公司经营,全国各主要岛屿间都有航班。

  铁路:总长1200公里。1998年,客运量528.02万人次。1999年客运量555.6万人次。

  公路:1997年公路总长2.79万公里。桥梁7380座,总长26.2万米。1998年车辆总数255.8305万辆。2001年总长16.1万公里。1999年机动车总数353.4万辆,其中小汽车68.9万辆。

  水运:1997年有船只26.796万艘,总吨位2.74亿吨,货运量1.45亿公吨。全国共有1425个大小港口,总吞吐量16788.4万吨。主要港口为马尼拉、宿务、怡朗、三宝颜等。第一大港马尼拉年吞吐量1874万吨。

  空运:1997年有机场192个,其中89个为国营机场,103个为私人机场;主要机场有首都的尼诺?阿基诺国际机场、宿务市的马克丹国际机场和达沃机场等;共有国际航班48274架次。1998年客运量464.5万人次。

  (资料来源:菲国家铁路,陆地运输办公室,海洋工业局,菲律宾航空公司,2001年经济季刊)

  【财政金融】 财政收支2001年继续出现赤字。近几年财政收支情况如下(单位:亿比索):

      1995  1996  1997  1998  1999  2000  2001

  收入  3602  4213  3818.5 4570  5670  5057  5637

  支出  3500  4038  3842.1 5080  6295  6418  7107

  差额  102   175  -23.6  -510  -1116  -1361  -1470

  (资料来源:菲律宾中央银行)

  外债负担沉重。截至2000年底外债总额约523亿美元,外汇储备150亿美元。截至2000年9月国际收支逆差5.32亿美元。截至2001年9月外债总额524.26亿美元,截至2001年12月,外汇储备157.18亿美元,黄金储备79亿美元。截至2001年11月,国际收支赢余20.97亿美元。

  主要银行有:首都银行,资产额100亿美元;商业银行,资产额80亿美元。

  【对外贸易】 出口总额占GDP44%,与150个国家有贸易关系。近年来,菲政府积极发展对外贸易,促进出口商品多样化和外贸市场多元化,进出口商品结构发生显著变化,非传统出口商品如成衣、电子产品、工艺品、家具、化肥等的出口额已超过传统商品出口额。近几年进出口贸易额如下(单位:亿美元):

       1996  1997  1998  1999  2000  2001

  总 额  528.72 610.7  591.56 657.6  688.19  617

  出口额  205.43 252.28 294.96  350.3  380.77  321.50

  进口额  324.27 359.34 296.6  307.3  307.42  295.50

  差 额  -117.86 -107  -1.64  43   73.35   26

  (资料来源:菲律宾国家统计办公室、中央银行)

  2001年主要出口产品为电子零配件、服装、木器家具、矿产品等;主要进口产品为原油及燃料油、电动机械及配件、通信设备等。消费品进口比重下降,生产资料进口比重增加。主要贸易伙伴是美、日、荷兰、新加坡、英国、台湾、香港等。

  【外国资本】 据菲投资署统计,1999年菲批准外国间接投资26.7亿美元,直接投资18.94亿美元,共比1998年减少10%。荷兰、日本、美国、新加坡位居前四位。2000年吸引外国直接投资15.84亿美元。

  【外国援助】 外援主要来自美、日、西欧国家和国际金融组织。截止1995年菲政府接受的外国援助协议总额60亿美元。其中与日本签定的20项贷款协议达296亿比索(约合11.4亿美元),居第一位。2002年外国承诺给予菲各项援助28亿美元。

  【人民生活】 2001年家庭平均收入144039比索(约2881美元)。2000年失业率11%。近几年来,人民生活水平逐步提高,但贫富不均现象仍然严重,贫困家庭比率为31.8%。以1995年为基准,2000年消费品价格指数为140.9,工资指数242.13。据2001年统计,人均寿命69岁,人口出生率为2.62%,死亡率为0.58%。2000年每千人约拥有1名医生,1.5张病床, 45辆汽车。1998年医院总数为1713所。2001年每百人拥有9部固定电话,4部移动电话。

  (资料来源:国家统计办公室,卫生部, 2001年经济季刊)

【军  事】 

1901年建立保安队。1936年以保安队为基础建立了陆军。1944年重组军队。1946年以陆军为基础建立了国防军,分海、陆、空和保安军四个军种。1950年4月19日正式改称菲律宾武装部队,并将3月22日(1897年菲革命军反抗西班牙殖民统治的斗争日)定为建军节。总统是最高统帅。武装部队司令部为三军最高指挥机构,总参谋长是最高军事指挥官。国防部是三军行政管理机构。国防部长为安吉洛?雷耶斯上将(Angelo REYES),武装部队总参谋长为迪奥梅迪奥?比利亚努埃瓦(Diomedio VILLANUEVA)。实行志愿兵役制,服役期三年以上。

  

国防预算与开支:

1999年军费预算13.6亿美元。2000年军费预算13亿美元,2001年军费预算11亿美元,2002年军费预算12.2亿美元,占预算总额约10%。1998年军费开支约13亿美元,1999年军费开支约16亿美元,2000年军费开支约15亿美元。1995年2月16日,菲参议院通过一项使菲武装部队现代化的法案。该法案决定在今后10年里增拨500亿比索(约20亿美元)用于军队的现代化建设。

 

外国军事援助(美国提供):

1999年:140万美元;380万美元(澳大利亚提供);2000年:140万美元;2001年:140万美元。

 

总兵力:

菲武装力量由正规军、预备役和准军事部队组成,其中正规军总兵力10.9万人,预备役部队6.8万人,准军事部队4.5万人。2000年,陆军6.6万人,编成8个步兵师、23个步兵旅、8个炮兵营、1个装甲旅、5个特种作战旅、1个总统卫队。海军2.4万人,编成1个作战舰队司令部、6个海区司令部和4个海军陆战旅。空军1.6万人,编成3个空军师、9个飞行联队、7个勤务保障联队。国家警察部队4.05万人,海岸警察2千人,民兵4万人。

 

陆军:

6.7万人。编成5个地区联合司令部(多军种);8个步兵师(每师下辖3个步兵旅,1个炮兵营);1个特种作战司令部,配有1个轻型装甲旅(团);1个侦察巡逻团;1个特种部队团;5个工兵营;1个炮兵团指挥部,1个总统卫队。

 

  【文化教育】 宪法规定,中小学实行义务教育。政府重视教育,2002年教育预算为1053亿比索,占政府预算开支的13.48%。鼓励私人办学,为私立学校提供长期低息贷款,并免征财产税。1994年全国识字率为93.5%。1996/1997学年,全国有小学37721所,中学63695所,高等学院1316所;在校生中,小学生1150.48万,中学生488.35万,大学生222.09万。著名高等院校有菲律宾大学、阿特尼奥大学、东方大学、远东大学、圣托玛斯大学等。

【新闻出版】 新闻出版:主要英文日报:《马尼拉公报》、《菲律宾星报》、《菲律宾询问日报》、《自由报》、《马尼拉时报》、《马尼拉纪事报》。菲文日报:《消息报》、《菲律宾快报》。华文日报:《世界日报》、《商报》、《菲华时报》、《联合日报》和《环球日报》。成立于1973年的菲律宾通讯社为官方通讯社,新闻组织有菲全国新闻记者俱乐部、菲新闻摄影家协会、菲出版者协会等。全国有257家出版机构。全国有629家广播电台,137家电视台,其中广播局和人民电视台属官方性质,其余均为私人所有。菲律宾广播电台、电视台使用的语言主要是英语、他加禄语和华语。 

主要英文日报:《马尼拉公报》、《菲律宾星报》、《菲律宾询问日报》、《自由报》、《马尼拉时报》、《马尼拉纪事报》。菲文日报:《消息报》、《菲律宾快报》。华文日报:《世界日报》、《商报》、《菲华时报》、《联合日报》和《环球日报》。

菲律宾通讯社:官方通讯社,成立于1973年3月1日。与中国、马来西亚、印尼、泰国、巴基斯坦、日本等15个国家和地区的通讯社建有新闻交换关系,与美联社、合众国际社、路透社均有工作联系。

【对外关系】 宣称奉行独立的外交政策,在平衡、平等、互利、互敬的基础上发展同所有国家的政治经济关系。对外政策的三大目标是:加强国家安全,促进经济发展,保护海外菲人。重视同美国、中国和日本等大国的关系,积极推动东盟内部合作,发展同伊斯兰国家的友好关系。大力推行经济外交,积极参与国际和地区事务。截至2000年底,已同125个国家建交。

  【对当前重大国际问题的态度】 9?11“事件后,菲政府强烈谴责恐怖主义活动,全力支持美国反恐行动,支持美英对阿富汗的军事打击,向美提供军事基地、情报和后勤支持。2001年12月,菲承认阿富汗临时政府。关于中东问题,菲政府支持联合国要求以色列撤军的决议,但同时在以、巴间保持中立。菲支持朝鲜半岛南北和解,2000年7月12日同朝鲜签署建交联合公报。

 

【同美国的关系】 菲美长期保持密切的盟友关系。两国签有军事基地协定、共同防御条约和共同防御援助协议等。1991年9月,菲参议院废除了菲美军事基地协定,共同防御条约依然有效。1991年至1992年11月24日,美先后向菲归还了全部六个基地,结束了美在菲长达93年的驻军。美目前是菲最大的投资国和主要贸易伙伴。1993到1997年间,美在菲投资18亿美元,为菲最大投资来源。1998年,菲美贸易总额为166.6亿美元,菲向美出口101亿美元。1998年初,两国签署《访问部队协定》,该协定旨在为参加菲美联合军事演习的到访美军确立法律地位,为军事基地协定废止后美军重返菲铺路。1999年5月,该协定获菲参院批准,菲美计划于2000年初恢复军事演习。10月美国防部长科恩访菲,双方主要讨论了菲美军事关系及向东帝汶派驻维和部队问题,美表示愿协助把菲维和部队运到东帝汶。2000年菲美举行多次军事演习。7月,菲总统埃斯特拉达访美,双方签署了7份合作协议,主要讨论了美对菲军援、解决菲国内安全问题和加强菲美经济合作等问题。9月,美国防部长科恩访菲,就密切双边军事同盟关系、举行多边联合军事演习等问题同菲方交换意见。2001年,菲在“9?11事件“后全力支持美反恐行动,向美开放军事设施,提供后勤服务。美则派反恐专家赴菲协助反恐训练。11月,阿罗约总统访美,美承诺向菲提供46亿美元经济援助与民间投资,并允诺提供武器装备等大规模军援。同月,美太平洋总司令布莱尔访菲,会见阿罗约总统和菲军方高官,表示美将向菲提供更多军援,帮助菲消灭阿布沙耶夫武装。2002年初,菲美在菲南部开展为期半年以阿布沙耶夫为打击目标的“肩并肩“联合军事演习。

  美是菲最大贸易伙伴。1993到1997年间,美在菲投资18亿美元。2001年,菲美贸易总额为150亿美元,其中菲向美出口90亿美元。

  【同日本的关系】 1956年7月正式建交。日本是菲目前最大的援助国和第二大投资、贸易伙伴。 1980年至1989年间,日向菲提供了36亿美元的优惠贷款和赠款。1994年,日向菲提供的援助达12.61亿美元。1995年,菲日签定20项总额达296亿比索(约合11.4亿美元)的贷款协议。1998年,日菲贸易额102.6亿美元。近年来,两国高层往来较密切。拉莫斯总统就职典礼时,日派出了以前首相海部俊树为首的高级代表团。拉莫斯总统就任不久即访问了日本。1996年3月,菲副总统埃斯特拉达访日。4月,日本在宿务开设总领馆。5月,拉莫斯总统对日本进行了工作访问。1997年2月,菲众议长德维尼西亚访日。3月,菲外长西亚松访日。菲为得到日经济和财政援助,积极支持日本在国际事务中发挥作用。拉莫斯总统曾表示,菲政府完全支持日本争取成为联合国安理会常任理事国,希望日本在世界上发挥与其经济影响相称的政治作用。1999年1月,日宫泽基金批准给菲14亿美元贷款。6月埃斯特拉达总统访日,表示希加强同日安全对话。2001年9月,阿罗约总统对日本进行国事访问,会见了日本天皇夫妇,与小泉首相举行会谈。双方发表了联合声明,表示将加强对话,在未来把两国合作关系提升到伙伴关系;共同支持美国打击国际恐怖主义。

【同其他东盟国家的关系】 菲是东盟成员国,重视同东盟国家在各个领域的合作。同泰国、印尼关系较好,同马来西亚之间存在着沙巴领土争端,但均表示愿通过友好协商解决。1963年、1968年两国曾为沙巴领土争端两度断交,1969年复交。1999年4月,马前副总理安瓦尔的妻子阿齐扎以私人名义访菲。6月和8月,菲分别就马亚西亚占领榆亚暗沙和簸箕礁向马方提出抗议。1995年3月,因新加坡处死一名菲女佣,菲新关系降级,菲外长罗慕洛引咎辞职。1996年4月,新菲互派大使,关系恢复正常。1998年10月,埃斯特拉达总统访新。与文莱保持正常国家关系。1999年8月,埃斯特拉达总统访问文莱。1999年6月,泰国总理川?立派访菲。1999年7月,流亡澳大利亚的东帝汶独立运动领导人拉莫斯?霍塔对菲进行私人访问。1999年11月,菲成功主办第三次东盟与中日韩领导人非正式会晤。2000年2月,霍塔与另一著名领导人夏纳纳?古斯芒访菲,争取获得菲的援助。8月,柬埔寨首相洪森访菲,双方签署了5项合作协议。2001年阿罗约就任总统后,重视加强与东盟其他国家的关系。6月,印尼总统瓦希德访菲。8月阿罗约总统访问马来西亚,与马哈蒂尔总理共同出席菲政府与摩伊解停火协议的签字仪式,两国还签署了旅游合作谅解备忘录。同月,印尼总统梅加瓦蒂访菲。阿罗约分别访问文莱和新加坡,与文莱发表联合声明,并签署菲文军事合作协定。10月,泰国总理塔信访菲,两国签署引渡条约。11月,阿罗约访问印尼,双方一致同意在反恐和打击跨国犯罪方面加强合作。同月,越南国家主席陈德良访菲,双方就加强两国经贸关系和遣返越南难民等问题达成共识,并签署了避免双重征税等协议。

 

菲律宾乳业市场调查

 

  菲律宾是牛奶及奶制品消费国。据菲律宾乳业署报道,菲律宾有8千万人口,其中城市人口有3千多万,每年需求牛奶及奶制品230多万吨。但由于菲律宾近年来经济不太景气,每年实际消费只有127万多吨,年人均消费量为15公斤。而菲律宾自身生产能力极低,每年只能生产1万吨左右,不及总消费量的1%。供需之间的突出矛盾决定了菲律宾要从国外进口总消费量的99%来供应市场,并且每年的进口量不低于170万吨左右,仅次于小麦进口量,是菲国第二大进口农产品。据统计,2001年,仅从牛奶及奶产品一项,菲律宾就需开支224亿比索,如按汇率:1美元=51比索计算,一年需要4.3亿美元的外汇。近年来,菲律宾政府采取了积极的扶持政策来发展乳业,但由于起步晚、起点低,乳业没有得到很大的发展。

一.菲律宾牛奶生产情况

  菲律宾地属热带海洋性气候,一年分为旱、雨两季,常年气温较高,适宜草木作物生长,但由于菲律宾当地的旱牛、水牛品种较差,繁殖率低,死亡率高,奶牛的养殖无法形成气候。20世纪80年代,由于菲律宾政府开始重视畜牧业的发展,积极从新西兰等国引进奶牛的优良品种,并制定了奶牛发展计划,出台了扶持养殖政策,组建了国有乳业公司。经过二十多年的发展,特别是通过近几年的努力,菲律宾现已拥有1万8千多头奶牛、4743个养殖户、78个牛奶加工厂,年牛奶产量为1万吨左右。

  2001年,为发展农村经济,增加农民收入,为更多的农民提供就业机会,增加当地牛奶生产量,菲农业部从新西兰引进价值为6千万比索的优良奶牛品种1200多头,免费分发给有饲养条件的吕宋岛、维萨亚岛和棉蓝老岛的养殖户,待奶牛分娩后,养殖户交回相应数量的小牛,然后,菲农业部再采取相同的办法分发给其他养殖户以此来扩大养殖户的数量。同时,菲农业部为增加奶牛的数量、扩大牛奶产量,还制定了中期发展战略和乳业发展目标。中期发展战略:为购买杂交奶牛者提供贷款、通过人工受精最大限度提高现有奶牛的繁殖率、控制奶牛的屠宰、进口奶牛;中期乳业发展目标:从2003年开始,每年投资5千万比索的资金用于进口奶牛和牛奶加工设备。到2007年,菲律宾的牛奶生产量将达到消费量的5%。同时,乳业将会创造1万6千个就业机会,为国家节省1亿美元的外汇,增加财政收入10亿比索。

  菲律宾牛奶生产地主要集中在中吕宋岛、维萨亚岛及棉兰老岛。这三个岛的生产量占菲国生产总量的43%。根据菲乳业署统计,中吕宋岛2000年拥有975头奶牛,牛奶年产量为1580吨,2001年奶牛数量为1056头,当年牛奶产量为2000吨;维萨亚岛2000年拥有451头奶牛,年产量为430吨,2001年为456头,年产量为700吨;棉兰老岛2000年有610头奶牛,年产量为1200吨,2001年有599头奶牛,年产量为1280吨。菲生产的牛奶品种主要包括旱牛牛奶和水牛牛奶两种,其中,旱牛牛奶占菲牛奶总产量的68%,水牛牛奶占31%。

二.菲牛奶及奶产品进出口情况

  菲国每年需求量为230多万吨,本地消费总量为120多万吨,由于菲国受自身生产能力的限制,只能依靠大量的进口来满足市场需求。据菲乳业署统计,菲律宾除2000年进口牛奶及奶产品190多万吨外,每年牛奶及奶产品进口量稳中有升,1999年进口155万多吨,2001年进口173万吨,2002年进口178万吨。从进口的牛奶及奶制品品种来看,粉状牛奶占总进口量的87%,脱水牛奶、奶油、干酪、凝乳等奶产品占11%,,鲜奶进口占2%。在进口的粉状牛奶中,全脂奶粉占18%,脱脂奶粉占48%,其余的粉状配方牛奶占21%。下面是菲律宾2000年-2002年进口牛奶及奶制品的情况:

            单位:千吨 单位:百万美元

产品名称  2000  2001  2002    产品名称  2000  2001  2002

脱脂奶粉 869.53 742.65 798.24    脱脂奶粉 177.75 193.39 149.67

全脂奶粉 413.66 363.51 308.19    全脂奶粉 100.32  93.66  69.80

脱水牛奶  2.39  17.85  12.27    脱水牛奶  1.10  8.92  7.26

酪乳   203.57 163.80 172.13    酪乳    37.21  39.71  23.70

乳清   223.03 245.33 279.40    乳清    18.49  23.09  24.77

鲜奶    22.08  38.45  42.25    鲜奶    11.65  22.76  25.84

其他    5.94  25.83  36.45    其他    6.12  17.65  15.71

牛奶   1740.20 1597.42 1648.93    牛奶   352.46 399.18 316.75
及乳酪                 及乳酪

奶油    92.10  60.87  67.79    奶油    17.82  12.10  11.52

干酪    17.7  23.31  21.92    干酪    8.55  11.24  10.25

凝乳   54.26  53.82  46.22    凝乳    23.29  25.53  20.05

奶制品 1904.26 1735.42 1784.86    奶制品  402.12 448.05 358.57
总进口量                总进口值

  从进口的国别来看,菲律宾主要从以下几国进口牛奶及奶制品,并且大部分为粉状。这些国家为澳大利亚、新西兰、美国、新加坡、荷兰、法国、爱尔兰等国,。其中澳大利亚的奶产品占菲进口量的37%左右,新西兰产品占总进口量的30%以上,美国的奶产品占8%左右,法国、荷兰、新加坡、爱尔兰等国的奶产品占25%左右。菲律宾牛奶及奶产品主要进口国是澳大利亚、新西兰和美国,三个主要国要占菲律宾牛奶及奶产品总进口量的75%左右。

  目前,在菲律宾注册的牛奶及奶产品进口商有228个主要集中于菲首都马尼拉,在这些进口商中,菲律宾雀巢公司是最大的进口商,菲律宾一半以上的牛奶及奶产品由此公司进口。

  菲国的消费主要依靠进口,但在大量进口的同时,一些经销商通过进口牛奶的原材料,经过加工后再出口。据菲乳业署统计,2001年菲牛奶及奶产品出口10万多吨,2002年出口17万多吨。在菲出口的奶产品中,全脂奶粉占总出口量的95%。