Cambodia - Cyclo & Krama
Cyclo (pronounced see-clo) is a small-scale local means of transport. It is a type of hatchback tricycle designed to carry passengers on a for-hire basis. As opposed to rickshaws pulled by a person on foot, cyclo are human-powered by pedalling. Cyclos are an integral part of the Phnom Penh landscape. These iconic vehicles, first introduced in 1936, aren’t only part of Cambodia’s transport industry but are also part of the country’s cultural heritage.
A krama is a sturdy traditional Cambodian garment with many uses, including as a scarf, bandanna, to cover the face, for decorative purposes, and as a hammock for children. It may also be used as a form of weaponry. Bokator fighters wrap the krama around their waists, heads and fists. The skill level of the martial artist is signified by the colour of the krama, white being the lowest and black being the most advanced. It is worn by men, women and children, and can be fairly ornate, though most typical kramas contain a gingham pattern of some sort, and traditionally come in either red or blue. It is the Cambodian national symbol.
China - Huang Shan (Yellow Mountains)
Huangshan (Chinese: 黄山), literally meaning the Yellow Mountain(s), is a mountain range in southern Anhui Province in eastern China. The Huangshan mountain range has many peaks, some more than 1,000 meters (3,250 feet) high.
The mountaintops often offer views of the clouds from above, known as the Sea of Clouds or “Huangshan Sea” because of the cloud’s resemblance to an ocean. The area also is host to notable light effects, such as the renowned sunrises, a phenomenon known as Buddha’s Light is also well-known. Huangshan has multiple hot springs, most of them located at the foot of the Purple Cloud Peak. Huangshan is also known for its stone steps carved into the side of the mountain, of which there may be more than 60,000 throughout the area.
Having at least 140 sections open to visitors, Huangshan is a major tourist destination in China. Huangshan City changed its name from Tunxi (屯溪) in 1987 in order to promote Huangshan tourism. In 2007 more than 1.5 million tourists visited the mountain.
Indonesia - Batik
Batik is a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to the whole cloth. This technique originated from the island of Java, Indonesia.
The art of batik is most highly developed and some of the best batiks in the world are still made there. In Java, all the materials for the process are readily available – cotton and beeswax and plants from which different vegetable dyes are made.
Batik is made either by drawing dots and lines of the resist with a spouted tool called a canting, or by printing the resist with a copper stamp called a cap. The applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to colour selectively by soaking the cloth in one colour, removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating if multiple colours are desired.
Japan - Kotatsu (heated table)
A kotatsu (Japanese: 炬燵 / こたつ) is a low, wooden table frame covered by a futon, or heavy blanket, upon which a table top sits. Underneath is a heat source, formerly a charcoal brazier but now electric, often built into the table itself.
In the twenty-first century, the kotatsu typically consists of the electric heater attached to the frame, which is no longer limited to wood, but may be made of plastic or other materials. Generally, a blanket (or shitagake) is draped over the frame and heater and under the table-top. This first blanket is covered by a second heavier blanket, known as a kotatsu-gake (火燵掛布). A person sits on the floor or on zabuton cushions with their legs under the table and the blanket draped over the lower body. The kotatsu was designed when people most commonly wore traditional Japanese style clothes, where the heat would enter through the bottom of the robes and rise to exit around the neck, thus heating the entire body.
Laos - Patuxai
Patuxai ປະຕູໄຊ is a war monument in the centre of Vientiane, Laos, built between 1957 and 1968. The Patuxai was dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. It is also called Patuxai Arch or the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane as it resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. However, it is typically Laotian in design, decorated with mythological creatures such as the kinnari (half-female, half-bird), is slightly taller than its Parisian counterpart and has four gates instead of two.
The monument was built using American funds and cement intended for the construction of a new airport, instead, the Royal Laotian Government built the monument, which earned it the nickname of the “vertical runway”.
In May 1975, the communist Pathet Lao overthrew the coalition government and seized power, ending the ancient monarchy and installing a half-Vietnamese prime minister. They renamed the monument Patuxai in honour of the victory that was handed to them by the North Vietnamese Army.
Malaysia - Kuih
Kuih (derived from the Hokkien and Teochew kueh or 粿) are bite-sized snack or dessert foods commonly found in Southeast Asia. It is a fairly broad term that may include items that would be called cakes, cookies, dumplings, pudding, biscuits, or pastries in English and are usually made from rice or glutinous rice. The term kuih is widely used in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, and kueh or kue is used in Indonesia, to refer to sweet or savoury desserts. Kuihs are not confined to a certain meal but can be eaten throughout the day. They are an integral part of Malaysian, Indonesian, Bruneian and Singaporean festivities such as Hari Raya and Chinese New Year. Kuih are more often steamed than baked, and are thus very different in texture, flavour and appearance from Western cakes or puff pastries.
The traditional Malay kuih is known as being a broad term housing various relatively small-sized delicacies ranging from scrumptious pastries to steamed and grilled delicacies in which each bears dynamic flavours of either sweet or savoury. Traditional Malay kuih also uses ingredients that are native to most of Malay’s agricultural produce and also what is natively grown in the wild locally.
In almost all Malay kuih, the most common flavouring ingredients are grated coconut (plain or flavoured), coconut cream (thick or thin), pandan (screwpine) leaves and gula melaka (palm sugar, fresh or aged). While those make the flavour of kuih, their base and texture are built on a group of starches: rice flour, glutinous rice flour, glutinous rice and tapioca. Two other common ingredients are tapioca flour and green bean (mung bean) flour (sometimes called “green pea flour” in certain recipes). They play the most important part in giving kuihs their distinctive soft, almost pudding-like, yet firm texture.
Mongolia - Horse Back Archery
The practice of Archery is an inseparable part of Mongolian culture and has been for as long as anyone can remember. The bow and arrow have played a distinguished role in Mongolia’s history as a symbol, a craft and a sport. Archery has changed from being a tool for survival and a well-constructed weapon of war into a national sport.
A horse archer is armed with a bow and arrows and able to shoot while riding from horseback. In Mongolian culture, horseback archery was used for hunting, for protecting livestock, protecting the tribe from outside enemies and for war as horseback archery created a highly-mobile warrior. It was one of the defining characteristics of the Mongol Army – the Mongolian composite bow is a formidable tool with explosive acceleration and velocity and accompanied the Mongol Army as they conquered what became the largest contiguous land empire on earth.
In recent years, a desire to revive the tradition seems to have been addressed with the foundation of the Mongolian Horseback Archery Association МҮМХХолбоо, or the ‘Khan Mongol’ Horse Riders Association. They are getting local Mongolians fired up and passionate and wanting to learn the ancient Mongol sport of horseback archery and organising competitions such as the Spirit Mongolia Open Horseback Archery Tournament and the Khuraldai Falconry Festival. Not only that, but Mongolians are now bringing home medals from international horseback archery competitions.
Myanmar - The Inle Lake fishermen
The fishermen that work on the Inle Lake row by standing upright, with one leg wrapped around a single oar, leaving their hands free to manipulate the conical fishing nets they cast over the water. This skill is unique to Inle Lake and takes a high level of balance, agility and strength. The fisherman has to determine the right amount of pressure to put on their free leg, while their other leg steers, turns and uses the oar to slow the boat down.
They use different equipment such as a saung, a conical net made from bamboo, and a vertical panel of netting called a htaung pite to catch prized fish such as ngape, tilapia, featherbacks, snakehead and Inle carp. To attract the fish, they also used a nga myar than, a type of rod and line with a barbed hook that’s usually baited with small shrimp. To catch fish, the Intha fishermen push the saung into the weeds and mud at the bottom to trap any fish inside, then releases the net to capture the fish, pulls it back in and remove any small fish that may have got caught.
While this practice has attracted many tourists, some fishermen have turned to performing their fishing skills for tourists. However, the one-legged tradition is still widely used as a living means for the Intha community and those that call Inle Lake home.
As with many nature-dependent practices, fishing at the Inle Lake has been affected by pollution and the changing climate, over the years, the lake has halved in size.