An introduction by the editor: In recent days Brunei has been in the international news for implementing Sharia law including laws that allow publicly stoning homosexuals to death, cutting off limbs by the justice system and floggings for robbery. A few years ago a blog by Sanne van Oosten was written about this subject. Even though these specific laws weren’t implemented then yet, severe punishments for seemingly small or non-existent offences did already exist. Despite these laws, Sanne van Oosten was amazed by the love with which the people of Brunei spoke of their country. One could say that they are afraid to state their opinion as the regime is so repressive, but that really didn’t seem to be the case here. The people of Brunei really love their country. The blog was received with a host of angry reactions from inhabitants of Brunei, thus underlining the main hypothesis of the article. One reaction, however, was very interesting and enlightening. That was this reaction by Teah Abdullah.
People say the number of skyscrapers in a city’s skyline is a sign of development. The more skyscrapers a region has, the more developed it is. Is it true? I spent almost all of my life in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. I lived in the outskirts of Jakarta. The highest building I see the most is the tip of the mosque in neighborhood, if we put the tower of base transceiver stations aside. Being in my neighborhood is bliss for me. Why? Because we “stay” on the ground, me and my neighbors are equal, we stand on the same ground.
Having travelled throughout all of Southeast Asia, one country really stood out: the Philippines. Somehow it is completely different from all the other ASEAN countries we’ve visited. Is it because of the strong hold the colonial Spaniards had on the country? Is it because of the influence of the Catholic Church? Does it have to do with American colonial influence? Or does it have to do with the fact that the Philippines consist of a large number of small islands? I can’t give you the answer to this, but what I do know is that there are plenty of things you’ll not encounter anywhere else in the region… or in the world for that matter.
In our trip through China we couldn’t help but notice the many security measurements. In our view this is greatly exaggerated, since China seems like such a safe country. Probably safer than many places in the West. So why are these severe security measures necessary? Many say it is needed to control the population, but is it also plausible that it is needed to justify Chinese repressive policies?
Sanne van Oosten
When will China overtake the US as largest economy in the world? OECD predicted that this will be by 2015, Goldman Sachs predictes 2025 and the World Bank predicted 2030. New research suggests it will rather be sooner than later. However, these reports often don’t include many social and political factors, which are hard to predict. China will face many challenges the upcoming years.
We like to take trips to far-flung places for encounters with the new-and-different. We love to take in natural wonders and stare in amazement at architectural feats, while we shudder at the thought of fried insects as a delicacy or the amount of chillis that smile at you when food is served. You don’t even have to go far. On the other side of your country’s border you can already stumble upon the most unexpected situations.
Sanne van Oosten
For the last fifty years or so, Buddhism has been gaining followers in many Western countries. This development has progressed so far, that one could even say Buddhism is becoming completely mainstream. So mainstream, that plenty of words derived from Buddhism are interspersed into our language. Zen, karma, nirvana, mindfulness even people who know next to nothing of Buddhism have an idea of the meanings of these words. Also, it has completely penetrated the market of self-help books. “If the Buddha dated”, “Buddha in the Boardroom”, “Buddha Mom” and many more of such titles. But why is Buddhism so popular in the West?
Since Singapore was established by Sir Raffles, Singapore has been a haven of free trade. And that has definitely paid off. The most high-tech country of Southeast Asia, where the subway is full of people on their iPhone and the streets are full with people listening to their own personal playlist. There are more typical things you’ll see in Singapore, but nowhere else.
Sanne van Oosten
“Malaysia truly Asia”, this country slogan might just be the most catchy one I’ve ever heard. Maybe it’s because of the frequency of the highly stylized CNN-commercials, or because it just rhymes so well, but whenever I hear the word “Malaysia” I feel like following up with “…truly Asia” right away. I wasn’t the only one to remember this slogan so well, since the launch of this slogan in 1999 the Malaysian tourism board has won dozens of creative marketing awards for this marketing campaign. Various tour operators and hotel chains explain that Malaysia has earned this slogan because it being a melting pot of Asian cultures. But can Malaysia really be called a melting pot? In this blog, I will explain why such a polarized country like Malaysia could never be called a melting pot.