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LATest e-bulletin February '23

In this issue: ① Avoiding a recession ② Bookings picking up ③ Myanmar Extends again the State of Emergency ④ Sabah, Illegal Immigrants and Pollution ⑤ Chinese Tourists Back with Vengeance ⑥ The Amish of Indonesia⑦ So Many Good Reasons to Work with LAT ⑧ Indonesia first Female Superhero is Back ⑨ Punk protest of Myanmar ⑩ Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar ⑪ Singapore Yip Yew Chong

Avoiding a Recession

The new year seems to have started on a positive note with the inflation slowing down both sides of the Atlantic and with China resuming economic activities in full swing. It is early to assess how 2023 will unfold, large threats to the world economic and political stability such as the war in Ukraine looming large.

But at least prices of energy are coming down significantly and the threat of a recession is moderately receding. The consensus estimate on the probability of a meaningful downturn in the American economy in the next 12 months is at 35%. Slowing inflation measured by the CPI, nonfarm payroll gains, and other positive data together may mean the US can avoid a recession.

Economic officials from the European Union offered a rosier vision for the bloc's economic future, with the latest data showing Europe may avoid a recession that had been predicted several months ago. The outlook for consumer spending is positive and it is reflected in our industry too. We are experiencing solid forward bookings; Indonesia keeps its growing trend, followed by Singapore. Malaysia is slowly recovering from the flop of 2022, with more individual travellers and groups series bookings mostly originating from Eastern Europe and South America.

Unfortunately, bad news keeps coming out of Myanmar where two years after seizing power, the generals have by now totally undone any progress made under civilian rule, killed and imprisoned thousands and destroyed the economy of the country. They are now extending the state of emergency for the third time signalling their unwillingness to allow democratic election, that no matter how badly rigged, they will definitely loose. Meantime the civil war escalates moving ever further to the heartlands from the fringes of the country.

Also, the dramatic conditions of Sabah coasts with waves of garbage suffocating its shores and blanketing its waters is not fading aways, possibly further deteriorating. We have previously reported on such accumulation of rubbish and on the pollution of the coral waters off the east shores of Sabah. Adding to this apparently unresolvable drama is the overwhelming inflow of illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries. Semporna and its district instead of seeing tourism development with adequate infrastructures, clean beaches and waters, keeps piling up garbage along its coastline and building squatter houses, 6000 as per today count. While the poor environment conditions keep tourists aways the large presence of non-citizens in the district is also causing losses to the government's resources particularly on water supply. There is a need for strong political will to address these issues.

Chinese Tourism is back with vengeance to our shores, especially in Malaysia. While we are all a bit wary of the social and environmental impact that such multitudes generate, Chinese tourist are bringing much relieve to the battered tourism economies of this region. Airports are returning to pre covid levels of traffics, airlines are adding routes and capacity, and this augurs well for a future mitigation of the currently spiking air fares. The challenge now is whether our destinations will be able to avoid over tourism, the ever struggle toward a more sustainable and equitable hospitality sector.

LAT remains committed to a responsible way of operating, developing low impact products, consistently engaged in providing correct and adequate information, keeping a distance from mainstream shallow and dangerous consumerism, creating awareness and investing in climate contribution.

The Amish of Indonesia

Kanekes in Banten province, west Jawa, is where the Baduy of Indonesia live, shunning modernity. Most of the younger Baduy are torn by the arguments for and against embracing modernity. They have always shunned modernity. But by travelling at times to the big cities in the Outside, they marvel at people there living in buildings that scrape the sky and drive machines many times faster than the fastest man. That world tantalises them. They feel like they want to be closer to it. But they are not sure. Once they have left, they may not be able to move back.

Kanekes is a mere three-hour drive from Jakarta, Indonesia’s heaving capital, but it feels a world apart. Gone are the high-rises, the pell-mell traffic and the throngs of people. In their place is the forest: the ancient trees standing sentry, the flashy green moss carpeting the rot, and amid the slick humus, paths leading to the terraced bamboo houses of the Baduy. The Baduy have lived in this corner of western Java for centuries. They are an example of what Indonesians call masyarakat adat, ethnic groups who live according to their traditions. Life revolves around their religion. They believe that their forest is the wellspring of the universe and that they are its divinely appointed guardians. To protect the land, they must follow whatever their ancestors did in order to live in harmony with nature. The Baduy, who are subsistence farmers, live by a rigid set of rules. They are not allowed to irrigate their fields, use chemical fertilisers and pesticides, or plant crops that harm the land’s fertility. To defend the land, they must be ritually pure. Modernity is a byword for moral corruption. Electricity is banned; so are radio, television, and mobile phones, as well as the use of modern vehicles. They cannot wear shoes or long trousers. Toilets are forbidden.

Like the Amish of America, the Baduy are a people trapped in amber. A 16th-century Dutch etching of two Baduy men could be a modern-day portrait. And yet, on the outskirts of Kanekes, an acid-rain drizzle of modernity is slowly dissolving the amber.

The Baduy are divided into two castes: Inner Baduy, who number about 900, and the 15,000 Outer Baduy, who live in a horseshoe of land encircling the sacred southern core of Kanekes. The Outers are freer. They may travel in modern vehicles and can get away with wearing shoes. But they are still not allowed to drive and can charge their phones only in the outside world. As a result, they seem to straddle the past and present.

For centuries, the people of the interior have relied on Outer Baduy to serve as a bulwark against modernity. The latter handle emissaries from the outside world: the local government and tourists. That leaves the hermits of the inner sanctum at liberty to pursue their asceticism. The Inner Baduy are higher in status precisely because they have less to do with the wider world than their neighbours.

Discover the inner corners of Southeast Asia with the special packages and offers of Lotus Asia Tours.

So Many Good Reasons to Work with LAT

Established in 1991

Independently owned and operated

Purely B2B with travel industry partners

Online booking engine with immediate

confirmation of hotels, tours and transfers

Skilful Contents Provider and Technology user

Knowledgeable and efficient reservations personnel

Long and proud association with the MICE industry in all Lotus destinations

Fully committed to Sustainability and CSR; ‘Travelife’ partner

Carbon Neutrality for all packages and services on offer

Extensive selection of scheduled group departures and innovative product lines

Direct access to a vast pool of local professional contributors

Owns small boutique island hotels strategically located

LAT Indochina subsidiary operating in Thailand and Vietnam

Multilingual guides in all destinations

Operations offices throughout its destinations

Centralised bookings and payments for multi destination tours

Assistance in language


Indonesia's first female superhero is back

Female fighter Alana does not pull her punches. Born during a volcanic eruption that separated her from her birth parents, Alana struggles to overcome her innate anger by smashing opponents in the kickboxing ring. Her rage is put to good use when she realises she is a reincarnation of Asih, a fighter-goddess bent on restoring balance to the world.

Released in Indonesian cinemas in November, "Sri Asih," a new film by female director Upi Avianto, brings back the country's first woman superhero, played in this version by Jakarta-born actress Pevita Pearce. The film was co-written and produced by Joko Anwar, director of the blockbuster "Satan's Slaves" series, whose "Satan's Slaves: Communion" (2022) sold 6.3 million tickets in Indonesia, becoming the country's third highest-grossing film.

"Sri Asih" is the second film in Joko's "Bumilangit" cinematic universe, initiated in 2019 with the movie "Gundala," starring a male superhero inspired by an eponymous Indonesian 1969 comic book by Harya Suraminata. The female lead character in "Sri Asih" has an even longer history, she was the first Indonesian superhero, created in comic book form in the 1950s by R.A. Kosasih.


Punk protest of Myanmar

The band onstage in Yangon breaks into a crunching distorted riff, with clattering drums and spittle-flecked screams. The mosh pit erupts into a writhing mass of colliding, head-banging, sweaty bodies. A heavily tattooed bare-chested punk with a bleached yellow mohawk mounts the stage and dives into the swarming crowd.

Between barrages, Kyaw Kyaw, lead singer of Burmese punk rock trailblazers The Rebel Riot, which is celebrating its 15-year anniversary, addresses the crowd: "Their coup cannot stop us! They cannot stop our art, our revolution. F--- the military!"

Speaking truth to power is nothing new in the world of punk. The genre was founded on anti-authoritarian and combative principles. But this is Yangon after the Feb. 1, 2021, military takeover. In a region where freedom of expression is frequently curtailed -- there is no shortage of risks in neighbouring states -- Myanmar stands out as the most dangerous country in Southeast Asia in which to speak your mind.

The military has done everything it can to stifle dissenting voices. Myanmar's free press has been wiped out, social media platforms banned (a virtual private network is required to access Twitter or Facebook), and internet blackouts shroud much of the land in a digital darkness.

Another band is Blood of Century, whose brand of galloping high-octane death metal almost steals the show from under the headliners.

These bands know that it's dangerous to play in public like this, but they also know that playing a gig is nothing compared to what unarmed civilians in many rebellious border states have to deal with every day, being forced from their homes and killed by this terrible regime.

Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar

The annual Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar in Singapore is set to return in Marchand will run for 36 days - the longest duration the bazaar has operated.

Singapore Yip Yew Chong

Local artist Yip Yew Chong, well known for his heritage murals in neighbourhoods such as Tiong Bahru and Chinatown, has completed a 60m-long painting depicting scenes of Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s. The work stretches across 27 canvas panels, and is similar in length to five double-decker buses lined up head to tail.


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