Travelfish #422: Long time no chat

I had a 154 day weekend. Sorry.

Hi all,

So what is 150 days between newsletters? My apologies for the long break—I had a heart attack in April (I’m fine now) and took a break from everything for a spell. This newsletter is the last of my regular tasks for me to bring back on deck, and assuming I don’t manage another heart attack, we should be all good moving forward.

The two photos in this weeks’ issue are from The Kampung in Bunutan, Amed, on Bali’s northeast coast. It is where I spent a decent spell in recovery. If you ever need to recover from a heart attack, I recommend it!

When it comes to recovery, Bali has the goods. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

I have taken the opportunity of the break to change the focus of this newsletter a little. The big change is I’m ditching the Soapbox, as most of my editorialising is now on the free version of Couchfish, so if you’re not already on the free list there, you may want to consider signing up.

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Each week will start with two weekly charts. The first covers where vaccinations are in the region and the second deals with borders, flights and so on.

Then we’ll have a long read, which may or may not be travel-related and may or may not be Southeast Asia related. Think of it as the most interesting thing I read in the last week.

Lastly, they’ll be one story from each country we cover in Southeast Asia, with a brief excerpt.

So, shorter than the old newsletter, but hopefully more informative and quick to read.

Feedback, as always is appreciated.

Thank you!


Vaccinations snapshot

The following chart is per capita—not total numbers. The dark green bar is the one that matters—it represents the percentage of the eligible population that are fully vaccinated. You can see a full-size and interactive version of the chart here.

Source: Our World in Data

Travel summary

So where is open and where is closed? This chart by Hannah Pearson at Pear Anderson summarises the state of play in the region as of Sunday, August 29, 2021. If you’re after a detailed weekly report on the region, Hannah’s report is the absolute business.

To receive Hannah’s report in your email mailbox every Sunday you can sign up here (it is free!). This is my go-to report for where things are at in the region.

Source: The Impact of Covid-19 on the Southeast Asian Tourism Industry (PDF)

⭐️ The big read: The great divide

By William Dalrymple in The New Yorker on June 22, 2015

As Nisid Hajari writes, “Foot caravans of destitute refugees fleeing the violence stretched for 50 miles and more. As the peasants trudged along wearily, mounted guerrillas burst out of the tall crops that lined the road and culled them like sheep. Special refugee trains, filled to bursting when they set out, suffered repeated ambushes along the way. All too often they crossed the border in funereal silence, blood seeping from under their carriage doors.”

🇲🇲 Burma: Five local takes on aid neutrality in Myanmar

By Emily Fishbein in The New Humanitarian on August 25, 2021

The UN is the butt of the joke in the Myanmar community now,” he said. … Tun Tun once saw neutrality as a crucial aspect of humanitarian work. That changed with the February coup. 

“In an ordinary humanitarian situation, I would agree to biting your tongue and working with the government for the sake of being able to provide humanitarian assistance,” he said. But he believes that today’s crisis requires a more vocal approach.

🇰🇭 Cambodia: Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary’s future hangs in the balance

By Gerald Flynn in Monga Bay on August 5, 2021

…Prey Lang, despite being large, can be restored through a strong community network effort. … But while USAID’s decision to stop funding the Cambodian government, which is widely believed to be complicit in large-scale forest crimes, has been well-received by many academics and environmentalists, there is fear that the move could give the green light to government-supported logging operations.

🇮🇩 Indonesia: When climate adaptation fails, who is responsible?

By Dyna Rochmyaningsih in The Christian Science Monitor on August 26, 2021

But today the tuna trade in Asilulu is all but extinguished. Fishermen who used to hunt tuna off nearby islands say that the cost of fuel to travel 50 or more nautical miles to new hunting grounds is prohibitive. Fishermen who borrowed from wealthier neighbors, hoping to catch enough tuna to turn a profit, found themselves trapped in debt. Many defaulted, hitting their sponsors.

🇱🇦 Laos: Four Thousand Islands new area

By James Clark in Future Southeast Asia on June, 2028

If you’ve ever been to the 4,000 Islands, sit down before you open this link.

🇲🇾 Malaysia: Why Malaysians want to bring back a ‘Witchcraft Murderess’

By Heather Chen in Vice on August 25, 2021

Azly Rahman, a U.S.-based Malaysian anthropologist and author, told VICE News that shamanism and black magic are still present in parts of the Muslim-majority country, calling Fandey a “charismatic and fashionable female celebrity bomoh (witch doctor) who stood out in an overly religious, male-dominated field”.

🇸🇬 Singapore: The forgotten first people of Singapore

By Wee Ling Soh in BBC Travel on August 25, 2021

While Singapore's stringent food safety standards mean it is near impossible for Firdaus to sell locally caught pufferfish, he offers other traditional dishes such as sotong hitam and gulai nenas cooked by his mother and aunt. … Each order comes with postcards of old family photos and a note explaining the dishes and detailing anecdotes of life on Pulau Semakau, thus providing context to Orang Laut cuisine.

🇹🇭 Thailand: The woman on a mission to expose torture in Thailand’s troubled south

By Caleb Quinley in The Guardian on August 17, 2021

It started when her brother-in-law was arrested in 2008, accused of killing state security forces in the south of the country. … He was imprisoned for two years before being acquitted of all charges in 2010. The ordeal rocked Heemmina’s family. But it also sparked something in her – the desire to help families who had experienced a similar ordeal.

🇻🇳 Vietnam: With undersea robots, an Air Force navigator is found

By Mike Ives in The New York Times on August 1, 2021

As of late July, 1,584 U.S. personnel were still missing from the Vietnam War. Bob Maves, an analyst for the agency who specializes in the war, said 420 of them were believed to have been lost along Vietnam’s coastline or within its territorial waters. He said it was “technically true” that the majority of missing-in-action sites the agency has not yet looked at in Vietnam were underwater, but added that most were in places too deep for recovery operations.

While the tides are daily, the Tralfish newsletter is weekly. See you next Monday. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

See you next week!

So that’s the wrap. I hope you are all in good health and weathering Covid19 as well as possible.

See you next week,