With pristine beaches rivalling Asia's best holiday destinations, a five-star hotel, a reopened airport and a planned golf course, Cambodia's Sihanoukville is poised to jump into the global tourism arena. \nThousands of tourists are already lured to Cambodia by the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex but few other sights attract their attention or their desperately sought-after dollars. \nSniffing opportunity, the government and private investors are lining up to position the southwestern port town of Sihanoukville as a tropical getaway, competing with the likes of Thailand's Phuket and Indonesia's Bali. \n"If we compare, the potential is better than Phuket because of the quality of sand -- it's white -- and the water is clean. The offshore islands have coral reefs, there's fishing," enthuses city tourism director Teng Huy. \nA port town established in the 1950s -- it remains Cambodia's youngest city -- Sihanoukville became a popular resort among the elite until the rise of the Khmer Rouge, which embarked on a genocide that decimated the country. \nIt was re-discovered by backpackers in the 1990s and today retains a sleepy, faded charm, with the occasional cow wandering through the streets and ramshackle restaurants on many of its beaches. \nThe locally-owned Sokha Hotel has extended Sihanoukville's appeal beyond backpackers to well-heeled travellers by opening its 15-hectare, 180-room hotel in April, the first five-star operation here. \n"The beach product is excellent, it's top class. Great sand, great sea, that's a great start, we're out of the gate and running well," says general manager Anthony O'Neill, a 12-year veteran of the Asian tourism industry. \nMore government help however is needed to rebuild the infrastructure shattered from conflict that only ended in 1998, as well as better attractions, to secure Sihanoukville's place on the international circuit, O'Neill says. \nA nine-hole golf course being developed by Malaysia's Ariston Holdings along nearby Occheuteal beach is one such crucial drawcard, he says. \n"The golf course concept has to be raced along ... because if you can't get core features you simply can't contain people in a holiday resort and even think you're going to challenge your competitors in Asia," he says. \n"I'm competing with Bali, Phuket, even Pattaya. It's these markets we keep an eye on -- can we do it here?" \nSokha is just one of several hotels positioned to enter the market. \nThe quirky art deco Independence Hotel, which drew fashionable crowds in the 1960s prior to the 1975 rise of the Khmer Rouge, is due to open by September, while a 120-room hotel is packaged with the golf course project. \nScheduled flights -- also seen as vital to Sihanoukville's rejuvenation -- are on the horizon with the reopening of its airport in April to chartered flights. A runway extension is slated to be completed before year end, making it a potential destination for regional airlines. \nMartin Standbury, the project manager for the golf course due to open within the coming year, says Sihanoukville may be sleepy for now, but its potential is enormous. \n"For now tourists get a bit bored. There's the beach, cheap beer, seafood -- they probably need a few more attractions," he says. \n"I reckon there is huge potential here over the next three to five years, not just for foreigners but the locals," he says, noting that Cambodia's emerging middle class has begun holidaying here again. \nBusiness owners -- many of them foreigners who were travelling through but decided to stay, captivated by the landscape and laidback lifestyle -- say they have noticed a steady increase in numbers. \n"Despite the anti-Thai riots (in Phnom Penh in January last year), SARS, (the terror attacks in) America and the elections, my trade has increased in the last year as has everybody else's," says hotel and bar owner Richard Blackley. \nTeng Huy's office puts the number of tourists who visited last year at just over 114,000, 6 percent less than 2002 due to the regional SARS outbreak, but for the first three months this year the figure jumped by 29 percent from last year. \nBlackley, who moved here four years ago, says the town was once awash with small arms -- like the rest of the country -- but has normalized and authorities are making an effort to renovate the town. \n"Infrastructure is being repaired, government buildings are being repaired, you can see improvements with parks and gardens. ... And the race for land on the beaches is phenomenal," he says. \n"I'm extremely optimistic. Every day something new is being done." \nLi Li, a Chinese technical worker on a hydropower plant in a nearby province, comes here every few months with a half dozen colleagues who are drawn by the seafood and scenery. \n"Sihanoukville is very, very beautiful -- the water, the sky," he said after a beachside seafood feast. \n"I think more and more people will come to Cambodia and here."
The media reported this week on another government stimulus program to make the birth rate rise. Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that the budget for the government’s programs would reach NT$85 billion (US$3.05 billion) by 2023, and said that the government’s monthly subsidy for child support would rise from NT$3,500 to NT$5,000. These measures are a well-meaning attempt to address Taiwan’s globally low fertility and birth rates, but they are rather like poking a heart attack victim with a stick in the hope of reviving him. The problems driving the low birth rates are well known: the lack and cost of
May 3 to May 9 The Japanese soldiers thought they had already subjugated the Atayal when they set out toward the mountains of today’s eastern Taoyuan on May 5, 1907. The two brigades, one from the north and one from the south, were tasked with pushing the colonial government’s frontier defense lines deeper into Aboriginal territory to gain access to valuable camphor. “The defense lines were used to protect the economic activities, mainly camphor production, on the [Japanese] side of the line,” writes Wu Cheng-hsien (吳政憲) in the paper, “The Principle and Utilization of the Mortars on the Frontier Defense Lines”
Who would have thought that Taiwan — just over 100km from China and a few hundred kilometers away from Vietnam, which are the world’s first and second biggest consumers of pangolin scales — would become the last beacon of hope for this imperiled species? In fact, pangolins — from sub-species in Africa all the way down to Indonesia — are the world’s most highly trafficked mammal. Thought to cure anything from HIV to hangovers, ground pangolin scales and pangolin soup (the photos online are difficult to stomach) are expensive delicacies in Vietnam and China, and the rarer the species becomes,
Chu Mu-kun (朱木崑) carefully inspects a large boulder hauled from further up the Daniuci OId Trail (打牛崎古道). “This might work,” he says, rotating and repositioning it against the slope until it fits snugly. It takes two hours to manually make three steps using simple tools on the ancient trail, which has been rendered inaccessible due to the collapse of a wooden elevated walkway. “You have to transport goods up here to repair this walkway, which looks jarring against its surroundings to begin with,” Chu says. “Hand-built trails using readily available materials are easier to maintain and are better for the environment.