Thursday 31 August 2017

Hong Kong Wedding

Above: double happiness, a typical icon and Chinese character for weddings.
With Hong Kong being quite a westernized city yet still rich in Chinese customs & traditions, a Hong Kong wedding can range from the vary traditional to the almost totally westernized. But for most weddings, a mix of the two is probably most common. Here's a typical scenario and rundown. But please note that all comments and views are opinions of my own and do not reflect those of my family members ... nor their actions.

The Pick-Up

The festivities would often start with the groom and his 'brothers' (i.e. male siblings & close male friends) going to the bride's home to receive the bride on the day of the wedding - actually most likely to her parents' home even if she has moved out. But before he can get through the door, he needs to get past her 'sisters' first (i.e. female siblings & close female friends) .

It's a tradition for the sisters to 'request' from him a red packet for good luck - with money within. How much money? They would start at an amount that makes any unsuspecting groom reconsider if he really wants to marry his betroved: $99,999,999! (Since the number 'nine' sounds the same as the word for 'long time' in Cantonese, it's considered as good luck and is used for happy occasions.) But of course, it's all a game. From there the two parties negotiate, with the 'brothers' helping the groom.

After the groom has duly paid, he is finally allowed through the gate. But more challenges await before he can lay eyes on his bride. And some could require uncommon valor. Fear not, however. That's what brothers are for!
The challenges involve performing tasks, answering questions, etc. - bascially anything that the sisters can think of to tease and have fun with the groom. Common tasks to perform include brushing teeth with wasabi (spicy Japanese mustard), doing push-ups, singing, etc. etc. The groom is often allowed to let his brothers substitute, but ultimately he has to do some to satisfy the sisters' thirst for blood - hopefully not literally.

When the groom and his brothers have faced up to the challenges, the bride, usually dressed in a white western wedding gown, would be allowed to be seen by him in all her glory - the product of a few hours of getting her makeup and hair done that started at the crack of dawn. Sometimes the makeover is so drastic that he may not even recognize her.

But the groom had not been idling either. Before coming for the pick-up, he and his party decorated the vehicles that would later be used for transporting the wedding party - especially the one for the bride and groom, which in the old days would have been a sedan chair, with red veils covering all sides. But nowadays it's been replaced by a nice automobile, either rented from the hotel or borrowed from a proud owner. Other cars are also prepared to be part of the transportation entourage to move the other relatives.

Sometimes the games are not over even after the bride is allowed to be seen. The bride herself, or even her mother, may join in the action to have a piece of the groom, like making him agree to a list of promises on how he would properly treat his wife. Giving her all his pay checks could be one on the list. That's when the fun and games could become more than just that.

After all the fun and games, it's time for the couple to get down to business.

*culled from

Hong Kong Festivals and Holidays

Hong Kong has a year-round calendar of exciting traditional Hong Kong festivals , some of them also public holidays. Most of these are based on dates in the lunar calendar and therefore the dates vary from year to year by up to a few weeks.

Hong Kong Lunar New Year


This is the single most important
Chinese festival
of the year, a time for visiting friends and relatives (often in mainland China). For Hong Kong's expatriate residents, it's a time to take a break. There are various things to see during the Lunar New Year. The highlight is the fireworks display, when Victoria Harbor lights up in a multi-million dollar pyrotechnic extravaganza. There is also a lively Flower Market in Victoria Park. In recent years, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has organized a New Year Parade in Central, which is amusing if stopping short of being dazzling.

Much more important to the pragmatic
Hong Kong Chinese , Lunar New Year is a time of year when debts should be cleared. It is also a bad time for employers – staff are paid an annual bonus of at least one month's salary, and if they have performed well, they expect to receive more. People greet one another with kung hei fat choi, which is a wish for good fortune and prosperity. In return for the greeting, they expect to receive little red packets with lai see
(lucky money) inside.
Shops traditionally close at Lunar New Year, but increasingly many of the larger ones stay open to attract extra trade.

Hong Kong Spring Lantern Festival (Yuen Siu)


This is popularly referred to as the
Chinese Valentine's Day . It is held on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year and involves the hanging of colorful traditional lanterns in homes, restaurants and temples.

Birthday of Tin Hau


Since fishing and the sea have a special place in Hong Kong's history, Tin Hau – the goddess of the sea – has a special importance, particularly among the fishing communities. Fishermen decorate their boats in bright colors and flock to the Tin Hau temples around the territory to pray for a good catch in the coming year. The best places to join the homage to Tin Hau are at the Tin Hau Temple in Aberdeen and in the New Territories town of Yuen Long, where there is a parade with lion dancers and floats.

Hong Kong Cheung Chau Bun Festival


The tiny outlying island of Cheung Chau is the only place in the world to hold a bun festival. Towering piles of sweet buns intermingled with effigies of gods are stacked up in the grounds of the Pak Tai temple. Figures in historical costumes parade on stilts or ride on floats across the island.

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival (Yuen Ng)


It is said that the national hero Qu Yuan drowned himself over 2,000 years ago in protest against a corrupt government. Legend has it that while people tried to rescue him, they beat drums to scare the fish away and stop them from eating his body. In these enlightened times (thanks to a few decades of intervention from Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption ) such dramatic protests are no longer necessary and this event is purely a festival. To symbolize the ancient rescue attempts, elaborately decorated dragon boats race to the beat of loud drums.
International dragon-boat races
with competing national teams are held the week following the festival.

Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival


If there's one festival in the year you should make an effort to see, this is it. Paper lanterns, in all shapes and sizes, are illuminated and taken out to public parks and high places. Many people go to Victoria Park, and it is a very beautiful sight to watch the throngs with their illuminated lanterns. At this time of the year, people also eat special sweet cakes known as mooncakes , which are made of ground lotus and sesame seeds. They are definitely an acquired taste but all part of the fun.

Marriage In East Timor

Marriage in East Timor is not so much different than in the United States, but it has an originality that makes it very special to the habitants of this interesting country. During the interview with my informant we talked about East Timor Traditions and what I found to be very interesting was marriage, most people will think that in most of the places in Southeast Asia marriages are typically arranged by the parents of the girl or the boy. While in the interview I asked her "how is marriage in East Timor?" her first response was "Oh gosh," that's when I knew it was going to be very interesting. She started by saying that marriages are not arranged anymore, people is free to choose who they want to marry. After the couple has been dating for some time, the first step towards marriage is; the groom's family has to visit the bride's family and have dinner together to get to know each other and talked about their son/daughter and see what they think about they getting married this is known as " Conhecido " which means get to know, during this dinner the guy gives a present to the girl such as a necklace or any other jewel, but this is not where they get engaged. If the parents of the girl agree that she can marry the boy, later they will have a ceremony where they get engaged, in this ceremony they have a dinner for the family and friends and music as well they wear typical East Timor clothes for this occasion. After the engagement the two families get together to prepare the wedding ceremony. After the engagement the boy has to pay some money or give some animals such as cows or sheep to the girl's parents, "this does not mean that he is buying their daughter, but he is being grateful that they raised her and educated her well". Moreover, before they get married the boy has to buy the furniture for their house and take it to the girl's house so her parents can see that he is ready to marry and he is responsible. If the boy is not wealthy enough to get his own house they then will live with his family. The boy's family has to pay for the wedding and if they can't they will look for godfather and godmother to do so. Something else that I found to be quite interesting is that girls are supposed to wait to get married until their older sister(s) get married; this is a way of showing them respect. Then she says "according to our traditions if a younger sister wants to get marry before an older sister she has to apologize in front of the whole family including aunts, uncles and cousins". The wedding usually takes place at a church and they dress typically a long white dress and a black tux. She says "my family will take the whole day to celebrate," for the celebration they start with a dinner in the afternoon then they spend the whole night dancing until 7 or 8 a.m. "young people are the ones who create the party feeling , boys will ask out girls to dance, older people usually just drunk and eat". This is something that I will like to experience some day a wedding in East Timor.

East Timor Holidays and Festivals

Though still a relatively young and recovering country, East Timor holidays and events include a number of cultural celebrations, including Christian and Islamic celebrations, as well as observances related to the long struggle for independence.

Festival of Culture and Food of Timor-Leste

Held early in the year (March), the annual Festival of Culture and Food of Timor-Leste aims to share the Timorese culture with the world. Expect traditional dances, music, and many other forms of entertainment, enhanced by good eats.

Independence Restoration Day

Observed May 20 as a public holiday, this day in 2002 marked the UN's transfer of sovereignty to the newly elected East Timor government. Festivities take place nationwide with Mass at church and tributes paid to those who fought for freedom.

Festival for Peace (Festa ba Dame)

Held in June, the Festival for Peace is a series of shows and exhibits performed and organized by the youth who attend intensive art, multimedia, dancing, and music lessons at Ba Futuru. It aims to promote personal growth and improve the life of those living in conflict-prone areas of Dili, as well as those who are impacted directly or indirectly by violence.

Ramelau Cultural Festival

Named after the country's highest peak, the Ramelau Cultural Festival is the biggest cultural event held outside of the capital in East Timor. It is based in the Ainaro district and held late in the year usually in October. The three-day event of cultural pride honors Mount Ramelau, a symbol of Timorese pride and unity.

National Youth Day

November 12 marks the anniversary of the massacre of Santa Cruz, which occurred in Dili in 1991. A public holiday, this tragic day saw peaceful, pro-independence protesters massacred by Indonesian military forces.

National Heroes' Day

Observed on December 7, this public holiday pays tribute to the country's many heroes in the fight for independence while also remembering the day of the 1975 invasion of East Timor by Indonesia.

*culled from

Wednesday 30 August 2017

The Eight Major Regional Cuisines of China

Chinese cuisine is generally divided into eight regional cuisines based on their geographic location. They are Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shangdong, Sichuan and Zhejiang.
The regional cooking styles are as diverse as the terrain and its people. 

Naturally, they are also strongly influenced by the staple crops that grow in each specific region.
However, some people make a distinction only between four styles of Chinese cooking, namely Cantonese, Huaiyang, Shandong and Sichuan cuisines. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the eight major cooking styles.

Anhui Cuisine (Hui Cai)

The regional cuisine of Anhui in eastern China is considered to be healthy and visually interesting with simple flavours. Anhui cuisine is characterised by an ample use of fresh herbs, mushrooms, berries, tea leaves, bamboo shoots and other wild plants that grow in the region surrounding Huangshan Mountain.

The methods used to prepare the dishes are simple, mainly consisting of braising and stewing. Special attention is given to the appearance, colour, taste and temperature of the dish. Cooking is done in a way that preserves the nutrients of the food.
Some of the best known Anhui dishes include: Stewed Soft-shelled Turtle in a Clear Soup, Bamboo Shoots with Sausage and Dried Mushrooms and Stinky Tofu.

Fujian Cuisine (Min Cai)

Fujian cuisine is often further divided into the four subcategories of Southern Fujian, Western Fujian, Fuzhou and Quanzhou cuisines. The food is usually only lightly seasoned and the main flavours are sweet and sour.

The most common ingredients include various types of seafood, including mussels, shrimp and fish. Pork, duck, chicken and beef are also commonly used. Some dishes get additional sweetness and texture from peanuts and sugar, along with fish sauce, shrimp paste, shacha sauce and preserved apricot.

Typical Fujian dishes are prepared by first chopping the ingredients finely and then quickly boiling or stir-frying them or adding them to soup. The local cuisine in this part of China is heavily based on stews, broths and soups. In Fujian custard or orange juice is often used to bring a touch of sweetness to the dishes.
Some of the most famous Fujian dishes include: The Monk Jumps Over the Wall, Fried Xi Shi's Tongue and Jade Pearl Abalone.

Guangdong Cuisine (Cantonese)

The Chinese say that people from the southern province of Guangdong will eat almost anything that walks, crawls, flies or swims. Being a coastal province means that there is a strong emphasis on seafood, although their way of seasoning the food sets them apart from other coastal cuisines.
Cantonese cuisine is influenced by both Oriental and Western cooking traditions. Typical ingredients include different kinds of meats and vegetables, such as onion, garlic. The main seasonings are sugar and spiced salt.
The rich flavour of Cantonese dishes is the result of using a variety of flavoursome ingredients such as peanut oil, rice wine, anise, cassia bark, liquorice root, ginger powder, dried tangerine peel,
oyster sauce, fish sauce, clam oil and curry, among other things.
The methods used to prepare Cantonese dishes are sometimes quite unconventional and include salt-roasting, steaming with wine and slow-cooking.

The most famous Cantonese dishes include: The Dragon and Tiger Fight, Hong Kong egg custard tarts, wontons, and spring rolls.

Hunan Cuisine (Xi'ang Cuisine)

Hunan in southern China is dominated by rolling hills and beautiful valleys, which provide a fertile ground for growing a wide range of crops, especially rice. Hunan cuisine is famous for its spiciness, deep colours and fresh aromas.
Smoked and cured foods are typical in this part of the country. The main cooking techniques include braising, stewing, smoking and steaming.
The most famous Hunan dishes include: Dong'an Chicken, Chopped Pepper Fish Head, Crispy Duck, Orange Beef and Spicy Frog's Legs.

Jiangsu Cuisine (Su Cai)

The cuisine of Jiangsu is divided into the subcategories of Suzhou-Wuxi style, Zhenjiang-Yangzhou style and Nanjing cuisine. Jiangsu food is generally characterized by light and fresh flavours and tender textures and an emphasis on soup.
Jiangsu cuisine is especially popular in regions along the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Most popular cooking methods include stewing, braising, stir-frying and pickling. Sugar is often used to round off the flavours. More often than not, the dishes are carefully arranged to make a visual impact.
Famous examples of typical Jiangsu dishes include: Jinling salted dried duck (Nanjing's most famous dish), crab shell meatballs (pork meatballs in crab shell powder), Yangzhou steamed Jerky strips (dried tofu, chicken, ham and pea leaves), Farewell My Concubine (soft-shelled turtle).

Shandong Cuisine

The cuisine of the eastern coastal province of Shandong is divided into Huai-Yang, Yangzhou, Jiaodong and Jinan style cooking. One of the main characteristics of this type of cuisine is the tendency to eat bread instead of rice and the use of onions as a seasoning.
The corn grown in Shandong is especially famous for its chewy and starchy texture and grassy aroma. The most popular ingredients include seafood such as scallops, prawns, clams, sea cucumbers and squid. Millet, wheat, oat and barley are used used to make a variety of delicious breads.
Common vegetables include potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, mushrooms, onions, garlic and eggplants. Roasted or salted peanuts are also often used to add a bit of crunchiness and flavour to dishes. Typical Shandongese dishes include lightly seasoned seafood, soups, and stir-fried, braised and deep-fried foods.

The most popular Shandong dishes include: sea cucumber with meat balls, braised shark's fin with shredded chicken, and bamboo shoots.

Sichuan Cuisine

Out of all these wonderful regional cuisines, Sichuan cooking stands out as very unique. The cuisine of this southwestern province is best known for its use of strong spices. The main seasonings include chili and garlic, as well as locally produced Sichuan pepper.
Sichuan cuisine makes big use of freshwater fish, but also your typical chicken, duck and pork meats. Shark fins, bear paws and other unconventional ingredients are also used. Typical spices and condiments include Sichuan peppercorns , chili, crushed garlic, fish sauce, ginger juice and soy sauce. Sichuan-style cuisine is mainly prepared by stir-frying, braising or stewing.
The most popular Sichuan dishes include: Kung Pao chicken, Twice Cooked Pork and Tea Smoked Duck.

Zhejiang Cuisine (Zhe Cai )

Ningbo cuisine, which is generally described as being very salty, is the best known subcategory of Zhejiangese cuisine. Seafood is very popular here, but spices are used quite sparingly. Since this southern province is bamboo country, almost every dish contains bamboo shoots. Zhejiang dishes are usually prepared by stir-frying, braising or steaming. Meat is often marinated in a mixture of vinegar and sugar.
The most famous Zhejiang dishes include: Dongpo Pork and Shelled shrimp in Longjing tea.
In addition to these eight major regional cuisines, many articles about Chinese food also make specific mention of the cooking traditions of Yunnan, Mongolia, Shanghai, Beijing, Dongbei, Hubei regions and of the Uygur ethnic group.


*culled from

Traditional Chinese Marriage

Chinese marriage is important to perpetuate and ensure the survival of the family. Although the marriage is officially recognized once it is registered with the Register of Marriages, a Chinese wedding ceremony and banquet must be held before the marriage is acknowledged by society. A Chinese marriage that does not observe proper Chinese customs is invalid in the eyes of most Chinese.

There are two types of marriage among Chinese. One is the marriage arranged by the parents and relatives, the other is a marriage based on one's own willingness and choice. Arranged marriage is no longer widely accepted. Liberal marriage is more practical because it allows a person the freedom to choose his or her own spouse. 

Parents usually abide by their children' choices.

There are prescribed ages for marriage (21 years old for women and 23 years old for men). Once the choice is made, all other aspects of the wedding are normally taken over by the parents and older relatives. Thus all traditional customs are observed. A typical wedding ceremony is supposed to impress the friends and relatives of both bride and groom with the families' social status and prosperity.

There are 5 important stages in a Chinese arranged marriage.

1. Information gathering

Information gathering is the investigation of the background of the bride and her family. This is done very diplomatically. The reputation and social status of the bride's family is important. The groom's family needs to be assured that the personality, character and behavior of the bride are above reproach. Usually the first meeting of two families will be held at a restaurant. The conversation will center on general and mutual topics of interest, especially regarding family background and origins. Good presentations from both sides will lead to a successful marriage arrangement.

2. Negotiation

When both families are satisfied with each other's background, the parents will negotiate on the amount of dowry expected, the number of tables allocated to each family for the wedding banquet and the choice of a suitable date for the marriage. Negotiations can be done directly or through a middleman.

3. Engagement

After negotiations are ended, the engagement is announced. An engagement is only an indication that a couple intends to be married. A typical engagement is simple, the bride and groom exchange rings and a dinner is held for close relatives. The length of engagement depends on the couple concerned.

4. Wedding Dowry

The dowry will be presented to the bride's family according to what was negotiated in the initial phases of the marriage agreement. Dowry can be jewelry, cloth, cash, etc. In China, the dowry is a symbolic compensation to the bride's family for the loss of their daughter. For the sake of the family's reputation, the dowry must comply with the status and wealth of the groom's family. A notification of the date of marriage and further wedding details follow the presentation of the dowry. The groom's family is then treated to a banquet.

5. Wedding

A suitable day is selected for the wedding ceremony and banquet based on the Chinese lunar calendar. On the wedding day, the groom, accompanied by close friends and younger relatives, must go to the bride's house to greet the bride. First the groom with his companions must give money to the relatives of the bride who have set up obstacles to keep the groom from finding the bride. The money will help him in his quest to successfully find his bride. Then the couple needs to serve tea to the bride's parents.

After being granted permission by the bride's parents, the couple departs for the groom's house. The residence will be beautifully decorated, mostly in red. The most auspicious colors for the wedding costume are white, red and yellow. The couple is prohibited from wearing other colors. From the moment the bride enters the door of the groom' residence, she becomes a part of his family. The bride is required to serve tea to the groom's parents. After this ceremony, the couple is considered validly married by Chinese tradition. 

The wedding banquet is the highlight of the wedding celebration. It is served as either dinner or lunch. The dining place can be a restaurant or hotel.
Guests attending the banquet bring gift money and sign a guest register. Before the banquet, the bride, the groom and both of their parents are introduced to the guests. After the blessing which is conducted by the parents and elder relatives of the bride and the groom, the banquet begins. At the wedding banquet,
liquor is a compulsory item. The couple is encouraged to drink a toast with the guests and convey thanks to relatives who helped with the wedding. The banquet usually lasts about two hours. The wedding ends with blessings from the guests.

*culled from

Cambodian Food

Prahok Kties is a delicious staple dish of Cambodian cuisine. Prahok, which means fermented fish, is GOLD to Cambodian cuisine, and can take up different shapes of flavor, depending on the recipe. Prahok Kties is fried with pork taken from the belly sides of the hog, which accentuates the flavor, particularly with the amazing quality of pork (sakchru) that Cambodia produces.

It leaves you with an amazing taste in your palates. Machu Kroung (soup), a healthy, fulfilling, flavorful sweet and sour soup that is incredibly wholesome. The fried peanuts accentuate the soup. The lemongrass (slak krai) and the saffron truly complement each other and to top it off, the decorative local grown chili flakes (matey) make this quite an appealing site to the eye.

This is in fact more towards a curry than it is the soup that most foreigners thought it to be. Korko, the hearty traditional gravy is truly quite delightful; its base ingredient is actually toasted rice pounded and turned into a tasty base and complimented by prahok, pork and pumpkin, which together add a delicious warmth and texture to the palate. Korko, is one of those great fusions of traditional ingredients cooked to perfection.

Cambodian cuisine includes noodles, soups, grills, stir-fried, curries, salads, desserts, lots of vegetables, tropical fruits, and of course rice which is the staple food for Cambodians. Cambodian culinary secrets are rarely written down; the recipes were instead handed down from mother to daughter. From an ancient origin has come a traditional cuisine of unsuspected treasures: a unique blend of flavors and colors that enhance the natural ingredients used.

Cambodians perfected the art of blending spice paste using many ingredients like cloves, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and turmeric. They add other native ingredients like galangal, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, cilantro, and kaffir lime leaves to these spices to make a rather distinctive and complex spice blend known as "kroeung".

Although noodles are also popular, almost every meal includes a bowl of rice. A wide range of curries, soups and stir fried are usually served with rice. Being in a country that produces many rice varieties, tourists can enjoy the best aromatic grains and various types of glutinous rice. The latter is more commonly served with a salad or in desserts with fruits.

There are two other unique ingredients that give Cambodian cuisines their fabulous typical flavour. One is a pungent fermented fish paste known as pra-hok and the other, the kapi, a fermented prawn paste. These require an acquired taste for most but they are beloved by some who used them in many dishes or even taken as a dipping sauce. Collectively, these ingredients have become an important aromatic combination commonly used in Cambodian cuisines.

Typically, a Cambodian meal is served with rice and at least three other dishes. It usually includes a soup (samlor), served alongside the main dishes. Each of the individual dishes will either be sweet, sour, salty or bitter; these exist side by side in harmony, sometimes even within a single dish, to offer an original melody. Chili is usually left up to the individual to add. In this way tourists are subtly ensured that they get a bit of every flavour to satisfy their palates.


In Khmer wedding, it has a lot of ceremonies held in chronological orders. They show the historical roots related to the Buddha's period which existed ages ago. According to a book "Khmer Wedding Rules" of Oknha Nov, it puts that in ancient Khmer wedding laws, people perform a song describing God Vesandor Borom Pothisat arranging the marriage between his children – Chealy and Kroesna. And some other songs are about the marriage arrangement of God Ream and Seda. Oknha Nov wrote that the current wedding preparations are arranged according to the rules drawn up by King Preah Chey Chesda Thebdey.

According to the king's book, it puts that all ceremonies in Khmer wedding are related to mythical stories such as a story "Som Sla Kanseng". It is told that there were two men who went to feed their buffalos in the field would like to make friends with each other and wanted to be relative by marriage with each other because one had a son and the other had a daughter. In order to prove their words, they ask for betel nuts packed in krama from each other to show their promise that their children would marry to each other.

Another story is "the three betel flowers". It describes that there were four men who had different skills – swimming, shooting, fortune telling, and magic. After completing their study, they returned home. Along the way back near a stream, the fortune teller said that day they were going to meet a girl and become their wife. Then a big bird swooped down on a girl, Khemry, who was having a bath. Right away the shooting man took his bow and shot the bird down back to the stream.

The swimmer then swam to bring her to the ground but she was just dead. After that the magic man helped her be alive again. All four men felt in love with the lad, so they were judged by the Buddha that she would become a wife of someone who swam to help her because he was able to touch her body first. And the fortune teller, magic man, and shooting man would become the father, mother, and brother respectively. Since then in all weddings, the bride and the groom must have three betel flowers in order to show gratitude towards their parents and brothers/sisters.

Setting-the-date ceremony and the groom holding the scarf are told that Prince Thaong was married to Princess Tevtey, a daughter of the sea dragon king. After setting the date already, Tevtey had to bring him to her father at dragon world, so the sea dragon's daughter asked the prince to hold her scarf in order to dive into the dragon world. In the meanwhile, the dragon king commanded his man to kill the prince at the gate in order to test the prince's ability. But the daughter had known this; hence, she disguised herself as the prince by changing her skirt and it was put on the prince instead so that the killer was not able to kill the prince. 

That is why in the current Khmer wedding it was seen that there is clothes change between the groom and the bride, and the groom holding the bride's scarf in to the room, accompanied by "Phat Cheay and Neang Neak" songs, etc.

The ceremony called "Chey Haong Sousdey Haong Men Haong" in wedding ceremony performed until now is followed by an ancient story recorded in "the rules of wedding" book. It describes that Once upon a time there were two brothers – Chey and Sousdey. At that time, there was no king to continue after the previous king had died in Cambodia, so the officials in the palace relied on the holy elephant and horse to find a man to be their king. 

Then the animals approached the brothers' house. Consequently, they knew that one of the brothers was the suitable man to be crowned. Chey became the king and Sousdey became his assistant at the same time. When crowned, the people whooped to bless the king. They said "Chey Haong Sousdey Haong Men Haong" simultaneously. The blessing is adapted to use in the wedding until now.

"Bongvil Popil" ceremony in the Khmer wedding is also written in "collective Khmer legends" book, volume 9. According to the legend, it is told that once upon a time, there was a man named Chey Sorya who had completed the magic training already from Eyso God, so he asked the God for a sacred relic as a blessing tool for the weddings of human being. Then the God gave the man a replica of his penis and a replica of his wife's vagina as the blessing tools to spread their reputation in the world. 

Eyso God took diamond sand from the universe to make a gold banyan leaf representing his wife's vagina and took a diamond rock from Himalaya Mountain to make a candle representing his penis and supposed them to be "two blessings". He then told the man to take the candle wrapped in the banyan leaf to circle three times around grooms and brides in order to inhale the smoke making them powerful. The "Popil" ceremony is believed to bring harmony and joyfulness for the new couples making them successful in all challenges. Since Khmer people firmly and sincerely believe in "Popil", it is performed not only in wedding ceremony but also in other ceremonies such as housewarming, birthday, etc.

"Holding a Sword" tradition in the wedding progress is also told that once upon a time there was a high ranking knight in Peareansey Palace, who fell in love with a daughter of the villager and deposit a piece of gold as a dowry and promised to marry in three months' time. Three years had gone, so she was married to her neighbor villager but on the wedding day, the knight appeared and took out his sword and killed the man who was the groom. Then the chief clergyman had prayed to dismiss all bad things at the place. The clergyman had analyzed on the power of the sword. That is why people use a sword in the wedding when the bride and the groom are in pair for blessing.

Tradition on Khmer Wedding Season

Wedding ceremony is very meaningful for each of individual's life who follows their tradition and the laws of the country. That is why this ceremony is carefully dealt with concerning to choosing the date which is believed to bring luck and harmony for the people's lives and starting a new families. Some families do not allow their children to marry in the rain season and some delay it for two years after the engagement ceremony because of the fortune telling.

According to Mr. Nhean Phoeun, a researcher and publisher of Khmer tradition of national and international festival committee, he said that Khmer tradition allows people to marry only in a period of six months in a year but not the other six. Wedding can be carried out only in the 30-day months. Those six months could be in early May, July, October, January, and March. But for engagement ceremony and matching the natural chemistry between son and daughter, they could be performed in any month.

He continued that for the above months, there are only 7 days of each month that are good days. According to the Khmer tradition, they should not perform on their birthday, religious day, lunar or and solar eclipse, and during Khmer new years.

Actually, the reason people do not get married in the rain season is that there are a lot of rains that make it difficult for the wedding reception, procession, and other ceremonies. It is also difficult for the guests travelling to wedding party and it is when farmers are busy with their fields.

Cambodia Holidays and Festivals

Cambodians, like most people, love an excuse to have a party, and they know how to have a good time in style. Events such as Khmer New Year and the Water Festival are great times to visit the country and celebrate alongside the locals as they dance, drink, sing, and pray. Cambodia holidays are time to let your hair down and embrace the culture of this fun and festive Asian nation.

Chaul Chnam Chen (Chinese New Year) and Tet (Vietnamese New Year)

Late January to mid-February (it varies each year) see the celebration of Chinese and Vietnamese New Year. Although Cambodia celebrates its new year a couple of months later, these festivals are still huge in Cambodia, particularly in Phnom Penh where most of the commerce is run by Chinese businessmen. Most establishments close for the duration and a number of parties can be seen around the streets.

Chaul Chnam Khmer

The biggest and most manic celebration of the calendar, Khmer New Year kicks off in mid-April. It is a fantastic time to visit the country and immerse yourself in the jovialities, and although the sun is at its fiercest in April, chances are the locals will take great enjoyment in regularly dousing you in water and talcum powder. While many Phnom Penh residents take this opportunity to visit the provinces and spend time with their families, the city is abuzz with activity, particularly at Wat Phnom and on the lawn outside the Royal Palace where groups of all ages congregate to enjoy the festival.

Chat Preah Nengkal (Royal Ploughing Ceremony)

One of the kingdom's more unusual dates on the calendar, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony is an annual agricultural celebration held in early May to discover how fruitful the year's crop will be. Led by the royal family on a lawn outside of Phnom Penh's National Museum, the royal oxen auspiciously lets the gathered crowd know the fate of their crop. A bizarre, but must-see ceremony!

Visakha Puja (Buddha Day)

One of Cambodia's most religious celebrations, Visakha Puja celebrates the life of Buddha, from his birth, to his enlightenment and eventually his passing away. The festival is held on the eighth day of the fourth moon and can be observed at temples around the country. Angkor Wat is a great place to experience the celebration, as hundreds of monks form a candle-lit processional.

P'Chum Ben (Festival of the Dead)

An odd celebration in which the living pay respect to the dead is a Buddhist All Souls' Day of sorts. Extremely superstitious locals head to the temples and make offerings of paper money, flowers, food, and candles. Monks mediate the ceremonies and devout Buddhists are expected to visit seven temples during the entire event.

Bon Om Tuk (Water Festival)

Quite possibly the best party in all of Cambodia, the whole country flocks to the capital and the major cities during Water Festival. One of the most significant dates of the year, Bon Om Tuk celebrates the god-king Jayavarman's victorious ousting of the Cham invaders from Angkor in 1177. The cities are awash with live music, food stands, vendors, and a real celebratory vibe, while hundreds of colorfully decorated boats hit the rivers for big races. If you do plan on joining in, it is advised to book a room well in advance.

*culled from

Monday 28 August 2017

Experience Brunei Malay Wedding

A time when two families come together and unite. A time where two becomes one. A time where a fairytale ends where you say happily ever after. A thing called a wedding. In this case, a Brunei Malay wedding.

Brunei Malay weddings are full of culture and traditions. To experience the full tradition of a Brunei Malay wedding is like no other. The Brunei Malay wedding usually starts with Adat Merisik, Adat Bertunang, Malam Berjaga-jaga, Akad Nikah, Malam Berbedak, Malam Berpacar, Bersanding, Malam Berambil-ambilan and lastly, Adat Mulih 3/7 Hari.

Adat Merisik is a Malay tradition where groom and bride's parents meet up to arrange the marriage especially the date of marriage and venue. In the old days, when it is time for a man to get married, the family searches far wide for a potential bride. Nowadays, a man would suggest who he wants to marry for the family to consider. When the potential bride is chosen, the Merisik ceremony will start.

In the Merisik, one or more representative from the man side will visit the family of the woman side. They will tell their purpose and the visit will give them a chance to see the woman. The woman's parents will also give note if the woman is interested or not. After the visit, then both sides can think about the possibility of marriage. This visit is not a formal proposal, hence if the visit falls through, they can another potential bride.

Nowadays, sometimes the family of the woman side wants to see their potential son/brother-in-law. They would meet up over dinner and talk about the man's background. This is usually for the woman's family to know if they made the right choice marrying the man to their daughter/sister.

Next tradition is the Adat Bertunang or known as Engagement Ceremony. When the Merisik ceremony is a success, an engagement date will be set for the family to set the wedding plans. At the engagement ceremony, the groom's representatives will come to the bride's place. Usually they will bring three things; Money, a ring for the bride and a ring for the bride's mother. The ring for the bride is a sign that she is engaged and the groom-to-be's mother will help the bride-to-be wear the ring.

A few days before the Akad Nikah, there is a ceremony called Malam Berjaga-jaga. This ceremony marks as a start of the wedding period. During this period, at night, family members and relatives come together and play some entertainments. In the old days, people used to play traditional games and sing traditional songs.

The night before they are getting married, both sides have a Berbedak Mandi ceremony. In this ceremony, the groom-to-be and bride-to-be are scrubbed with traditional body-scrub powder on their whole body by close family members at their respective homes. This ceremony symbolises fertility and wealth.

After that is the Akad Nikah, or known as marriage contract. This is when the man and woman will be officially brought together as husband and wife. The signing is done in front of a religious official known as Imam, and witnesses. The man will sign the marriage contract and agrees to provide the woman with Mas Kahwin. Mas Kahwin is literally means marriage gold and in can be in a form of money or goods. Nowadays, Mas Kahwin is usually given as money amounting to hundreds. The Mas Kahwin shows a sign that the man is willing and prepared to build a family with the woman.

The groom will then recite a sentence, something like "Aku terima nikahnya *bride's name* dengan Mas Kahwin *amount of Mas Kahwin* tunai" which means he wants to marry the bride by giving Mas kahwin in cash, while shaking the hand of the Imam. The Imam will then ask the witnesses if what they heard are clear and true by asking,"Sah?". The witnesses will reply,"Sah" if they approve what they heard and saw. The bride will then signs and close the contract, followed by a prayer. This part is usually the climax of a Malay Wedding where the bride and groom is officially husband and wife.

Nowadays, Akad Nikah is followed by Hantar Berian, which literally means sending gifts. Other than Mas Kahwin, the groom will give extra money which amounts to thousands where the bride can use it anyway she wants. Usually people use it to pay the costs of the event at the bride side. The groom will also send a string of gifts. It can be anything and/or things that the bride wants and requested. Each of these gifts is served on a Gangsa, in other words Bronze Plate. There is no minimum or maximum amount of gifts given. However, it is optional if the bride wants to give gifts also.

After the Akad Nikah, the bride usually performs a Malam Berbedak and Malam Bepacar. The bride usually wore a traditional Berbedak attire and covered by a Kain Jong Sarat, which is a Malay traditional woven fabric and given by the groom during the Hantar Berian ceremony. She also wears a heavy brass headgear which consists of a statue of a Naga (Dragon) and wrapped by Bunga Melor (a type of scented flower). Accompanying the attire are gold plated armbands, ankle bands and necklace. It is almost the same attire as the groom but instead of a brass headgear, he wears Dastar, which is a crown made of Songket cloth.

During the Malam Berpacar, the bride sits on a Dias like a throne with her hands on her lap and facing up. Close family members will come and apply a pinch of Pacar (Henna) on the bride's palm. Usually, there are 8 different kinds of coloured Pacar. After that, Bunga Rampai (shredded of fragrant Pandan and flower petals) are scattered across the bride's palm as a sign of blessing. The same event also occurs at the groom side.

After the ceremony, the bride will go to her bridal room and meets her Penganggun. A Penganggun is usually the person who takes care of the bride during the whole wedding ceremony, where she does rituals and reminding the bride on restrictions according the Malay traditions. At the bridal room, the Penganggun will light up three candles where she where she gives on to an elderly lady on the bride's bed and the other one to whom follows behind her. The bride puts her arms around the Penganggun and led around her bed three times. The bride proceeds onto the bed and blows out the three candles to end the initiation. This part of the ceremony is usually done in weddings at Brunei-Muara District.

To show off the newly-weds to the world, it is tradition that they do the Bersanding ceremony. Bersanding is when the newly-weds sits on a Dias for guests to see. When the guests arrives, they are given small gifts courtesy of the newly-weds. The bride and groom, at their respective venue, will wear simple Songket fabric attire and they will move around the venue to greet all their guests with their close family members. During this time, the guests take the opportunity to congratulate the newly-wed and if the guest wishes, they could give gifts in terms of money or things.

After that, the groom and bride will wear custom-made Songket attire and gold-plated accessories. The groom will wear additional Dastar, Sinjang (a Songket cloth wrapped around the waist) and a Keris (a type of dagger), and the bride will wear a tiara and holds a bouquet of flowers.

The groom will then go to the bride's venue. Upon arrival, he will be led by flower girls, boys carrying special ceremony candles, an Imam and an umbrella will always be opened for him until he arrives at the bride's place. In front of the entrance of the bride's venue, the whole group will move in a circle three times and greeted by the bride's family member at the door. A fan will be put between the groom and the bride's family member, and Bunga Rampai will be tossed at the fan for a few times. At some places, it will be followed by cleaning the feet of the groom. After that, the groom will meet the bride, sits on the Dias and a prayer will be performed by the Imam. The newlyweds will then go outside and show themselves to the guests at all sides of the venue.

To finish the Bersanding ceremony, the newlyweds will do the Adat Makan Bersuap. Adat Makan Bersuap is a ritual where the bride will feed the groom using her hands. The foods are usually Nasi Kuning (a type of rice recipe), water and other traditional cuisines.
This is usually where people finish their wedding ceremony; however there are two more ceremonies if they want to perform it. At the night of the Bersanding, there is a ceremony called Malam Berambil-ambilan. Malam Berambil-ambilan is like a wedding reception, where the newlywed celebrates their wedding. They will wear different coloured Songket attire. 

At the Malam Berambil-ambilan, the newlyweds would be spending time getting to know the family of the other side, cutting a wedding cake, dancing and karaoke. In the old days, it is mostly dancing and Bermukun, where elderly ladies exchanging four lines quatrain while hitting a Gendang (a traditional drum) to a beat.

The other ceremony is the Adat Mulih 3/7 Hari. It literally means going back home after three or seven days. When a groom weds a bride, he will live at the bride's home for three or seven straight days.

After that, he will bring his bride to his home. The groom's family will usually shower them with gifts as they arrive. This ceremony marks the end of a Brunei Malay wedding.
To feel the culture of Brunei, one must attend a Brunei traditional wedding. If it is possible, attend all the ceremonies. Families in Brunei will usually try to perform all the ceremonies if they can afford it. Brunei Malay weddings are full of traditions; it may vary across Brunei but the experience is like no other.

Article by Arif Zainal
ASEAN-Korea Centre Blog Correspondent from Brunei Darussalam

Curaçao Holidays and Festivals

Visitors can enjoy a variety of sporting events, music festivals, and the best of Caribbean culture throughout the year in Curaçao. Many events incorporate parades, with the most prominent being the annual Carnival, at the start of the year. The Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival in late August is another must-see for music aficionados.

Curaçao Carnival (Carnaval)

Starting New Year's Day, Carnaval is the main Curaçao holiday event of the year and goes on through all of January. It features music, parades, and parties galore across all cultures that make up the island—Dutch, Portuguese, African, South American, and Jewish. There are also beauty contests and concerts, with the Festival di Tumba parade on Shrove Tuesday being the highlight.

Curaçao Heineken Regatta

Sponsored by a mega-brewer, the Curaçao Heineken Regatta is a fun, sporty high season event in late January. The international regatta sets off from Willemstad and goes over three days. While sailors race for a substantial dollar prize, on land are beach barbecues and parties.

International Kite Festival

Though not a must, the Curaçao International Kite Festival in February is worth a look as it highlights the creativity of the islanders. Along with flying and competitions which feature weird and wacky designs, are workshops where novices can learn to make and fly kites.

Curaçao Dive Festival

Curaçao is right up there with other areas of this region of the Caribbean for its scuba diving potential, and this festival in May has classes and dives for beginners and expert divers alike. Take note though, while this is the best time to dive in Curaçao, good visibility is apparent year-round.

Curaçao Restaurant Week

A great event for tourists in the low season, Restaurant Week sees hundreds of restaurants in Curaçao partake in the offering delicious three-course meals at a great value. The event spans over a week and is the perfect opportunity to taste Curaçao cuisine without breaking the bank.

Salsa Tour

The week-long Salsa Tour in August draws some of the best names in the business and features live concerts and workshops on the beach. Together with dance are scuba diving and snorkeling events, along with horseback rides.

Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival

This two-day North Sea Jazz Festival in Piscadera Bay is the most high profile jazz festival in Curaçao. It features visiting artists from around the world who perform at the World Trade Center grounds, to the west of Willemstad. Along with jazz is a week of soul, hip hop, and R&B, leading up to the main event on August 31.

Amstel Curaçao Race

A mini Tour de France on Curaçao, the 50-mile long (80 km) Amstel Curaçao Race is run at the beginning of the high season in November, and usually attracts some big names in cycling. From Willemstad, the peloton goes around the island, with presentations at the Lions Dive & Beach Resort.

*culled from

Brunei Holidays and Festivals

Most of the Brunei Darussalam holidays and festivals are religiously oriented, but there are also holidays that commemorate important historical events. The First Day of Hijrah, the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, and Chinese New Year don't have fixed dates and other notable celebrations include National Day and the Sultan's Birthday.

New Year's Day

The New Year's Eve (December 31) celebration kicks off with locals playing tennis, golf, squash, scuba diving, bowling, kayaking, and even windsurfing in anticipation of New Year's Day. Come January 1st, there are fireworks displays and exuberant gatherings for families and friends.

Prophet Muhammad's Birthday

An Islamic holiday without a fixed date, Muhammad's Birthday usually falls in January/February. The Sultan and the rest of the royal Brunei family typically lead a procession throughout Bandar Seri Begawan.

National Day

February 23 is Brunei's National Day, an annual celebration of its independence from Britain. Though freedom was actually achieved on January 1, 1984, the official celebration is held every February 23 to follow tradition.

Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day is celebrated every May 31 to pay tribute to the dedicated men and women behind the Royal Brunei army. You will see displays of artillery, exhibitions, parachuting, and military parades.

Sultan's Birthday

July 15 is Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's birthday. He is the 29th Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of the country, and is also the first Prime Minister of Brunei. He was born in 1946 in Brunei Town, which is currently known as the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan.

First Day of Hijra

This day celebrates the migration of the prophet Muhammad and his followers to Medina from Mecca. This festival also marks the Islamic New Year, so it doesn't have a fixed date but typically falls in June/July.

End of Ramadan

Eid al-Fitr is the celebrated at the end of Ramadan or the month of fasting, which is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. There is also no set date, but it usually takes place in August. Children are given presents and money, and everyone wears new clothes. Muslims go to the mosque in the morning for special Eid prayers, worship and thanksgiving. The rest of the day is all about eating and socializing with friends and family.

Christmas Day

Brunei celebrates Christmas on December 25 like the rest of the world with family gatherings and gifts.

*culled from

Sunday 27 August 2017

6 Must-Taste Foods of Bhutan

The culinary danger for Westerners in Bhutan for just a week or two is eating only at those hotels and restaurants that cater to tourists. Although some are excellent and have tempered the spices to appeal to foreign palates, we encourage travelers to venture beyond their comfort zone at least a few times and take their taste buds on a truly unique journey.

Shopkeeper at Bhutan Market In Thimphu, you might try Zasa , literally meaning "a place to eat."
If your budget allows, you can make a reservation at one of the Aman or Uma
hotel restaurants in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha or Bumthang.
Trekking with a group? You'll find that your cook will adore preparing special Bhutanese dishes for you. Ask for something with mushrooms, as Bhutan has a wide variety — more than 400 have been identified — from which to choose.

There's even a festival
celebrating the Matsutake.
Traditional Bhutanese food has been influenced by its neighbors, especially China, Tibet, and India. But like the country itself, the local cuisine has been able to maintain its unique character. It's less oily than Chinese or Indian food and spicier than most Tibetan dishes.
When you go to Bhutan, take this list of our six must-taste foods to sample at least once.

Ema Datshi (chilies and cheese)

If there is one national dish of Bhutan, this is it. It's so ubiquitous that some say if you haven't eaten ema datshi, you haven't been to Bhutan. The locals eat the stew, which is similar to a curry, daily along with red rice. It's made of green, yellow or red chilies, yak or cow's milk cheese, onions and tomatoes. Taste very carefully, though. The chilies of Bhutan are high up on the Scoville Heat Scale and are meant to make you warm enough to sweat.

Jasha Maroo or Maru (spicy chicken)

Although this mix of chilies, onion, tomato, garlic, coriander leaves and ginger is usually made with finely diced chicken, you will occasionally find it made with beef. Though often called a stew, there's actually a hefty portion of liquid (chicken broth) in the finished dish. Like most Bhutanese food, it is served with red rice.

Phaksha Paa (Pork with Red Chilies)

A classic Bhutanese stew of strips of boneless pork shoulder simmered slowly until tender with mooli (daikon radish), ginger, bok choy, and–you guessed it–chili powder. When finished, the stew is topped with dried pork and fresh green chili strips and served with rice.

Momos (Dumplings)

This is one food that Western travelers may have sampled, since the momo has immigrated to India and is quite similar to the Chinese dumpling. Throughout the Himalayas–from Nepal and Tibet to Bhutan– these steamed buns are eaten as treats. They may be stuffed with almost anything, but the typical fillings are minced pork or beef, cabbage, or fresh cheese mixed with spices such as garlic, ginger and coriander.

Red Rice

Regardless of where you eat–from the elegant Aman and Uma resorts to an outdoor village festival, you will get red rice. Red rice is to Bhutanese food as bread is to the American table, but the rice is probably healthier. That's because the rice paddies of Bhutan's Paro Valley where the red rice is grown are irrigated with mineral-rich glacier water. Just one serving of Bhutanese red rice will give you 80 percent of your daily requirement for manganese and 20 percent of your need for phosphorus.
The red color of the uncooked rice comes from the cancer-fighting antioxidant, the flavonoid anthocyanin. As it cooks, the color fades to a paler red or pink and the texture becomes soft and sticky.


With your meal, you will be offered a variety of drinks–black and green tea, beer, and wine. But if you're very lucky, you may be offered a glass of locally brewed ara (or arag), a fermented drink made from rice, maize, millet, or wheat. Ara tastes a bit like extremely, extremely strong sake. Cheers!

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January 1st, 2015 by Toni Neubauer
Posted in Bhutan , Uncategorized

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