Hello Globe readers! I have been motorbiking around northeastern Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province this week, working on reporting projects. I spent time interviewing people in ethnic Jarai communities on the border of Vietnam, where bomb craters have become forest ponds and Khmer is a second language for most residents.
Some of my favorite moments occurred between tasks, when there were opportunities to appreciate new places and people.
At one pit stop as we motored through a forest, my colleagues and I shared Skittles, M&Ms and ChexMix packets with our guides, who had not previously tasted these snacks. Later their families prepared Jarai dishes whose names I cannot remember but were delicious, if spicy. We watched a pet monkey ride on the back of a village dog as children tossed plastic bags into the air with bamboo sticks in the sunset and people explained their hopes for the future of the village. After a classic countryside shower of cold water dumped over the head, my colleagues and I warmed our bare feet around a fire, looking up at stars in the unpolluted panorama of the rural landscape.
I found myself appreciating the simple fact, inherent to most journalistic undertakings, that people we had never met before were willing to welcome us into their communities and share their world for a few days. They wanted to convey their stories so we could bring them to you, our readers, to provide a public record of their experiences.
This week we have great articles about delays and difficulties in the construction of Vietnam’s metro system, the growth of Cambodia’s lucrative beer industry with the entry of new breweries and a Malaysian bicycle courier company working against the tide of automobiles in Kuala Lumpur’s concrete jungle. Please enjoy them and share with others.
After a decade of delay, Hanoi finally debuted Vietnam’s first metro line in November, Govi Snell reports. While residents rejoiced, the logistical challenges and runaway budget of the project mirror the ongoing difficulties in developing mass transit in the nation’s other major metropolitan area, Ho Chi Minh City.
New breweries are opening in Phnom Penh and aiming to make their mark on an already crowded beer market, Jack Brook reports. Some companies focus on volume and promotions and others hope attractive packaging and expensive hops will win Cambodian hearts and taste buds. While consumers stand to benefit, an industry brawl is brewing.
Reporting by Ashley Yeong takes us to the motor-dominated roads of Kuala Lumpur, where a new bicycle courier service hopes to prove pedal power deserves a place in the city. Some drivers may be curmudgeons towards cyclists, but the founders of VéloExpress and others believe Malaysia should employ bicycling as a regular transportation option.
On the date of the annual commemoration of United Nations Human Rights Day, Globe columnist Mark S. Cogan reflects on human rights in Thailand, where turbulent political regimes continue to erode democratic norms at the expense of citizens.
This week Southeast Asia Globe explores the artistic side of Singapore with poet Esther Vincent, who shares three poems from her new collection, Red Earth. Vincent’s writing considers the eco-social issue of land redevelopment and the personal impact of an urban environment in the rapidly evolving city-state.