Top 5 wedding destinations in Asia

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Audrey Magazine (by Pauline Yang):
While this is surely an exciting time for engaged couples, you don’t need me to tell you that it can be stressful planning a wedding. For instance, those who have close relatives in foreign countries may end up with guests who simply can’t make it because a trip to America is expensive. This is just one of the reasons many couples are now opting for a destination wedding in Asia. It can be easier for some relatives to travel to, and with the right budgeting, a wedding in Asia can even be less expensive than having a wedding in America. Sounds like a win-win!

So if you’re considering a wedding in Asia, we’re here to help! Check out our top 5 wedding destinations as well as specific locations we recommend to have the wedding of your dreams.

1. Taiwan – Lakeside Luxury

P1_Fleur de Chine Hotel

Taiwan has become a global trendsetter in the wedding industry, inviting international couples to celebrate the beginning of a new life together on the beautiful island. Many find that they are able to have more lavish parties and photoshoots for a fraction of the price. Taiwan has proven to be a great choice for those on a budget but don’t want to compromise on their happy day.

Where in Taiwan?
One of the eight wonders of Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is a scenic jewel in the island’s mountainous heart. The romantic lake transforms throughout the day to create different moods. In the early morning it is misty and mysterious. During the day it is a mirror of the mountains and forests that surround it. At sunset it shimmers with gold dust, and after dark, the lights of the villages and temples reflect gently across its surface. A stay at the Fleur de Chine Hotel, situated on the northern peninsula of the Sun Moon Lake, presents these magnificent views, as well as services and accommodations for an elegant outdoor wedding. Under the sun and moon, surrounded by the sky and earth, couples will surely take home sweet, unforgettable memories.

2. Indonesia – Island Dreams

P1_Nirwana Bali Resort

For those dreaming of a storybook wedding, Indonesia can provide dreamy backdrops and vivid imagery. With botanical gardens, intimate beaches and cliff top venues overlooking the Indian Ocean, Bali effortlessly sets the scene for romance.

Where in Indonesia?
Consider Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort for your stay and venue. The picturesque property transports guests to an otherworldly setting where postcards come to life. Pan Pacific’s grand location, luxurious facilities and excellent service was recently selected to host Miss World. Guests can play around on the award-winning Greg Norman golf course and enjoy spectacular sunsets over the Indian Ocean. The resort’s spacious coastline lawns serve as a perfect wedding location with incredible views of Tanah Lot and its iconic temple.

3. Singapore – Chic Cityscape

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If you opt for a more modern wedding in the city, Singapore is your place to go. The island country is known for its surreal city skyline. Singapore is not only considered one of the safest places to live, it is also boasted to be the food capital of the world. Sounds like a solid place for a wedding!

Where in Singapore?
Marina Bay Sands Singapore
is home to the futuristic Skypark, one of many iconic architectural buildings in Singapore. Its daring design and breathtaking rooftop decks, including the world’s largest infinity pool at 57 stories above ground, draw many couples to this contemporary resort. The Skypark’s landscaped rooftop gardens offers 360-degree views of Singapore and its offshore islands, easily becoming the most photogenic venue for couples tying the knot. World-class chefs and culinary concepts are also available to satisfy every taste.

4. Thailand – Golden Hours

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A country rich with culture and beautiful scenery, Thailand is one of the most versatile destinations for a wedding. From nature parks and beaches to Buddhist temples, there is a venue for every bride’s vision. Thailand’s prime location in the center of Asia also makes it a sensible choice for those inviting relatives from all over Asia.

Where in Thailand?
The Four Seasons Tented Camp, situated in an elephant sanctuary in the jungles of northern Thailand’s Golden Triangle, is right on the border of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Intimate tented camps perched on private platforms receive six-star service to ensure guests have the best experience during their stay. Still not convinced? Imagine dressing in soft Thai silks while riding a gentle elephant through the bamboo jungle before your wedding ceremony. Yes, it’s just as beautiful as it sounds.

5. India – Heaven in the Hills

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There are many hidden gems in India when it comes to finding the perfect getaway. Its long history and strong cultural traditions make India a special destination to experience. For instance, the “pink city” of Jaipur is a popular choice for those interested in exploring the diversity of wedding venues available, such as ornate palaces, old mansions and private villas.

Where in India?
Nestled in the undulating Aravalli hills is the gorgeous Tree of Life Resort & Spa. This venue features 14 luxury villas built using local styles and designs to reflect Rajasthan’s long architectural history. Complete with an infinity pool at its center and private outdoor spas for each villa, this resort was created with a vision of a heaven away from the bustle of city life. Guests also have the opportunity to dine in their villa from a personalized 4-course menu that guests can design daily with the head chef’s help. Talk about an extravagant getaway!

Asia’s most notorious gangs

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RocketNews 24:

A criminal organization’s activities vary depending on where they are in the world but all such groups use bribery, violence and fear to achieve their goals. The growing threat of gangs in Asia is partly due to their booming economies that attract criminals with the prospects of taking a cut of the wealth. Globalization is further helping these gangs to spread their activities, making it easier to smuggle everything from weapons and drugs to people and exotic animals across borders. Money laundering, counterfeiting and document forgery are even easier when a group has a presence in multiple countries. Sound like Armageddon? Read on.

In this article, we look at mob activity in Japan, China and Indonesia and the threats they pose to the public as well as to tourists. We also delve into what experts think the future holds for transnational gang activity. Just a warning: things ain’t lookin’ pretty.

 

1. Japan–Yamaguchi-gumi

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Likelihood of encountering them as a tourist: Low

 

According to Forbes magazine, Yamaguchi-gumi has the highest revenue of any gang in the world at US$80 billion. The Yamaguchi-gumi is also the largest of all the yakuza syndicates in Japan. But overall gang membership is decreasing throughout Japan and as of 2013 less than 60,000 people claimed to belong to such groups, a record low. Tokyo Reporter estimates the membership in Yamaguchi-gumi is around 11,600. A weak Japanese economy hasn’t helped the organization, who participates in construction contracts, gambling, and extortion (among other things), and who is known for interrupting company stock-holder meetings. The tight-knit Japanese mafia is often described as “highly organized and hierarchical.”

Like other organized crime groups, the yakuza spend some time trying to present a good image and curry local favor by donating to charitable causes or helping with disaster relief activities. Such activities also help gangs keep their status as community organizations or whatever legal entity they might be registered as. This on-paper legitimacy allows them a front from which to operate more easily. The yakuza helped people after WWII by providing much needed goods via the black market, and they’ve stepped in to provide emergency relief for victims of the Kobe Earthquake (1995) and cleaning-ups after the Tohoku Disaster (2011).

More recently, the Yamaguchi-gumi put up a website, purporting to support the banishment of illegal drugs, an attempt to improve their image.

If you start a business in Japan, you’re very
likely to come into contact with them

If you don’t take part in drugs or prostitution, and you’re just schlepping your way around Japan on the tourist beat riding the bullet train, you’re very unlikely to see them. The first encounter most Westerners have with yakuza is when they move here and spot the nearly naked, tattooed men taking part in the town’s local annual festival, which often involves bare-chested men in traditional fundoshi loin cloths. If you start a business in Japan, you’re very likely to come into contact with them, even if it’s just as customers in your establishment. Their presence is a part of everyday life in Japan.

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2. China’s triads

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Likelihood of encountering them as a tourist: Low

Chinese gangs, known as triads, are best known for arms and drug smuggling, counterfeiting, credit card fraud, loansharking, cyber crime, software piracy and smuggling people, animals and plants. As famous as China is for cybercrime, however, none of the groups compare to Japan’s Yamaguchi-gumi when it comes to sheer revenue. China’s triads tend to consist of smaller groups working independently. With well over 1.5 million people estimated to be involved in organized crime in China, the largest triad, Sun Yee On, reportedly has a membership of 55 to 60,000 members.

Overseas triads … sometimes threaten
territories of domestic criminal groups

Triads, whose leaders are called “dragon heads,” are heading more and more towards transnational organized crime, where their contacts abroad allow them to more easily smuggle people and drugs across borders. Overseas triads can be found in Japan, Russia, and the U.S. where they sometimes threaten territories of domestic criminal groups. Sun Yee On is the largest triad, operating in China and Hong Kong, with their presence also reported to be in the U.K., U.S., France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Recently, authorities in China are cracking down on the triads, forcing them to go further underground with their activities. They’ve also scattered their forces as a result, operating in less organizational, more independent-minded splinter groups. Many are moving abroad to tie up with organized crime syndicates in other countries.

 

3. Laskar Bali

▼The emblem for Laskar Bali uses a Hindu religious symbol.

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Likelihood of encountering them as a tourist: High

Wherever there is money, gangs will thrive and Indonesia’s island paradise of Bali is rife with prospects. With a constant influx of tourists livin’ it up on their holidays and a healthy population of expatriates who choose to live the high life year-round, the island is a natural draw for drugs, prostitution and other illicit activity. In Bali, foreigners constantly make the headlines for being on death row for drug smuggling and with so much money involved, you can guarantee that the local mob is getting their cut.

Newspapers refer to the groups as
‘community organizations’

There are at least five major gangs in Bali, who often refer to themselves as keluarga besar (big families). But the largest is Laskar Bali. Newspapers refer to the groups as “community organizations” because technically, that’s what they’re registered as and thus can qualify as legal entities.

Most tourists who do encounter them will not be aware of who these guys are. Laskar Bali has most of the security contracts for restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Bali’s touristy areas. Door men, bouncers and security guards in Kuta, Legian and Seminyak, for example are almost all Laskar members. You may even see them out and about wearing t-shirts with the gang’s name and motif on them.

One of the other major organizations, Baladika, with a membership of around 25,000, was awarded the high-security contracts for the 25th APEC Conference and Miss World Contest that took place in Bali in 2013, where the group worked alongside army and police.

But everyone knows who these organizations are. “I don’t like them,” says Ketut, a 34-year-old who owns a printing shop. “It shows the close ties with the new governor and gives him power.”

▼A sign along the road in Bali, featuring Laskar Bali big-wigs, wishes travelers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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But not all people believe these neighborhood gangs are bad. Wayan, who works at a restaurant in Sanur, a tourist area not dominated by Laskar, but one called Sanur Bersatu, says “They help protect the neighborhood. If someone bad come to our restaurant and cause problem, we just call them up and they come immediately. The police no good, not come. But the group send someone immediately.”

In her book Snowing in Bali, Kathryn Bonella, who spent years interviewing drug lords and traffickers in the local Bali prison, says there is no mistake about these organizations being criminal. “Laskar Bali is the holiday island’s most notorious and violent gang,” she writes. They deal in drugs, weapons, prostitution, payoffs and revenge killings. They’ll kill for hire–just a couple thousand dollars. When gangsters do get in trouble for using weapons or for drug trafficking, the group claims no responsibility, saying they should not be blamed for the actions of just a few members. Furthermore, they insist that the group does not approve of such behavior. Yet most people (including the police), are so afraid of possible retribution that even the newspapers will not print the gang’s name.

 

The future of Asian gangs

Where is all this headed? I asked Robert Whiting, author of Tokyo Underworld. what he thinks about the future of Asia’s organized crime. While the overall declining membership of Japan’s yakuza is perhaps a result of the government’s recent anti-gang rules cracking down on boryokudan, or “violent groups,” Whiting tells us why this isn’t necessarily reason for optimism.

To circumvent the new law, gangs use individuals outside their organizations, so-called han-gure or quasi yakuza, young toughs who don’t belong to organized crime groups.” Since much gang activity has gone underground, Whiting says, “It’s more difficult to pin crimes on yakuza because they are using these irregular forces, like the han-gure, or in many [instances] foreigners (Koreans, Chinese, Cambodians, etc.) who are not full or associate members of the gang.” He concludes saying, “Yakuza activity and arrests may be down on paper but crime is about the same, or actually increasing.”

China’s triads are already moving abroad and succeeding. The internet revolution has brought more opportunities for hacking and general cyber crime. And in Bali, with an economy in overdrive, organized crime is growing right along with it. Laskar Bali was started in 2002 after the first Bali bombings by an violent Islamic group that killed 202 people, mainly tourists. Laskar Bali was formed to help protect the island. With a corrupt Indonesian police force prone to accepting bribes (used to supplement the police officers’ salary of about US$220 per month), citizens are forced to depend on vigilante-type groups to protect their businesses, land and growing wealth.

Crime will always be with us,” Whiting reminds us. “I certainly don’t see it declining….They [yakuza] provide services that many, many people want, illegal though those services may be. There will always be a demand for them.”

Video

Models dive 25 meters to an underwater shipwreck for an epic photoshoot in Bali

Montreal-based photographer Benjamin Von Wong went for an extraordinary adventure when he decided to hold one of the most epic photoshoots the world of photography has seen in recent years. His highly ambitious underwater photo session involved 2 models, 7 safety divers and one 50-year-old sunken shipwreck in the waters of Bali. Just in case you have any doubts, Photoshop was only used in post-production editing – these photos are real.

The preparation for the photoshoot was a lot more difficult and complex than it seems in these breathtaking photographs. Due to the challenging and dangerous conditions that come with photographing underwater, the assisting divers had to ensure the models’ safety and help the photographer with his work. The gorgeous gowns that the models are seen in were donated by designers willing to part with their dresses for good, as they would be irreparably damaged by the sea water. And lastly, the photo gear was extremely limited, and so was the lightning – Wong had to rely exclusively on camera strobes and natural light.

Teamwork – A word that truly begins to mean something when you’re shooting 25 meters underwater and your model tied to a 50 year old shipwreck in the middle of Bali where the slightest miscalculation could spell disaster,” writes Von Wong, perfectly illustrating the scale and the dangers of this underwater project. He proves, however, that a reliable team, a clear vision, and passion can give beautiful results!

Link

Random News: Python kills security guard in Bali

 

CNN:

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A python has killed a security guard near a luxury hotel in Bali, Indonesia.

A doctor told CNN that a man’s corpse was brought to the RSUP Sanglah Denpasar Hospital in Bali on Friday. A large snake appears to have suffocated the man, said the doctor, who did not wish to be identified. The body has been released to the family, the doctor said.

The python remains on the loose after strangling the guard, who was trying to capture the large snake, according to Agence France-Presse.

Another security guard, at the Bali Hyatt, saw the attack, which took place “on the roadway outside of the hotel’s property,” Jamie Zimmerman Rothfeld, a spokeswoman for the Bali Hyatt, told CNN.

The management team and hotel associates of Bali Hyatt express their sincere condolences to the family of the victim of the python attack,” she said.

Rothfeld declined further comment, saying the hotel is under renovation and closed until 2015. She referred more details on the attack and search for the snake to local authorities, who could not be reached for comment.

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Random News: Python kills security guard in Bali