The Multifaceted and Thriving City of Bengaluru

The Multifaceted and Thriving City of Bengaluru

Bangalore, officially known as Bengaluru, is the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka in Southern India. It is the third most populous city in the world with a population of over 10 million and the fifth-most populous urban agglomeration in India. Known as “the Silicon Valley of India” for being the leading exporter of information technology (IT) for India, it may come as a surprise that Bengaluru holds many treasures for travellers to discover.

Bengaluru is located in southern India. Travellers to Bengaluru will quickly find it apparent that the city is multireligious given its diverse religious institutions including temples, mosques and churches. It is also one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country, with over 51% of the city’s population being migrants from other parts of India.

ISKCON Sri Radha Krishna Temple

One of Bangalore’s top attractions was built in 1887. Bangalore Palace is inspired by England’s Windsor Castle. The royal family still lives in this palace with Tudor-style architecture, fortified towers, arches, green lawns, and elegant woodcarvings in its interiors. On display are all kinds of memorabilia, family photos, and portraits. It is home to many renowned paintings from the 19th and 20th century including by Raja Ravi Varma, one of India’s most famous painters

Located in the heart of the city of Bengaluru is what is known as the “lung of the city”, Cubbon Park. Its beautiful and unique landscape creatively integrates the natural rock outcrops with thickets of trees, massive bamboos, expanses of grass and flowerbeds, along with statues and pavilions. Visitors can also enjoy amenities such as the library, museums, tennis academy, aquarium and toy train. It is a huge reason why the city is often nicknamed “Garden City”.

Cubbon Park

For a trip to cater to the whole family, Wonderla Amusement Park is the place to be. Spanning over 82 acres and home to over 60 rides, this charming amusement park has been constantly lauded for its excellent rides and service.  It has been ranked by TripAdvisor as the No.1 amusement park in India and No. 6 in Asia for five consecutive years.

Bengaluru has been criticized for its rapid urbanisation at the expense of what made its nickname “Garden City” in the first place. However, it is still consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities and India and is thriving and bursting with new sights and sounds. Bengaluru is a city with its own unique character and definitely one of the stand-out Indian cities to visit.

A City of Heritage

A City of Heritage

Phnom Penh is the vibrant and bustling capital of Cambodia. It is the nation’s most populous city and economic, industrial and cultural centre. Phnom Penh is the site of many attractions many of which stem from its rich heritage. Despite changing and becoming increasingly international, the city has never lost its edginess. At times an assault to your senses, Phnom Penh is never dull.

Shoppers can head to the Phsar Thmei or Central Market for bargains or soak up the market atmosphere. It is located beneath a shining central golden dome with four arms branching out into vast hallways with innumerable stalls of goods. The French colonial architectural building has been operating since 1937 (with the exception of war time).

Photo Credit - Photograph by Milei.vencel, distributed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Photo Credit – Photograph by Milei.vencel, distributed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is not an easy visit but a necessary one to understand the complete and sometimes unpleasant history of Phnom Penh. It is a museum chronicling the Cambodian genocide. The site is a former secondary school which was used as Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. An estimated 20,000 people were imprisoned there. It is one of many torture and execution centres by the Khmer Rouge and a reminder of a dark time in Phnom Penh’s history.

The Royal Palace is the royal residence of the king of Cambodia and one of its most famous attractions. It is one of the finest examples of Khmer architecture and has a slight French touch. Inside the Royal Palace is the Silver Pagoda which is a compound on the South side of the palace complex. Its main building houses many national treasures. The Royal Palace also includes the Throne Hall and Moonlight Pavilion. The beautiful gardens add to the palace’s scenic beauty.

This booming city offers layers upon layers of things to explore. Full of photogenic scenes, it is truly a haven for photographers.  No wonder it was once deemed as “The Pearl of Asia”.

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Hublot’s Exclusive Cryptocurrency Timepiece

Hublot’s Exclusive Cryptocurrency Timepiece

The limited edition Hublot Big Bang Meca-10 P2P is a new watch by Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot. Its release corresponds with the 10th anniversary of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a virtual asset stored in digital form.  It has attracted a large following of users and investors and has become an acceptable form of currency in many parts of the world. The watch marks Bitcoin’s technological trailblazing and societal impact. It is only exclusively available online and can only be purchased through Bitcoin. Only 210 of the watches have been made. Each purchase made is unique as the transaction number is engraved at the edge of the bezel. Buyers receive their watches in January 2019. All this has been made possible through collaboration with OS Limited (OSL), a digital asset brokerage, making Hublot the first big watchmaking brand to enter this sector.

Hublot did not announce an official price for the watch but its presale price was listed as USD 25,000.  It does, however, have a level of luxury that lives up to its price tag. It has a 45 mm case made from micro-blasted black ceramic. This ceramic is a high-tech material of zirconium dioxide pressed at a very high temperature. It houses a HUB1201 manufacture caliber, a skeleton movement offering an exceptional 10-day power reserve. The days are a nod to Bitcoin’s 10-year anniversary. Another reference to cryptocurrency is found in the blockchain inspired design found on the blue calfskin leather strap lined with black rubber.

“This is the kind of dynamism and innovation that our partners in Asia delight in,” commented the CEO of Hublot, Ricardo Guadalupe. “It is a visionary approach that fully corresponds to Hublot’s vision. Through its partnership with OSL, this first P2P [peer-to-peer] watch allows us to continue to explore future avenues.”

Moon Rising – Towards A New Era Korea

Moon Rising – Towards A New Era Korea

Moon Jae-in is South Korea’s current and 19th President since May 2017. He was elected after the impeachment of the previous President, Park Geun-Hye as the candidate for the Democratic Party of Korea, a liberal political party. The charismatic Moon is soft-spoken and humble. He is riding a wave of popularity the first year into his presidency with a record 83% approval rating, the highest for any South Korean President in their first year.  Moon’s pledge to improve relations with North Korea before the elections culminated in a handshake with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un across their respective country’s borders. That image has become the symbol of Moon’s rapid work for peace in the Korean peninsula.

Moon Jae-in’s path to becoming one of Asia’s most powerful people came from very humble beginnings. Born in Geoje, South Korea during the last year of the Korean War, his parents were refugees from North Korea. His family eventually settled in Busan where they encountered financial hardships. Moon once said in an interview that his family was too poor to even afford a bike or monthly school tuition. However, Moon excelled academically and was accepted to Kyung Hee University with a full scholarship. There he met his future wife, Kim Jung-sook. He led a student protest which caused him to be imprisoned and expelled from the university. In 1989, he passed the second round of his bar exam. Due to his history of activism Moon chose to go into private practice.

Moon started in politics by first being a national assemblyman after winning a seat in the Sasang District of Busan in April 2012. That same year he also ran to become the President of the United Democratic Party against Park Geun-Hye but narrowly lost. In 2015, Moon took over as chairperson of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy which was soon renamed the Democratic Party of Korea. Moon’s vocal opposition calling for the President’s ouster, promises of firm but patient dealings with North Korea and pledge to enact a stimulus plan to combat a rising unemployment rate paved the way for him to garner a comfortable victory in the 19th South Korean presidential election.

Moon Jae-in got to work immediately after being elected as there was no transition period between the election and inauguration. One of his first major acts as President was to overrule his predecessor’s mandate on the usage of state-issued history textbooks in 2018, even after the previous Park government responded to the backlash by not requiring schools to use the textbooks. Schools will instead be also allowed to choose privately published, government-approved textbooks written under educational guidelines.

Taking the President’s seat in the wake of one of South Korea’s biggest ever corruption scandals, Moon promised greater transparency. He opened an office website where petitions with 200,000 signatures within 30 days require an official government response. The presidential residence has also been moved from the palatial and isolated Blue House to an existing government complex in downtown Seoul.

He has also been active in combating Chaebols, or family-owned conglomerates, to clamp down on corruption and collusion. Moon appointed “chaebol sniper” Kim Sang-jo to the role of fair-trade commissioner.

Moon’s energy policy is to move away from nuclear and coal towards an increase in natural gas consumption. He wasted no time on this as he shut down eight coal-fired power plants upon assuming office and pledged to shut down the ten remaining by the end of his term. In June 2017, about a month into his presidency, Moon stated “we will abandon the development policy centred on nuclear power plants and exit the era of nuclear energy.” Plans include delaying the construction of nuclear reactors, cancelling plans for new nuclear power plants and not renewing licences for operating plants. He has re-opened dialogues around a decade-old idea of a natural gas pipeline from Russia that passes through North Korea.  Even though liquefied natural gas is a finite resource, Moon has emphasised (like many other nations did) on renewable sources as being able to meet his country’s energy demands in the long-term.

Moon has also been a huge supporter for the adoption of abandoned animals. He adopted a four-year-old black mongrel, Tory, and saved him from a dog meat farm. For a country such as South Korea which allows for the consumption of dog meat, this sent a strong message against the dog meat trade, especially considering that previous “first dogs” had been purebred Jindo dogs.

Moon’s most notable accomplishment so far in his relatively short tenure as President would be the rapid and stark peace progress with North Korea. Since the division of Korea in 1945, tensions between the two countries have always been high and North Korea is a major security issue for South Korea. Tensions were especially high in 2017 after North Korea’s series of provocative missile launches and sixth nuclear test.

Moon saw an opportunity to “break the ice” during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. At the opening ceremony, South and North marched under the Korean unification flag. North Korea also sent an unprecedented high-level delegation including Kim Jong-un’s younger sister and President Kim Yong-nam. It was the first time a member of the ruling Kim dynasty had visited South Korea since the Korean War. All of Moon’s work on peace culminated in a handshake between Moon and Kim Jong-un at the border of their two respective countries, providing a powerful image of reconciliation that has become a symbol for this year’s unprecedented peace progress between North and South Korea. He was also a key mediator in the historical North Korea-United States summit.

It is probably too presumptuous and optimistic to have serious talks on a reunification between North and South Korea just yet. However, in July 2017, Moon has characterized the process leading to unification as a long-term project in a regional context and expressed hopes of working with the international community. No further detailed plans were specified.  He also indicated the importance of establishing a peace treaty with North Korea to end the Korean War. Today, it has become much more of a possibility with both sides showing clear intention to sign such a treaty and Moon promising such by the end of the year.

Although vastly popular among his people, Moon has not delivered on the top priority of the Koreans which is reviving the economy and creating jobs. The very same Chaebols which was largely responsible for South Korea’s amazing economic growth over the past few decades has now contributed to record high youth employment of almost 10%. In an economy dominated by Chaebols who operate globally, they are hiring less at home while local SMEs, the lifeblood of job creation, are struggling due to the dominance of Chaebols. There is leeway for Moon as he is still a little more than one year into his presidency. He will be expected to deliver some concrete results on the economy in the second year of his presidency or his approval rating will take a hit.

Moon Jae-in is a welcome sight to the millions of Koreans who had just experienced one of their country’s biggest political scandal close to two years ago. His charisma, transparency and readiness for peace have endeared him to his people. It has been a wonderful start for Moon and a great political recovery for Korea. The eyes of the world are certainly watching what will come next as Moon goes deeper into his second year as President.




Conquering A Different Court

Conquering A Different Court

Serena Williams is one of tennis’ most iconic and dominant figures of all-time. She has been ranked number one on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017 and holds the joint record for most consecutive weeks as No. 1 for a female player. She has now ventured to apply the same hard work and dedication in tennis to her other passion—fashion.

Having collaborated with HSN and Nike on clothing lines, Serena has now taken the role of a full creative director in fashion and recently debuted her own new fashion line, Serena. This was only a day after winning her first grand slam match (at the French Open) since giving birth to her daughter. The fashion line’s diverse offerings include tees, dresses, skirts and tank tops. Highlights include Varsity Zipper Dress, Signature S Bralette branded with her “S” logo and The One Mini Dress in Black. Easy-to-wear yet highly stylish, the fashion line encapsulates different aspects of Serena’s life and covers a broad spectrum of different types of women.

Prices currently listed at her website range from $30 to $215. She has said in an interview that such a price range was important for her, given that her line’s ideal customer is “practical”. Affordability was something Serena kept in mind while providing a high-quality clothing line that was attentive to detail.  

She elaborates on this by saying, “The customer is a girl or a woman who believes in herself, or wants to believe in herself; maybe she’s feeling unconfident that day. And someone that is unapologetically themselves, and that maybe they stand out; maybe they stand out because they are strong or they’re beautiful or they want to not be the norm. Our woman is someone who looks at fashion as a compass to show who they are, to show what they are.”

The brand was launched in conjunction with a captioned photo on Instagram with a passionate message about perseverance and her love for fashion.

“They say life is about timing,” she captioned the photo. “I learned this lesson at age 18, when I chose to play a light tennis schedule because I wanted to go to fashion school. Some criticized my decision, but I knew I had two loves–tennis and fashion–and had to find a way to make them coexist. After 15 years of false starts, and people in fashion telling me “no,” it only drove me to work harder. As a result, I discovered what it meant to invest in myself, and I allowed that belief in myself to drive me to reach my dream. Today, I am proud to launch @serena, my own online shop. Never stop believing in yourself, you’re worth it. #BeSeenBeHeard.”

New President of Uzbekistan promises large-scale economic reforms

New President of Uzbekistan promises large-scale economic reforms

 Improvement in peoples live and consistency in the internal and foreign policy

On December 14th, the newly elected President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev took an oath as a head of that country for upcoming five years. The ceremony was held during the joint session of Senate and Legislative Chamber of Parliament of Uzbekistan in the capital – Tashkent. As it has been a tradition, head of foreign diplomatic missions and international organizations were present at the ceremony.

As a foreign observer from Malaysia, I participated in the monitoring of the Presidential Elections in Uzbekistan on December 4th this year. Four candidates were running for the presidency. They represented four political parties who have seats at the Uzbek Parliament. They are: the Acting president – Prime minister of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the leader of the party “National Revival” Sarvar Otamuratov, the chairman of the council of the Social-Democratic Party “The Justice” Narimon Umarov and the chairman of the People’s Democratic Party Khotomjon Ketmonov.

The Central Electoral Commission of Uzbekistan established the fact that of 20.5 million voters on the electoral roll, almost 18 million took part in the process of voting. That is 87.73 % of the voters.

Five international organizations, such as the OSCE, CIS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Association of World Election Bodies and OIC, as well as nearly 600 observers from 46 states of Europe, America and Asia observed the processes of preparation and conduct of the presidential elections. This is a clear evidence that this political campaign was held transparently on the basis of democratic requirements. More than 37 thousand observers from political parties also actively participated in monitoring the elections.

For the first time in the history of presidential elections full-scale mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Bureau on Democratic Institutions and Human Rights visited Uzbekistan. Mission did send more than 200 representatives from 32 states of this international structure to monitor the electoral process, particularly, from the point of democratic principles.

According to the results of the presidential elections, Mr. Mirziyoyev received 88.61 percent of the votes and on December 9th he was declared as an official winner of the elections.

Absolute majority of assessments of the elections do underline that voting went smoothly, transparently and reflect the true will of Uzbek people. Majority of foreign observers state that the elections were conducted in the atmosphere of sound competition and struggle among the political parties, in full conformity with the provisions of national legislation and international standards on elections.

The main question for international observers is what was the key motivation that insured victory for Shavkat Mirziyoyev?!

First of all, Mr. Mirziyoyev was the chief of economic administer of the Republic of Uzbekistan since 2003. He has unmatched experience, authority and respect among all the ministries and agencies dealing with economy, finance, agriculture, industry, infrastructure, urban development and similar areas, as well as private companies. As it is stipulated in the Constitution of Uzbekistan, all issues of foreign policy, national security and defense are in exclusive authority of the President of Uzbekistan.

As an international observer to the presidential elections I had many opportunities to talk to many citizens of Uzbekistan during my visit to that country. I learned that a far majority of the Uzbek population were quite satisfied with performance and achievements of the central government in Tashkent. I should note that projects and reforms, initiated by Shavkat Mirziyoyev since September 2016, are quite popular in this country. Among them a major renovation of the capital, reforms in agriculture, a large scale of housing projects in regional capitals and rural areas of the regions, as well as adjustments in cultural life and etc.

His initiative to announce an International art contest for the creation of a monument for the First President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov has received wide support among Uzbek population. This tribute traditionally has been done in the countries of the East, especially in Moslem world. .

One of the innovations that have been introduced by Mr. Mirziyoyev is establishment of “virtual reception”. Starting from 2017 the system will be introduced, according to which, the governors and mayors of all levels, branches of prosecutor’s office, home ministry and other agencies will have to answer to request of the people.

There will also be established the “public receptions” in each and every district and city.

Mr. Mirziyoyev adopted decrees in strengthening authority of courts, currency liberalization, spheres of agriculture and entrepreneurship. All of them are highly welcomed by International financial institutions, investors and foreign governments.

Another attractive and positive sign that comes from the new initiatives, is ongoing process of strengthening bilateral relations with the neighboring countries. His initiatives to sort out and solve palpitating bilateral problems on delimitation and demarcation boundaries with neighboring countries are widely popular not only among the Uzbek population, but entire Central Asia. These steps do promote regional stability, economic interests of Uzbekistan, increase “people to people” contacts and mutual trust in international arena especially at this time. All we face the growing terrorist threats, looming migration crisis in many parts the world, violence in the Middle East and North Africa, volatility of the global economy and finance, instability in Eastern Europe and internal fragmentation facing the EU.

Attention is paid to strengthening the civil society. In his inauguration speech, Mr. Mirziyoyev paid special attention to necessity of comprehensive up breaking of Uzbek youth. At present, the youth up to 30 years of age make up 32 percent of Uzbekistan’s population, or 10 million people.

Here I would like to draw your attention to the triumph of Uzbek sportsmen in Rio Olympics this year. In Asia Uzbekistan took the 4th place, after China, Japan and South Korea. Among the 207 national teams Uzbekistan has become the 21th, ahead of many leading sport powers, whose representatives traditionally participate with success in international tournaments. It should be emphasized that the boxing team of Uzbekistan has secured the title of the strongest teams in the world and takes the first place in the ranking by earned medals: 7 out of 10 boxers who performed in Rio under the flag of Uzbekistan, were awarded medals.

Experts consider this result as an outcome of adopted in late 90s State programs to facilitated massive participation of children in sports, promotion on state level of ideas about healthy lifestyle, massive state investment program to build hundreds and hundreds of sport facilities across Uzbekistan, as well as state financing of active participation of Uzbek sportsmen in international sports events.

As it has been a tradition in Uzbekistan since mid 90s every year is given special priority areas of state and public attention. The 2015 was announced as the “Year of Attention and Care for Elder People”. 2016 – “Year of Healthy Mother and Children”. And the year 2017 is announced as the “Year of dialogue with people and human interests”.

I would like to specially underline the bright prospects of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Malaysia and ASEAN region.

Both countries are united common religion, similarity in traditions, complementary character of economy, respect for elderly, common family values and mutual respect of Malay and Uzbek peoples.

Uzbekistan is one of the ancient centers of Islamic civilization, with unique historical and cultural monuments in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and other cities.

Country is a host of Great Medieval thinkers and Islamic philosophers, like Imam al-Bukhari; founder of modern medicine – Abu Ali Ibn Sina (more famous in Europe as Avicenna). Founder of modern mathematics – Abu Abdullah Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi.

As acknowledgment of Uzbekistan to Islam and the Islamic civilization, in 2016 Uzbekistan is elected to be chair of Organization of Islamic Cooperation. On October 18-19th this year Tashkent hosted 43rd session of Council of Ministers of OIC Countries.

Malaysia is a key and major partner of Uzbekistan among ASEAN countries and as such considered by Tashkent as a hub to expand bilateral and multilateral political, trade and economic and humanitarian cooperation with member-states of Association. Economies of Malaysia and Uzbekistan and are mostly mutually complimentary. This means, that Malaysian products produced here are of great demand in Uzbek market, and vise-versa, Uzbek manufactured industrial products and especially textile, fruits, vegetables and other types of food-staffs are of big demand in our market.

One example: the volume of trade and economic cooperation it 2015 between Malaysia and Uzbekistan stood up at over $103.9 million, the biggest figure of Uzbek trade with any of ASEAN member country. And vice-versa, today Uzbekistan is the biggest trade partner of our country among all Central Asian countries.

The most promising spheres of cooperation is tourism. Uzbekistan is an important destination for Malaysian in the field of tourism and it seeks to expand cooperation in this field. Every year more and more tourists from Uzbekistan are visiting Malaysia. Now about 11 thousand Uzbeks visiting Malaysia each year because National Airways Company “Uzbekiston Xavo Yullari” carried out 2 flight a week, which provides a good opportunity for many Uzbeks to visit Malaysia. The presence of these flights is a platform for the promotion of tourism services in Uzbekistan and to increase the number of tourists from Malaysia to Uzbekistan. Many Malaysians can visit the historic sites that are the heritage of Islamic culture, as well as to carry out a small “Umrah”.


An article by:

Dato’ Dr Mohd Yusof Hj. Othman, Director of the Institute of Islam Hadhari, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia