The Globe as you know it is changing. Coming June 2019

  • More thought provoking stories that inspire
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  • Vote for, pitch and commission stories
  • Member engagement with our journalists
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To understand more about why you are so important to our member support initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Naypyidaw / Exploring the mysteries of Myanmar’s ‘ghost capital’

Posted on: August 10, 2018 | Featured

Built in 2005 as Myanmar’s titanic new capital, the city of Naypyidaw is a surreal stop between Yangon and Mandalay – and an unmissable experience for travellers looking for a glimpse into a golden era yet to come

Uppatasanti Pagoda was completed in 2009 Photo: Shutterstock

Naypyidaw is post-apocalyptic in perhaps the most positive sense of the word: a city whose time has not yet come, waiting with open arms and empty streets for some distant generation. Now, though, more than ten years after its inauguration in 2005 as a new capital for a new Myanmar during the rule of the astrology-obsessed dictator Than Shwe, the nation’s infamous “ghost capital” remains a surreal stop on the long road from Yangon to Mandalay.

Ten-lane highways lie bare beneath the sun, asphalt untouched by all save the steady hooves of the water buffalo that roam in lazy herds across the city. Row upon row of identical flame trees spill their burning blossoms unheeded onto close-cropped lawns before vanishing beneath the brisk brooms of the landscapers who seem at times to be the city’s only inhabitants. Stately ministries built like Soviet pagodas loom on the edge of vision, secure behind coiling rings of military blockades. In the late-night seafood restaurants branching off the pitch-black roads, there is life, of a sort, and light, and nervous servers waiting with faces daubed in thanaka to bring another plate of stir-fried shrimp, but the well-furnished food halls are never more than half full. After the crowds and chaos of Yangon, it is a jarring and otherworldly sight.

But now that you’re here, it’s time to explore. Here are a few things you’ll need to know if you ever visit this most baffling of Southeast Asian cities.

WHERE TO STAY


If you’re a travelling dignitary or other member of the diplomatic corps – and if you find yourself in Naypyidaw, chances are you might be – Kempinski Hotel Nay Pyi Taw is the last word in luxury accommodation.

Although most resorts in the designated Hotel Zone offer a level of ease and luxury to appease most travellers, none can boast a guest list as august as this expansive compound’s: former US President Barack Obama and Myanmar’s own State Counsellor (and de facto leader) Aung San Suu Kyi have each booked out the extravagant Grand Royal Suite, with its private pool, gym and spa facilities, conference rooms and – this is essential – foyer-adjacent bedrooms to house their private bodyguards.

The majestic Kempinski Hotel

For guests with less-presidential needs, Kempinski offers a range of luxury suites suitable for either an executive business trip or just a weekend’s indulgence up from Yangon. Sprawled across three separate complexes, Kempinski’s charm lies as much in its space as in its exquisite taste – and in a region where personal space comes at a premium, Naypyidaw has hectares to spare in breathing room. From the moment you drive through the ornate wooden archway rising above the entrance like palace gates, Kempinski blends gilded luxury with the unbeatable expanse of Myanmar’s natural splendour.

From its lavish spa, pool and fitness centre to the spacious Rangoon restaurant and glitzy Diplomatic Bar, Kempinski brings an effortless class and grace to a city that has been planned down to each blade of grass. Sipping on a cocktail at the ornate bar, guests run their gaze over walls adorned with pictures of visiting dignitaries eager to establish diplomatic ties with the once-reclusive nation – and, perhaps more urgently, the local bartenders waiting for the nod to bring the next round.

WHAT TO DO


Undoubtedly the most popular of Naypyidaw’s sparse attractions is the Uppatasanti Pagoda, basically a replica of Yangon’s glimmering Shwedagon Pagoda that stands a demure 30cm shorter than its iconic cousin at a mere 99 metres high. It was built over three years, starting in 2006, around a tooth that is said to have been taken from the mouth of the Buddha (sourced from China). Uppatasanti offers a panoramic view of Naypyidaw’s precisely calculated boulevards. Standing in its vast golden shadow, the sky opens above you as the sacred spire blazes with the sun’s reflected glory, every inch of its height painstakingly built according to the religion’s own geometry of faith. If the milling crowds circumambulating Shwedagon stopped you from achieving that promised inner peace, you’ll find no such barriers to enlightenment here.

The grand gateway to Naypyidaw Water Fountain Park Photo: Shutterstock

If this simulacrum of one of the nation’s most sacred sites has awakened in you a fever for facsimile, your next stop should be Naypyidaw’s National Landmark Gardens. Doing nothing to dispel the image that Myanmar’s capital is not so much a city as it is the blueprints of a nation stripped of strife and struggle by the clockwork machinery of military might, this sprawling garden features maps of Myanmar’s major sites scattered across 400 acres of lawn, and little else. Sprinkled between kitschy funfair rides are replicas of Golden Rock, Inle Lake and – yes, in case you’d forgotten – Shwedagon again, all shrunk down to a more manageable size. If you have the time to drive 40 minutes from the endless malls and highways of the Hotel Zone, Landmark Gardens represents must-see totalitarian chic.

As vast and empty as the city in which it stands, Naypyidaw’s National Museum hosts exhibits covering millennia of Myanmar’s history. The pride of the nation, a jawbone locked in stone 40 million years ago, teases at an alternative creation story where humanity arose from apes not in the cradle of Africa, but right here on Asian soil. Relics from the glory days of Bagan, whose stupas still scrape the sky and draw millions of tourists from across the globe, showcase both the splendours and daily struggles of Myanmar’s golden years. Finally, artworks taken from the nation’s tumultuous 20th century chart Myanmar’s rebirth into a thriving modern nation.

Immense, empty and austere, Naypyidaw’s frozen perfection seems centuries away from the sarongs and sandalwood of Myanmar’s more populous cities. But it is precisely this contrast, this vision of a nation seen solely through the prison of order, harmony and strength, that makes the nation’s newborn capital worth the trip.

This article was published in the August 2018 edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here.