Southeast Asian Island Vibes
Crystal clear water, white sand beaches, and amazing food to eat -- who wouldn't want to visit the incredible beauty that is the Southeast Asian islands? Yes, it's steeped in rich history and traditions, but we're going to take a deeper look at the region and remember how we can pay homage.
Southeast Asia has so much to offer - Did you know Southeast Asia has nearly 25,000 islands? There is a 2 million km2 stretch of islands known as Maritime Southeast Asia. These islands are all located across Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and East Timor. Indonesia alone is home to around 17,000 islands. It may come as a surprise to learn there are countries considered part of "mainland Southeast Asia" that have islands and archipelagos along their coasts and in their major rivers, including Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.
For example, there is a region in the Southern part of Laos known as 4000 Islands, or Si Phan Don. These island are situated in the middle of a wide section of the Mekong River.
Many islands scattered throughout Southeast Asia are known for their white sand beaches and are often featured in movies. For instance, the island of Khao Phing Kan in Thailand was famously featured in a James Bond movie and the Phi Phi Islands of Thailand were the location for the film The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio. More well known picturesque islands include Bali in Indonesia, the flat beaches of Boracay, and the mountain islands of Palawan in the Philippines.
Long tail boats docked at Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Photo courtesy of Frankie Spontelli via Unsplash
Folks might be familiar with the experience hopping on a long tail boat to visit unique islands big and small, rural or resort filled, with varying climates, lifestyles, and settings. Apart from the breathtaking views, the islands are diverse and rich with culture that predates commercial tourism.
Islands in Southeast Asia are teeming with life. From unique creatures in the sea, animals and plants found in large coral reef foundations in shallow waters, to endemic species in the flourishing jungle and rainforest interiors, and mammals that roam the savannas and tropical grasslands.
Elephant along the Kinabatangan River, Malaysia on the island of Borneo
Photo courtesy of Rob Hampson via Unsplash
Borneo is the world's 3rd largest island and is politically shared by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. It is home to extremely diverse forests and rainforests, with over 15,000 plant species and more than 1,400 amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and unknown insects.
Tuk Tuk Box believes in honoring the biodiversity of the waters and the people - the life that sustains us.
Fish and seafood are a major food source, and is important for many locals' livelihoods. Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines are among the top countries in the world in terms of seafood capture and production. It's estimated that about 80% of people fishing across Southeast Asia operate at a small-scale.
Fishing port in Lý Sơn, Vietnam
Photo courtesy of Tuan Thanh Cao on Unsplash
Hạ Long Bay off the coast of Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin contains a stretch of over 1,600 limestone islands. Listed as a World Heritage Site, many of the islands are actually not inhabited by humans and numerous unique cave formations exist. About 1,700 people live in floating houses and boats in traditional fishing villages in the bay. They make a living traversing the waters, catching and selling fish.
Hạ Long Bay, Vietnam
Photo courtesy of Ammie Ngo via Unsplash
While some fishermen sell their catch to commercial fish markets, others bring back their catch to sell and eat within their own villages, like Talad Baan Plai Thon in Southern Thailand. Fishing is a means to sustain the community.
Vietnamese islands such as Phú Quốc and Son Rai are home to fisheries specifically known for the production of fish sauce. They are also the homes of Chef Tu David Phu & Danny Tran of Son's Fish Sauce. Danny Tran says, "In Vietnam we take fish sauce very seriously. Fish sauce is our identity. It is symbolic of our main resource of life: The ocean, fish and salt. That is reflected in the cuisine that we eat and our culture."
Overfishing and destructive fishing practices have become a major concern in recent years. In an article from The Asia Foundation, they discuss the threat that overfishing poses: "Across the region, 64 percent of the fisheries’ resource base is at a medium to high risk from overfishing, with Cambodia and the Philippines among the most heavily affected." They continue, "As competition for remaining fish stocks grows fiercer, some experts warn that the region’s entire fisheries industry will soon collapse. Estimates suggest that in order to prevent this, all countries fishing in the region would need to cease all destructive fishing practices and reduce harvest by nearly 50 percent."
While the landscapes among the islands are beautiful and continually put us in awe, the issues of coral bleaching, plastic pollution, and overabundance of tourism is creating a swell in environmental issues threatening not only the marine life, but the lifestyles of many communities. Rising sea levels also threaten fishing villages and communities relying on the sea for their daily needs.
Mount Merapi, Indonesia
Photo courtesy of Frenky Harry on Unsplash
Many of the islands across Southeast Asia are populated with volcanoes. Java, the biggest Indonesian island, has 15 active volcanoes. The Indonesian archipelago is also located right where major tectonic plates meet, making it very vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Colonial powers have created borders among the islands, but Tuk Tuk Box is doing our best to break them down through our mission and storytelling. The close proximity of the islands results in the sharing of languages, trading histories, religions, cultural practices, and food; transcending the borders drawn on paper. We must remind ourselves that the ocean connects us, not divides us.