Travel Facts

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A Look at…Japan

photos by Helle Simonsen, Raimey Olthuis

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Capital: Tokyo

Population: 127 million

Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY)

Time: PST + 17 hours

Government: Constitutional monarchy

Official Language: Japanese

Religion: Mainly Shinto and Buddhist

Climate: Temperate plus rainy season, June–July and typhoon season, August–September. Hot, humid summers. Bitterly cold winters in north.

Health: Update routine immunizations. Additional health insurance advised. Japan restricts some inhalers and other medications commonly used in Canada.

Health and Travel Advisories: Public Health Agency of CanadaTravel Health Online

Visa: Not required for stays less than 90 days. Required for longer stays or paid work.

Contacts: Japanese Consulate VancouverCanadian Embassy TokyoCanadian Chamber of Commerce Japan

Bits: Sumo is Japan’s national sport and has existed for over 1000 years. Only a sumo wrestler can wear the distinctive topknot hairstyle. To keep their weight up, they eat a rich stew called chanko-nabe before bed. The heaviest wrestler was former ozeki ranked Konishiki, who weighed in at 275 kg. However, weight and size do not determine success in the dohyo ring. Sumo wrestlers use various techniques to win. A bout lasts an average two minutes, with the loser the first to touch the ground or be pushed out of the ring. Sometimes a wrestler will bounce right out of the ring onto those seated below.

A Look at…China

photos by Cynthia Crick

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 Capital: Beijing

Population: 1.3 billion

Currency: Chinese Renminbi (RMB)

Time: PST + 16 hours

Government: Communist

Official Language: Mandarin

Official Religions: Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic

Climate: Temperate, tropical and semi-desert regions.

Health: Malaria risk in southern border areas.

Visa: Required.

Contacts: Chinese Consulate Vancouver,  Canadian Embassy BeijingCanada China Business Council

Bits: China’s biggest construction project since the Great Wall is slated to finish by 2009. The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is the world’s largest power project, with a planned capacity of 18,200 MW. Flooding 632 square kilometers of land to create a reservoir has forced the resettlement of 820,000 people. Some towns were abandoned and buildings demolished to make way for the floodwaters. Historic temples have been dismantled and rebuilt on higher ground. Controversy has dogged the project with allegations of corruption leading to shoddy construction or the improper allocation of resettlement funds. Meanwhile, the water is rising.

A Look at…Cambodia

photos by Cynthia Crick

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Capital: Phnom Penh

Population: 12 million

Currency: Cambodian Riel (KHR)

Time: PST + 15 hours

Government: Multiparty constitutional monarchy

Official Language: Khmer

Religion: Mainly Buddhist

Climate: Tropical. Rainy, May–October. Dry, November–April

Health: Malaria risk in some areas.

Contacts: Cambodian Embassy USACanadian Embassy Phnom Penh

Visa: Required. Visa on arrival or apply Seattle consulate.

A Look at…Indonesia

photos by Veronique Meurgues

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Capital: Jakarta

Population: 220 million

Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)

Time: PST + 15, 16, 17 hours

Government: Republic

Official Language: Indonesian

Religion: Mainly Muslim

Climate: Tropical. Rainy, October–April. Dry, May–September

Health: No malaria risk in tourist areas.

Visa: Required. Visa on arrival possible. Business travellers advised to apply in advance.

Contacts: Indonesian Consulate VancouverCanadian Embassy Jakarta

A Look at…Thailand

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photos by Helle Simonsen & Cynthia Crick

Capital: Bangkok

Population: 64 million

Currency: Thai Baht (THB)

Time: PST + 15 hours

Government: Constitutional monarchy

Official Language: Thai

Religion: Mainly Buddhist

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Climate: Tropical. Warmer rainy, cooler dry seasons vary between north and south. Very hot, March–April

Health: Malaria risk in rural forest/jungle areas.

Visa: Not required for tourist stays less than 30 days. Required for work, study or longstay for retired people over 50 years old.

Contacts: Thai Consulate VancouverCanadian Embassy Bangkok,Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Bits: Water pistols all but sell out in April as Thais get ready for Songkran. This is Thai New Year by the lunar calendar. The devout bathe Buddha figures with scented water and people throw water on each other to symbolize cleansing and renewal. What was once a gentle sprinkling of water, though, has turned into massive water fights in some areas. As many head to family in the provinces, Bangkok streets become eerily quiet, making it all the more shocking when a cannon of water hits you from a passing pickup truck.

A Look at…South Korea

photos by Cosmin Visan

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Capital: Seoul

Population: 48 million

Currency: South Korean Won (KRW)

Time: PST + 17 hours

Government: Republic

Official Language: Korean

Religion: Mainly Buddhist and Christian

Climate: Temperate. Cold winters, hot summers.

Health: Malaria risk in North Korea border areas.

Visa: Visa on arrival for tourists, business (unpaid) travellers. Stay 90–180 days.

Contacts: Korean Consulate VancouverCanadian Embassy SeoulKorea Trade-Investment Promotion

A Look at…Philippines

photos by Cynthia Crick

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Capital: Manila

Population: 82 million

Currency: Philippine Peso (PHP)

Time: PST + 16 hours

Government: Republic

Official Language: Filipino

Religion: Mainly Catholic

Climate: Tropical. Rainy, June–October. Dry, November–May

Visa: Not required for tourist stays up to 21 days. Business travellers advised to apply in advance.

Contacts: Philippine Consulate VancouverCanadian Embassy ManilaPhilippines-Canada Trade Council

A Look at…Vietnam

photos by Erika Richardson

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Capital: Hanoi

Population: 81 million

Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND)

Time: PST + 15 hours

Government: Communist

Official language: Vietnamese

Religion: Mainly Buddhist, some Christian

Climate: Cooler north, tropical south. Rainy, June–November

Health: Malaria risk in rural and highland areas.

Visa: Required.

Contacts: Vietnamese Embassy OttawaCanadian Embassy Hanoi

Bits: The line can stretch for blocks outside Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi. Uncle Ho, still revered, lies embalmed inside. Monitors keep watch to ensure silence as visitors file past, mesmerized by the waxen features of his preserved body. The building closes periodically when Ho Chi Minh’s body is moved to Russia for maintenance. It’s been over 30 years since he died, and rumour has it the blanket covering his lower extremities is slowly creeping up.

A Look at…Burma

photos by Helle Simonsen

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Official Name: Myanmar

Capital: Yangon

Population: 48 million

Currency: Myanmar Kyat (MMK), Foreign Exchange Cert. (FEC)

Time: PST + 14.5 hours

Government: Military regime

Official Language: Burmese

Religion: Mainly Buddhist

Climate: Tropical. Cool, October–February. Hot, Mar–May. Rainy, June–September

Health: Malaria risk in rural areas.

Visa: Required. Mandatory exchange of $200 US on entry.

Contacts: Myanmar Embassy Ottawa,

Canadian Embassy Bangkok, Thailand has consular responsibility for Myanmar

Bits: At dusk each evening a line of sweepers walks the perimeter of Schwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, brooms moving in unison. They sweep to gain merit, an important part of the Buddhist faith. To the east, pilgrims watch the sun set over Kyaikteyo, a giant gold leaf covered rock balanced on a cliff edge. On the Irawaddy River to the north, thousands of temple ruins at Bagan glow warmly in the sun’s last rays. Buddhism is a part of daily life for many people in Burma, and even children become monks or nuns.

Health and Travel Advisories: Public Health Agency of CanadaTravel Health Online

Update routine immunizations. Vaccinate against hepatitis, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, rabies depending on area visited. Evacuation coverage advised.

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Fact Sheet Researchers

Allan Bayhon, Carmen A. Gelette, Robert Golbeck, Laura Hinkelman, Dorina Latis, Jacqlyn Lawrence, Ngoc Le, Melany Lund, Samantha Marciniak, Aili Meutzner, Sonja Nedd, Jennifer Nicklason, Kathleen Peters, Allyson Podrats, Marianne Powley, Clara Rigonan, Sammi Sam, Winnie Siu, Sharon Visser, Diana Yip