Food and friendship...
Another sea paradise, Maya Bay in Thailand's southern province of Krabi, has been closed since June last year.
According to The Nation newspaper, at first authorities announced a temporary closing for four months. Then the restrictions were announced to remain until the ecosystem "fully recovers to a normal situation".
Unlike Manila, Bangkok had been reluctant to shut down the area for years due to tourism revenue of $12.5 million a year.
The golden sands and blue waters surrounded by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Leh Island have been among the most popular in the country since The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio was released in 2000.
The area received up to 5,000 tourists and 200 boats a day. The mass tourism has resulted in serious pollution and damage to the local coral reefs.
Food for thought
At an ASEAN tourism ministers' meeting held last year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, participants emphasized the need to expand the group's tourism products through collaborative arrangements with partners.
They also targeted gastronomy as a key driver to achieve inclusiveness and sustainable development for local agricultural producers and chefs and to re-connect rural and urban environments.
A joint declaration on gastronomy tourism was signed recognising the integral role that gastronomy plays in building competitive destination brands.
"Gastronomic tourism helps to create a strong sense of place for branding and marketing destinations, and also assists in maintaining and preserving local heritage and identity and protecting biodiversity," said the declaration.
The notion of heritage and identity through food is related to various sources and can be seen at local buffets at luxurious hotels to food stalls in the streets in capitals of member nations.
ASEAN is among the most fertile agricultural baskets in the world. The latest statistics from the ASEAN Secretariat show the region produced over 214 million tonnes of rice, 158 million tonnes of sugarcane, 87 million tonnes of cassava, 43 million tonnes of maize, and 1.5 million tonnes of soybean in 2016.
The impressive number of tourists to the region has urged agencies to implement various initiatives and infra- structure to boost gastronomic tourism.
The ASEAN Food and Cultural Festival was held in Hoà Chí Minh City in September 2017 drawing crowds of tourists from the region and beyond.
The executive committee of the city's Women's Union organised the event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ASEAN.
In Malaysia, local cuisine has been crucial in marketing tourism.
The country's International Durian Cultural Tourism Festival has become an annual fair.
Lonely Planet recognised Penang as one of the world's top 10 food destinations in 2014.
Thailand was an early practiser in gastro-diplomatic principles.
The "Global Thai" campaign kicked off in 2002 aiming to spread Thai food around the world. The Thai government has not only tried to draw tourists to the country, but has also tried to create opportunities for Thai and international chefs to cook Thai food.
Show time:Residents in the Thaùi Haûi Stilt House Preservation Ecological Tourism Village perform puppetry to entertain tourists. VNS Photo Nguyeãn Hieáu