From an Islamic sex guide preaching polygamy in Malaysia to UFO sightings in Thailand, Southeast Asia often proves that truth is stranger than fiction, and 2011 was no exception. Here are ten stories that made us look twice over this past year.
1. E.T. Phones Thailand and Picks Up the Tab for the Call
Everybody from fund managers to jet-setting diplomats is talking about the world’s center of gravity shifting to Asia. Now, extraterrestrials appear to be taking notice, too.
2. China Tests Buddha-Tooth Diplomacy in Myanmar
When China wants another country to feel all warm and fuzzy, it sends a panda. But Myanmar gets something special: A sacred Buddha tooth.
3. Single Asian President Seeks Soul Mate for a Very Public Romance
Filipinos are grappling with terrorists in the south, allegations of corruption in the military and a recent fire that razed thousands of homes. But the topic that seems to hold the public’s endless fascination: the president’s love life.
4. Malaysian Obedient Wives Club Launches Sex Guide
It seems a strange way to build up support for traditional Islamic beliefs, but Malaysia’s Obedient Wives Club says it is all right for a husband to have sex with all of his wives at the same time. In some circumstances, it might even be encouraged.
5. As Floodwaters Rise, So Do Thais’ Crocodile Fears
The best way to catch a crocodile, says Praiphan Thienthong, is with patience and electric shock.
6. Nazi-Themed Sports Day Draws Criticism in Thailand
Questions are growing in Thailand about how school students in Chiang Mai were able to adopt a Nazi theme for their school sports-day on Friday, wearing outfits modeled on those of SS guards and waving huge swastika banners.
7. Indonesians Praise Ghost-Buster Guard
Indonesians take their ghosts very seriously, so when Sunarya encountered one of country’s dreaded crawling nurse ghosts in his lobby he did what any good security guard would do: He kicked her in the face.
8. Guys, This Pearl Jewelry is For You
Do real men wear pearls? Jewelmer International, a French-Filipino jewelry company, hopes to convince consumers that the answer is yes. The rare golden Palawan South Sea pearls it sells are plenty cool for tough guys — and it launched a new men’s line last year to prove it, employing actor Piolo Pascual for the ad campaign.
9. Protestors Fail To Occupy Singapore
For a group that boasted defiance, and even designed a profile picture on Facebook with the words, “we will not remain silent,” the organizers of the planned Occupy Raffles Place event in Singapore were very quiet.
10. Thailand’s Dummy Cops Are Really Watching Now
Who’s the dummy now? After Bangkok’s city leaders deployed decoy surveillance cameras across Bangkok to save money, Thai law enforcers are now sending out a squad of dummy policemen with real video cameras fitted to their heads to scare people into complying with the law—and to make them realize that the city’s battery of closed-circuit television cameras aren’t just empty boxes.