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Filmart: Sun Entertainment Culture invests in international content (exclusive)

Entitled Shiseishi: The Tattoo Master, Shya’s neo-noir series is being produced in collaboration with the team behind popular Japanese drama Midnight Diner.
Each episode will follow the tattoo master as he works with a different client.One of Asia’s leading photographers, who also co-directed Fox-backed 2010 hit Hot Summer Nights, Shya said he plans to bring sci-fi and supernatural elements to the story.“In each episode, the tattoo master is transported to other dimensions where he finds inspiration for his designs,” Shya told Screen.SUNEC is in talks with other investors and platforms on the series, which is scheduled to start shooting in Japan in November for release in the second half of next year.
Further seasons are planned to shoot in other parts of Asia including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong.SUNEC is also investing in A Perfect Family and Inversion as part of its new strategy to “provide high-quality entertainment contents for worldwide audiences”, in addition to its existing production slate of China-focused films.Scheduled to start shooting in the US state of Georgia in May, A Perfect Family is a US-Hong Kong collaboration produced by Belle Avery (The Meg), Shaun Redick (Get Out) and Randy Greenberg (The Meg). The film follows two FBI agents assigned to investigate the disappearance of a priest.Produced by Markus Barmettler and Philip Lee, Inversion was first announced in 2016, before Sun was involved, and now has Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Mr Popper’s Penguins) on board to direct. Production is scheduled to start this summer in the US, UK, India, China and Hong Kong.Scripted by Li Wei (Shadow), the film follows a young Chinese physicist and US conman as they race to save the world from an inversion of gravity. Chinese actress Yang Cai Yu (Youth) is set to star.Suncity CEO Alvin Chau and SUNEC CEO Alex Dong and managing director Paco Wong will unveil the three projects at a press conference at Filmart today (March 18).

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Mixing Luxury and Budget Travel on the Same Trip

While my favorite way to maximize travel is through points and miles, my husband and I have come up with a few other tricks over the years to find.Our go-to technique for a vacation with the right mix of off-the-beaten path adventure mixed with pure luxury and true downtime is our high/low technique.Much like pairing an Ikea mirror with an Eames chair in your living room, mixing high-end travel with lower-cost experiences in the same trip can work well. It also has helped us tame our childrens unrealistic expectations around travel.
On a boat we rented for $15 in rural Vietnam High/Low in Practice.Our budget for accommodations during a recent weeklong vacation in Vietnam was an average of $350 per night. This was on the higher end, but it turned out to channel us toward hotels that we found didnt cater to families.Instead we chose to look for somewhere in the $75–$100 per night range for four nights followed by somewhere in the $500–750 range for the next three nights. We also tried to find a third or fourth night for free through select hotels in Amex’s Fine Hotels Resorts (FHR) program.FHR is available to holders of certain Amex cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. We loved exploring Hoi Ans food markets.

Tips for the Lower End:The key to the low end of the stay is to realize that while it may cost less, it isnt actually less enjoyable because it is culturally rich. During the low, we do lots of sightseeing and driving, eat at local restaurants or cook and keep costs relatively low by engaging in the local economy rather than staying insulated within a resort economy.Our family is able to see areas we wouldn’t normally get to enjoy if we were only sheltered at luxury hotels and resorts. It is also a great time to do purposeful travel.
Plus we often travel with our two young kids and want an Airbnb or family-run hotel for reasons beyond budget.Make sure youre using the best credit cards to book an Airbnb.We sometimes are able to book our low accommodations through Hotels.com/Venture and use my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card for 10x the points on the room stay, then use it toward our 10th night free with Hotels.com, which is effectively a 20% return.You can also choose a lower-category points hotel for your stay.
A large welcome bonus, such as the one offered by the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card that earns you 100,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, could get you several nights at a Category 1–4 Marriott redemption.Tips for the Higher EndWhen we head over to the high end, we enter pure resort mode — we don’t have to worry about driving or where to go for lunch because everything is right there.
We often do not leave the grounds because we’ve already explored and just want to stay put. We like to book the luxury piece at the end of the stay and utilize early check-in and late check-out to really stretch the stay (FHR benefits and elite status are great for this).This can be a fantastic time to use a high-end redemption to bring down costs and use the savings for extras such as cooking classes or a spa experience.During a 10-day trip to Bali, for example, we spent five nights in a low-cost villa and then did a five-night redemption at The Ritz-Carlton, Bali (Category 6, from 50,000 Marriott points), taking full advantage of its incredible kids club and inexpensive babysitting.
Here are many different ways to stay with your family in Bali using points.Our one-bedroom villa at Four Season Resort The Nam Hai.Riding on the sleeper train between our high- and low-cost stays in Vietnam.Lower End: Rural VietnamIn Vietnam, our lower end stay was in the Bong Lai Valley at Phong Nha Farmstay for $85 per night, including breakfast.It was essentially a backpackers spot, but had a large family room next to the owner’s apartment. My older son became fast friends with the owner’s son, Howie, and talked about him for months afterward.Enjoying the cooler weather at Phong Nha Farmstay.In Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, we rented a private 14-seat boat for just for the four of us where I could easily breastfeed the baby; the privacy gave us the flexibility to turn back if our 2-year-old was scared of the caves.The three-hour cave gondola ride was $15, plus a $6.50 entrance fee for the national park.Rather than a scary experience, the ride turned out to be peaceful and done at the perfect pace for our family.Another day, we took advantage of the advertised free bikes at the farmstay.
The only family bike had a flat seat on the back. We used my sarong to tie my older son on the back, and my husband wore the baby on his front over the bumpy, muddy roads to the only local attraction called The Duck Stop.Using a hand-drawn map, we found the family-run spot, which offered a package of food and a visit to see their raft of ducks ($4, kids free). Suddenly, we were in borrowed sandals and feed was being thrown on our feet.The ducks chased us while trying to bite our feet with their bills as the owner screamed, “It’s like a massage!” We then greeted the resident water buffalo before heading back on our bikes. These are the types of peculiar travel experiences that I had while backpacking in my 20s and love having again with my family (my husband less so).

High: Four Seasons The Nam HaiAs much as I love reliving my backpacking days, entering the Four Seasons Nam Hai was extraordinary. We booked with a fourth night free, which brought the cost down from $750 per night to $660 per night for a one-bedroom, ocean-view villa with an included exquisite breakfast.Yes, that is pricey, but that is why we balance it out with more affordable accommodations. We also considered the Intercontinental Nha Trang, Vietnam using IHG Rewards Club points from the generous IHG®  Rewards Club Premier Card (bonus currently up to 120k points) and the fourth consecutive award night free for cardholders.
The magical thing about a luxury resort is that they pretty much know where you are at all times and can reach you. With the kids safely in childcare, we attended a Vietnamese cooking class arranged by the hotel that included a visit to the local market.
When we returned from the market with our fresh ingredients, the cooking assistant notified the babysitter to bring my youngest son to me at the cooking school via a golf cart because he needed to breastfeed.When the baby finished his lunch, his babysitter whisked him away again, which made me feel like a mother in “Downton Abbey.” We could not have dropped the fresh shrimp into hot sizzling oil with our tiny children in tow. The Cooking Academy was $115 each and included our fantastic five-course lunch of grilled calamari skewers, grouper in banana leaf and wok-fried prawns in tamarind sauce.To round off the experience, on our last night we went into the ever so photogenic Hoi An to see the lanterns lining the streets. We wandered the streets until our children melted down, and then hopped in a taxi back to the hotel and into bed.
When packing the next morning, we realized that my DSLR camera was gone and must have been left in the taxi. Normally, that might been adios to the camera, but the hotel quickly pulled the license plates off the security camera of us arriving the night before, located the driver and had my camera back in my hands by our 11am departure.That could have been a sour note to end the vacation. Instead we were happy to be staying somewhere where we were just taken care of — our problem suddenly became their problem.We enjoyed the bountiful breakfast buffet rather than scrambling to track down the camera and avoided the sadness of losing all the photos from our trip in Asia with the kids, including those in this story. It was also a reminder to make sure I know what insurance protections my credit cards have.

Bottom Line:The adage goes that a vacation with kids is just a trip and never a vacation. After enjoying sightseeing and adventure time, end your family trip at a luxury resort with safe, reliable on-site childcare so you have time to truly unwind and maybe even have a date before returning home.Using this high/low method, you can average out the costs either with points or cash while enjoying both secluded luxury and local culture.Have you ever tried a high/low vacation? How does your family balance different interests during travel?Know before you go.News and deals straight to your inbox every day.The Business Platinum® Card from American ExpressAside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

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Forbes Travel Guide Reveals Its 2019 Star Award Winners

Forbes Travel Guide’s inspectors scoured the globe to discover the world’s best hotels, restaurants and spas for our 2019 Star Award winners.

Credit: Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi AnForbes Travel Guide’s inspectors scoured the globe to discover the world’s best hotels, restaurants and spas for our 2019 Star Award winners.For the 61st annual list, we expanded to new destinations, including Anguilla, Bahrain, Belize, Danang, Doha, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Istanbul, Oman, Perth, the Swiss Alps, Tel Aviv and Uruguay. The result is our biggest and most diverse group of honorees yet.To find the top luxury experiences, our inspectors checked into a hotel for a minimum of two nights and posed as ordinary guests. Once there, they tested up to 900 objective, exacting standards that covered everything from whether a staff member greets you curbside within 30 seconds of pulling up in a car to whether housekeeping arranges toiletries on top of high-quality underliners on the counter.
The ratings emphasize graciousness, thoughtfulness and personalized service: 75 percent of a hotel’s score is based on its level of service, while 25 percent is determined by the quality of its facilities (for more on how a hotel earns a rating, click here).See the full list of Star-Rated properties here.
Below are some highlights from this year’s esteemed winners:Fairmont Pacific Rim. Credit: FRHI Hotels ResortsHotelsThe Peninsula Hotels emerged as the biggest winner it’s the first all Five-Star hotel company in Forbes Travel Guide history.The Peninsula Manila earned its inaugural Five-Star award, giving the Hong Kong-based brand a total of 10 top-rated hotels.Another brand with a stellar year was Bulgari Hotels Resorts, which claimed a trifecta of Five-Star honors for Bulgari Hotel Beijing; Bulgari Hotel Residences, London; and Bulgari Resort Bali.
This marks the first Five-Star wins for the company synonymous with the luxurious Roman jeweler.Elsewhere around the globe, countries seized their first Five-Star hotel distinction.
Among them were Malaysia’s Crockfords at Resorts World Genting, a secret spot whose luxurious rooms are mostly reserved for high rollers at the nearby casino; Portugal’s Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, an icon whose outdoor rooftop track affords one of the best views of the city; South Korea’s The Shilla Seoul, a historic property outfitted with the latest technology from owner Samsung; Turkey’s Raffles Istanbul, which boasts an unbeatable location in Zorlu Center mall amid high-end shops, restaurants and an Eataly; and Vietnam’s Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An, a dreamy beach escape with three tiers of infinity pools and breezy villas.Other newcomers to the list include three hotels in the British capital: The Langham, London, whose experimental Artesian bar is a destination unto itself; Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, London, which makes a triumphant comeback after a June 2018 fire; and Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London, which resides in one of the city’s most-recognized buildings, the hulking Renzo Piano-designed Shard.Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Credit: Four Seasons Hotels LimitedPlus, Five-Star awards went to Fairmont Pacific Rim, a sleek Vancouver spot offering Coal Harbour vistas and the see-and-be-seen restaurant Botanist; Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris, the 1909 grande dame that had a major facelift in 2017; and Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, where each of the bright, modern rooms comes with views of the glittering gulf.
And there are two new Five-Star standouts in the United States. On the tiny 141-square-mile Hawaiian isle of Lanai, Four Seasons Resort Lanai offers the exclusivity of a private island alongside amenities like an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course (Bill Gates got married at the stunning 12th hole overlooking crashing waves).Salamander Resort Spa, an elegant equestrian-themed countryside getaway outside of D.C.was inspired by the home of Sheila C. Johnson, founder of the Salamander Hotels Resorts group and co-founder of BET.The final tally was 21 new Five-Star, 49 new Four-Star and 62 new Recommended hotels.

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Top North Korean official says his country faces major food shortages, blaming weather and …

A senior North Korean official says his country is facing dwindling food supplies and has been forced to cut food rations for its people, according to memo, written by Kim Song, the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, appears to be an unusual admission that the country lacks enough food to feed its people, a situation that Kim blamed on a combination of natural disasters and the sanctions regime that is making it difficult to obtain farming equipment.Song said the North Korean government was urgently requesting help from international organizations to feed its people.The memo was obtained by NBC News from the country’s United Nations mission.
Kim’s claims are difficult to verify, and his government has not always been a reliable source of internal statistics. He said a food assessment, conducted late last year in conjunction with the UN’s World Food Program, found that the country produced 503,000 fewer tons of food than in 2017 due to record high temperatures, drought, heavy rainfall and — in an unexpected admission — sanctions.In a plea for food assistance from international organizations, however, the memo states that sanctions “restricting the delivery of farming materials in need is another major reason” the country faces shortages that has forced it to cut “food rations per capita for a family of blue or white collar workers” from 550 grams to 300 grams in January.“All in all, it vindicates that humanitarian assistance from the UN agencies is terribly politicized and how barbaric and inhuman sanctions are,” the memo says.Though the country plans to increase food imports and harvest its crops early this year, the memo says that North Korea would still face food shortages and may only increase rations by 10 grams in July.This unusual admission from a country that tends toward secrecy came just before President Donald Trump prepares to face North Korea leader Kim Jong Un next week in Vietnam.The White House hopes to pressure Kim to rid his country of nuclear weapons.Experts warned, however, that the claims of a severe shortage might be a negotiating tactic ahead of the two-day summit.
“It may be admitting weakness, but it’s not without a plan,” said Dr. Victor Cha, who served as the director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council during the Bush administration.Cha said that North Korea may feel that it has some momentum to convince Trump to loosen the sanctions against it, especially with South Korea, China and Russia “beating down the doors of the United States.”But for the United States to blink in next week’s confrontation, the Trump administration will have to see results, Cha said.Related News Trump says second summit with North Koreas Kim Jong Un will be in Hanoi“They’re going to want some denuclearization steps from North Korea, but I don’t think the North Koreans are going to give up very much,” Cha said. “When we talk about any sanction-lifting though, a lot of experts would say the place where you can do the least harm and the most good for the North Korean people is through humanitarian sanctions.”Of North Korea’s 25 million people, 10.3 million or 41 percent of the population face food insecurity and 10.1 million suffer from malnutrition, according to a March 2018 UN report.North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No.1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released in Pyongyang Sept. 13, 2016.  KCNA / via Reuters fileIn an attempt to increase the pressure against Kim’s regime and their nuclear program, the Trump administration increased sanctions that essentially cut off the flow of international humanitarian aid to North Korea, according to an August Reuters report. U.S. humanitarian aid in 2018 dropped nearly 57 percent from the year prior, the wire service reported.Though it is clear that North Korea is receiving less aid, it is more than unusual for them to publicly admit that sanctions are working and causing the nation to suffer.The White House National Security Council and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.North Korea has previously acknowledged food shortages, appealed for humanitarian aid and blamed international sanctions for creating problems for its agricultural production, experts and former U.S. officials said. The country has repeatedly suffered food crises in recent decades, due to a combination of inefficient collectivist farming methods and bad weather.
A devastating famine in the mid-1990s claimed the lives of up to three million people, and some aid experts called it one of the 20th century’s worst famines.Last year, the Trump administration stopped granting visas to humanitarian workers who had been traveling to North Korea to provide aid to farmers and medical assistance in a country where malaria and tuberculosis are endemic.Aid groups wrote a letter to the administration in October arguing that the block on visas violated international law, would exacerbate the country’s dire humanitarian situation and that would only undermine any diplomatic initiative by Washington.The administration told aid groups in January it would ease the restrictions to allow them to resume their work in the North.
Daniel Jasper, advocacy coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker charity that has conducted humanitarian work in North Korea for decades, said the sanctions and the way they have been enforced has “inhibited our operations.”“It’s reasonable to infer there would be food insecurity” as a result of the sanctions, Jasper said.Even if North Korea managed its resources more efficiently, it does not have enough arable land to feed its population of about 24 million people, Jasper said. Much of the Korean peninsula’s fertile land lies in South Korea.“The division has always taken a toll on food security in the North,” he said.The North Korean regime in the past also has linked negotiations over its nuclear program to food aid, demanding more assistance as a condition for taking part in talks.The new memo is consistent with Pyongyang’s tactics “to weaken the sanctions regime by appealing to humanitarian concerns,” said Jung Pak, a former CIA officer and now senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Even though the regime imports hundreds of millions of dollars in luxury items, it consistently blames the U.S. and U.N. for its problems,” she said.Sue Mi Terry, who tracked North Korea as a CIA analyst, said she believes the regime is preparing the way for the upcoming summit.“What they want is sanctions relief.That’s the main thing that they’re looking for,” said Terry, now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They are laying the groundwork for this meeting with Trump.This makes sense.”The Trump administration will probably be open to broadening exemptions for humanitarian aid, as it would be something concrete to offer to Pyongyang without having to fully lift the economic sanctions before North Korea makes substantial concessions over its nuclear weapons program, she said.This could be “one of the deliverables at this second summit,” Terry said.Phil McCauslandPhil McCausland is an NBC News reporter focused on the rural-urban divide.

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Trade deficit shrinks $2.1b but exports fail to pick up pace

ISLAMABAD: The trade deficit in first seven months of the current fiscal year shrank one-tenth to $19.3 billion due to reduction in imports but exports again did not pick up pace despite steep currency depreciation of 33% in the past one year and grant …
3 billion due to reduction in imports but exports again did not pick up pace despite steep currency depreciation of 33% in the past one year and grant of massive subsidies in the last almost three years.
The trade deficit, which stood at $21.3 billion in July-January FY18, contracted 9.7% to $19.3 billion in the corresponding period of current fiscal year, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).In absolute terms, there was a decline of $2.1 billion in the deficit, which was a huge relief for the government.Imports during the July-January FY19 period dropped 5.2% or $1.8 billion to $32.5 billion.

However, the pace of increase in exports did not match the facilitation measures that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as well as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) governments had taken since 2016.Exports in first seven months of FY19 amounted to only $13.2 billion, up 2.24% or $290 million.This came despite the fact that the central bank, in consultation with the finance ministry, let the currency depreciate 32.7% since December 2017. The rupee has weakened over 15% since the start of current fiscal year in July 2018.The PML-N government doled out a Rs180-billion package to the exporters.
The PTI administration has also offered an incentive package of over Rs30 billion in the shape of lower gas and electricity prices for export-focused industries. Exports were not picking up momentum due to the lag effect of currency devaluation, remarked Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood.
He voiced hope that exports would gain pace in the next couple of months once all the policy and administrative measures were fully in place. Dawood said because of the trade war between the US and China, US buyers were shifting towards Vietnam, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which would give a boost to Pakistan’s exports.Pakistan had closed the last fiscal year with a trade deficit of $37.6 billion, which became the key reason behind the highest-ever current account deficit of $18.9 billion. The PTI government wants to cut the trade deficit to about $26 billion, which seems highly unlikely now.

The value of exported goods was 245% less than the value of imports a ratio that was slightly better than the previous month.The trade balance in January 2019 compared to January last year significantly improved, again primarily because of contraction in imports.The trade deficit shrank 31.7% to $2.5 billion in January this year. In absolute terms, there was a reduction of $1.1 billion in the deficit.Trade deficit shrinks 5% to $16.8b as imports go down On a month-on-month basis, the exports contracted 1.8% in January over the preceding month.Exports decreased $37 million to $2 billion. Imports, however, rose 1.4% to $4.5 billion in January.

Resultantly, the trade deficit widened 4.1% to $2.5 billion in January over December.Exports rise 30% in rupee termsSpeaking at a press conference on Monday, Dawood said the trade deficit had been brought down by $2 billion in first seven months of the current financial year as runaway imports had been squeezed.“We are hopeful that the deficit will go down by $4-5 billion by the end of current financial year,” he said.Trade volume between Pakistan, Sri Lanka surges after FTAExports increased 4% in dollar terms in January 2019 compared to the corresponding month of previous year.

However, he said, the increase in exports was 30% in rupee terms due to depreciation of the rupee. In January 2019, imports came down 19% in dollars terms and 31..7% in rupee terms, the adviser said.He pointed out that the government had imposed regulatory duty on non-essential goods and imposed ban on furnace oil imports.“Imports were higher last year due to the import of machinery for power plants; the government’s policy of squeezing imports is yielding results,” he stressed.The PM adviser said domestic sale of cement had dropped 9% but its exports rose 50%, reaching $180 million in Jul-Jan FY19.Cement was mainly exported to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He pointed out that Pakistan was importing edible oil of over $3 billion per annum and the government wanted to curtail it by focusing on sunflower and canola crops in the country.
The adviser, however, emphasised that he was not satisfied with the current volume of exports, adding that textile units had the capacity to enhance shipments to overseas markets. Speaking on the occasion, Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha revealed that the government was focusing on exploring markets of African countries and would open trade offices in big countries of the continent with higher economic growth.

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