A sojourn to Europe has left Lai See in a single currency frame of mind. This being our first trip back since the euro became legal tender at the beginning of March, we were interested to see how it worked in practice. Thoughts of wildly fluctuating prices from Spain to Greece for eggs and chips and a copy of an English tabloid newspaper had us sweating in our holiday shell-suit. The trip across the English Channel began with the typical pre-holiday trip to the Bureau de Change. As Britain has yet to join the 12-member eurozone, British holiday-makers are still at the mercy of exorbitant commission and buy-sell spreads when changing their sterling into euros. After filling our pockets with the new notes and coins we set off to put the theory into practice. The advantages of a single currency soon became clear as passage from one country to the next was eased by the absence of unnecessary stops to change money, and pockets containing enough useless loose change to settle the debt of a small South American country. One of the driving forces behind the single European currency was the region's bid to become more competitive as a single trading bloc by removing the cost of currency conversion. With Hong Kong labouring under an economic malaise fuelled in part by a fixed exchange rate our thoughts turned to a single currency for the Asia-Pacific region. Not a new idea, a single currency for Asia has been mooted for some time. Unfortunately, even the optimists have put a 20-year time-frame as the minimum for its introduction. However, even if the countries in the region could agree on convergence criteria (let alone meet them), Lai See believes there are some fundamentals that would make introducing a single currency a tough call. After much head-scratching the powers-that-be in Europe came up with the euro for its currency denomination. By adopting the same criteria for a single currency in this region we could be paying our hotel bill in Thailand with asians. Perhaps not. The alternative is the asso but again, who wants to pay a Phuket bar-owner in assos. The history of today's European single currency can be traced back to September 19, 1946, when Winston Churchill called for a 'kind of United States of Europe' in a speech he gave at the Zurich University. In their infinite wisdom politicians decided that the Belgian capital of Brussels would be the centre for European Union bureaucracy. Historians are divided over what could have been the touch-paper for discussion of a United States of Asia but many believe it may have been a foreign tourist in Manila who was overheard asking how many Asians he could buy for a dollar. There may also be some contention regarding where to locate politicians managing a centralised Asia. Geographically (and backed up by popular public opinion) the centre of Asia appears to be the barren uninhabited Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, about two-thirds of the way between Vietnam and the Philippines. A big issue for European countries adopting the single currency was a loss of identity, particularly when it came to the design for the new notes and coins. As well as identity, the new currency had to satisfy demands for security, weight and size. In the end, illustrations depicting architectural styles of seven periods in Europe's cultural history were chosen. As in Europe, many Asian countries feature their king or queen on the nation's currency. Several countries in the region may not even consider a unified design omitting their heads of state. Speculation has Malaysia opting for a royal presence on the largest of denominations while Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail remains on the throne. So while a single currency for Asia has its appeal, it is likely to be some time before the region's population gets its hands on some assos.