Hong Kong: horrible histories

27 05 2017

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Facts I learned from Jan Morris’s charmingly dated (it was written in the 1990s by an author most interested in British colonial history) book about Hong Kong:

  • The pre-colonial inhabitants of the area suffered from a “horror called Xhu Mao Bing, the Bristle Disease,whose victims found spiky bristles like pighairs (sometimes apparently fishscales, too} sprouting through their skin.” Curious, I looked this up online but couldn’t find any other reference to it anywhere.
  • In 1857 a Chinese nationalist plot poisoned the city’s bread supply, (presumably few Chinese ate bread in those days so it was a cunning way to target the British administrative elite). The dosage of arsenic was miscalculated however, so that the poisoning lead to mass European vomitting but not death, and the colonial regime survived.
  • The first ever hijacking of an aeroplane occurred in 1940 on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Macau by sea pirates looking to diversify.
  • Smoking opium was legal until 1940.
  • Under the Japanese occupation, Queens Road Central was re-named Naka Meiji-dori and a monumental Shinto temple was planned for construction on the Peak (but blown up when the occupation ended).
  • It was not until 1981 that the census recorded more than 50% of the population had been locally born, rather than migrants from the mainland. So in other words, the influx of people (and money) from the mainland is nothing new. Rather, the brief relative lull during the 1980s and 1990s was the outlier.




Southeast Asia Weird

17 05 2017

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In just about the least horrifying news out of Indonesia this week (scroll up) , the decomposing body of a “sea monster” washed up on one of its beaches. It is, most likely, the carcass of a whale.

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Meanwhile Bangkok experienced a new food fad, with a bakery in Pathum Thani gaining online fame for this adorable/creepy dog-shaped coconut puddings. Can’t wait to eat on of these puppies…literally.

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And finally in Singapore, a new “vending machine” for luxury cars opened in the form of an arrestingly designed showroom where with the flick of a switch you can “select” the car you want to test.





Japanese ghost story

27 04 2017

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Scenes from the Kaikidan Ekotoba, a nineteenth century Japanese scroll illustrating 33 kinds of monsters said to inhabit the wilds of Kyushu and Korea.

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BKK ruins

19 04 2017

 

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With swathes of central Bangkok facing the wrecking ball, its a good time to discover the urbex photography of Dax Ward, who has documented the ruins of Bangkok’s ghost skyscrapers, train and aeroplane graveyards and sites like this abandoned Cape Crusader-themed nightclub on Pattaya’s ‘Soi Batman’.

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See more at daxward.com.





Bangkok werewolf

8 04 2017

The new Thai celebrity trend – pet werewolves.

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At The Instagram Pier

19 03 2017

A friend was leaving town this weekend, and hosted her “adieu Hong Kong” bash at the ‘Instagram Pier’, a cargo loading bay that has become a de facto public park in cramped Hong Kong. Located along the Kennedy Town waterfront, it was known for many years as a gathering spot for Hokkien-speaking seniors to play mahjong and listen to Chinese opera ( there was some there this weekend) as well as a premium spot for thrill-seekers to watch typhoon waves during the Summer storms. Recently, it has been adopted by hipsters and those seeking the perfect Hong Kong harbour sunset pic (hence the name).

Arriving on a cold and drizzly Saturday night, we walked past vast piles of bamboo poles, ready to be hauled across town for construction projects, by the lines of bobbing tugboats in the dark sea and into the shelter afforded by a little cargo hut. People were walking dogs with neon-glowing collars, cruising past on bikes or skateboards, someone was flying a drone. A woman in a red dress was doing a photo-shoot and some girls were shooting a semi-professional-looking music video while a large group of young Japanese lay on tatami mats, having a picnic.

The highlight though was an impromptu serenade by a string quartet, playing atop a grafittied cargo crate. They popped up, played beautifully and then melted away again into the night…

 





New sensation

18 02 2017

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Thailand led the world in embracing internet-sensation-du-jour, the headbanging “trash dove” – now more sinisterly co-opted by white nationalists online.