Archive for the Asia Category

Photographs and Memories

Posted in Asia, Clips, Science, Travel on October 22, 2014 by frankbures

oct-Cutler2014078-1From The Rotarian:

In the middle of Hong Kong Island is a mountain known as the Peak. A cable car climbs the slope from the city, arriving at a building called the Peak Tower. Take the escalators to the top and you’ll find one of the most breathtaking views in the world.

On one side is the forest of skyscrapers that makes up the megacity of Hong Kong. On the other, trees cover the mountain as it sweeps down to the ocean, which itself stretches out to the horizon. A cool wind from the sea washes over Peak Tower, and on the currents above, raptors drift, looking for prey. Below, through Hong Kong’s hazy air, helicopters fly, and further out boats slip through the harbor across giant waves that look almost gentle from the Peak.

I stood there for almost two hours when I was in Hong Kong recently. I didn’t want the experience to end. I wanted to soak it up, not knowing if I would be back. I took a few photos, but most of the time I just looked out over the edge.

Before long, the other tourists in my group left and new ones arrived. This happened several times, and the more I watched, the more puzzled I became. Over and over, I saw people stand at the edge with their phones and cameras. They would take one picture, look at it, delete it, then take another.

Some people did this again and again until they got the right one. When satisfied, they left. Another time, I watched an entire family take some photos, then sit down on a bench and stare at their phones for half an hour. They barely seemed to know where they were.

Read the rest here.

Riding the Kingdom of Bicycles

Posted in Asia, Clips, Travel on June 16, 2014 by frankbures

BikingHainanFrom the Financial Times:

High in the mountains of China’s southernmost province – the island of Hainan – I walk into a long room full of bikes. They’re a far cry from the lumbering machines that once led to China becoming known as the “kingdom of bicycles”.

These are a new breed: mountain bikes and road bikes, all made of high-end carbon fibre. They are light and fast and not one of them has a rack for carrying sacks of rice. These bikes are built for speed, for the joy of riding and nothing else. They are a sign of all that has changed in China.

“Those were good bikes,” says Frank Ji, when I ask him about the old ones. “They would go and go and go but nobody buys them any more.” Ji is owner of Velo China, a bike rental and touring company based in Wuzhishan, and has agreed to show me why Hainan, the so-called “Hawaii of the east”, has become a magnet for cyclists.

Read the rest here.

Strange Stones (Review)

Posted in Asia, Books, Clips, Travel Writers on April 21, 2014 by frankbures

SSFrom The Rotarian:

In the hills outside the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, writer Peter Hessler found himself at a restaurant specializing in a particular delicacy: rat. Not everyday city rat, but freshly caught mountain rat, the kind that spends its days eating the fruits of the forest.

This is typical of the places Hessler likes to take his readers – that is, wherever ordinary people are eating, joking, talking, living. He spent 10 years in China after arriving there as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, and his books, including River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze and Oracle Bones, led to a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2011. His newest book, Strange Stones: Dispatches From East and West (Harper Perennial, 2013), is a collection of stories set in China, in rural Colorado (where he and his wife moved in 2007), and in Japan.

Read the rest here.

Are You Experienced? On investing in memories

Posted in Asia, Clips, Travel on March 17, 2014 by frankbures

Cutler2013139-1-620x620It was after 17 hours – in no fewer than 10 vehicles – along a jolting, washed-out road between Thailand and Cambodia that I first appreciated some basic things about air travel. In a plane, there is no rain. There are no bags of fruit leaking unknown juices onto your backpack. There are no bruised tailbones from an entire day spent hammering over rocks and potholes. And on a plane, when you cross an international border, drinks are on the house.

I ran over this list of perks as I hung off the back of a pickup truck, watching my right foot disappear under layers of mud. My other leg was twisted underneath me, with no feeling left in it. My arms ached as I gripped a leaky plastic tarp that looked like it had been used for target practice by the Khmer Rouge. Periodically, the tarp pressed down in an inverted parachute that threatened to smother us all. Bridgit, my wife, was perched next to me, holding onto nothing but my pant leg.

Eventually we arrived in Cambodia, where our $3 room with a ceiling fan and a cold shower felt like the Ritz-Carlton on Maui. The next day, we walked around the ruins of the Angkor Kingdom.

I thought about that trip recently as Bridgit and I (now with a house in Minnesota and two daughters) sat down to look at our retirement planning. If you were an investment adviser, you would have been clicking your tongue and shaking your head. Bridgit, an accountant, clicked her tongue and shook her head.

Read the rest here.

Forgotten Ally (Review)

Posted in Asia, Books, Clips on March 13, 2014 by frankbures

Forgotten AllyWhen the popular World War II board game Axis & Allies was released in 1981, China was not on the board as either Axis or Ally. It wasn’t for another 20 years that the country would be incorporated into the game, and even then only as a separate power directed by the United States player.

This was far from the reality, as historian Rana Mitter points out in his new book, Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). China, he writes, was not only a fourth Ally fighting the Japanese but key to the Allies’ victory.

History needs this correction for a variety of reasons. World War II was costly for the United States, but for China it was worse. For America, the war lasted four years. For China, it dragged on for eight. America lost almost half a million people in the fighting, while at least 14 million Chinese were killed. And while America had almost no combat on its own soil, China did, and it had nearly 80 million refugees as a result.

Read the rest here.

Bangkok Books

Posted in Asia, Books, Clips, Travel on November 3, 2011 by frankbures

Bangkok has found its way into the works of authors including Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, and James Michener, all of whom spent time in Thailand’s capital city.  Recommended reading about the city, from Four Reigns to Bombay Anna to The Beach here.

Hey Australia: Thanks for the Bedbugs!

Posted in Asia, Books, Clips, Travel on October 2, 2011 by frankbures

Long before bedbugs had become the plague du jour, my wife and I set off for New Zealand.

The year was 2000, and we arrived in April to pick apples for a couple of months before buying a barely running car to get us around. We slept in hostels, which had comment books filled with advice about where to stay – and where not to. Many of the entries mentioned bedbugs, which we assumed must be a creature native to New Zealand.

“Whatever you do, don’t stay at … (unless you want to be eaten alive by bedbugs – 122 bites to be precise),” warned one entry. By then, we had already stayed there and had each gotten a few bites, but we hadn’t thought much about it.

I didn’t know it then, but we were close to – in fact, right across the Tasman Sea from – the launching pad for an imminent worldwide explosion of bedbugs.

Read the rest here.

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