Vladivostok: the edge of the Belt and Road

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in History, Politics, Travel

Vladivostok is a city of 600,000 in the Far East of Siberia. Russia grabbed it opportunistically in 1860, back when the Qing Empire had been enfeebled by the Opium Wars and the vicious Taiping Rebellion that left 20 million dead. Russia quickly consolidated its grip expelling the Chinese and transferring people from Ukraine and Belorussia: first by land and ship and by rail once the Trans-Siberian Railway was built. Even though it’s only a stone’s (or perhaps a Scud missile’s) throw from North Korea, there’s no hint of the East in the local gene pool. Lonely Planet calls it San […]

The Black Olive: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Whimsy

A long time ago, in a former life, far-far away I remember tasting a succulent, savoury black fruit. I seem to recollect buying them in jars – from all good purveyors of food. I would add them to salads, pasta, maybe in mischief even to a curry. They were known as black olives. But if such things still exist, surely I must be able to find them in Hong Kong too. Few cities are as obsessed with food and shopping (though strangely not cooking) as Hong Kong. I searched the supermarkets near  my home and office. Obviously a Mediterranean fruit would […]

The unbearable lightness of Toblerone

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Whimsy

Earlier this week my son told me about an end-of-year costume party he was going to attend themed around all the horrors of 2016 and asked how he should dress. His friends would no doubt dress up as Trump, Farage and Boris Johnson. I suggested he should honour His Royal Purpleness, or perhaps  David Bowie – both great in terms of wacky clothes. Then, my son mentioned dressing up as a Toblerone to commemorate its tragic downsizing. I assumed he was being frivolous, but he insisted he genuinely mourned its shrinkage. He said lots of other confectionaries and snacks were doing the […]

Hong Kong’s LegCo elections

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Politics

On 4th September, sandwiched between the Brexit vote and the US elections, Hong Kongers have the opportunity to vote in the four yearly LegCo elections. Hong Kong’s democratic processes are a hangover from its colonial days – the first election took place in 1995 two years before handover. UK graciously offering HK a tantalising taste of democracy, after having denied it to for the preceding 150 years. HK’s legislature currently has 70 members, half of them are elected from five geographic constituencies, and most of the rest either by business sectors (like industry) or professional bodies (like accountants), so-called “functional” […]