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 […]

Cycling holiday to Kaiping

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I spent Easter holidays cycling in Kaiping, Guangdong – a city of 0.7 million which was scarcely known by anyone at work. China is a hierarchical place and cities are categorized as tier 1, 2 or 3 depending on their significance. Kaiping is less a tier and more an illegal extra floor. When I told my co-workers about my plans they feared for my life. Hong Kong is such a safe place it has warped people’s concept of danger. So far this year HK has had two murders, 12 suicides, and one Darwin Award entrant short-listed for falling 400m off […]

Relatives over and Japan and Macau

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After months of relative solitude Maya and I have had a series of visitors over the past few months. After school broke up Satish came for three weeks, Ayeisha came in late August and Prabhat and his wife Judith in September. Skype and Facetime is all very well, but you don’t realise how quickly your children grow from a four inch screen. From a certain angle, Satish now appears taller than me. From any bathroom scale, I still appear heavier than him. This is the two of us on Mount Hakone with Fuji 25 kilometres behind us. The crater on […]

Manufacturing scarcity

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Economics, Travel

Until I came to Hong Kong I thought debenture was a fancy word for pretty-young-things’ first grown-up party. It is only when I arrived here that I found out otherwise. Elite schools use debentures to borrow for free from wannabe students’ parents, and exclude the hoi-polloi. Try googling debenture and you’ll get sent straight to www.topschools.hk. There’s a thriving secondary market in debentures – prices vary from $25,000 for the not so grand schools to $10million for the most sought after. This is on top of the annual fees of around £15k. As the photo to the left shows education […]

The High-Life in Hong Kong

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Our new flat is on the 32nd floor of a 63-storey block. This is the highest I have ever lived by a margin of 30 floors (unless you count a week in the Algarve where I vaguely remember needing to take a lift to access our room). We moved in over a month ago and the view from our flat still takes my breath away. I wake up to see some of the world’s biggest cruise liners glide into the cruise terminal juxtaposed with sampans quietly wending their way across the harbour. Looming behind all this is the 602m Kowloon […]