Timor-Leste – Time Out Article

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This travel piece, adapted from my original full-length journals, was featured in Hong Kong Time Out Magazine on 10.10.12. Videos here, more photos here and the original article below…

Time Out - Timor-Leste article, 10.10.12

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Isolated and near inaccessible, Asia’s newest nation is home to the largest UN peacekeeping mission on Earth, located in the poorest and most overlooked corner of the region. Emerging from decades of bloodshed and occupation with scarcely any infrastructure intact, war-ravaged Timor-Leste attracts just a few thousand tourists per year. Roads are amongst the world’s worst (where they exist), the airmail service is rumoured to take one-and-a-half years, the humidity is oppressive, healthcare minimal, poverty rampant and the dinky shot-up capital, Dili, makes Beirut look refined. So why would anyone care to visit?

Because travellers will discover in Timor-Leste what everyone else in Southeast Asia is hopelessly searching for. All your dreamy paradise island clichés can be found within – pristine white beaches, crystal clear azure seas, some of the richest and most diverse sea life on the planet and a queue of welcoming, unjaded locals to show you the way. Adventurous tourists will come across incredible hiking routes, thick rainforest, untouched lagoons and delicious seafood – and more often than not, you’ll be the only traveller in town. Continue reading

Iran – Time Out Article

This travel piece, adapted from my journals, was featured in Hong Kong Time Out Magazine on 26.10.11. More photos here.

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As your flight descends into the dark heart of the Evil Axis, rumours of 50c heat, a presumed threat of kidnap and the danger of a terrorist free-for-all weigh heavily upon the mind. However, Iran’s terrifying reputation and wildly inaccurate stereotypes mask what must be one of the friendliest and safest hidden gems in all of Asia. From magnificent mosques to bustling bazaars, the Islamic Republic is home to a sophisticated culture and rich history, all showcased with a famously heartfelt level of hospitality. And as for the intense desert heat – long-suffering Hong Kongers may actually find the lack of humidity strangely tolerable.

The lightly beaten tourist trail begins in the ‘City of Love’, Shiraz. No longer a wine producer, this small city is centred around the elaborate Vakil Bazaar. The colourful marketplace comes to life at night and shoppers exploring the endless maze will find locals offering to pay for things (or even dinner!) as shopkeepers chase them down dark alleys merely to return their change.

Hong Kong – Mourning Sickness

9 days later, and the the front page of the SCMP has still not changed its tune. Below is a preview of my upcoming column for Time Out.

Mourning Sickness

In conclusion, Manila police lacked gear and training during August’s hostage crisis. Any further media commentary or sensational analysis which went beyond this simple statement was redundant, unnecessary and arguably dangerous.

Voyeuristic tabloids splashing a bloody corpse on their cover, cynical companies advertising their ‘condolences’ (complete with prominent logos) and opportunistic, diversion-hungry politicians were all beneficiaries of the media circus surrounding the bus hijacking. This hyper-attentive, intrusive press coverage – often dubbed ‘grief porn’ – was also seen during events such as Princess Diana’s death, Madeleine McCann’s disappearance and the murder of Anna Svidersky in Vancouver.

Prompted by similar gratuitous and emotive reporting, HK subsequently experienced a phenomenon known as ‘mourning sickness’ where readers became actors and the entire populace indulged in mass grief and mourning. But this unified outpouring of sorrow and anger was mostly related to our own emotional needs rather than any real empathy with the victims, whom most of us had never met.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #32

I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Capping Greed

Japan is one of the world’s most equal societies partly because large salaries are seen to be somewhat uncouth. The average Japanese CEO earns just over HK$3million – which is relatively low compared to their US counterparts who often earn between HK$8-30million annually. Toyota’s board members received a comparatively modest HK$3.4million last year whilst, say, HSBC’s chief enjoys a rather gratuitous basic wage of HK$13.5million.

Executive pay in HK remains the highest in Asia, surpassed only by South Korea, and there is certainly little taboo locally over amassing big bucks. The new watered-down minimum wage bill may help curb inequality – our city’s biggest social problem – but since we lack a ‘cultural cap’ on excessive earnings, further legislation is the next natural step to control executive greed.

HK Time Out Magazine – Column #31

I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Sharpened Elbows

When ‘scuffles’ break out on protest frontlines, it’s often difficult to tell whether it is provoked by frustrated activists or the police themselves. If it’s a high profile demonstration, protesters will sometimes find themselves outnumbered by police, undercover goons and a gaggle of photojournalists with sharp elbows. The latter are already somewhat notorious in the territory for snapping away at bloody accident scenes and, with many prepared to literally fight for the most sensational protest shots, their integrity remains in question.

Clement So, Director of Journalism at The Chinese University, says photojournalists getting “too involved” has always been an issue, since “HK reporters are aggressive and try to beat competition.” He agrees there are some bad apples but says that that should not render the whole journalistic community as subjective or taking sides. Despite this, I’ve had quite a few run-ins myself with forceful photographers who can be blamed for obstructing protesters and causing things to escalate.