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Showing posts from May, 2009

A Tale of Three Cities – Part 2 三城故事-中卷

Macau is a rustic peninsula hugged by a muddy, silt-laden estuary of the Pearl River. Petite, laid-back and never prosperous, the middle sister exudes a touch of quaint Mediterrasian charm. In the mid-16th Century, Portuguese merchants turned the sleepy fishing village into a leading entrepôt for the silk and silver trades between Europe, China and Japan. But Macau’s heyday lasted until 1842, when British-controlled Hong Kong, with a deeper harbor and better-run government, dethroned the sandy peninsula as the gateway to the Orient. From then on, Macau was relegated to the role of an adjunct city of Hong Kong and would forever live in her big sister’s shadow.



In the post-war era, Macau survived on revenues from government-sanctioned gambling and the sex trade, making a name for herself as Asia’s Las Vegas and a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah... _______________________
Read the rest of this article in HONG KONG State of Mind, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in 

A Tale of Three Cities – Part 1 三城故事-上卷

Shenzhen, Macau and Hong Kong are three sisters separated in childhood. Tucked away in the Pearl River Delta, they might have been mistaken for triplets if it weren’t for the vicissitudes of history that put them on such different paths. A century and a half ago, armed strangers came knocking on their door in the dead of night, waking the sleepers out of a national slumber. The mightiest among the intruders, bearing the Union Jack, snatched the oldest sister in the name of free trade, not long before a Latin conquistador ran off with the middle one. Their pillage and plunder would go on for several more decades before a new enemy brought on by a divine wind opened a chapter so dark history textbooks had to be revised.



Good or bad, Shenzhen was the only sister of the three spared from colonial rule. While Hong Kong thrived under British rule and Portuguese Macau carved a niche for itself as Asia’s Sin City, Shenzhen didn’t begin to come of age until 1980 when Deng Xiaoping handpicked he…

The Real Aftershock is Yet to Come 真正的餘震還未來

Exactly a year ago, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake ravaged the heartland province of Sichuan, killing an estimated 70,000 and leaving another 17,000 missing.Among them were thousands of students crushed by collapsed schools, most of their bodies buried deep under the rubble.Weeping parents, suddenly childless, struggled to fathom how the wrath of nature could be so cruelly selective, flattening school houses but leaving surrounding buildings standing. Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), determined to score public relations points in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics, promised a full investigation into the so-called “tofu dregs” (豆腐渣) construction.


A week before the one-year anniversary of the disaster, the Sichuan provincial government finally got around to publishing the first ever official tally of students killed by collapsed schools. Officials blamed the high death toll on force majeure and diverted media attention to the heroic rescue efforts and the reconstruction swimmingly underway. Human…

Return of the Masks – Part 2 口罩回歸-下卷

The H1N1 virus has reached Hong Kong.We knew it was just a matter of time but the news managed to shock us just the same. Signs of a city on full alert are everywhere and feelings of an eerie déjà vu palpable. In a place as densely populated as Hong Kong, no amount of planning or emergency drills will prepare us for an all-out epidemic. Peculiar but somewhat understandable, the city’s response to its first confirmed case of the swine flu provides a window on our collective psyche in the post-SARS era. The temptation to offer a few of my own observations is too great to resist.


Take one for the team.The symbolic first case of the deadly virus prompted the government to lock down the Metropark Hotel (維景酒店) in Wanchai, where the infected, a 24-year-old Mexican man, once stayed. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, Metropark’s sister hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui rose to infamy after one of its tenants fell ill and infected 16 others. And you think lightning doesn’t strike twice! Taking no chances t…