Over 20 years covering China, travel, and culture for publications across the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Author of multiple books on China.
SHIMODA, Japan — Japan seems almost purpose-built for walking holidays.
It’s not only the opportunity to follow little-walked tracks around crumpled coastline or through mountainside beech forest down to some ancient temple, but stimulating engagement with the culture. Shopping for inscrutable picnic lunch ingredients in shiny minimarts, slipping into communal hotspring baths, and learning how to tackle multi-course evening menus of local seafood presented in a kaleidoscope of specialised tab...
A hidden crime wave in China, caused by corruption and party policies, documented in ‘Crime and the Chinese Dream’ – review
President Xi Jinping’s oft-mentioned “Chinese dream” is an idea of near-infinite flexibility and its meaning is adapted as necessary to fit the needs of the moment.
However, the modest prosperity it sometimes promises the people is out of reach to hundreds of millions of Chinese, so they must often resort to crime to just get by, let alone get ahead.
Only an hour from Tokyo by bullet train - tradition meets tranquillity on a walking tour of Izu Peninsula
“Jumbo?” asks the kimonoed room attendant, perky yet deferential, looking me up and down. “Jumbo!” she decides, then disappears and returns a minute later, doffing her slippers before stepping back into the tatami-matted room bearing a yukata, the cotton gown worn in traditional Japanese inns, in a size more suited to my height.
She bustles to open a sliding door and show me my haori (a jacket to be worn over the yukata), my obi (the belt with which to tie it) and little white socks with a se...
In 1978 Deng Xiaoping launched his policy of “opening and reform,” which permitted a carefully restricted measure of private enterprise. The official view from Beijing has since been that conditions across the country have continually improved, and some foreign pundits, relying on economic data that even the Chinese consider unreliable, parrot the case for China’s inevitable rise to global economic dominance.
Carl Minzner briskly and bluntly rejects this position. In “End of an Era: How China...
Is the location some rural district with a nominal Tokyo postcode? The Aman Tokyo is indeed out of town, but above it rather than beyond. The hotel occupies several floors atop an anonymous office tower in the heart of the financial district, only a few minutes from Tokyo Station. And once you enter the express lift direct to the 33rd-floor main reception desk, all is peace, save for the plangent sound of the demurely kimonoed koto player plucking delicately away in the vast atrium of the hot...
TUCSON, Arizona — It’s a quiet night at the Cat Mountain Lodge on the edge of Tucson’s Mountain Park, where at the very comfortable B&B’s private observatory a 14-inch telescope is pointed up at a sky brilliant with stars.
Last year’s solar eclipse had many Americans and visitors looking upwards for an hour or so, but here in Pima County the desert-dry air and the long-standing law against light pollution mean they’re looking up and thinking about space 325 cloudless nights a year.
“I don’t think you can go around writing all these histories of Russia’s ‘influence’ on China’s revolution by writing about Chinese sitting studiously in some room reading Marx and then diligently going out and organising the workers.”
Elizabeth McGuire, speaking by phone from California’s East Bay, continues by saying that, for the full story, you need to consider the passion and personal involvement of real human beings, not merely politically orthodox cartoon heroism.
That is why the assis...
OBERAMMERGAU, Germany — The cosy wooden interior of Oberammergau’s 500-year-old Gasthaus von Stern could hardly be more welcoming.
Families tuck in to hearty meals of sausages and rye bread, and men play cards over glasses of locally brewed beer, while outside bright snow can be seen piled on the eaves of massive dark-wood buildings, whose windows glow with goodies.
It’s a Christmas-card-perfect scene.
This south Bavarian village’s Passion Play, staged roughly every 10 years since 1634, invol...
Sir Francis Galton’ s The Art of Travel, perhaps the world’s first travel guide, is full of practical tips and advice, from how to start a fire to surviving on carrion and insects
Portraits of Sir Francis Galton show a man with mutton-chop whiskers and the demeanour of a minor public school headmaster of the “spare the rod, spoil the child” persuasion. A Victorian-era polymath with a patchy education in medicine and mathematics, Galton (1822-1911) was knighted two years before his death for h...
Christmas Island – the next big thing in travel? Home to Chinese, Indians and Malays, it’s a fascinating mix of cultures
From the terrace of the Lucky Ho restaurant, in the Poon Saan district of The Settlement, Christmas Island’s only town, all looks well. The air-conditioned interior is busy with Chinese families and, across the road, a large crowd is watching a Disney film at an open-air cinema.
The menu features the Sichuan classic gong bao ji ding (spicy diced chicken with peanuts), though that Chinese province is several thousand kilometres away. Lucky Ho, one of only about half a dozen restaurants on the ...
‘I’m the worst daughter ever,” says Delia Hou over the music of a tango orchestra. The lissome 35-year-old Taiwanese-American quotes her parents: “You graduated once and you’re still not married. You graduated twice and you’re still not married.”
Ms. Hou has degrees in astrophysics and law, but here in a milonga, or tango-dancing club, they are forgotten. She and other Asian milongueras speak of the dance in almost metaphysical terms.
“Tango is about what you really genuinely want but you don’t even dare to admit,” says Ms. Hou. “Here you are, you don’t have a serious respectable job, you’re spending your evenings pressing your body against strange men. It’s not really typically Asian behavior.”
The Swiss are record-breaking rail travellers, spending more time in trains than even the Japanese. A dense network of often improbable lines wraps around and perforates the country’s many high mountains, sewing 26 disparate cantons into a single nation.
LUCERNE, Switzerland — The construction of the Gotthard line through some of Switzerland’s most challenging terrain involved spiral underground tunnels, long galleried sections, and dozens of bridges. Opened in 1882 it climbed to a 15-km-long summit tunnel, then the longest of its kind in the world, and was celebrated as a marvel of engineering.
The line was built for the sake of the Swiss economy and intended to ensure that trade flowed through the mountainous country rather than around it. ...
How could China dismiss the 1984 Joint Declaration as meaningless, yet days later cite an 1890 treaty signed with Britain in support of a territorial claim in the Himalayas? It’s all about convenience.