Sir Stamford Raffles was furious. In the three years since he had left Singapore for the outpost of Bencoolen, the nascent colony had grown in disarray. Instead of following his orders, appointed leader Major William Farquhar had taken a laissez-faire approach – attracting many traders but also vices that Raffles despised.
On Joo Chiat Road, it feels as though we are walking through a cross-section of Singaporean society. Within the covered arcades of its painted shophouses, Bama and I duck into Chinese-owned fruit and home ware stalls, past a Muslim-themed restaurant, and a fashion store stocked with hijabs and full-length dresses. Across the road, we are tempted by the display case at Sha Zah – an Indian confectionary selling baked snacks and flaky curry puffs. Read more
“Hong Kong has never opened this road before.”
Speaking to a friend, the man was clearly astonished as we strolled down the middle of a nine-lane highway. Around me I saw many smiling faces, belonging to both young and old, and families with small children. All had yellow ribbons pinned to their chests. Read more
Tonight in Hong Kong, there is a sense that history is being made.
Many of you have seen or read about what is happening right here in my hometown. Yesterday brought scenes that I could never have imagined in this safe and stable city. We watched in horror at the footage of riot police, armed with rifles and donning Stormtrooper helmets, lobbing volleys of tear gas into crowds of unarmed protestors. Read more
Over dinner one night, many months ago, mother told us something I would never forget. “Actually,” she said in Cantonese, “you [two] are sons of the Southern Ocean.” I do not recall the context of those words, nor the sentence that preceded it, but I was struck by the poetic truth embedded within. For although we consider Hong Kong our hometown, my brother and I were born in a rival city far closer to the Equator. Read more
The 1930s were an age of unrestrained decadence. Radio had displaced newspapers as the most popular form of mass media; cinemas from Shanghai to Sao Paulo screened the latest in Hollywood films; ballrooms on both sides of the Atlantic echoed to the sounds of jazz and big band swing music; and the world seemed blissfully ignorant of the storm clouds brewing on the horizon.
A flickering tongue tasted the air, and the giant lizard turned in a momentary pause from his lunch. Together with a handful of Australian visitors, we stood on the edge of a mud pit, watching in hushed excitement as a young Komodo dragon feasted on a water buffalo carcass, its horns and bare ribs protruding from the muck. Read more
There was a time when migrants from the fishing village of Labuan Bajo sought better opportunities in other parts of Flores. “They used to look down on people from Labuan Bajo,” a local guide tells us offhand, “but now it’s the opposite.” Today his once-sleepy hometown is in the midst of a tourism boom, attracting labour from the rest of the island and even further beyond. Read more