“So, do you want to be Auntie Dhani’s son?”
Bama and I are at the table with his affectionate mom, Auntie Dhani, in the open-air dining room of his parents’ house. For the third consecutive year, I’ve joined Bama on his annual trip home for Lebaran, the week-long holiday marking the end of Ramadan. I’d considered flying back to Hong Kong to visit my own family, but by the time I looked up the flights, ticket prices had already gone through the roof. Semarang, a city of less than two million perched midway along the northern coast of Java, was an obvious alternative – not least because of Auntie Dhani’s home cooking and the warm welcome I would receive as an adopted member of the family. Read more
Indonesian TV stations these days have been peppering their news broadcasts with “suka-duka Idul Fitri”, a round-up of the positives (suka) and negatives (duka) over the long weekend. It has been a privilege to spend Idul Fitri, or Eid, with Bama’s family, and experience the celebrations firsthand. For me, the similarities between our home cultures have been brought into sharp focus – I now realise that this festival is a lot like Chinese New Year. Read more
Race 65 at the Stanley warm-up event, and we have landed ourselves in the mixed division’s bronze cup final. “Focus!” The captain on the adjacent boat hollers over his anxious team. Our vessel is parked in lane two of the starting line, protected from the incoming waves by an orange pontoon. This year, instead of watching from the relative comfort of the beach, I am right in the thick of the action. Read more
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Chinese New Year, without a doubt the biggest festival of the Hong Kong calendar. Families gather together for days of feasting, exchanging well-wishes and red packets of lucky money – lai see. Read more
Hong Kong has a penchant for weird and wonderful superlatives, including the largest origami mosaic, most expensive bathroom, loudest scream by an indoor crowd, and tallest revolving door.
On the first day of the New Year I went down to see the lion and dragon dances on the waterfront. Now a well-established annual parade, this year’s edition was also a bid to break the world record for the longest parade of Chinese unicorn (Qilin in Mandarin, Keilun in Cantonese). Read more
Comfortably positioned on an upturned keel, with legs outstretched on the rocks, I take in the saltiness of the ocean breeze. In the distance the race lanes are lined by a double row of pleasure boats, each one loaded with an eager throng of spectators. We hear the distinct ‘pop’ of the starting gun, then the muffled beats of drums, gradually building in intensity with each passing second. Read more
As surreal experiences go, there is nothing quite like basking in the 27-degree sunshine, face-up in the grass as the park echoes to the sound of exploding firecrackers. It is the middle of March and the party is in full swing in Valencia. The occasion? A wild, raucous and noisy celebration known as Las Fallas. Read more
As I write this I am sitting in a friend’s flat in Madrid. It is hard to believe that less than three days ago I was on the other side of the world, rounding up a long and unforgettable summer vacation.
After 2½ months spent relaxing in Hong Kong, the grand finale was last week’s Mid-Autumn Festival. No doubt one of the most important events of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, it is a harvest celebration characterised by family moments, good food, and swathes of bright colours. Read more
Firecrackers, ninots and un poco de marcha. With the help of Tacho and friends, I embark on a journey to discover my inner Spaniard… or rather, my inner Valencian. Read more