Thursday, May 31, 2007

Helen Tse talks about her bbc-themed book, 'Sweet Mandarin'

I first mentioned the book 'Sweet Mandarin' back in February and now there is an introductory video from the author herself, Helen Tse.

It sounds like the 'Sweet Mandarin' story is one that many bbcs will be able to relate to.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

London Chinatown's hidden dark side

Like many bbcs, my only experience of Chinatown is as a place to eat and buy Chinese groceries. But the exotic nature of Chinatown, and the sense that it is outside and apart from normal life has a darker flip-side, too. It emerged last week that Chinatown is a hub for class A drug dealing in the central London and Soho areas.

In a special police operation 32 people were arrested in the Gerrard Street - the centre of Chinatown. 16 were kept in custody.

It should be pointed out that although the raids took place in Chinatown those arrested were not thought to be from the local community but just went to the area to sell and buy drugs (BBC report.)

Another article about the raid here.

It makes me wonder if incidents like this make Oriental City's claim to be 'the real Chinatown' more significant, since I don't think any such illegal activity has been attracted to that soon-to-be redeveloped shopping mall.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pulp Fiction - Asian style (free screenings! free beer!)

Tiger Beer in association with are holding special 'Asian Grindhouse' movie screeings over the next few days.

As well as showing the classic B movies 'One Armed Executioner' and 'Cleopatra Wong' (I'd like to see how they work the asp into that one), there will also be interviews, a film dub challenge, a martial arts experience not to mention free Tiger beer and Asian snacks. Did I mention that entry is free? I believe tickets require registering via email but there may still be some seats left.

The Glasgow screening is happening today at 7:30 (doors open 6:30) so hurry down there.

The London event is on May 31st so you still have time to register for tickets.

Get all the info you need here.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Alpine beauty.... in the middle Western China

You won't find people yodelling or little girls called 'Heidi' amongst these picturesque, snow-capped mountains but you will be able to get a plate of spicy fried noodles.

Incredibly, this Alpine landscape is in Western China, in a region known as Tianshan (Mountain of Heaven). It lies within the snappily-named Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region which sits snugly between Tibet to the south, Kazakhstan to the west and Mongolia to the East. 'Apr├ęs ski' country, this ain't.

The nearest town (and main tourist hub) is Urumqi, claimed to be the most inland city in the world.

Once a barren land of snow and ice, centuries of climate change have turned Tianshan into a place of green fields and clear mountain streams. It's also a steadily growing tourist attraction as a writer for describes:

"Wanting to enjoy the scene I decided to have an early lunch at an open-air restaurant. It was so relaxing. Sitting there in the sunshine I enjoyed a large plate of spicy fried noodles while cows and horses grazed close by. Boats carried tourists across the lake's calm blue waters.

I kept thinking that I had finally made it to one of the most attractive places in China. My dream had come true."

Read the full article here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Get your buns out!

It's the climax of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival today, the distinctive event that takes place every year on Cheung Chau island and involves villagers climbing huge towers loaded with buns and dispensing them to the waiting crowd below.

It's one of many distinctive, local festivals that I'd like to see one day. Despite going back to Hong Kong regularly, I seem to spend most of my time eating and shopping instead of actually exploring Hong Kong itself.

Official Cheung Chau Festival homepage here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Feng Shui Foolishness

We all know that aspects of Asian culture are often appropriated by the West in a kind of 'pick n' mix' fashion depending on the fashion of the time: A little bit of Chinese medicine here, a little bit of Japan pop culture there, the occasional Chinese character tattoo... well, anywhere. I don't think there's anything wrong with this. After all the same thing happens in reverse, with Eastern societies borrowing heavily from the West - sometimes with unintended results.

British papers have been reporting one case of a Western interpretation of an aspect of Asian life that went a little bit wrong. An exhibitor at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show wanted to give their display a touch of feng shui harmony. But their attempt was seized upon by a group of Chinese students who pointed out a number of mistakes such as a dragon that was pointing north instead of east (I must go and check on my dragons now) and a statue of the deity Quan Yin that was placed disrespectfully close to the ground and mis-labeled as Buddha.

News report here.

The story may have been blown up somewhat by the press, but I do think it's a lot of fuss over something fairly minor. For every mis-aligned dragon, there is a Hong Konger who has given themselves an unintentionally ridiculous English nickname ('Pineapple', anyone?) and I've no doubt that similar mistakes are occurring regularly in China when Western history and culture are being 'interpreted' for decorative purposes. The case of the Hong Kong clothing store that was decorated in a 'Nazi' theme a few years ago comes to mind.

As if to prove the point, on the night before this story broke, a programme aired on British TV showing comedian Paul Merton touring China and one of the featured items was a bizarre, 50 million dollar, faux-European hotel that had the approximate look of European grandeur but none of the right details. "What do you say to a man who’s just wasted $50 million?" he wondered when he was introduced to the owner.

Had the Chelsea exhibit been an actual religious shrine, then the students would have had a point but as it wasn't, I think we will just have to expect that we get crossed wires every now and again. For us all to be as confused as each other has a nice sense of harmony to it, I think.

Friday, May 18, 2007

How not to cheat in a university exam

A couple of Chinese students at York University have given an object lesson in how not to cheat in an exam.

Qiu Shi Zhang, 23, couldn't face the stress of a three-hour business exam so he came up with a Cunning Plan: Get his mate, another Chinese student, to sit the exam in his place.

Putting his faith, I suspect, in the idea that all Chinese look the same to Westerners, Zhang must have thought his plan had a very high chance of success.

But there were two fatal flaws: First, all students had to show an ID card during the exam, and Zhang and his friend, whilst both being Chinese, actually bore no resemblance to each other in body size and shape. Oops.

Flaw number two: Zhang's mate is rubbish at business studies and wouldn't have been able to answer the questions anyway. Oops.

So all in all, this was a pretty stupid plan!

North Yorkshire Police were informed and officers arrived to arrest Xin at the end of the exam. They also had little difficulty in locating Qiu, who was found loitering nervously outside the building.

Xin pleaded guilty to fraud and Qiu admitted aiding and abetting the fraud. Each was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay £35 costs.

Full story here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cantonese speaker required for voice-over work

"I have an ad-hoc project that require a professional Cantonese male voice over to do a recording. It's product instruction for a lifestyle brand. The tone I need is not news reader type but more lifestyle."

New Look for Sammie Cheng Sau Man

Sammie Cheng Sau Man shows off a new look for her forthcoming series of concerts in Hong Kong. Courtesy of Asianfanatics

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Random Picture of the Day (Or So)

Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market

Opened in 1913, this is an old style fruit market and Grade III listed building in Kowloon. It operates mainly at night and became briefly notorious in the 1970s as a hotbed for drug-dealing. Nowadays only fruit wholesalers trade their wares during the early morning hours, providing businesses in the Kowloon area with fresh produce.

The government is currently debating plans to relocate the market whilst preserving its historical features. After the massive public outcry over the demolition of the Star Ferry terminal, the authorities are keen not to mess this project up as well.

Picture from

Friday, May 11, 2007

bbc's on the BBC

All 10 episodes of Anna Chen's radio documentary series are now available on the BBC Radio 4 website (RealPlayer required).

Have a listen and leave your comments!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Wanted: Chinese Women

Something I mentioned in an earlier post is the strange contradiction in Western culture whereby Chinese (or Asian) females are stereotyped as alluring and attractive to Western men ('pleasure givers' is one phrase I've heard used) but at the same time, relationships between white men and Chinese/Asian women are often mocked or looked down upon.

Why is this? Could it be anything to do with the types of white males who specifically try to hook up with Chinese women?

I got the chance (accidentally) to investigate this when I went to ThisIsLondon, entered the word 'Chinese' in the search box and came up with the following sponsored link:

"Chinese Women Seek Dating and Marriage - Thousands of Chinese single women seek UK men for dating and marriage. Browse photo profiles and register free now."

I swear I'm not looking for a date or marriage at the moment, but as an inquisitive blogger, it was my duty to click on the link and investigate further.

What I found was at times quite funny, but also an interesting glimpse into the world of 'Non-Chinese Men Who Are Specifically Looking for a Chinese Woman'.

Who are these men? Why Chinese in particular? And most importantly of all, is it funny to be able to browse a website like this without having to register or pay a fee? (Answer: Yes)

So, purely in the interests of research (okay, and a little bit for laughs too), here are a few selected highlights from the Men Seeking Chinese Women section. All the ads are real but the comments are my own.

As a disclaimer, I'd just like to say that all the guys on the site are probably perfectly nice people. It's just that the comedy potential couldn't be missed :)

Remember, all the guys below are looking specifically for a Chinese woman.

Troy, 31.

The grubby vest and bathroom mirror photo combo is always a hit. Right, ladies?

John, 49

Seeks either a wife or someone to form a Northern comedy double act with.

Sanam, 37.

The key to a good personal ad is to highlight your most attractive feature - in this case, chest hair.

Michael, 55

A poet once said the eyes are the window to the soul. In that case, my soul must be a bit mad.

Makaveli, 26

Caring and compassionate. As long as you don't annoy me.

Ismail, 46

Ladies, one day this sofa could be yours (to share)

Dante, 21

"Ni ho ma, DUDE!!!!!"

Carlos, 40.

Genuine ad text: "Very unstable."

I'm a big fan of all Chinese culture, especially Jean Claude Van Damme movies.

Ulysse, 58

Seeks a lady with whom to share my love of pies.

Brad/ yang guang, 36

I have chosen a Chinese name which should put you right at ease.

Mark, 46

I may be 46 but I live by my motto, "you're as young as your hairstyle appears to be!"

Simon, 50

I'm dynamic, exciting, spontaneous, sexy and cool. Sorry about the pic, the chair I was sitting on was too small.

Sebastian, 29.

Please don't be put off by the fact that I am a disembodied head.

Jim, 36

I put a lot of effort into having this photo taken so please show some appreciation by replying to me, for goodness sake.

And my favourite dish is sweet and sour pork.

Adam, 52

You're never to old to own a webcam and wear dark glasses indoors, that's what I say.

Michael, 54

Everyone at work calls me The Joker.

Because I have such a great sense of humour, I think!

Sanjeev, 40


Genuine ad text: 'Marital status: Married'

Celso, 80

I am fun and outgoing but on no account must you EVER disrespect the Family.

And my favourite dish is sweet and sour pork.

Keith, 69

Don't judge a book by its cover. Please!

Ron, 34

The question here is, are YOU good enough For ME. Got that, Chinese woman?

William, 54

Look into my eyes. Not around the eyes.

Zebulon, 28

Don't be put off by my appearance. Everyone in my town looks like this.

And my favourite dish is sweet and sour pork.

And to show that I'm not just taking the mickey out of white guys....

Eric, 27

People often say I bear an uncanny resemblance to Andy Lau. I've no idea why, though!

Rodel, 29

Genuine ad text: 'Large body.'

Well, that always comes in useful I suppose!

Related: Wanted: Chinese Women Pt. 2

Thursday, May 03, 2007

'Chinese In Britain' episodes now online

The first 3 episodes of Anna Chen's radio documentary series (The First Chinese VIPs, The Creation of Chinatown and From Ship to Shore: experiences of Chinese seamen in Britain ) are now available on the BBC Radio 4 website (RealPlayer required).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Korean family in U.S. is being sued for $67 million dollars for losing ONE pair of trousers

A quite bizarre story from the States.

In 2005 a Washington judge named Roy Pearson took a pair of trousers to a dry cleaners run by a Korean family - Jin and Soo Chung and their son.

Somehow the trousers went missing, which apparently cause the judge some distress as he planned to wear them on his first day in court. The cleaners agreed to compensate the judge, eventually offering the huge sum of $12,000 to make up for the loss.

However, for reasons that aren't very clear, the judge refused to accept the offer and has instead pursued legal action claiming damages not just for the loss of his trousers but also for the cost of renting a car to take his cleaning to another company every weekend for the next TEN YEARS and the mental distress he as suffered PER DAY since the trousers went missing.

As a result, his claim for compensation now stands at 67 million - yes, million - dollars.

Oh yes, and the cleaners say they have actually FOUND his missing trousers but he is refusing to accept them.

BELOW: Judge Roy Pearson filmed by ABC News.

The trial is set for June but the case must surely be thrown out? It is little more than malicious abuse of the Chung family.

Full story here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

HK scams targetting Mainlanders may hit tourism industry

There has been a steadily rising problem in Hong Kong of unscrupulous tour operators and shop owners tricking visitors from the Mainland into buying worthless or counterfeit goods while on holiday.

The scam was exposed on Chinese TV channel CCTV recently and now it is feared that tourism to Hong Kong from the Mainland will be affected as a result. Already, drops of 30% in the number of visitors from Mainland China are being predicted in the light of the scandal.

The way the scam works is that a tour operator will take a group of tourists to specially designated shops in Hong Kong, where they will be encouraged to buy as much as possible. Sometimes the operator will have enticed customers by offering a 'no fee' deal. The profit for the operator comes, of course, from taking a cut of the shop's profits.

This kind of arrangement can be perfectly legal but the CCTV report exposed collusion between tour operators and shop owners in selling counterfeit or worthless goods to tourists, hard sell techniques and plenty of bad attitude when tourists failed to purchase goods.

A Shanghai tourist said all group tour members were taken to designated shops and asked to buy goods. "Sometimes our tour guide gave us a long face if we didn't buy anything. As the authenticity of items is difficult to determine, I bought some cheaper things in the shops," she said.

Some industry experts blamed the industry malpractice on the "zero-fee tours" for mainlanders. For such tours, travel agencies and tour guides would not charge tourists fees and would take them to do shopping in designated stores, which would then give them commissions of up to 30% on goods purchased by the tourists.

In October, a "zero-fee" group from the remote northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai were abandoned by their tour guide after they refused to buy goods at certain shops.

Full report here.

After working so hard to shake off its image as 'home of counterfeit goods', why have scams like this emerged 'exclusively' for Mainland tourists?

HK authorities are now introducing new measures to protect tourists' rights and prevent people from being ripped off.