China’s Great Wall of Debt takes both a bird’s-eye and street-corner look at what is undoubtedly the global economy’s most vexing question. In its pursuit of an unending cycle of annual economic gains, infrastructure rollout and technological catchup, just how much debt has China accumulated in the course of its red-hot stimulus frenzy since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008?
AN OLD JOKE in linguistics runs: What is the difference between a language and a dialect? (pause for dramatic effect) A language is a dialect with its own army.
The author of Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens, László Krasznahorkai, Hungarian writer and poet, Booker Prize winner, condemns his quest to find any remaining evidence of Chinese civilization to failure from Page 1—as if the book’s title had not alerted the reader to what lay ahead.
When Somerset Maugham passed through Burma, Siam and Indochina in 1923 — a journey documented in The Gentleman in the Parlour — he described Phnom Penh’s riverside Grand Hotel as “large, dirty and pretentious”.
Steven Boswell’s recently published Kind Norodom’s Head is a tapestry of anecdotal colonial-era gems woven together with temple-spotter minutiae.
For most travelers, Khao San comes at the end of one journey—the red-eye via Kuwait or Karachi, the shoulder-to-shoulder overnight bus from the north or the south of Thailand—and the beginning of another.
Chinese, like Japanese, are all for tours. Every self-respecting tourist attraction has its hierarchy of sights, its hoary accretion of wide-eyed lore and its filing-cabinet litany of statistics.
1,700km west of Lhasa, Tibet’s holiest mountain is the approximate source of Asia’s four greatest rivers: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Indus and the Sutlej. It is also the Mount Meru of Hindu legend. Nobody was telling me I couldn’t go.
We tend to be too earnest about China—the opacity of its politics, the sufferings foisted upon its people by a capricious government bent on maintaining one-party rule at all costs, the hagiographies of the system’s entrepreneurial winners.
A rare venture back into the world of travel writing – it’s been some 15 years – on Kep, Southeast Asia’s next beachside big thing (maybe), as featured in Virgin Australia’s Voyeur magazine.
Sebastian Strangio’s Hun Sen’s Cambodia chronicles the long ascent of the title’s eponymous strongman to the apex of power in a country that has leveraged international guilt and horror over the genocide that took place there in the 1970s, receiving billions of dollars in aid as a result.
A PAUL KRUGMAN QUOTE from 1998 on the future of the internet (“By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.”) recently did the rounds of bitcoin forums.
Yes, a devastating fire broke out in the Tibetan quarter of Shangri-la’s Duzekong district in 2014, but little about this part of town was ancient. It is a better described as a commoditized, Chinese state-endorsed face of Tibet.
ON OCCASION, you eat a meal that speaks to you in a simple language and you know you will return and return again because you’ve glimpsed a landscape you want to see more of.
I’VE BEEN FEELING BAD about Cha-Am (I feel bad about the headline too, but I couldn’t help myself), a seaside town two hours south of Bangkok
BLOG ABOUT IT …Really. It helps. You’ll get busy taking pictures, talking to your fellow travelers as they stand in the sun batting away flies and grimacing at the yelping neighborhood dogs, for whom a sudden invasion of foreign-smelling foreigners must be something like a canine iteration of the zombie apocalypse.
I DON’T REMEMBER exactly when I gave up on Koh Pha-ngan in Thailand but I’ll never forget the night I accidentally arrived there on a full moon and found myself sucked into the maw of a surging crowd of board-shorts and bikinis that disgorged me at Haad Rin, scene of the legendary Full Moon Party.
TOM VATER, author of The Cambodian Book of the Dead, asked me to take part in The Next Big Thing, a short interview that highlights authors and their new or forthcoming books. Tom was invited by Janet Brown, author of Tone Deaf in Bangkok.
THIS IS AN automated response. Please do not reply.
THIS RATHER ODD – perhaps even slightly psychotic – list of “exemplary expats” includes a famed womanizer, a forger, a self-confessed drug addict, a possibly murdered English teacher and me at No 9.
I’D PUT OFF returning to Shuanglang – just under 40km northeast of Dali, on the far side of the Erhai Lake – because it meant so much to me before and during the writing of Harvest Season
LAST WEEK I took a trip up into the foothills of the Cangshan mountains in Dali with Carl and Scott of Bad Monkey fame to visit their brew house
WITH THAI ELECTIONS taking place today – and the pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai poised to seize a parliamentary majority – it seems appropriate to talk about Tom Vater’s book, Sacred Skin, photography by Aroon Thaewatturat
When I was last in Bangkok, I met with writer and freelance journalist Tom Vater. I hadn’t realized until then that Tom had also written a novel set in the milieu of the long-term travel/backpacker scene – The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu.
Chris V Taylor is a writer based in Bangkok. He has been a guidebook writer, a travel writer and has written commentary and reported for many publications worldwide, including The Wall Street Journal, The Far Eastern Economic Review, Salon, Time, the South China Morning Post, The Age, and The Sydney Morning Herald.
You can find him on Twitter @ChrisVTaylor.