Those Creepy Japanese Videos, Finally Explained

If you’ve been wondering about the creepy Japanese videos I’ve been posting — videos of girls staring blankly at the camera for a minute, then uttering a single short phrase — I’m finally ready to offer an explanation.
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Incredible Low-Tech Laotian Merry-Go-Round

When I was living in Kathmadu 20 years ago (yow!) this summer, I found this awesomely makeshift ferris wheel in a nearby theme park.  A teenager would stand in the middle, and walk from one bar to the next, giving passengers a slow, staggered ride.

Much more recently in southern Laos, down on the island Don Khon, I stumbled across a close cousin: the makeshift merry-go-round or carousel.  I think there was a generator giving it a little power, but the operator had to push it around for it to keep any momentum.  For context, this is an island where rooms cost one dollar a night, there’s electricity for only a few hours a day, and the closest email terminal was an hour away.

Here’s a short video…  pretty awesome. Continue reading “Incredible Low-Tech Laotian Merry-Go-Round”

Celebrating Easter in China…

When you’re in a country that doesn’t officially celebrate Easter, like China, sometimes you get nervous.  Will the Easter Bunny get his visa yanked at the last-minute?  Are you sure those chocolate eggs are melamine-free?   Is the holiday even legal here?

Well, we had those same concerns too, but finally decided China’s gonna love Easter!

Good Friday
First, start your Easter right, with a large order of “Holy Fries” for Good Friday.  Weren’t chips Jesus’ favorite snack?  Even if they weren’t, they’ll go great with your Friday fish.

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Kiev: The Weirdest Ukranian Opera Restaurant in Beijing

Missing those classic Yevhen Hrebinka hits?  Desperate for a Chicken Kiev and a bottle of Stoli?  But sick of those stern Soviet babushkas slapping down watery bowls of borscht?

I hear you, brother.

The closest I’d gotten to good Ukranian in Asia was in a subterranean Beijing nightclub. The bouncer outside was a scowling mohawked dwarf in a tuxedo. Inside, there were more hookers than customers.  Sounds good so far, I know, but onstage the aerobics left little to my appetite.

So instead, we decided to try Kiev Restaurant.

And wow. Continue reading “Kiev: The Weirdest Ukranian Opera Restaurant in Beijing”

The Illegal Mae Sot-Burma Border Crossing

I put this up on YouTube a little while back, but it’s definitely worth putting up here: the illegal border crossing at Mae Sot.

I shot this from the Thai side of the Thai-Burmese border. To get from Mae Sot to Myawaddy, you cross a bridge, pay a toll, and have your passport confiscated for a few hours. (If you’re me, that is.) Or, if you’re Burmese, you could pay a fellow with a fat innertube a few pennies, and be waded across under the bridge. Literally, in the shadow of the legal crossing.

It’s pretty beneficial, really, if you work illegally in a Thai factory for sub-minimum-wage, or a monk on the run…

The Story of (These Creepily Awesome) Big Head Buddhas, with video

Michelle’s spent a slew of Chinese New Years here in Beijing, but she’s never seen these before — 大头娃娃 (Dàtóu wáwá or Dai Tao Fut) — incredible paper mache masks that we found in the back of a junk store, in Bangkok’s Chinatown.  In English, they’re called Big Headed Buddhas, and for just a few dollars each, how could we resist picking them up!?!

Continue reading “The Story of (These Creepily Awesome) Big Head Buddhas, with video”

The Romance Park of the Heart – an abandoned Beijing theme park

Beijing’s filled with hidden secrets. Behind all those highrise tower blocks and overpasses, there is awesomeness to be found. And so it was that we heard rumors of a decrepit half-built theme park, somewhere way out west. The rumors came from a Chinese film student, who’d heard them from a friend, who’d heard them from another friend. No-one knew where on a map they were. “Just go to the Yuquanlu subway stop,” said Bing, “and walk south. That’s where it is! Ask a passerby.”

We did just that. And two hours later, we were still walking and asking passerby. The problem wasn’t that no-one had heard of it… everyone local seemed to know what we were talking about, but everyone local pointed us in a different direction. Two blocks in one direction. Twenty minutes in another. Half an hour walking along a highway. Finally we got wise, and paid a stranger to drive us around the neighborhood. And, in a moment of enlightenment, through a gap in the buildings, we saw what we were looking for: The Romance Park of the Heart.

This is what it looks like from the roadside (at least last year, it did. The last time we happened by, it was all being torn down.)

Continue reading “The Romance Park of the Heart – an abandoned Beijing theme park”