Travel Archive

  • The mystic and the dictator: the National Palace Museum’s debt to Russian painter Nicholas Roerich

    The mystic and the dictator: the National Palace Museum’s debt to Russian painter Nicholas Roerich

    An edited version of the following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times. Aside from some low-key events in Europe and Latin America, yesterday’s Universal Day of Culture passed in the same way as previous installments: unremarked. Despite the lack of fanfare, the mind behind this occasion played a role in protecting of some of the […]

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  • Carried on the wind: the fascinating heritage of Kinmen’s emigres

    Carried on the wind: the fascinating heritage of Kinmen’s emigres

    The following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times. For centuries, Kinmen attracted immigrants. An early name for the island was Xianzhou (仙洲) — the land of immortals. While locals claim this refers to Taiwu, the island’s highest peak, said to resemble a reclining deity, it suggests a favorable living environment. Indeed, Kinmen was once flush […]

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  • Taiwan’s ‘buhaoyisi culture’ falls victim to a Dickensian curse

    Taiwan’s ‘buhaoyisi culture’ falls victim to a Dickensian curse

    The following piece appeared in today’s News Lens. In literature’s hall of shame, few characters have caused such revulsion as Uriah Heep, the antagonist of the Charles Dickens novel “David Copperfield.” The feigned humility and malevolent obsequiousness of David Copperfield’s nemesis have made his name a byword for sycophancy. In some ways, Heep’s kowtowing makes […]

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  • Lost tribe: where are the Ketagalan in Taipei’s Ketagalan center?

    Lost tribe: where are the Ketagalan in Taipei’s Ketagalan center?

    The following article appeared in Guanxi magazine:  From the top of a hill in Beitou District, Guanyin’s benevolent eye cuts through the sulfurous fug. The Goddess of Mercy is a ubiquitous presence at places of worship in Taiwan, but her role as the resident deity of Puji Temple – one of Taipei’s finest colonial relics […]

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  • China’s new ‘softy power’ could spell trouble for Taiwan

    China’s new ‘softy power’ could spell trouble for Taiwan

    A series of ridiculous incidents picked out by Taipei-based Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson highlight a disturbing trend that has emerged over the last few weeks. With a couple of Hong Kong security guards becoming the latest to put Neymar to shame with their theatrics, Olsson observed on Facebook that falling to the ground and/or (literally) […]

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  • The cog that slipped: Chiang Ching-kuo’s Russian odyssey

    The cog that slipped: Chiang Ching-kuo’s Russian odyssey

    This is the original text of a piece that The Diplomat ran as the lead article in the October issue of their magazine. Although the editor was nice enough to give me this slot as it gave me more space, I still had to hack away mercilessly to the get things down to just under […]

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  • Ghosts of Volkhonka: Chiang, Deng and the Sunovka Years

    Ghosts of Volkhonka: Chiang, Deng and the Sunovka Years

    The following is the original text of a piece that appeared in the travel section of the South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine. Props to the editor there for doing a sterling job with the butchery: though it gets somewhat easier as times goes on, seeing one’s offspring de-limbed continues to be a chastening experience. […]

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  • Keeping the love from Russia alive

    Keeping the love from Russia alive

    “Look” exclaims Kamil. “No hooligans!” He’s just picked us up outside our hostel close to the Kremlin in Nizhny Novgorod. With insane mark-ups being slapped on taxi fares for the duration of the World Cup, Yandex.taxi – Russia’s ride-hailing app of choice – is a godsend. They generally arrive in minutes and the drivers are […]

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  • ‘Heartbreaking’: Taiwan’s Salvadorans express anger and frustration at diplomatic rupture

    ‘Heartbreaking’: Taiwan’s Salvadorans express anger and frustration at diplomatic rupture

    “This guy is our Trump,” says Yao Lin (林駿堯), resignedly. “Everyone hates him and no one has a clue how he won the seat.” Mario Argueta goes a step further. “As ignorant as someone can get,” he says. “He didn’t even finish college.” The most withering assessment of all comes from a Salvadoran former student […]

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  • Time for Taiwan to make the personal touch count in its foreign aid

    Time for Taiwan to make the personal touch count in its foreign aid

    The following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times: (NB: The original headline was not mine and is quite misleading. I’ve reverted to my original here. The text is exactly as it appeared in the paper.) Few publications have documented Taiwan’s official development assistance (ODA) efforts in such a personal way as the booklet Greening the […]

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