Notes from a pilot's kid

Chinese Visa for US Citizens in Hong Kong

Americans are supposed to obtain a visa for China in the US in their home region. I tried to do this in October at the Chinese Consulate of New York but met a line that stretched too far for my patience. So if you’re like me and are already in East Asia, hoping to visit China, but do not have a visa, there is an alternative. Rumors on Lonelyplanet and Tripadvisor say that the China Resources Building in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, does not officially approve visas for Americans (unless they are Hong Kong residents), but that they sometimes will do so. This worked for me in January 2014, but the office would only offer a two-entry visa with six months validity (at Chinese consulates in the US, a multi-entry visa with one year validity is usually given). After Barack Obama and Xi Jinping’s recent agreement to extend visa validity to ten years, I went back to the Hong Kong visa office hopeful that they had also changed their policy. It worked! Americans applying in Hong Kong for a Chinese visa will now receive a multi-entry visa with ten years validity (at least those with a similar situation to mine). This could of course easily change without notice, but it’s a good sign for Americans wishing to visit China.

License Plates in Malaysia

Malaysian license plates are issued, made, and regulated differently from the plates of other countries in the region (although they may share some similarity with Singapore).

When most countries issue license plates, they come from the state, usually made of metal, in a standard size, with official government logos, symbols, colors and design to demonstrate their authenticity, as well as a unique license plate number that the state keeps in a registry to associate with the primary driver’s identification information.

Film Review - No Man's Land (無人區)'s message to Chinese society

No Man's Land Screenshot'


8.1/10 on Douban

7.5/10 on IMDb, but <1000 reviews

Trailer from ChinaDaily

Set in desolate, empty Northwest China, Ning Hao’s No Man’s Land is a “neo-western” centered around a duo of rare bird poachers and the lawyer who saves one of them from jail by fabricating a story about the local police. The story builds when the lawyer re-negotiates his fees to be the keys to the acquitted poacher’s new car, which the poachers view as unfair. They conspire to get revenge on the lawyer during his long drive home back East, but before they have the chance the lawyer’s road rage leads him into trouble with some local farmers. This seemingly trivial trouble then causes the planned revenge to backfire as the lawyer accidentally kills the poacher who had set out to kill him. When deciding how to deal with the dead body now situated in the backseat of his car in the middle of the Northwest’s vast desert, the laywer is subject to his own taste of tricks and extortion by the owner of a lone gas station, where he also picks up an unexpected stowaway: the gas station owner’s purchased and abused wife. Selfishness, lawlessness, rage, and revenge dominate the rest of the story and continue to lead to unintended consequences, worse problems for everyone involved, and an increasing moral complexity of the plot. There is a hint of humanity in the story as the lawyer is eventually moved to try to protect the relatively helpless wife of the gas station owner from the mess she snuck herself into, but no one really wins in the end.

24-hour Cafes in Saigon

There are few cities in the world that have a demand as high as Saigon’s for coffee, wifi, and a place to hang out throughout the day and night. This demand allows for more than a half-dozen cafes in Districts 1 and 3 to stay open (and busy) at all hours. If you are in Saigon and haven’t done so, I recommend walking down Pasteur street at 1AM on a weeknight to see for yourself: crowds of people on clusters of plastic stools hanging out with their friends, drinking coffee, playing on their phones, and enjoying the cooler temperatures.

There are probably many more than what I’ve found, but here’s a list of 24-hour cafes with wifi in District 1 and District 3 Ho Chi Minh City:

History of Modern Vietnam - A Reading List

Spending a few weeks in Vietnam recently has made me curious about its modern history, a topic I know little about. I had no coursework in university related to Vietnam, and like most people in an American grade school I came to know Vietnam more as a place where the US fought the spread of communism than anything else. But being here and observing today’s society in Ho Chi Minh has led me to wonder about several questions, mostly historical in nature:

  • What did French colonialism replace, and how much of pre-colonial Vietnamese culture is relevant to and present in everyday life today?
  • How did French colonialism create an environment for socialism to take hold?
  • How are the socialist governments and ideologies of those governments of Vietnam and China different?
  • How was socialism implemented in Vietnam after the end of the civil war?
  • What is the history of economic reform in socialist Vietnam?
  • I understand China and Vietnam’s adverserial relationship in the 70s from a Chinese perpective, but how did Vietnam view China politically through the 20th century?