China Moves Its Cities Abroad

Beijing is not only buying Africa, now it’s building its own cities in other countries. Here, in Cambodia,

“Union Development Group (UDG), the Chinese developer behind Koh Kong province’s $3.8 billion tourism project called Dara Sakor, has unveiled plans for yet another project called “Tourism Vacation Town,”

an investment of an additional $1.2 billion dollars, while in Malaysia, a proposed new city of 700,000, the $100 billion Forest City project looks a lot like mainland China’s Shenzen, which is perched on the border with Hong Kong. Forest City would sit just across the Johor Strait from Singapore. It’s running into resistance from the Malaysian leadership, though. 93-year-old leader Mahathir Mohamad said this week

“that no foreigners would be allowed to live there even as crews rushed to complete some residential towers before buyers move in later this year.”

Trump & Brexit, Remarkable. Now Comes Malaysia

92 year old, gnarled and weathered old and retired Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003, has been elected Malaysia’s Prime Minister again after having been sent to his dotage fifteen years ago.

Unusual. But more surprising is his electoral path to victory: he allied with Anwar Ibrahim, who was his deputy prime minister in the 1990s, before Mahatir jailed Ibrahim on trumped-up sodomy charges.

The Sydney Morning Herald calls it “Incredible.”

This one caught me napping. Has Mahatir returned to politics in order to pave the way to power for a colleague-turned-rival whose career he publicly and very intentionally ruined? Why?

The SMH reports:

“The prime minister-elect has promised to stand aside for Anwar (who is serving the final days of a jail term on specious sodomy charges) to become prime minister.

Mahathir confirmed the plan in the early hours of Thursday morning.

“‘We will work on his [royal] pardon, once he is pardoned he will be eligible to become prime minister.’

That would take place as soon as possible, he said, though Anwar would first have to win a seat in Parliament again.”

Is this whole thing for real? I’ve always understood that Anwar Ibrahim has been in jail for much of his adult life because of a mean-spirited political vendetta by Mahatihr.

This is all out of left field, to lay a useless American baseball analogy over Malaysian politics. Clearly, your correspondent hasn’t visited KL for too long.

Anybody?

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Malaysia photos from EarthPhotos.com.

 

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu

With Mt. Kinabalu in the news as some 137 climbers pick their way down the mountain after yesterday’s frightening earthquake in Borneo, herre is the story of our ascent several years ago. It’s a chapter in the book Common Sense and Whiskey.

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A fine young man with a Yesus Kristus medallion bouncing around beneath his mirror drove us the seven or so kilometers into Mt. Kinabalu park, through the sleeping village of Kundasang. Farmers congregated at a warren of tin-roofed stalls along the main road. It looked like a good day for green tomatoes, potatoes, and cabbage.

They hauled us all in bas minis from the ranger station to the trailhead. From there, a six-kilometer trail led up to our destination, the Laban Ratah guest house, at 11,000 feet. At 13,432 feet, Mt. Kinabalu’s summit, in Malaysian Borneo, is the highest point in Southeast Asia.

The first kilometer (the trail was marked at each 1/2 kilometer) popped by in 23 minutes. We were flyin’, and all that stuff about how hard this would be was just talk. The first kilometer, we only stopped long enough to shed our wraps.

Just at first the trail led downhill, charming, to a cool, wet place called Carson’s Falls. On the way down the mountain, conversely, having to climb at the end was just one last kick in the butt on the way out the door.

Still before 8:00 a.m. no sunlight had fought its way to the forest floor. The air was downright chilly once our shirts turned sweaty. And they did — at the first K marker they weren’t soaked through, but a breeze blew down the rise and chilled our damp skin.

We were cocky, jaunty, making tracks, and unappreciative of the flora, except the little violet flower of the Kinabalu Balsam, which was shaped more like it had a beard than lower petals.

The massif stood silent and still, the only sounds birds or a rustling squirrel. There are no monkeys on Mt. Kinabalu. They live nearer the sea, to the east.

Mtkinabalu

The Summit of Mt. Kinabalu, 13,435 feet.


Our guide Erik was a volcano of phlegm at first, hacking, spitting, coughing, exercising all facial cavities. He was a little guy, as these highland people were, but with the strong, imposing legs you’d imagine.

He guided once a week, reckoned he’d done the climb fifty times. His personal record to the top — a place called Low’s Peak — was about three hours.

The rest of the week he helped his parents haul their produce to the Kundasang market, where you cain’t make no money. Erik said a kilo of cabbage brought fourteen U.S. cents.

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Grim realization set in during kilometer two. I felt my pack with every step, even though all it held was a camera, a towel, a dry t-shirt, bread, cheese and water.

We appreciated the moss, ferns and banana trees and searched for these particular birds who sang in two notes, but a little more grimly, a little less buoyant, quieter. Still, we made two kilometers in 58 minutes, and there were only six, total. We fed the squirrels some of the tiny peanuts Mirja had bought. Still cool and still, the entire third kilometer. Dark, thick, jungly, even almost cold, and about an hour and a half after we’d set out, at two minutes to nine, we marked halfway.

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In the fourth kilometer, Continue reading