Thursday, April 26, 2012

An Obituary for Rakuten China: Excess Pride as a Recipe for Failure

On one side, it was a Japanese giant ready to make its mark on the global stage after its sheer dominance of the domestic market.  On the other side, it is the world's largest potential market for online shopping, massive even though the penetration rate is a mere 3% of total retail but growing at a pace unheard of in the brief history of the Internet.  There seemed to be some sort of synergy.  Its potential meeting ambition, backed up by the trust the Chinese consumers placed in Japanese products combined with what the Chinese see as diminished by still significant wave of that "cool Japan" pop culture.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Bumsterism" Continued: a Night of Clubbing with Aggressive Gambian Prostitutes

Three non-black guys, happily tipsy but fully conscious, causally strolled into a second-floor dance club on the premier tourist strip of the Gambian coast.  The place was jam-packed with locals and the DJ was blaring a beautiful mix of African and American hip-hop.  Before the three guys can get a full look of their immediate surroundings, they all felt female bodies being heavily and intentionally brushing against theirs in a rhythmic up-and-down movement.  Surprised and with female scents aggressively invading their otherwise inebriated nostrils, they come face to face with African beauties lying in their arms...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Bumsterism" in the Gambia: a Sign of Traditional Values Distorted by Mass Tourism

Walking down any dusty, unpaved road in any small town in Gambia, a foreign tourist is bound to be chatted up by a local within a matter of seconds.  "Hello, you alright?" blurts out the local, typically a young man in his late twenties, just casually strolling down the street in a T-shirt, a pair of jeans, and flip-flops.  As the tourist takes this to be a casual greeting and responds with a polite "I am fine, how are you?" a seemingly genuine friendly smile appears on the youngster's face and the conversation continues to the standard questions about the tourists' national origins and motivations for coming to the Gambia.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Does Being in a Group Setting Actually Make Traveling Safer?

On being in Morocco, a fellow traveler who came directly northward across the Strait noted with worryingly horror over a glass of cheap Spanish beer, “It is totally differently over there, man; you can get pick-pocketed on the streets even if you are with a large group of your friends.  You got to be careful on your own!”  He went on to carefully describe the wild chase he and his newly acquainted travelers had in the narrow streets of Marrakech’s medina. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

China’s Sex Tourism Boom Changing the Stature of Chinese Language Abroad?!

The use of foreign languages in a particular country often shows the status of that language in the foreign country.  For instance, English, as the global lingua franca, is heard in most places around the world.  Rich countries, with their rich tourist crowds, usually get the benefit of locals attempting to speak their native tongues.  So it caught me as a rather interesting surprise when I overheard local Spaniards using their broken Chinese, rather than Japanese (as it is usual) to the Asians walking down the street.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Train Systems in Europe: Speed, Efficiency, and State Monopoly

In the countries of France and Spain, the train system is by all means a symbol of modernity and technological prowess.  The respective state-owned railway companies, the SNCF and the Renfe, both have their signature high-speed railway networks and their sleek train systems, the TGV and the AVE.  Connecting major cities with speeds topping 150-250 km/hr in amazingly silent and comfortably stable environments, these high speed trains are highly viable alternatives, both price- and comfort-wise to the burgeoning private budge airline industry.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Language, Nationalism, and Open-Mindedness: the Case of France

A fellow traveler staying at the youth hotel on the hills of old Lyon made an interesting remark. “The French does not discriminate against people of different color or background, but they do openly discriminate against people who do not speak French.” While the first part could be considered an understatement given the frequent news of ethno-social divisions in the country, the second, by all means, is generally an accurate state in daily life.