Special relationship just so much hot air
More gas bag businessmen. Hongkong Telecom parent Cable & Wireless (C&W) has sent up yet another balloon on yet another mission to circle the globe.
The skies these days must be teeming with floating suits intent on out-floating other suits.
It's starting to get on Lai See's nerves.
We thought it quirky and adventurous when Richard Branson and company risked being shot down over the mainland. But everyone else is just copying.
This latest trip is being touted as the most time-consuming round-the-world balloon journey ever.
It could 'see all existing endurance records smashed', C&W tells us.
This is making a virtue out of a necessity.
The mainland, it seems, has a limited appetite for floating Westerners.
After the Branson balloon went astray, Beijing vetoed future forays into their airspace.
But C&W is not so easily deterred.
The Hongkong Telecom parent has long-trumpeted its 'special relationship' with the mainland.
Surely the ban wouldn't apply to them? It was on this footing that the tele-types entered into 'urgent diplomatic discussions with the People's Republic of China'.
The verdict? No more business balloons. Not C&W. Not anyone. Not ever.
Now the expedition will have to skirt the southern coast, avoiding the mainland altogether.
Some special relationships just aren't that special.
The votes are in. The numbers tallied.
Lai See has selected the winner of this year's 'Most Original Fitness Programme in a Hotel with a Small Gym in a Hot Climate' award.
First prize goes to Sheraton Utama, Brunei's only five-star hotel.
Our winner doesn't have much in the way of actual equipment.
But what their gym lacks, their activity programme makes up for.
New guests receive an information kit containing colour-coded activity cards.
Categories include: The Pool, The Fitness Centre, The Steps, The Hill and The Jog.
The first two classifications are more of an apology than anything else.
The Pool, it appears, is not very big.
'If you like to do a lot of laps, you will need to do a lot of turns,' the card says.
Next there is The Fitness Centre card, depicting a standing figure holding his leg out sideways.
Again, size is an issue.
'It's not a big fitness centre,' says the literature.
The other activity cards challenge guests to overcome the equipment deficit by exercising their imaginations.
The Sheraton Utama, may not, for example, have a stair machine. But it does boast several sets of authentic stairs.
'We have six floors of stairs in our stairwell,' The Steps' card says.
'The stairwell is not air-conditioned, so it's better as a morning activity when it's not so hot.' The Jog card comes with a map of the streets and parks around the hotel.
Possible running routes are marked out for athletes of different levels.
The Hill lives up to its name.
Guests are directed to a hill down the road. They are invited to run up.
The hotel rounds out its fitness programme with a warning for all participants.
Whether on The Hill, The Jog, or The Stairs, be careful.
Accidents can happen.
'Get fit does not mean the same as get hospitalised,' the hotel proclaims.
The Year of the Rabbit has arrived and even Western nations such as Canada and Australia are marking the occasion.
Well, post-marking, at any rate.
The two countries have issued stamps depicting the animal of the hour in all its long-eared glory.
Not surprisingly, many Asian post offices are doing the same.
But not in Vietnam.
The latest stamp issued by the country portrays a pair of cavorting kittens.
Behind them lies the mother, curled in a feline ball.
'1999,' it says. 'Year of the Cat'.
One can only speculate.
Perhaps the author has something against rabbits.
Perhaps he's using his position in the postal system to bar them from the nation's envelopes.
Whatever the motive, the rabbits have been stamped out.