Question: what is the connection between the Four Seasons Barrier Reef Resort, the Saigon Floating Hotel and North Korea’s Hotel Haegumgang? Answer: they were all the same property. And a property that was built in Singapore, to boot. Unfortunately, it looks as though there will be no further incarnations for this peripatetic floating hotel, as various news reports claim Pyongyang is in the process of demolishing it, along with other South Korean tourist facilities in the Mount Kumgang recreational area. On the east coast of the Korean peninsula, just to the north of the military demarcation line, Mount Kumgang once symbolised rapprochement between Seoul and Pyongyang. In 1998, tourists from South Korea began crossing the border to visit Kumgang (Diamond Mountain) and in 2002, extensive infrastructure – including several hotels – was built. It is estimated that by July 2008, more than a million South Koreans had visited, but in that month, one of their number – Park Wang-ja – was shot dead, for having wandered into a military area, according to Pyongyang. Between then and the Covid-19 lockdowns, a trickle of Chinese tourists visited the area, but it is believed most of the facilities had stood idle for years when, in 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un described the project’s buildings – mostly constructed by South Korean company Hyundai Asan – as “a hotchpotch with no national character” and likened them to “makeshift tents in a disaster-stricken area or isolation wards” before ordering that they be destroyed. Now, it appears, that order is being carried out – wreckers going so far as to dynamite the complex’s golf course, according to The Times – although the move has come as news to Seoul. The dpa news agency reported last week that, “South Korea demanded an explanation from North Korea over a phone line on the current state of the facilities, a ministry spokeswoman said. ‘So far they have not responded.’” The latest developments almost certainly mark the end of the road – or should that be sea lane? – for the well-travelled Hotel Haegumgang/Saigon Floating Hotel/Four Seasons Barrier Reef Resort. The seven-storey “floatel” was the brainchild of Australian developer Doug Tarca. It was constructed in Singapore and positioned over the John Brewer Reef, 70km (43 miles) off the coast of Townsville, in the Australian state of Queensland, ahead of its February 1988 opening. However, the hotel – with nearly 200 rooms, a nightclub, bars, restaurants and a helipad – ran into immediate difficulties, as Cyclone Charlie set its floating tennis court adrift and sank an underwater observatory, delaying the opening. After customers began staying, it was discovered that more than 100,000 pieces of abandoned World War II ammunition were scattered across the seabed beneath the resort and its snorkelling residents. The omens were not good, and the resort quickly ran into financial troubles, closing within a year of opening. The structure was towed to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 1989, and became the Saigon Floating Hotel, operated by Australian chain Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation. Moored in the Saigon River, near the Tran Hung Dao statue, “the Floater” become a popular nightspot, but again ran into financial difficulties. In March 1997, the South China Morning Post reported: “Vietnam’s luxury Saigon Floating Hotel is set to break free from its moorings, six months after the expiry of its business licence. The 186-room hotel, which has languished on the Saigon River in Ho Chi Minh City, will be towed to Singapore in April for a refit and will eventually be relocated to be used as a casino off the tiny tropical island of Palau in Micronesia.” The move to Palau didn’t happen, and instead Hyundai Asan moored the rechristened Haegumgang in the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region in 1998. North Korea celebrates founder, US prepares for potential provocations It is not easy to find online reviews of Hotel Haegumgang, but in an article written for the ThingsAsian website, travel journalist Graham Simmons, who stayed in 2004, wrote: “You can’t get a Foster’s lager at this towering monstrosity nowadays, but the accommodation is still of acceptable if somewhat faded standard.” Which wouldn’t be much of an epitaph… Philippines unveils new China-funded bridge in Manila In Manila, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian unveiled the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge this month. One of two new bridges in the Philippine capital that have been funded by China, the 680m (2,230ft) crossing can carry 30,000 motorists a day over the Pasig River, has a pavement for pedestrians and joggers, and a bike lane. Illuminated at night, the bridge is expected to attract tourists and others searching for a picturesque view of Manila. Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua apparently has no doubt the new piece of infrastructure will become a hit; in an article about the unveiling, it repeatedly describes the bridge as being “iconic”. As useful as the Binondo-Intramuros crossing may prove to be, it seems unlikely it will ever rub shoulders with the likes of the Sydney Harbour, Golden Gate and Tsing Ma in “world’s most-famous bridges” lists. Denver plaque commemorating tragic anti-Chinese riot stirs controversy On April 16, Denver, in Colorado, passed a resolution officially apologising to Chinese immigrants for the American city’s role in anti-Chinese violence that took place on Halloween 1880. “A saloon brawl between some intoxicated white customers and two Chinese men spiralled from the bar into the street. A white mob formed, and they targeted Chinese residents and destroyed every Chinese business in the area, for which there has never been any compensation,” according to a report by broadcaster Rocky Mountain PBS. “One person died in the riot, a Chinese man named Look Young. The mob hanged him.” A small plaque now commemorates this tragic event but it’s a small plaque that has stirred up a large amount of controversy. Critics have pointed out its many inaccuracies. The plaque makes no mention of Young, for instance, and refers to the “Chinese Riot”, when in fact it was an anti-Chinese race riot. Still, a poor plaque is perhaps better than no plaque at all, and it’s something to see after you’ve visited the International Church of Cannabis; Sakura Square, a small plaza that contains a statue dedicated to Ralph Carr, the only state governor to object to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; and Denver’s other attractions.