2018 in review

From hotpot horror to a hologram bride, these offbeat Asia stories were well-read in 2018

  • Some ended in tragedy while others seemed more like the stuff of fiction
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2018, 6:20am


Hotpot is a huge part of Asian dining culture that’s best enjoyed with friends and family. But the experience of gathering around a steaming vessel of flavourful broth to cook your own vegetables, seafood or meat isn’t always a pleasant one – as a pregnant woman in eastern China’s Shandong province discovered when she found a dead rat in her family’s meal.

Rat in hotpot shocks pregnant woman, shuts down restaurant in eastern China

A hotpot gathering took a tragic turn in Japan, when a corporate executive dunked an employee’s face into a hotpot, scalding him badly. It sparked outrage over workplace harassment and the employee filed a compensation lawsuit, seeking damages and demanding an apology from the president of the company.

Watch: Japanese boss dunks worker’s face in hotpot at office party


American missionary John Chau, 27, was killed in an abortive attempt to convert a tribe of remote hunter-gatherers on India’s North Sentinel Island. Chau’s death sparked debate among evangelical Christians on what lengths missionaries should go to in order to spread their faith. Chau’s supporters believed in his mission but other religious scholars have questioned the approach he took.

‘Why are they so angry’: US man killed by remote Sentinel Island tribe was trying to convert them to Christianity

This is not the first time that the Stone Age tribe has killed intruders – the Sentinelese reject contact with the outside world and are known for attacking anyone who comes near their island.

‘Satan’s last stronghold’: diary of US Christian killed by Stone Age tribe reveals his terror and sense of destiny

Seven people who helped Chau illegally reach the Sentinelese have been arrested by Indian authorities. Fishermen say the tribals fired arrows at Chau and then tied a rope around his neck to drag his body across the beach.

Indian police puzzle over how to retrieve the body of the American who invaded a tribal island to spread ‘the gospel of Jesus’


Durian, known by some as the “king of fruits”, is infamous for its distinctive smell and taste. This year, an oversupply of the delicacy – caused by a combination of unusually hot weather and heavy rainfall – pushed down prices.

While this was good news for durian enthusiasts, detractors were less impressed – comparing the fruit’s pungent odour to gym socks and open sewers.

Malaysia bets big on durian as China goes bananas for world’s smelliest fruit

In Australia, a university library was evacuated after students and teachers got a whiff of rotten durian and reported a suspected gas leak.

Panic as pungent durian is mistaken for gas leak in Australian library

And an Indonesian flight was delayed when passengers refused to fly because of the overpowering smell of durian in the cabin.

Indonesian flight grounded after passengers revolt over sacks of stinky durian in cargo hold


A civil servant in Japan “wed” his holographic sweetheart this year at a US$18,000 ceremony that was attended by 39 friends and relatives – though not his parents. He was among 3,700 people who had registered with a Japanese tech developer to marry their favourite virtual characters, despite the nuptials having no legal standing.

Japanese civil servant weds computer-generated hologram he discovered singing online


A video of two skimpily dressed women dancing in front of a Muslim holy site incensed residents and local Muslim groups in the Malaysian city of Kota Kinabalu. The mosque, which is popular among tourists – both local and foreign – temporarily banned visitors for disrespecting local culture.

Malaysian mosque bans tourists after ‘sexy dance’ goes viral