Video

Lanterns away at Loi Krathong by Thomas O'Malley

I wound up in Chiang Mai for the double festival whammy that is Loi Krathong (floaty river offerings) and Yi Peng (hot air balloon type lanterns) in November. Although the authorities insisted that there would be absolutely no fire lanterns, there were. Fleets of them.

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It was all a bit impromptu but lanterns filled the sky like stars and the full moon was shining brightly. I had my camera with me so dashed out of a restaurant to shoot some bits of video (forgot the sound so I've spliced some Daft Punk over the top) and photos. One can understand the caution of the government each time a faulty lantern plummeted back to Earth in a raging torrent of flame.

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On the Ping River, folks were floating offerings of white flowers and candles over the water. The bars and restaurants on both banks were packed, and for once the strict licensing laws were eased off a bit. Fun times.

Where's Wally in China? by Thomas O'Malley

He's in the Forbidden City! I created this little booklet as part of a publicity stunt I devised for Bespoke Beijing during China's famously congested Golden Week national holiday. With Beijing's tourist sites overrun with visitors, the temptation is to avoid sightseeing altogether. Or... seize the opportunity and play a life-sized game of Where's Wally? instead. Next year: Badaling Great Wall. Big thanks to Liz Phung for helping out with the photography, and Harold from XIX Spirit for being such a great Wally. Click the cover above to check it out.

Despite the pollution it was a fun day out. The only folks who clocked it that it was a Where's Wally stunt were foreign tourists. Chinese tourists figured out he was supposed to be someone, but the closest they got was an old lady who knowingly declared him to be 麦当劳叔叔 (Ronald McDonald!).

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The full "Where's Wally in China" (Wo Li is his official Chinese name, actually) game can be played / read over at Bespoke Beijing's website.

Video: Climb China Central TV Tower Today! by Thomas O'Malley

Beijing's tallest structure, the Central TV Tower was built in 1994 way out west in Haidian district. Marooned in a middling low-rise neighbourhood, it's an anomaly - probably some district official pulled a lot of strings to get it built, but the development never followed.

It is, I recently discovered, a stop on the China tour group circuit, with its kitsch revolving restaurant and panoramic outdoor viewing deck. The problem is, you're a bit too far out to spot any of Beijing's big sites, aside from Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace, and the suggestion of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City by a long empty block in the distant heart of the city.

I paid a visit recently on a February afternoon to write a blog for Bespoke Beijing. A few folks I'd canvassed  didn't even acknowledge it as the tallest thing in China's capital city (It's 75m taller than China World Tower 3, the tallest skyscraper but not the tallest structure).

What I found was an endearingly kitsch throwback to a simpler (?) time in Beijing a decade and a half before the city's 'coming out' on the Olympic stage. In the car park, a reel playing on loop over loudspeakers was so daft I recorded it on my phone. The next day I used the photos and a bit of video I'd shot to put together this jokey promo-reel type video.