gambitch - now available in blue Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
The Amazing Race 5 has gone off on a banging start, and already in the first leg we've seen all sorts of weird antics. The big news, of course, is that Dennis and Erika have been eliminated. But the story is so much more complicated than this one line would suggest.
The first leg already features a few goofs and hiccups, like Charla and Mirna concentrating so much on motivating themselves while carrying that big side of beef that they passed the butcher's without realizing it. Or Chip and Kim missing their route marker and throwing away a first-place finish to come in eighth, cancelling out their good luck at the roulette table. But nothing beats the double gaffe by the twins, who first missed the route marker box at the pier, and then joined Chip and Kim in missing the route marker across the street from the Blue and White Hotel. The Amazing Race is already five seasons old, so you wouldn't expect Kami and Karli walking past a route marker box without seeing it, but they did. The perfect source for laughs.
Things got off to a rather nasty start for Jim, and 25 stitches is a pretty bad thing. No matter how good the doctor's skills are, they can't hold him together for too long. Already he's finished next to last, and the injury has reduced him mostly to a walk. He probably has to take care of himself, but that also means he can't expect to run around too much. His daughter Marsha has been a wee bit of a bitch, though, simply refusing to cooperate with Charla and Mirna when Jim would probably have agreed, given his leg. She even pretended she hasn't found anything, and was insisting her dad shut up and act dumb. Things are going to get rather interesting for them, then.
The Detour was a wee disappointment, but only because all the teams that picked or stumbled upon Chips won their game of roulette. If the idea of Detour was to provide something that would slow things down, then Chips didn't quite work out. As it is, if not for their huge bungle, Chip and Kim would have finished first anyway, and Kami and Karli would have come in second. They weren't the first to arrive at the hotel, but the ones who went before them did Zips - which is supposed to be faster - and came in behind them. Of course it would be nice to see one team lose the roulette game and be forced into doing the ziplines, but it didn't work out that way. Still, it was fun seeing the Bowling Moms throw all their weight into the swimming pool on the second zipline!
Previews of the second leg indicate a few big bust-ups within and across teams, and that always makes good television. What I'd really like to see, though, is how well Charla and Jim overcome their handicaps and whether they can still survive after the second leg. It's hard to tip anyone losing this one, but on the looks of it, it could well be Jim and Marsha. Tough luck on the army man, then. gambitch [
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
The Amazing Race 5 hits the television screens tonight. American viewers would already know the outcome of the first leg even as I type this, and indeed it's possible to get all the spoilers by checking out the website here. But none of that should stop me from sizing up the teams at the start of the race and making my predictions.
This is going to be a tougher race, especially since teams can now play the Yield card. I don't really know how it's going to work, but the Yield card throws in new possibilities and can drive teams to even bitchier heights. It's also said that the teams this time round are all more competitive all-round, which is supposed to make things tougher. But I still fancy things to sort themselves out after a little while.
Here, then, is a look at the teams.
Jim and Marsha. A father-daughter combination, a first in this series, but the parent-child combination has seldom played out well. Dennis and Andrew was about the son trying to prove that he's grown up and capable of making a few decisions, and Steve and Josh was the same. From the looks of it, Marsha is trying to prove she's no longer a 10-year-old little girl as well. The opening spoilers indicate that Jim will start this race on a bad note, scraping his knee so horribly that it requires stitches. He may be a tough army man, but that knee injury is going to hamper him sooner rather than later because this race doesn't give contestants enough rest. Will Marsha carry the team like children have never carried it before? I don't fancy the odds. How far will they go? Elimination at the first leg is too much of a giveaway, but I think this team would be good enough to see out three legs before crashing at the fourth.
Dennis and Erika. One of several couples on the show, the difference being that this team has broken off an engagement before because Erika once went skydiving in only socks and sneakers. They've taken the time to specially train for this race, but will it all be worth the while, given the personality flaws they have? Dennis is too nice and naive, while Erika can be too dramatic for people's liking. Just how long they'll last is a matter of luck. How far will they go? They could be good for three to six legs, but their weaker bond will not see them get past the sixth.
Kami and Karli. Twin sisters, on the beautiful side, and very open in saying they like to manipulate people. They're no Derek and Drew, then. They are going to get singled out because they're twins, and because they're good looking. Teams may not need to be particularly on their guard against them, though, because even though they say they know how to manipulate other people, don't be too surprised if they spontaneously combust between themselves when they start making many little mistakes. They don't look cool enough to take it in their stride, and aren't enough of an alpha female partnership. How far will they go? Sixth or seventh out looks like the likeliest ending, but if things screw up bad enough they could be on the way home even sooner.
Bob and Joyce. A fairytale at the second time of asking (not that their first marriage to different spouses was bad), this couple, with their Internet savvy, managed to find each other through a web dating site. A neat tale in itself, but to top that off, they seem to like activity, and like to do things like roller-blading together. They're active for their age, but by their own confession being in great shape at their age doesn't compare with being in great shape at thirty. Sentimentals will no doubt root for them, but will they be good enough? How far will they go? They'll see out the halfway stage, for sure, but anything beyond that will require sheer grit in the mould of Teri and Ian, and this couple seems too sweet to have that in them.
Brandon and Nicole. A beauty queen and a male model. Surely they can't be a threat? That's writing them off a little too easily, though perhaps in this case there is some basis. The team isn't terribly athletic, and in Brandon we have yet another nice-guy pushover with a bag of frazzled nerves. Worse still, they have no travel experience, so communicating with foreigners who can't utter a word of English will be a potential chore. Little things like that will slow them down badly enough. The upside of it is that teams will probably be reluctant to play the Yield card on them, so they don't have to worry too much about other people making life worse for them. How far will they go? Obviously not Final Three material, I'd go so far as to say they won't survive four legs.
Charla and Mirna. Here's someone with a physical disability. Charla suffers from a form of dwarfism, and that will slow her down to levels comparable with the older contestants. But if anyone thinks this team will be eliminated quickly, they had better be prepared to be wrong. They're well-travelled and can speak a good number of languages, more than most of the other contestants anyway. And Charla is going to be tough to beat, thanks to sheer determination cultivated through years of dealing with stares and sniggers. They'll eventually lose out in a foot race, and there will be plenty of those, but until then this team is going to kick some ass. How far will they go? They will be eliminated, but it won't be early. Anywhere between fourth to seventh out, bunched up with several other teams, looks like the best prospect.
Linda and Karen. Bowling moms. After the Soccer Moms and the NFL Wives (a.k.a. The Supremes), here's another good bet for a team that won't win the race. They're good friends, sure, and they bowl well, but their physical fitness is even more questionable than Bob and Joyce. I don't fancy we'd learn too much about them before they bow out - they're not well-travelled enough to get by without any problems in a race this cut-throat. How far will they go? I don't care how competitive they say they are, they probably won't be around anymore after two legs.
Colin and Christie. Another beauty queen, except this one looks tougher and more athletic. If I'm not wrong, both are into extreme sports as well, which will put them in good stead for a number of Detours and Roadblocks. They've also done a bit of travelling, but they do have a tendency to like being in control. How this will work out for this team of lovers is questionable, but maybe they will just succeed in learning to come to a compromise in order to move forward. Also a prospective target of multiple Yield cards, but don't be surprised that they play one themselves at the right moment. How far will they go? My bet is they would make the Final Three without too many problems, but bagging the million would be tough. They could be the ones though!
Marshall and Lance. The fat brothers. Both are rough personalities, which is great because they won't make a whole lot of friends on this Race, but they may not be totally isolated if they play their cards right. They have very different skillsets from each other, and they believe this will make them a great team. I'm not too sure about that, but they could certainly jostle their way through lots of difficulties and shove themselves to the front of the pack every now and then. If teams don't play their Yield cards well, this team could get overlooked and sneak a fast one up and past the rest. How far will they go? As the only all-male team on this race, I fancy them to bump their way into the Final Three. Unlikely to win the big prize, though.
Chip and Kim. A couple who work together running a computer company, they spend all the time with each other with the exception of the odd hour when one of them has chores to run. Comfortable and laid-back enough to nick the million? I would think so, except that makes it seem all too easy. On the other hand, they're a black couple, and black teams haven't really had a great record on this race. Getting into the final three would break that stereotype and prove a thing or two, but how close would they be? How far will they go? Much as I would love to see them win the million, I fear it is going to be a case of heartbreak in Asia with a tenth-leg elimination.
Alison and Donny. This team looks quite comfortable with the show. Alison has appeared in Big Brother 4 before, and lots of comment have emerged about that fact. Will she and Donny patch up and unite? Will they get lots of smooching opportunities throughout the race? I'm not too keen on the latter, because The Amazing Race works on a different dynamic, but the first question is an intriguing one. They have the necessary athleticism, and in a show where there aren't any obvious alpha teams, this could be the one to spring the big surprise by zipping to the end of the finish line and coolly bagging the million. How far will they go? I'd tip them for first finish, but since their mind isn't really on the million at the start of the show, a Final Three position is already an acceptable achievement. gambitch [
A newspaper today carried a letter from a reader, one Goh Ai Ling, regarding the Chinese prostitute problem I had discussed two days before. Here I reproduce her letter (without permissions, but I don't think anyone minds).
I agree with the points made by Mr Lim Boon Hee in his letter (ed: letter title not copied) about women from China working in the sex trade here.
This is a serious problem, concerning our society's image being tarnished.
And there is just no stopping these women from working in broad daylight, though their activities are usually carried out at night.
Are the authorities only going to monitor the situation until the prostitutes start approaching our young men on their way to school?
I have heard how sweet-talking and persistent these women can be.
The relevant authorities must be more pro-active in stemming the inflow of such undesirable people.
I am sure I speak for all parents with teenage children, who could be vulnerable.
Well, Mrs Goh, you don't actually have to worry about your teenage son being targeted by these prostitutes. I seriously doubt any prostitute would want to approach uniform-wearing teenagers for sex, because they usually aren't that loaded, nor are they that interested in actually having sex. They may be curious about the female form, and they may circulate illegal pornographic videos among themselves for quiet watching, but I don't think they're the type who would be interested in sex with a prostitute. They're likelier to want to do "it" with their cousins or love interests than with older, unacquainted prostitutes. Besides, sex with prostitutes can't possibly be that affordable for our teenagers, and even if it were, teenagers prefer spending their money on food and CDs. Clothes and shoes are usually on the parents' accounts, so I can strike that out.
That aside, comments like these in response to remarks by our ministers - remarks which, by the way, are annoyingly flippant and detrimental to image - show that the people want the problem eradicated, and they mean business. Saying that there is an increase in demand from men for sex, and that this increase is what is fuelling the prostitution trade, is a sleeper of an argument. Maybe men should be chemically castrated once they come of age so that the demand for sex is lowered, and the prostitutes won't come. But oh, wait, that solution won't do, since less libido means fewer babies, and there are already too few babies in the first place. D'oh!
The key to sorting this problem out is realizing that these prostitutes are operating without government sanction, meaning that they are doing all this illegally. They exploit loopholes in the visa system, or use education as a pretext to get past the gates. Either way, they actually have to go through the proper channels in order to get in, rather than become illegal immigrants. Because they come in through the proper means, they can move around without fearing the police, because their travel documents are all "in order". But then, precisely because they have to go through the proper means, that becomes a viable checkpoint to block them out. Just identify the people who come in on consecutive visas with three-week breaks in-between, monitor their activities, and refuse entry to suspicious individuals.
The real problem isn't coming up with a solution. It's having the will to implement that solution and see it through to its completion. If customs officers want to take the lazy way out and refuse to check people's passports for visa stamps, you can't expect the customs gate to be effective in blocking out these foreign undesirables while letting in the tourists who give us their dollars. gambitch [
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Current recurring song: Nishi-e, Higashi-e by Japanese band Mr. Children, theme song for the intriguing but underrated Japanese drama series Kira Kira Hikaru (A Tale of Autopsy).
I heard the theme song while watching the Japanese drama, which strangely was aired at the most awkward time of 12.30pm on weekdays, a time slot that can't possibly be described as prime time television. Obviously I wasn't watching this show in Japan, but that's besides the point. Given that the story was about several people who specialized in doing autopsies, I thought this was a really good choice for a theme song. It's the pop-rock type, it's slightly chilly but very jagged. The credits clip was also very well done, with the lead characters surrounding the autopsy table, most of them in their brilliant white lab coats (the exception being a policewoman in uniform). The scene where a pegasus broke from the autopsy table and took to the sky was impactful, as the characters' eyes followed the pegasus towards an infinitely distant point.
I would have recommended that you readers have a listen of the song, but unfortunately I don't have a copy of the track because I couldn't afford the CD. The only album I know that has the song is part of a Mr. Children best collection, which consists of two separate CDs, each costing a whopping $60! It's really expensive, almost three times the cost of an average CD, plus there were only two copies left when I last checked at the CD store. Two copies that, I presume, won't be sold in a hurry unless there's someone who really knows his stuff.
The Japanese are really a creative race when it comes to artistic ideas. Even their MTVs can be a class different, especially when it comes to playing with all sorts of lighting and backgrounds. Just yesterday I caught - entirely by accident - an episode from the Japanese drama Files of Young Kindaichi 3, the one starring Jun Matsumoto in the title role rather than Tsuyoshi Domoto. The credits MTV at the end of the show featured Jun doing all sorts of neat things, like uncrushing a flower and reintegrating an apple. Nothing really fancy perhaps in terms of filming technique, but the effort that goes into constructing the shots art-wise is really something, including the range of colours used for background lighting. I mean, metallic blue and screaming maroon and fuchsia!
People sometimes wonder why Japanese anime characters have such funny hair colours, like blue and pink and limey green. But these colours indicate a certain richness in expression. Indeed the more rebellious Japanese teens also express themselves in such funky hair colours. The "Gatsby hairdos" are not nearly as outlandish as you might think. At any rate, they look a lot better than the mess made out of Dennis "The Worm" Rodman's hair dyes. That had me shuddering, but the Japanese attention-grabbers at least looked consistent.
If I were to ever dye my hair, I would probably dye it a solid metallic purple, the kind that slightly blinds when reflecting the sunlight. No mild brownish highlightings or crass mock gold for me, thank you very much. If I really wanted it dyed, I'd want to give it some character that screams out loud "I know I look strange, but hey, why do I care". As it is, I don't dye my hair for three reasons. One, it costs money. Two, I tend to keep my hair short. Three, dyes can damage the scalp. Hair damage is repairable somewhat - just shave the whole lot off and let the hair grow from scratch. I've done it before (not because of hair damage). Scalp damage is another proposition altogether, one that I don't really intend to address. gambitch [
Monday, July 05, 2004
A side note: Towards the end of the Euro 2004 final, a fan ran onto the pitch, made full steam for Luis Figo, and threw something at him. People who have been around very long watching football and tennis would know of the occasional appearance of streakers at matches, but this guy wasn't one. He was fully clothed, and indeed looked a little odd with his woolly hat on too.
I didn't know initially what he was throwing, but a replay of the incident (thank goodness for television cameras!) suggested that the young man had thrown a scarf that was distinctively claret and blue - the colours of FC Barcelona. For those who don't know their history, Figo once played for Barcelona, before controversially switching to their arch-rivals Real Madrid. I guess the lad's a Barca fan then, and he still hasn't forgiven him for the switch.
I would suppose that security at the Stadium of Light was super-tight. Portugal went into great lengths to prevent terrorist activities during the tournament, and tight security would have meant the guy would have a hard time getting weapons through the turnstiles. But "football fans" have thrown coins and Jim Beam bottles onto the pitch before, and if this guy was wielding a beer bottle rather than a Barcelona scarf, then someone could have been badly hurt.
As for the guy, once he was done throwing his scarf he just charged into the Greece goal. I don't know why Nikopolidis or anyone else didn't try to stop him - maybe they didn't learn judo - but the mad lad just leapt into the net before crashing to the floor. He didn't look like he was hurt, but it did mean the stewards and police didn't have to take too long to catch him! gambitch [
THE IMPOSSIBLE HAS HAPPENED - AGAIN! GREECE ARE CHAMPIONS OF EURO 2004!
The match wasn't exciting throughout, but it was good to watch, because apart from just shutting Portugal down, Greece were certainly a little more adventurous in attack compared to their previous games. One foray saw no fewer than three Greek players making their way into the box - from open play! They were playing their way into the Portuguese area to stall for time, no doubt, but on this performance no one can accuse them of being formulaically boring.
That's not to say Portugal didn't try. They did, and Miguel provided lots of verve and sparkle down the right flank. It's a pity he got singled out for tough tackling that eventually saw him being substituted for Paulo Ferreira, the very man he replaced after the disaster of an opening game. Ronaldo, Figo and Deco all huffed and puffed, as did just about every other person in the team except goalkeeper Ricardo. Even centreback Ricardo Carvalho mustered a shot that was on target. Alas, young Cristiano Ronaldo was unable to keep a lobbed shot down under pressure, and the rest of the Portuguese just didn't have the luck to pull back an equalizer.
So this marks the end for the Golden Generation. Rui Costa has announced his international retirement, and he got himself a farewell match as a substitute for Costinha. It's almost certain Fernando Couto will not wear the green shorts again for Portugal, while Luis Figo could find little inspiration to stay on alone now that the younger men like Ronaldo and Deco have shown that they are ready for the big stage. Rui Jorge never got a game, and Vitor Baia never got called up in the first place. This is the end for them, but they deserve thanks for inspiring the nation for so long. Figo, especially, deserves tribute for leading his country this far. Were it not for that little bit of luck, they might yet have tasted glory.
As for Greece, they have Otto Rehhagel to thank. The German has become the most popular man in Greece, and word is that the vacancy left by Rudi Voeller could be his if the German public had their way. Rehhagel entered Euro 2004 with a reputation that was good if ill-publicized; this tournament will have enhanced it by several notches. He has single-handedly proven that solid organization, strategic intelligence and superb man-management could bring the best results out of seemingly ordinary individuals, forged into a team that moved and breathed together. France had Zinedine Zidane, Germany had Michael Ballack, England had Wayne Rooney, Italy had Francesco Totti, and hell, the Czech Republic have Pavel Nedved, Tomas Rosicky and Milan Baros. Greece didn't have a single super-talented player who could turn a match on his own. But Greece had a team, a whole greater than the sum of its parts. And the reason it all added up that way was Rehhagel.
The lads are already in Australia, and in all likelihood they hadn't stayed up to watch the match, nor had they perhaps properly followed the whole tournament to start with. (There aren't too many sports fans among them, a point I regularly fail to remember.) Had they watched it, they might have drawn a few lessons for themselves. The frank truth is, they aren't superstar players, just like the Greeks aren't. Maybe their predecessors were great, but that kind of greatness isn't inherited, and even if it was, they don't seem to be inheriting enough of it. They may openly challenge my opinion, but deep down they know I'm right on this one. They're good, but they're not that good. If they're going to have to overcome that, they need to work as a unit, think very carefully and keep their eyes open for the right opportunities to strike and plunder something.
If what I've seen is any indication, they're not doing that enough. They've got to be hungering for every ball, playing as if their very lives depended on it, if they're serious about winning a few trophies in their own very short careers. They've also got to know that when it's their turn on the ball, they need to find the attacks that will penetrate the other side, and they need to set up the defences to shut off the enemy's routes. That needs time, thinking and above all, cooperation. If that means they're going to have to start shoving into each other's faces to tell each other what they need to do, then so be it. Better that, than keeping quiet and leaving each other wondering just what they're going to do. The biggest element of team play is proper communication, and since none of them are born twins they can't expect telepathy to just work like that, so they have to work on it. Doing the talking, passing the signals, whatever.
I no longer train people. I'm out of the coaching and management business, because at this stage in life I need something that actually pays decent money. Also because I'm the type of coach who is frighteningly exacting with demands, and if you can't show me the kind of professionalism and commitment I'm asking for, I'm sorry but I can't turn you into a gem whatever I do. I've flirted with the thought of working with schoolboys, but schoolboys have their schooling priorities and they're already facing enough pressure with that, the last thing they need is to turn something they may well regard as a bit of good fun into nightmarish, military-style training.
All this does nothing though to stop me from learning about philosophies in sports coaching and management. I don't fancy myself to become the next Sir Alex or Arsene Wenger, or for that matter the next Big Phil or Otto Rehhagel. There's just no market for that here in this part of the world, where sports still plays ninth fiddle to other money-making honest trades, stock market adventures and legalized gambling, and anything else I didn't care to name. The only thing lagging even further behind sports is serious arts, both commercial and purely artistic (which does not include the rubbish they feed us on television). Nevertheless, it is interesting to learn how coaches turn players into trophy-winning teams, because in every sport where there's some kind of competition, this is a skill that tends to be overlooked.
We focus so much on the players carrying out the show, we often forget the infrastructure that goes into supporting them and making the most out of them. We forget the talent scouting networks, the training, the management, the sports medicine, the psychologists, and all the other things. And we never give these things the credit they so richly deserve.
Anyway, congratulations to Greece for winning Euro 2004, and see you at Vienna/Geneva 2008. gambitch [
Several Singaporean newspapers recently reported about a disturbing new phenomenon. Streetwalking prostitutes were reportedly seen in the housing heartlands of that country, soliciting openly among the daily crowd. One even brought a prospective customer into the local branch library for some hanky-panky. Apparently the majority of the prostitutes moving within the neighbourhoods came from China.
This is not okay for two reasons. Firstly, Singapore has very strict management on prostitution. This may be cause for a whole lot of jokes from Europeans, Americans and a few belligerent, insensitive Asian individuals, but apparently there are very small demarcated areas where prostitutes are allowed to operate, and anything done elsewhere is outright illegal. Secondly, solicitation out in the streets is outright illegal, and that includes streets within the demarcated red-light districts. I am aware of this because I have been near one of these districts before, the reason for that being that the area in question also happens to house a number of good coffeeshops and cheap eateries, and I was at one of these coffeeshops to watch a game of football one night. While watching the game, I could not help noticing street harlots moving in and out of the neighbouring coffeeshops several times as police vans patrolled the area.
The Chinese prostitute problem is very new, and it seems that Singapore is not alone in experiencing the problem. Hong Kong has recently reported a rise in the number of prostitutes hailing from mainland China, while Malaysia has even gone so far as to propose banning women from China from visiting the country unless they were accompanied by either their parents or male companions. This proposal was rescinded two days ago, but tough measures have nevertheless been instituted. While Hong Kong has fairly vast experience in dealing with the problem of the bak mui, or "girls from up north" in Cantonese, Southeast Asian countries are having to deal with them for the first time. And I probably would be right to guess that the problem is worst for Malaysia and Singapore, the two affluent countries of the region which have big cities with some kind of life. (I don't know about Brunei, mainly because stories from people who have worked there for some spell are of the opinion the country's state of development is not proportional to its actual wealth level.)
What is causing this problem? My guess is that it's multi-fold, but capitalization and growth in China itself in the last ten years or so is ironically a cause. It has always been possible for the Thais and the Vietnamese, for example, to travel relatively cheaply into Malaysia and Singapore, such is their physical proximity, coupled with the fact that Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are linked by rail. Trips from the rest of the Southeast Asian archipelagoes may be somewhat more expensive, but not quite as prohibitive as tickets from China in the past. But phenomenal economic growth in China has made it more affordable for its people to travel into Southeast Asia. With travel into Taiwan made difficult by political realities, and Japan and Korea being too expensive for those who are not yet part of the nouveau riche, Singapore and Malaysia have become the most attractive tourism targets for those who have the money and want a trip nearby, but technically out of the country. That's not to forget Thailand, of course.
Unfortunately, the increased affordability of travel simply because people have more money nowadays (in both mean and median terms) also means that women who want to go into freelance-ish prostitution overseas (who in all likelihood make up the bulk of those illegal streetwalkers) can now find places like Singapore and Malaysia much more accessible. This trend is likely to continue even further as budget airlines continue to populate the Asia-Pacific. Already flights from Singapore to Bangkok are possible, and it might well be a matter of time before Southeast Asia is connected to Beijing and Shanghai by the likes of AirAsia. When that happens, we can expect plenty of tourists from China flying into Southeast Asia, but a few of them may be hanging around places other than Petronas Towers and Sentosa Island...
There aren't only Chinese prostitutes in the area; other Southeast Asian countries are providing their share of them too. But the Chinese prostitutes have a distinct advantage over the "girls" from other countries - language. It may sound stereotypical of me to say that most prostitutes aren't well-educated, but I would be partially correct to say that in a sense. English is not part of basic education in most countries in this part of the world. Indeed, it is a foreign language for many of these countries, and most Thais, Vietnamese or Indonesians can barely understand sentences more complex than "yes" and "no". That means it isn't easy for people from these countries to just mix into the neighbourhoods, where people do speak English but don't speak Thai or Vietnamese. On the other hand, the Chinese nationals do speak Mandarin, and so do a good percentage of people from Malaysia and Singapore (about half or more of whom are Chinese). This makes it easier for them to mix into the local neighbourhoods simply because they can communicate with the locals.
Of course, it's not fair that all this talk about Chinese prostitutes taints the image of Chinese nationals. This is just not giving fair respect for other Chinese girls and women who are in this part of the world for travel, studies or legitimate employment. And there are lots of these women, much more than there are people who come for the purpose of prostitution. In my time, I have spoken to some of these girls pursuing degrees in university, or diplomas in other educational institutions. I have met women who work as dishwashing ladies or cashiers in convenience stores while raising their children who go to local schools to properly pick up English. I haven't met backpacking Chinese tourists, but that's just down to me not going out and chatting with people at random. These people don't deserve to be treated as harlots, especially when they don't dress and behave like one.
Having said all that, I think the problem of these streetwalking prostitutes should be swiftly eradicated, for the good of the community as well as the other Chinese nationals who are here on good business. Perhaps the police and customs can and should work together more closely to monitor the problem and clamp it down. An acquaintance I met once said that these women enter the country on social visit passes, stay out the full duration of validity, before returning to their homelands to lie low for two or three weeks, the minimum required period before a new social visit pass can be issued. Then they just repeat the same cycle for as long as they can. Common sense says that people don't usually go on multiple holidays in a single year, and even then seldom to the same destination twice in a row, much less three times in a row. Assuming that these women are using the same passport all the time, their travel history should not be too hard to check upon arrival at Immigration, and anyone suspicious could be further monitored.
So much stress is placed on the need for us to remain friendly with China as a nation that it almost seems impolite for our immigration officials to check passports and pore over people's travel histories. I don't see what wrong there is; I believe immigration officials are within their power to do so. If it's going to discomfort a few travellers who are here on good business, a smile and a couple of courteous words should help smooth that out. We've had too much talk about needing to improve our standards in the service industry, we sometimes forget that the basic principle of "service with a smile" equally applies in contexts apart from fast food restaurants and departmental stores. Customs officials can be polite and warm, but they shouldn't be compromising in identifying suspicious travellers just because they don't seem to be wanted criminals or drugs smugglers. Entry into another country is a privilege, not an entitlement.
Until we know that customs and immigration officials are taking steps to shut out "social visit pass" holders who are really here for sexual work, we are stuck with the new and sharply disconcerting fear that these women can continue to infiltrate our neighbourhoods and make quick bucks off our old men. Not only are the lives of the locals messed up by their presence, but they also add to the ongoing, already disconcerting tension between born-and-bred locals and Chinese nationals (whether immigrants, permanent residents or those on stop-over). Locals are already unhappy enough about the all-encompassing presence of the Chinese nationals, they don't need the prostitutes giving them one more excuse. gambitch [