Hong Kong’s first Hooters is already causing controversy

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FoodBeast/Next Shark (by Ryan General):

American restaurant chain Hooters, known for its skimpily dressed female servers is about to open its first restaurant in Hong Kong. A month before its launch, however, the sports bar that bills itself as “delightfully tacky yet unrefined” is already attracting controversy.

Set to occupy a prime location in Hong Kong’s Central district along Wyndham Street, Hooters Hong Kong will be just one of the 30 branches that Bangkok-based Destinations Resorts will be bringing to Asia on behalf of Hooters Asia.

While preparations are all well under way for the Hong Kong opening, Hooters Asia general manager Mike Warde is also fending off criticisms about the company’s image and hiring processes.

We’re a sports bar, a family-oriented, fun-loving, entertainment outlet. We have standards for our service and food,” Warde told South China Morning Post in an interview.

For Warde, the Hooters girls who he calls the chain’s “brand ambassadors” are not dressed provocatively but are simply wearing sportswear. He also denied that breast size is a factor in the company’s recruitment.

That’s a myth. That was 30 years ago,” he said while showing a photograph of Thai Hooters girls with small breasts. “The reason they don’t look flat chested is because they are wearing Wonderbras.”

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A friend of one Hong Kong applicant, however is refuting his claim. Scarlet (not her real name), an applicant herself, said her friend who applied didn’t pass because of her breast size.

Her boobs are smaller, so of course they won’t hire her,” she said.

The recruitment process has been going on for months and so far 12 Hong Kong women, one Japanese woman and two European women are being considered for the job.

Aside from normal food-serving tasks, Hooter girls are also expected to perform two-minute dance numbers at certain intervals.

They stop whatever they are doing, wherever they are, and dance every 45 minutes,” says Warde. “In Thailand guests pay them to do hula hoop and the money goes to charity. We have pom-poms and we take them to the rugby pitch to support teams.

To stay in shape, they are also required to attend three kickboxing classes per week.

We teach the girls to be a lot more respectful of themselves, have more confidence in themselves. They have a fit body and fit mind and we bring out their characters because we put them all over social media,” he added.

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They said, ‘This is the largest size’ – I think that was true. But it’s crazy that the largest size is extra small. My boobs were exploding and my ass was half showing out,” the 24-year-old said.

When I went for the uniform fitting they said I’m the only girl with boobs. They want to hire locals, but most local girls are really skinny.”

Scarlet also found the salary disappointing and realized she could earn more as a beauty therapist. The HK$15,000 ($1,932) per month offered for a five-and-a-half-day week is barely above standard.

They said I would get good tips, but in Hong Kong I don’t think the guys would pay a lot. There isn’t the tipping culture here,” Scarlet said.

Back in the U.S., the company has closed about a dozen stores in recent years, with observers saying the concept of “breastaurants” is outdated.

Warde believes that it will be a different story in Asia. “In Asia we are a new brand. And in America they’ve been closing the ones that haven’t been performing and reopening others. Over the last four years it’s growing, they are on the up again,”he said.

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In the next five years, the aggressive expansion plan of Hooters Asia will also see restaurants opening in Indonesia, Thailand, Macau, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia.

How a poor refugee from Vietnam became CTO of the billion-dollar startup Uber

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Next Shark (by Ryan General):

Today, Thuan Pham is the successful Chief Technology Officer at Uber, the most valuable ride-sharing startup in the world worth over $62 billion, but as a child, Pham struggled to survive as a poor refugee boy escaping a war-ravaged Vietnam.

Pham was among the tens of thousands of refugees who fled from the Vietnam War in 1979.  The 10-year-old Pham, his mom and his siblings were crammed with hundreds of other Vietnamese refugees on a 60-meter boat on their way to an uncertain future.

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The refugees endured a perilous journey with their boat being raided by pirates twice.

“We would not panic. In fact we would be calm and surrender ourselves,”  Pham told Tech In Asia. “That’s the way a startup journey is. Even if you lose all one day, you can build all over again if you retain your calm.”

Their boat landed on the shores of Malaysia but they were immediately rejected as refugees. Instead of returning to their country, his mother took a chance in taking her children on another boat to Indonesia, where the family stayed for 10 months.

Living on the island of Letung, young Pham would swim to the nearby town to buy candies which his mother sold in the refugee camp to earn money.

“We used to make 10 cents of profit a day, and that would be a luxury,” he recalled. “We could buy fresh fish.”

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Pham’s life began to change after his mother’s asylum application in the U.S. was approved. They relocated to Maryland, where his mother worked as a ledger keeper at a gas station during the day, and as a grocery packer at a supermarket at night.

While studying in American schools, Pham struggled initially as he didn’t know English and had to start from scratch. He also wore donated clothes and shoes and found work at a local car wash station.

“I remember wearing girl socks for almost two years in oblivion, until someone pointed,” Pham told Tech in Asia.

A persistent and hardworking student, Pham graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s in computer science in 1991.

“I strongly encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to educate themselves, even if they don’t wish to graduate,” he said. “College education opens doors for you.”

After MIT, he found work at HP Labs, Silicon Graphics, DoubleClick and VMWare. When Pham joined Uber in 2013, it was already present in 60 cities with 200 employees. Currently, the company has an estimated net worth of $62.5 billion, has a presence in almost 400 cities and employs thousands of employees around the world.

As the Uber CTO, he has helped improve the Uber app which was prone to crashes in its earlier versions.  To ensure that the app is responsive and crash-proof, Pham has developed innovations that enable its architecture to keep running even if something goes wrong.

“Now we don’t crash, because we have done that in our early journey,” he said. “Entrepreneurs should fail fast in the early days.”

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Growing up with hardship and the constant threat of death back in Saigon, which today is Ho Chi Minh City, Pham was forced to overcome fear at an early age, but that trait still stick with him today.

“It taught me that life is ephemeral,” he said. “I advise young entrepreneurs to treat their startups as a learning experience. Even if it all fails you can rebuild it again. You’re in a free world.”

5 unique cafés to visit in Asia

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Audrey Magazine (by Alyssa Park):

Cafés are popping up all over America, and they are quickly becoming part of a global culture as well. For instance, all across Asia you can find amazing cafés with different types of aesthetics such as rustic, modern, traditional and even themed. If you are traveling through Asia, then these five destinations are a must.

1. Hoho Myoll Café : (Seoul, South Korea)

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Korea is known to have some of the most beautiful cafés in the world. With a bit of a rustic aesthetic, Hoho Myoll Café is an enchanting little café tucked away in the heart of Seoul.

2. Wangye Teahouse : (Zigong, China)

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Inside of what was once a 100-year-old temple lies a very famous Sichuan Teahouse in Zigong, China. Next to the Fuxi River, visitors not only enjoy a traditional cup of tea, they can also become engrossed in a rich cultural history.

3. Shirohige’s Creampuff Shop: (Tokyo, Japan)

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Shirohige’s Creampuff Shop is one of many of Japan’s themed cafés. Not only are the creampuffs Totoro-shaped, the café itself is extremely sophisticated while maintaining a youthful charm.

4.Up Café: (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

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Up Café is a mandatory destination in Saigon mostly for it’s novelty. With all of the furniture and windows hanging upside down from the ceilings, you can’t help but feel like you are in another dimension.

5. Audrey Café & Bistro: ( Bangkok, Thailand)

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Audrey Café & Bistro is one of the most popular destinations in Bangkok, Thailand because of its beauty. With decor that only reflects elegance and class, your experience here will be nothing short of luxurious.

7 Asian female emcees worth bumping on your stereos 

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Audrey Magazine: (by Arianna Caramat)

In a culture that’s been relatively dominated by a heterosexual male narrative, Hip Hop has been a hard place for women–let alone Asian American women–to truly dominate. As raptivist Aisha Fukushima once described to me, booty, bullets, and bling have countlessly been glorified by male rappers. I mean, take Big Sean’s “Dance (a$$)” for example. It’s blatantly written in the title.

But don’t give up on hip hop just yet! We have a list of strong Asian female emcees who are still under the radar but counter that male-driven narrative. Of course, they also prove women can keep it one-hundred.

Rocky Rivera (U.S.)

This thought-provoking, powerful spitter and Bay Area-native started out as an accomplished journalist before dedicating herself to her musical craft.

Suboi (Vietnam)

Hailing from Saigon, Vietnam, Suboi stands as the country’s number one female emcee and Queen of Hip Hop. Not to mention, she became the first Vietnamese artist to perform at SXSW.

Akwafina (U.S.)

Don’t be fooled by the comedic moniker! Akwafina’s tongue-and-cheek lines have been embraced by countless other women and celebrated as something good for feminism since her song, “My Vag,” went viral.

Yacko (Indonesia)

This emcee is a lecturer for an international college during the week, a rapper by weekend, and a full-time mother. With a full plate like that, Yacko still manages to be recognized as one of Indonesia’s most respected emcees.

Miss Ko (Taiwan)

This Taiwanese American emcee made the move from New York to Taiwan where she garnered a government grant to produce an album; however, all production was halted after an almost-fatal accident. After 2 years of healing and an album later, Miss Ko became the first female rapper to have a No. 1 album in Taiwan.

Ruby Ibarra (U.S.)

She may be fun-sized, but her raps will knock you out! Also a Bay Area local, Ibarra has started gathering national attention and is known for melding together English and Tagalog into her flows.

Yurika (Japan)

Yurika isn’t a stranger to the rap scene in Tokyo, she’s the emcee who’s spearheading the next generation of rappers in Japan. With her cuteness and juxtaposing hard flows, she caught the attention of the Dream Boy label and became their most recent signee.

Celebrate Earth Day with 5 of Asia’s most beautiful spots 

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Audrey Magazine:

One of Buzzfeed’s top posts is a list called “27 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die.”

Since it’s release in 2013, the list has gained over 10 million views and for good reason! All of the locations are absolutely breathtaking.

In honor of Earth Day, we’re taking a closer look at the five locations in Asia that made it onto this list to remind everyone that the earth is capable of such beauty. Lets work to keep it that way.

1. Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, China

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The Danxia landforms are sandstone formations most known for (you guessed it) their vibrant color patterns. They are located in a remote region in northern central China. The mountains and hills retain such color because Danxia landforms are composed of red sandstone. Mineral deposits were compressed into rock for 24 million years, thus gaining colors ranging from deep red to yellow and green.

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2. The Hang Son Doong cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam

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The Sơn Đoòng cave is currently the largest known cave in the world and is located near the border of Laos and Vietnam. It is five times larger than the Phong Nha Cave which previously held the record for being the biggest cave in Vietnam. Although it was created 2-5 million years ago, the cave did not become public knowledge until 2009. Inside, there is a fast flowing underground river as well as cave pearls the size of baseballs.

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 3. Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan

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This popular tourist destination has been given the nickname “flower paradise” because the 32,000 square meters of flowers look amazing all year long. With each passing season, a different variety of flower will blossom throughout the Hitachi Seaside park such as the Nemophilas. The popular blue flower blossoms annually during springtime.

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4. Bamboo groves of Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan

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These Japanese bamboo groves, located in Northwest Kyoto, are a tourist favorite. The gorgeous line of bamboo not only looks beautiful, apparently it sounds beautiful too. Amusing Planet notes, “The sound of the wind in this bamboo forest has been voted as one of ‘one hundred must-be-preserved sounds of Japan’ by the Japanese government.”

The bamboo in this grove is still used to manufacture various products such as cups, boxes, baskets and mats in the area.

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5. Kelimutu crater lakes in Flores Island, Indonesia

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Kelimutu is a small volcano in the central Flores Island of Indonesia. It has gained popularity because the volcano has three craters which each contain a lake with a different color. The lakes periodically change colors from red and brown to turquoise and green, independent of each other. The lakes are named Tiwi Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People), Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Lake of Evil Sprits, or Enchanted Lake). The scientific explanation behind the colorful lakes? Chemical reactions from the minerals in the lake are triggered by the volcano’s gas activity.

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maharishi Spring/Summer 2015 “DPM: Bonsai e Alighiero” Collection

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High Snobsiety: 

British label maharishi have released a number of camouflaged pieces for their Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Included in the military designs are upcycled Vietnam-era gear and apparel, taken from the maharishi archives, that have been repurposed for modern fashion sensibilities. In keeping with designer Hardy Blechman’s philosophy, the pieces have been ritually cleansed of their former violent purpose.

Since the ’90s maharishi has quietly gone about reclaiming camo for civilian use, citing the proximity to the earth that it suggests. Some of the patterns in this collection date back to the inception of countershading in camouflage, first used widely by Italian forces in the late ’20s.


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Asian casinos will try just about anything to attract Chinese gamblers

Vincent Yu  / Associated Press

Mainland Chinese visitors gather at the lobby of the Galaxy casino in Macau

Bloomberg (by Liza Lin):

At the oceanfront Ramada Plaza hotel on South Korea’s Jeju island, about a hundred Chinese gamblers huddle around felt-topped tables, wagering as much as 5 million won ($4,500) at baccarat. Shouts in Mandarin — “Beautiful!”, “Good!” — ring out as bettors with winning hands slam their cards on the green table-tops.

Asian casino operators from South Korea to Australia are pulling in China’s gamblers as the country’s corruption crackdown scares many away from Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub. They are capitalizing on a downturn in the city’s gaming industry, which last month suffered its worst drop ever.

Operators such as Paradise Co. in South Korea are hiring Mandarin-speaking staff and offering VIP treatment including free flights, limousines and hotel stays to big spenders. Echo Entertainment Group Ltd. of Sydney and NagaCorp Ltd. in Cambodia cater to the junket operators who organize trips for Chinese gamblers with perks such as higher commissions, lower taxes and private jets.

Premium mass players can be recognized as VIP players and treated better than in Macau,” said Lee Hyuk-Byung, vice chairman of Paradise, in an interview in Seoul. “And we have other attractions in Korea such as culture, fashion, food.”

Macau casino revenue fell last year for the first time and may decline another 8 percent this year, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. By contrast, South Korea and the Philippines will grow 16 percent and 33 percent respectively this year, gaining from the spillover of Chinese gamblers, Deutsche Bank analyst Karen Tang wrote in a note.

Plastic Surgeons

President Xi Jinping has urged Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal, to diversify from gambling. Macau’s government imposed more scrutiny over junket operators, as mass market gambling also weakened amid China’s economic slowdown, and new restrictions on visas and cigarette smoking.

The anti-corruption measures are discouraging some people from traveling to Macau, and as a result we are seeing a slight shift in travel from Macau to other destinations,” said Aaron Fischer, a Hong Kong-based analyst at CLSA Ltd. “Vietnam and Philippines will likely benefit as they are the closest. Korea will pick up people in the northern parts of China.”

Gamblers who bet at least $50,000 at Paradise’s casinos qualify for freebies usually available only to VIP players, Lee said. In Macau, the minimum needed to get similar perks from junket operators is about $500,000, according to CLSA data. The company also draws Chinese gamblers to the celebrity-obsessed country by touting its pop culture and offering recommendations of top Korean plastic surgeons, Lee said.

Operators have more risqué offerings too. A gambler who exchanges 300,000 yuan ($48,000) worth of chips can receive free flights to Jeju, tours with a Mandarin-speaking guide, and the companionship of a “third-tier” Korean actress or model, according to an e-mailed brochure from Shanghai-based tour operator CNS. A CNS travel agent, who would only give her name as “Xiao Qi”, confirmed the services when contacted by phone.

Shanghai and Shenyang

It’s illegal for foreign companies to advertise casino operations in China and Paradise avoids public solicitations, Lee said. Its staff reaches out to high-stakes gamblers recommended by existing customers and makes frequent trips to major Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai, he added.

Companies are able to sidestep China’s ban on casino marketing by advertising non-gaming aspects such as a concert or entertainment show held on its venue, said Grant Govertsen, an analyst at Union Gaming Group in Macau.

Junket operators own restaurants, night clubs, they sponsor golf tournaments and other getaways,” Govertsen said in an interview. “There is plenty of stuff a junket could advertise in a mass-market sort of format.”

Still, foreign operators’ efforts to attract China’s gamblers have caught the notice of local authorities, which announced last month a crackdown on representative offices that “attract and recruit Chinese citizens” to casinos.

Peking Duck

Manila’s members-only Signature Club in Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd.’s City of Dreams casino has entrance signs in both English and Chinese, while Mandarin-speaking staff direct guests to cashiers, shops, and restaurants. The neighboring Solaire Resort and Casino owned by Bloomberry Resorts Corp. has suckling pig and Peking duck on the menu, catering to Chinese palates.

There are a lot of excuses to go the Philippines; we always promote the Philippines not on the casino but the whole package,” Cristino Naguiat, chairman at gaming regular Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp., said in an interview.

Even with the crackdown in China, we still had higher volume in terms of gross gaming revenue and in terms of junket and VIPs,” he said last month in Manila.

Too Many Chinese

South Korea is preparing to welcome more Chinese gamblers after tourist arrivals from the country rose last year to 6.1 million, with new casinos planned including at Incheon Airport.

On Jeju island, junket operators have set up shop to offer gambling chips on loan, a service common in Macau that helps bettors sidestep China’s limits on taking currency out of the country.

Competition between the island’s eight foreigner-only casinos has led to a flourishing of more than 100 unlicensed junket operators and their agents on the island, said Seo Won- Seok, a hotel and tourism management professor at Kyunghee University in Seoul.

As Chinese gamblers become more important, there’s a need to better regulate the growth of the junket operators that bring them, he said.

Our casino industry may be too dependent on the Chinese market and that means there is always risk from China’s government policy,” Seo said. “I think that’s the downside — too many Chinese in Korea.”