Posted by: Brad Nixon | January 21, 2013

At the Club

It’s late afternoon. You’ve just arrived, unnoticed to all but the keenest observers (and they are always watching) in some far-flung corner of the world: Bangkok, Singapore, or maybe Hong Kong. A vintage Mercedes diesel delivers you to the portico of The Oriental, your home for the next few days (or, if things don’t go well, indefinitely). Whether you’ve just come off a plane or transferred from the brutal two-day coach trip via the land route over the barrier range, only you and the Silent Watchers know. Your taciturn local contact is waiting for you there, ready to escort you to your suite, where he plans to give you a quick summary of the next day’s appointments (not to mention the options for entertaining yourself this evening). You say matter-of-factly, “Here, take my bag and have them put it in the room, unopened, and have a flask of gin and a bottle of tonic on ice for me. I just want to pop ’round the club to see what’s doing in town. I’ll meet you at eight in the bar.”

One simple phrase adroitly delivered in the local dialect (in a manner that indicates that there are to be no questions  asked), directs your driver to your next destination. You’re whisked to a location in the center of the massive, bustling city. You step from the car. The tropical heat of the place engulfs you as you breathe in the exotic perfume of this far-off place, so familiar to you, but always so invigorating: utterly foreign and, yet, unmistakably familiar. Your white linen suit is wrinkled from the recent days  of travel. You grasp the handle of the simple leather-clad valise that’s never out of your sight, and step briskly across the pavement and through the doors, past the subtle nod of recognition from the doorman. Yes, the place is the same as always: quiet, with an underlying thrum of energy and thoughtful cogitation on The State of Things as They Are Now. There’s a hum of conversation from the bar beyond the inner doors. In the vestibule, you make a quick check of your postbox. Nothing that can’t wait for later. You slide the handful of sealed envelopes into the inner pocket of your jacket. You see on the Notices board that Fennally is to deliver another of his endless diatribes on the subject of , “Things That Might Happen in the Central Provinces.” Blighter.

You push through the doors and, now, now you’re home. You step to the bar, place your travel-worn leather valise on a stool beside you, and address that timeless publican, “Not so much vermouth this time, Petersen, if you please.” You notice Jennings and Lococabeza down at the end of the bar, no doubt Locacabeza is still angling for a publisher for his treatise on educational inequities across the E.U. Must try to avoid catching their attention. Jennings is sure to begin the way he always does, “Say, old chap, have you seen Fotherington? He owes me money.”

Most of you who visit this site are travelers. Admit it or not, I know that we share this fantasy: that wherever we go, there is some recondite, exclusive enclave of fellows awaiting us in even the most exotic locales who recognize and admit us as belonging to an exclusive conclave of common interest; a club, a society, a guild of the worldly-wise, masters of a thousand cities and a hundred countries; knowledgable, experienced, schooled in the ways of a changing and challenging world.

There is such a place. I’ve been there. Granted I wasn’t wearing a white linen suit, nor was I whisked there by private car, but it’s a real place. In the heart of central Hong Kong (and a few other spots around the globe), there’s a place named The Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

Here’s a link. Go go to the “About” page to see a photo of the club and read about its history:

Founded in 1943, the club has been a gathering place for journalists and politicians who needed a place to gather, have their mail forwarded, and generally use as a base of operations in what was, of course, a much different Asia. In a time before electronic communication, or reliable communication whatsoever, during a global war, it was a haven. That war was succeeded by a steady string of other Asian conflicts, and the club remained an important place for reporters, photographers and others covering those conflicts. Today, it remains a working center for members of the media from around the world, not a mere social club, although there is that aspect of it. As I write this, the club’s website indicates that there will be a gathering to celebrate the O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) awarded to Sir Anthony Lawrence, former Chief Far East Correspondent for BBC Radio, now retired, who resides in Hong Kong. On the social side, I see that one can gather there to watch the Super Bowl (American football championship), although, due to the time difference, one will be doing that at 6:30 a.m. on a Monday.

One can join the club even if one isn’t a working member of the media, although it’s enormously less expensive to be a working journalist or correspondent.

I was there, briefly, as a guest of a bona fide member, globe-trotting aerial cinematographer, LG. We had about 36 hours to spend in Hong Kong, with an ambitious schedule of video taping, which took us well into our one evening. However, we made good use of our time to capture some excellent footage of that fascinating and picturesque place, even managing to make one crossing of the harbor (harbour, there) on the famous Star Ferry from Kowloon (the mainland side) to Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong is an immensely busy place rich in history and wonderful scenery that warrants many days of exploration. I’d spent twelve days there many years ago, and gotten to see a great deal of the place. The opportunity to visit the FCC, though, was an opportunity to see a quiet, integral part of what it’s like to actually be part of the fabric of the place. I regret that I don’t have photos to share with you, but it was far more enjoyable to pretend for just a short time that I belonged there, rather than to act like a tourist. What a treat. Thanks, LG! I look forward to another trip.



  1. What a fun fantasy story — thank you! Oh, and those linen suits — they start out wrinkled. It’s part of the look.


  2. Enjoyed your tale! On your next trip to China, there’s a great family in
    Shanghai to visit. Pastor Dale Cuchow of the “International Church” in that city is worth meeting. He was invited by the Chinese government to be a pastor there- the first ever invited. Only those with a foreign passport may attend, with armed guards at the door. He and his wife are good friends-and amazing people.


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