About five months ago, we took readers on a little guided tour of what we’d been up to since launching our subscription program. Namely, cranking up the volume on our output of original content to 11. As we head into November, we figured it’s as good a time as any to once again bring you up to speed on the best stories we’ve served up over the past few months.
From investigations to natural disasters to interviews with the region’s movers and shakers, there’s been no shortage of amazing stories from our editors in Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Yangon, and Bali. And so, without further ado, allow us to draw the curtain back on a few months’ worth of hilarious, heartbreaking, and uplifting stories you might’ve missed.
We dove deep
Sometimes in this job, you simply react. News happens and you report it, often in near real-time conditions. Other stories require digging, and then digging some more. That was the case in Thailand this summer when allegations first emerged detailing sexual abuse at a prominent yoga school on Koh Phangan.
What followed was weeks of research, late-night phone calls, and the process of establishing trust with the numerous victims whose stories needed telling. The resulting story from our Coconuts Bangkok team shed significant new light on what had been more than a decade of coercion and devastating sexual abuse, and it did so before well-known international outlets.
In Hong Kong, the environment was very much on our mind, in particular, how China’s insatiable desire for “luxury” wood was leaving forests across Southeast Asia and Africa stripped bare. Our HK managing editor spent weeks meeting with sources, digging through documents, and even creating maps in a bid to show exactly how the city sits at the nexus of the global illegal logging trade. It’s precisely the kind of story that our growing subscriber base gives us the freedom to work on.
We worked weird hours
Coconuts editors don’t always get to relax on their days off. Sometimes earthquakes hit while they’re eating at roadside food stalls in Bali and they end up going home to discover the unthinkable has happened. That’s what happened to our Bali editor on Aug. 5. In the wake of our initial stories about the unfolding disaster, we traveled to Lombok to meet those trying to rebuild from the rubble, a young mother who had given birth as the world seemingly came down around her, and even interviewed a diver who had experienced the entire ordeal underwater.
While Typhoon Mangkhut was thrashing Hong Kong, meanwhile, our editors spent their Sunday working from the (relative) safety of their apartments, pounding out a blow-by-blow of what the city was experiencing. From the terrifying images of destruction that were flooding social media feeds, to the city’s response, to a breakdown of the flat-out fake news that tried to pass for the real thing, we were with you every step of the way.
And from early in the morning til late at night for two weeks across June and July, we covered the story of a trapped youth soccer team in northern Thailand exhaustively, from their disappearance to the miracle of their being found alive to their ultimate rescue. We took you from the heroic (the sacrifice of hero diver Sumarn Kunan) to the ridiculous (the absurdity of the Elon Musk saga). It was, quite honestly, as exciting a story as anyone on our team could ever remember covering, though we can assure you, translating nightly press conferences is no treat. Speaking of interminable press conferences …
We took one (OK, a few) for the team
No one should have to sit through an entire Donald Trump press conference. We don’t mean five minutes of highlights, we mean an entire Donald Trump press conference, yet there we were on June 12, doing exactly that. The presser put a cap on a wild 48 hours where we did everything from interviewing former ambassadors to trying #TrumpKimSummit-themed food to sparring with Trump and Kim lookalikes to … well, that damn press conference. Oh, and we got to explain how Singapore actually looks on a map to the BBC. #bonus
Something else you should never have to do? Attend a conference for aspiring influencers. That said, everyone should be able to read about it and have a laugh. Or a cry. Dealer’s choice.
From brawling real estate agents, to Jollibee fanatics, to vapers who create smoke art on stage, to Brit backpackers who found their way to Malaysian TV stardom, our editors took you inside little-known worlds on a weekly basis.
If you ever wondered why Thais don’t like talking about sex, how the underground meme scene works in Singapore, how young Filipino women terminate unwanted pregnancies in a country where abortion is illegal, why young Hongkongers are trading office jobs for life on the farm, or how the Anti-Christ figures into English Premiere League football — we had you covered.
We asked questions
It’s really the best part of the job. And because it’s Coconuts, we’re not afraid to ask the questions that might initially seem a little off the wall. Like how in the world did pop band Westlife become an obsession in Myanmar? Why do Indonesians love Turkish President Recip Erdogan? And perhaps most pragmatically, was Bangkok’s BTS authority lying when they claimed to have secret bathrooms available to the public? (Spoiler alert: No, they weren’t, and we used them.)
We talked to cool people
It’s not often that a reporting job helps bring down a government, but that’s precisely the case with the Wall Street Journal’s Tom Wright and Bradley Hope. Wright sat down with us in Hong Kong ahead of the launch of their book Billion Dollar Whale and gave us the inside scoop on exactly how Jho Low pulled off maybe the greatest con of all time in bilking Malaysia’s 1MDB fund, a scandal that toppled a prime minister, and making for some very embarrassing headlines for Leonardo DiCaprio and Miranda Kerr in the process.
We stood up for our values
In Myanmar, we took a disturbing look at the dual system in place at Yangon’s passport office, where a single line exists for people of “mixed blood.” It’s a system in which Muslims, people of Chinese or Indian or African descent, are subjected to pressure for bribes and lengthy interrogations. One person we spoke to referred to it bluntly as “a racist hell.”
And while we don’t traditionally do a lot of editorials at Coconuts, when we do, you can rest assured they matter deeply to us. That was the case in early September when we cut through the excitement surrounding the upset results in Malaysia’s May election and asked why, four months in, the country’s LGBTQ+ community was still being exposed to intense discrimination, including the cruel spectacle of public canings.
We stepped up our food game
If you’ve noticed more and better restaurant and bar reviews, travel recs, and quirky lifestyle pieces, there’s a reason for that: three of them, actually. We added a trio of editors, led by Cindy Kuan, our new Managing Editor for Food, Lifestyle and Travel, to help our writers around the region bring you the best your cities have to offer in dining, nightlife, and lifestyle. Expect more (much more) where that came from as we launch new guides and make the info you need easier than ever to access on our redesigned food and lifestyle pages.
Give yourselves a hand
We’d also like to take this opportunity to give a big thanks to our subscribers, whose funding allows us to spend the time and resources necessary to tell the stories that really matter.
To get full access to every one of these stories and support independent journalism in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, take a second and become a COCO+ Member. It’s less than a latte for a month’s worth of fantastic content, and be sure to download our new and improved Coconuts App. You can do that right here.