Close Encounters of the Asian Kind

Is Asia being inundated with extraterrestrials? The much debated UFO that closed China's Xiaoshan airport recently remains unexplained while murky rumors of "military connections" swirl. We examine the mystery - plus other notable UFO sightings in the Southeast Asian skies.

Differing views of the UFO that closed Xiaoshan airport, China

CHINA: The birthplace of the UFO is inundated

A phenomenon described by some as a comet-like “fireball” spooked locals and forced Xiaoshan International Airport, in the southeastern city of Hangzhou, to ground planes for an hour to avoid a potential collision.
The national aviation authority confirmed the dramatic July 7 incident was the first time a UFO had shut down one of China's airports.

Earlier that day, a local bus driver named Yu, saw a strange glowing object in the sky. “The thing suddenly ran westwards fast, like it was escaping from something,” he said. Some Chinese experts thought that it was debris from a US intercontinental ballistic missile; others said it could be a freak reflection from some unauthorized combat...apparatus.

One shadowy, supposedly official source said the government knew what the controversial airborne object actually was – but were keeping quiet, as the matter had a “military connection.” Curiouser and curiouser… But is this sighting just one occurrence amid a modern flying-saucer epidemic?

Back in 2000, The New York Times reported a UFO boom in China's skies, noting that “the normally conservative official news media have been lavishing attention on UFO news.” (The Times added that “this is an extraordinary reversal in a country where, 25 years ago, life was so focused on Communist politics that most people could not imagine anything so ethereal as an unidentified flying object, and expressing belief in them might have been a ticket to jail.”)

Flash ages back and ufologists will find the earliest UFO sightings in recorded history in 4th century Chinese texts, which claimed that a mystical “moon boat” hovered above China every 12 years.

THAILAND: Ancient abduction and modern miracles

The US Air Force, coined the term “UFO” in 1952. But almost a century-and-a-half before, one of the earliest extraterrestrial manifestations occurred in Thailand. According to Malaysian writer Ahmad Jamaludin, missionary and physician Dr. Jacob Hazlitt reported seeing a one-eyed humanoid with “gleaming” skin dressed in silver clothing in August 1810. The sighting took place “on a road outside Meklong” (which could refer to the northeastern, Mekong River-bordering districts of Nong Khai or Mukdahan).

In September of the same year, the mono-eyed, metallic-attired freak was encountered again. This time, a local Siamese lady claimed she was awoken by an unknown force one night. Surprised to hear the surrounding area devoid of the usual animal noises, she looked out of the window to behold the alien in her back yard – before it whisked her away to a “palace of lights.” The incident is thought to be Southeast Asia's first extraterrestrial abduction.

In more recent years, a tourist's fantastical blog account of a psychically conducted UFO encounter in a (disconcertingly vaguely identified) “remote Karen [ethnic minority] village of about 40 the mountain range about five hours outside of Chiang Mai.” The ripping yarn, detailing the “jaan fai” (plates of light) that swarmed overhead “almost every night,” is worthy of Steven Spielberg.

JAPAN: First Lady ascends

Former prime minister and veritable Japanese Kennedy Yukio Hatoyama admitted that his wife had aroused unprecedented passions in him. Former actress Miyuki, voted in Time magazine’s “Top 10 Colorful First Spouses,” perhaps awakened something else in the Democratic Party of Japan leader when she momentarily overshadowed his greatest political coup (which displaced the Liberal Democrats from over half-a-century in power).

Miyuki’s words in her 2008 book Most Bizarre Things I've Encountered made giant, Martian strides from former US president Jimmy Carter’s famous 1969 UFO sighting. She claimed that aliens took her soul to the planet Venus – which she described as “a very beautiful place” being “very green” – while she was asleep.

The revelations, which included hanging out with Tom Cruise – in a previous life, when Cruise was apparently Japanese – set subeditors around the world to “pun” mode. Regular readers of her spirituality column for Mu Magazine, a publication exploring the paranormal, were less shocked. They had previously dubbed her “Mrs. Occult” for her unorthodox views.

“I can understand to a degree [the existence of UFOs],” responded baffled PM Hatoyama, according to a Japanese blog. “But being told by your wife 'I've gone and returned from Venus,' still bewilders me.” As indeed it might.

INDIA, INDONESIA & SUMATRA: Harbingers of disaster

The India Daily reported “an enormous number of UFO sightings” before the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – and wondered “were they trying to warn?”

The editorial claimed that those “in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu...Nicobar Island as well as many in Indonesia” were seeing strange flying objects and speculated that the aerial bombardment meant the visitors “were trying to communicate something.”

According to some unnamed “experts,” the Daily continued, “UFOs always hover around the epicenter of major calamities. They somehow sense these coming natural disasters…Some even believe these UFOs simulate natural disasters in the earth.”

The plot thickens and the conspiracy deepens: the India Daily linked pre-tsunami UFO flybys to the supposed earthquake-luring properties of a dangerous planetary alignment of the Sun, Earth, Moon, Venus and Jupiter. Dispelling all doubt, it argued that, "Mayans and Egyptians were always scared about planets lining up."

The piece concludes that: "It is possible that UFOs are trying to communicate to us to warn about the planetary positioning effects on the Earth's tectonic plates and crust."

Hm. Possible – in the farthest reaches of credulity, perhaps. But not exactly likely.

Whatever the weather, keep watching those portentous Asian skies. As someone, somewhere once said
the truth is out there.

-- Submitted to Travel+Leisure Asia, 2010


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