Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Hong Kong news 27 October

Today, as budgets are limited (we spent the extra money on booze) we rely solely on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), that mouthpiece regurgitating every fleck of spittle emanating from Hu Jintao's imperious mouth.

I am doing the sport first today, as there actually is some news, and South Africa features. Now I know stuff all about horse racing, but the newspaper seems to be very happy that a South African jockey, Anton Marcus, is going to be riding in the Cathay Pacific International Jockey's Championship at Happy Valley Racecourse in December. He will be the first South African flag bearing participant in this race, although a chap called Douglas Whyte from South Africa has oft competed here under the Hong Kong flag. It seems from a small editorial on sport page 2 that South Africans have been very successful here, all representing differing nations though. The paper goes on to say that our nation has made a huge contrbution to Hong Kong racing. This is all pretty cool, because Hong Kong is the most horse-racing befok place I have ever been. So it is BIG NEWS!

The Wallabies and the All Blacks are set to lock horns in Hong Kong on Saturday in a Bledisloe Cup match being touted as a mere preparation match before the World Cup next year. There is absolutely no new angle on this whatsoever.

Paul the Octopus went to calamari heaven. Boohoo. I'm so fucking sad.

Feel for Indonesians. Last week reports surfaced of torture being carried out on random citizens who don't give two shits about politics. Yesterday 113 people were killed by the combination of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, a tsunami and a volcanic eruption. Interestingly, a friend of mine travelling back from Australia was on a plane which had to make an emergency landing in Jakarta. All African passport holders were forced to remain on the plane while it was being fixed (while the others sauntered nto the airport) for fear of them gaining illegal entry into Indonesia (because of the hordes of South Africans making their way there?!). Give me South Africa any day. At least you can fight off criminals. Good luck beating a volcano with a cricket bat.

There's this blind lawyer who pissed the Chinese government off and him and his whole family have been placed under house arrest. The USA has now decided that this doesn't sit well with them and have instructed their ambassador to go and check out the conditions in which he lives. I expect the Chinese embassy in Washington DC to send a delegation to Gitmo forthwith.

Anti-Japan protests continue in China with the city of Chongqing joining the fray. Basically, China and Japan both reckon they own the same set of islands. A few weeks ago a Japanese vessel arrested the captain of a Chinese vessel within the boundaries of the islands and it caused big diplomatic kak and sparked off protests in both countries. The ones in China seem not to be dying down though with Chengdu, Mianyan, Deyang, Sichuan, Langzhou, Hainan and five others, all having loads of folks marching down the street smashing up Japan-made cars and singing about how much they hate Japan.

China has unleashed a new high-speed railway which will cover the 200km between Shanghai and Hangzhou in about 45 minutes. Although the train has been measured doing 420kph (a world train speed record, from what the SCMP understands), it will operate at around 350kph.

That big-ass French public strike and protest against raising the age of retirement from 60 to 62 seems like it will become law as it was passed - 171 votes to 150 - by the Senate. It will go to the National Assembly next where it is expected to pass there easily. Expect lots of angry French people. No, I mean angrier than normal.

We feature again: South Africa is set to build what will hopefully become the world's biggest solar power plant at a cost of R200 billion. For that amount of money we could build a big enough fucking hotel to house all 50 million of us. As things stand, California is building the biggest one first which should power 750 000 homes, but it is expected that ours will eventually be 5 times the size of theirs. The newspaper alleges that 83% of South African houses have electricity. Really?

Hillary Clinton has added a stop in China to her 2-week Asia visit scheduled sometime soon. I think Hu Jintao might have a family emergency right at that time.

You may have read recently that Singapore wants to buy the Australian stock exchange or some such shit. Well it's freaked Hong Kong out and now they're planning in trading for an extra hour every day - with the start of the trading day being moved half an hour earlier and another half hour removed from the 2-hour lunch break. The real consternation seems to be whether lunch will go from midday to 1.30pm, or 12.30pm to 2pm. The lives of rich people are just never easy, are they?

A poll by HSBC has identified climate change as the greatest care of Hong Kongers. Odd considering this is the least green city I have ever been to. It's not as though anyone cares enough to even pretend (like they do in Cape Town) to recycle or conserve energy. I'd imagine that HSBC interviewed wealthy people (green policy's largest target market) and not those who have to worry about money or housing or where their next beer is coming from.

23 samples of the plastic wrapping around a Halloween headband have been tested for safety by the HK SAR government. Conclusions thereof indicate that children could suffocate on it. Yes. It took this for them to realise that children can choke on plastic. I swear this is an actual news story.

Check this other cracking headline: "Diet, exercise and regular checkups are the key to staying healthy".

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Hong Kong news 26 October

Excuse the lateness of today's news but I'm sick. Or tired. Or both. Either way, I'm feeling tremendously sorry for myself and would appreciate some sympathy. Thank you for participating.

Today's news from the South China Morning Post (SCMP) and the China Daily which is a business oriented newspaper (which I meant to buy yesterday but wound up with the USA Today instead).

Just like the poor and ugly people were hauled out of South African cities during the World Cup, so is China getting rid of all street food (to reduce smoke in the air) and cancelling all home renovations for the duration of the Asia Games next month in Guangzhou. And Chinese pets breathe a sigh of relief. And no one seems to wonder why the authorities don't just turn a few factories off.

China is also currently reviewing its green policies, focussing primarily on emissions generated by cars - with a possible increase in tax on the heavy polluting vehicles heading into law. Once again - turn a few fucking factories off!

China won an argument against the USA with the cancellation of a joint military exercise between the USA and South Korea, right near Chinese waters being cancelled. The SCMP seems to think that it means that relations between the two nations are thawing. I am sure that FOX News thinks otherwise.

Taiwanese authorities are in the shitter after the declined/forgot to close one of the island's highways when Hurricane Megi smashed it over the weekend. A bus with 19 tourists in it is still missing, although body parts believed to be from these visitors have been found.

A Chinese state-run newspaper has used the last batch if Wikileaks documents to have a fat go at the USA's claim to be the world's human rights protector. While these allegations may contain an element of truth, it's fat fucking hypocrisy for China to whinge about the rights of people.

(Sorry we're very China heavy today). Since the UN slapped Iran with trade sanctions, China has capitalised, with US$50 billion expected to pass between the two countries by 2016.

The greenies won't be happy. Paticularly the three or four that live in this city. Hong Kong is now officially the most wasteful place in the world. Last year the city produced 6.45 million tonnes of waste - more than double what it did 20 years ago. It translates to 912kg of crap thrown away per person in this city per year which is double that of Japan (410kg) and South Korea (380kg). Edward Yau Tang-wah, the Hong Kong SAR secretary for the environment, put it down to the increase in economic activity, population (erm, it's a per capita stat you twit) and tourism (if there were more Japanese and Korean tourists, the level would go down?).

A new phone is being launched and is set to take the uber-wealthy of Hong Kong by storm. Forget the iPhone, Android and erm... other phones. This luxury brand, Vertu, will take care of all your golden snobbish needs. Aside from the exclusivity, technology and aesthetically pleasing design, the phone will come with a concierge service, offering one-to-one assistance akin to how how larneys are treated in swanky hotels and the front of the aeroplane. Oh, it's only going to set you back HK$50 000 (R45 000).

Speaking of money: this is the first time I have seen it in the news, but it seems like many shops in Hong Kong are refusing to take small coins. The breakdown in cash here is pretty similar to SA - as is its value (about 10% cheaper than ZAR) - except there is no HK$200 note, but there is a HK$500 note. A 50c piece here (worth about 45 South African cents) and anything below is allegedly being refused by shops. And so comes the extinction of the piggy bank. The DAB (breathe: Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (a political party)) estimates that there are HK$100 million worth of coins lying unused in people's houses. That could buy a whole load of Verty phones!

In more reasons why it's now called "climate change" because the scientists ballsed up the whole "global warming" prediction, Hong Kong is expected to have a cooler than normal winter. This means we may or may not wear a jersey on one or two occasions between now and April.

No real sport news, other than the fact that captain Anil Kumble is excited about the Hong Kong Sixes next month (which yours truly will be attending).

Monday, 25 October 2010

Hong Kong news 25 October

Typhoon Megi did NOT strike Hong Kong over the weekend. It turned. So I am still a hurricane short of ever having experienced a natural disaster.

News today comes from our regular Beijing mouthpiece, the South China Morning Post (SCMP), and the China Daily. Oh, no, the retarded woman at the shop gave me the USA Today instead. And I was too retarded to fucking check. So I have one and a half newspapers here today.

While Hurricane Megi may have missed Hong Kong, it did give parts of Taiwan a bedonnering to the tune of 25 deaths, 13 of which are due to landslides caused by the storm. Rockslides also buried parts of a highway on which a bus with 21 people in it has still not been recovered. How's this quote though? "Taiwan's transport ministry said yesterday that relatives of the missing people, including those from the mainland, would receive NT5.1million (HK$1.27million) if their family members were not found." That's about 1 million rand. If that was the policy in SA I'd bury a few cousins every time it rained.

Today's main headline in the SCMP is "Mainland whims fire up HK real estate". Now, you know how governments like to blame other people for their balls ups? Well, in Hong Kong they have embraced capitalism to a larger degree than even the USA. This means that society is awesome if you're rich, but can be quite tricky if you're poor. Also, when space is at a premium (the population density here is insane) then it becomes an expensive tradable product. Which means there is a shortage of it too (supply, demand?) and it means HK has a serious housing shortage, and that poor people can't afford to live anywhere except government-subsidised housing. Of which there is not enough. This article politely makes it China's fault. Not the Hong Kong governments. Pish posh.

Umm, Sarah Palin, the one yank who manages to find the worst of the USA and pack it all into one person, has her own TV show now called Sarah Palin's Alaska. I am dying to watch it. Can you imagine if we had something like "Dan Roodt's Free State journeys" or “Floyd Shivambu’s Sandhurst” on our own TVs. I would never miss it. Ever.

I've thrown yesterday's paper away already, but on Saturday a bus fell of a bridge and landed on two taxis. It fell fucken far and somehow no one died, including the two taxi drivers who were napping in their stationary cabs. It makes me like HK taxis more.

A parallel with London: HK's public health service is excellent but it means old people don't die which makes it a bit of a strain on the public purse - god forbid the politicians had to cut back on expenses or something, yussus - so there is an initiative to revamp the health system. It's been in the news every day since I have been here with the emphasis being on rich people to go for private medical cover. The intricacies are not yet know though (or are still being finalised).

A three-dimensional porn movie is currently being shot in Hong Kong. Government hopes that this will boost tourism. Ja, because Thailand is really bout to give up the sex-tourism rep.

Hong Kong's news does get strangely similar to Britain's at times. In this instance, a chain of shopping malls (called Link) is not catering enough for disabled people. 18% of establishments do not conform to prerequisites.

HK Rugby is pissy because not enough people have bought tickets for the NZ-Australia Bledisloe Cup match for the weekend - selling only 25 000 of the 40 000-odd ticketsd available. This is because these giant cretins are charging HK$880 (R800) for a seat.

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Island (which is called Lantau)

(Click on picture thumbnails to see a larger version)

From what I understand, Lantau is the largest of the islands in Hong Kong, (bar Kowloon which is on the island of Asia - somewhat larger. At least three times as big.) and provides the one thing you cannot get on Hong Kong Island: space.

On Saturday we tootled off to the pier to catch a ferry to Lantau (all of R30 to get there) which is about a half an hour journey. As we were both suffering immense hangovers, it became a 30-minute exercise in not hurling as we bounced from wave to wave caused by the multitude of boats traversing around Hong Kong harbour.

We were glad for the presence of these, even though we didn't have to use them: We landed and found a map to take us to a certain beach we'd read about in the guide book. After doing a small and accidental loop we realised we were on the wrong road and realigned our compasses to get us on the right one (what we really did was look at the signs which pointed us perfectly in the right direction).

And so our 5-kilometre walk began. Up a goddam hill. After a quick whinge session I began following Mike (who has been blessed with gazelle like abilities - gravity doesn't actually have much of an impact on him so hills are just like normal ground) on this road, which slunk through the island forest.

Lantau is beautiful. It is large and pretty devoid of buildings, with trees gracing the interior of the island and beaches denoting the exterior. We walked for about 7 kilometres (turns out someone read the book wrong) with regular stops so I could smoke in hangover peace while Mike bounced around like someone had just replaced his batteries.

Here are our attitudes to walking 7km in the most humid place in the world:


Nature was to avenge me though. While I am terrified of creepy crawlies and rats and stuff like that, Mike (possibly more sensibly) is scared of big things that can break you when they stand on you, like cattle. And as we rounded yet another bend in the road, a bull shaped like a battering ram appeared right in front of us. We were both a bit startled so we forgot to take a picture, but it was a short and squat - almost in proportion with a buffalo, only smaller. Mike leapt across the road like someone had stuffed his backpack with Superman's cape which had accidentally turned on. To be fair I wasn't far behind and, dodging the fastest buses known to man (seriously, I am sure Hong Kong buses are driven by Nikki Lauda), we retreated behind a gate on the other side as this pit-bull like bovine walked on by.

What seemed like 20km later (was actually like 1.5km) we finally came upon what we sought: the beach - a stunning barrier separating the forest from the (surprisingly) clean seawater. We finally got to kick off our shoes and walk barefoot across the fine sand which scattered beneath our feet as we strolled down, passing Die Stoep, a South Africa-themed restaurant. Now, what makes a restaurant South African, you may ask. Well, Castle Lager, bobotie and a steak dish with chakalaka were about it. Considering I usually drink Hansa and have never once had a steak with chakalaka, it was surprising that I still felt all proud about being there, but I suppose one does when away from home. I liked and ate bobotie though - so shukria (spelling?) to Muslims in South Africa for creating it, and dankie and xiexie for those South Africans and Hong Kongers for exporting it to these wonderful parts.

One thing about this beach which I have never seen before is cattle residing upon it. I swear, it was like walking through the Transkei - but on a Chinese beach. Yes. Real cows! On a beach! (um, outside a steak restaurant. So we're banking on them selling fresh meat).

Drinking on the beaches in Hong Kong is illegal, but much like in Cape Town, I decided to ignore this ridiculous law created solely for braggarts and sat and (responsibly) slurped on a bottle of red wine while Mike ran up and down the beach.

It then got dark and, rather than risking being hit by a psychotic Hong Kong bus in the shadows, we decided to actually board one. Now, picking the correct bus in Hong Kong is not as simple as it looks, as we have no idea where the bloody things go. And the one we boarded went nowhere near where we wanted to go. In fact it went in the exact opposite direction. This was Mike panic-strickenly finding out where the hell we were going.

Which, luckily, was a route that ended at a tube station (the public transport here is amazing. I am planning a whole post on it) and we were home in about 15 minutes (after an approximate two-hour delay because we wanted to watch a movie).

Some great pics we took in Lantau:

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Hong Kong news 21 October

Image from The Washington Post.

There is only item of news that realy concerns Hongkongers today, and that's the big ass typhoon/hurricane/storm on its way here. Yep, the self-same one that just gutted the Philippines and killed 19 people: Hurricane Megi.

According to CNN, it is already raining cats and dogs (insert appropriate food joke here) in Taiwan and 170 000 people h ave been evacuated from Guangdong Province in China. Hainan Island (in China as well) has also prepared for the storm's land fall and it seemed, while it was destroying Filipino land, that it was heading directly towards Hainan. It now looks like it's going further north and much closer to Hong Kong, and is due to arrive on Saturday at 2pm. Inconveniently cocking with my lunch plans.

This is not the first time Hong Kong has faced such troubles. According to the South China Morning Post, 31 years ago Typhoon Hope bedonnered this city and killed 12 people and injured nearly 300. Guangdong has fresher memories: in 2008, Typhoon Haguit smacked it to the tune of 22 deaths and 12 billion yuang (ZAR 12.5 billion/HK$ 14 billion) in damage.

Yesterday the Observatory raised the number 1 standby signal. This indicated that there is shit on the way, from what I can tell. At 6am today, number 3 standby signal went up, which means said shit is closer. If it reaches number 8, people do not go to work - they batten down the hatches and wait the weather out. So this fucker would arrive on a Saturday, wouldn't it?

Workers in Hong Kong have cleared all drains and pipes to ease the risk of flooding. In Hainan, 50 000 fishing vessels have returned to shore and are sitting in the harbour, and the railway has been suspended. A Taiwanese vessel has already disappeared with its crew presumed dead. The state disaster relief commission in China has prepared teams to enter Hainan, Guangdog, Guangxi and Fuijan and waves of around 7m are expected to bash into the coastline.

I have no medical aid at the moment so I am hoping that our building here in Honk Kong stands up fine and well. I also hate getting wet, so I may, conceivably, get injured AND irritable.

Wish us luck. And look out for me on the news.


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Hong Kong news 20 October

Once again I don't have The Standard so I am getting my news fix from the South China Morning post again. So we're YAY GO BEIJING today.

Notoriously yo-yo relations between China and Japan are at a low once again after a Japanese foreign minister called China's reaction to having one of its boat crews in disputed waters arrested, "hysterical". Ma Zhaoxu, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said "it is in the fundamental interests of both countries to improve ... Sino-Japanese relations, but Japanese leaders' remarks obviously run counter to that." To sum up just how some Japanese feel about China, former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe compared China's assertiveness over disputed territories to Hitler and how he flitted around Europe pinching that parts which he reckoned belonged to Germany. There have also recently been nationalist protests in both countries, where they broke a whole lot of stuff made in the other country. It's like pre-school politics. This article does blame Japan for everything though as it is in the one-eyed SCMP.

Hopes of political reform in China have been dashed for the time being as the Communist Party plenum (what I assume is a conference) just finished without mention of reform. Oh, except for this statement in a communique saying it wold make "active but steady efforts to promote political restructuring" with no detail whatsoever. Wen Jiabao, China's Prime Minster who has long been a proponent of reform must be disappointed. Well, that's kinda what happens when you're in the government of a Communist Party, eh? Zwelenzima Vavi, take note. You can't always influence things from the inside.

Hainan and Guangdong province on the Chinese mainland are undergoing mass evacuations as Hurricane Megi, fresh from killing 13 people in the Philippines, is en route there. Hong Kong could feel some of the effects of the giant storm, but the worst seems like it will bypass. There's a great pic in the paper of all the fishing boats parked in the harbour on Hainan island, but it's not on the SCMP site for me to pinch.

A second executive from Octopus Holdings has quit following the privacy scandal I mentioned yesterday. The executive, Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen, is pretending that he was going to stand down anyway, but we know he is talking out of his arse because in August he told everyone that he was so amped to stay on.

The quality of air in Hong Kong is pretty awful due to all the industry in the city and the southern mainland. Yet loads of people think it is the plethora of taxis in Hong Kong that are major contributors, due to them never switching their cars off while waiting because of the constant need for an air conditioner here. Well some chap, Eric Wong, has designed some gadget which involves putting a battery beneath the driver's seat to counteract this, and the greenies are all happy about it.

(I know this is not news) British Airways are advertsing a return business class ticket from Hong Kong to London from HK$36 720 which is about R33 000. I was pretty sure this is more expensive than a Johannesburg-London business class ticket, odd, considering I thought LHR-HKG would be a far more competitive route. So I checked. And I was right, but only by about R2000.

The Employers Federation, allegedly the voice of employers on Hong Kong, has advised businesses to "share the good times with workers" and give them a 2.5%-3.5% pay rise, the highest recommendation in 13 years. Fat chance. They have to give the board a 300% pay increase first in many cases. Pfffft.

"Cleanup ordered at dilapidated gatehouse" is a real headline today. I swear to god. I am still getting used to some of the banality of news in countries where there is no crime.

Chelsea Football Club have confirmed that they will enter the Asia Cup again next season as part of their pre-season fixture set. Other teams invited will be Aston Villa (the cunts who held us over the weekend. Sorry, if you're sensitve I meant c***s), Blackburn Rovers and the winners of the Hong Kong league.

Nothing else really happened in Hong Kong sport. Not much does. There is a football report but it doesn't say where the clubs are from.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Hygiene supreme

Think of your most anally retentive friend. You know, the ones who wash their hands 20 times a day, who disinfect everything, who don't want their kids touching anything outside the house, and very few things in it due to risk of germs. Well that is the attitude to hygiene in Hong Kong, and I am sure it has got a lot to do with the SARS outbreak that hammered this city not that long ago.

There are not many ways to get attention in Hong Kong. It is an already loud city with people who keep to themselves most of the time, but cough in public and feel the room look at you out of the corners of their eyes. Sneeze, and expect to feel the daggers of one thousand death stares. I haven't yet had the gall to do both lest someone throw something at me, but I am sure I will one day get drunk enough to substantiate the goodness and social discovery intents of the idea. Everyone who is sick walks around wearing face masks (which must really screw with smoking) and there are notices up announcing every public facility which is disinfected. @StephChev, a Hong Kong based tweeter announced that she did not see the reason for a disinfected carpet, and attached this picture:
These signs are everywhere. On escalator handles, lift buttons, ticket machines, carpets - you name it. There are machines offering free hand sanitiser all over the place and signs up in the MTR (metro/tube/whatever you call it) trains and stations calling for good health practices to be observed - meaning wash your hands and cover your face.

Civil servants cleaning the streets and cleaning dustbins understandably all wear gloves and facemasks, but so do many waiters and waitresses, shop assistants, random people walking around and the guy who drives the Victoria Peak Tram - evidently terrified of the germs left behind by whoever drove the train before him.

So when you come and visit here, bring a hanky or a tissue or something to sneeze into, lest you get held under a sanitizer dispenser by a softly baying crowd who believe the germs in your snot may have wafted across the room.

Hong Kong news 19 October

Welcome to today's edition of news relevant to Hongkongers. Usually, I read the South China Morning Post (a pro-Beijing publication, and HK's biggest selling English newspaper, also referred to as the SCMP) and The Standard (because it's free). Today, however, we're only using The SCMP as my lovely boyfriend went shopping for breakfast and bought it for me. I can’t be arsed to go downstairs, myself, and retrieve a The Standard. So we're all China fans today, I'm afraid. Let's get cracking:

Xi Jinping is set to become China's next numero uno. Image from the South China Morning Post.

Current vice-president, Xi Jinping (I read that as Zee Gin-ping - and you've got to love anyone whose name sounds like gin, right?), looks set to replace Hu Jintao as the new President of China when Jintao's term expires at the end of 2012 after Jinping was yesterday promoted to the vice-chairmanship of the ruling party's Central Military Commission. I trust that Google is working like a dog in the Pentagon at the moment. It is expected that Jinping will face a harder reign than Jintao as he will have to grapple with boosting domestic (buying) demand, green policies and the growth of the liberal movement seeking political reform. It will be interesting to see what Premier Wen Jiabao does, as his term also expires in 2012, meaning he has two years in which to force through some of his own democratic policies.

For the hippies: China has committed to reducing its energy use per dollar of output by 17% by 2015 with a long term goal of cutting by 31% by 2020. Now, if you bunny-huggers could convince the US to get off its arse and do the same then you could all go and sing Kumbaya in the forest together.

If any of you have been to London, you'll know what an Oyster Card is. Well here in Hong Kong we have Octopus Cards which one puts money on and then swipes the card for most public transport and small purchases in shops. Well, the company that runs these gadgets is in shit for selling people's information on to other companies and for asking for too much information about its customers to verify their identity. It seems Facebook and Google aren't the only demons out to get you. Soon companies will know what restaurant you search for, and whether you actually went there or not. The HK SAR (special administrative region) government has declined to prosecute Octopus Holdings for these transgressions, which is unsurprising in this very pro-business environment.

The Hong Kong Arts Festival has been awarded an extra HK$14 million worth of budget this year. This brings its total budget up to HK97million. Yes, nearly 100 million South African commercial ronts is being spent on an arts festival. If we didn't have to spend so much money on fixing stuff after Cosatu/ANCYL members broke/burnt/smashed it we could probably also do the same.

Three Hong Kong police officers set off for Manila yesterday for more intense forensic investigations into the hostage tragedy last month which claimed the lives of 8 Hongkongers. In case you missed it, the corrupt President of the Philippines cares far more about protecting his buddies than actually finding out what went wrong when an ex-cop killed a busload of people so it's up to outsiders to go and find out. Weirdly enough, this coincides with the Arms Deal investigation in South Africa being put on hold indefinitely. So it's nice to know that people in high places can really just do whatever the fuck they want - universally.

Someone driving drunk last night very intelligently didn't arouse any suspicion when he did a U-turn at a police road block last night. By chance, three police officers set off after him and after a 20-kilometre high speed chase, they apprehended him when he drove into a cul-de-sac. I think that if you manage to drive 20km with one eye closed, lining up the end of the windscreen wiper with the middle line so as to stay in your lane and without driving into anyone or anything, then they should just let you go for having skilz.

Tusks recovered, packaged in bags bearing a Hong Kong government seal (meaning that they just came through Hong Kong port), in Macau were found to be hippopotamus tusks and not elephants. The three bags were found in a container suspected of containing illegal ivory valued at about HK$10 million. As an African it's so lovely to know that our hippos are being killed instead of our elephants. Whew!

The next British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013 will feature a match against an international Barbarians XV at Hong Kong Stadium. So Schalk Burger might be able to rip another Lions player's eye out without having to wait 12 years for the Lions to return to SA.

Shoaib Malik, ex-Pakistan captain, will lead his team at the Hong Kong Sixes next month. Interestingly, the squad includes one Shabbir Ahmed, who I am pretty sure was suspended for having a dodgy bowling action once upon a time. Imran Nazir is also in the squad - a man who has given the South African team all sorts of problems before; a magical talent who just couldn't make it work.

Tie Yana, Hong Kong's only entrant in table tennis for the Asia Games next month, has beaten Singapore's two top players in warm ups and elevated her world ranking from 22 to 13.

The Oceania Football Confederation has announced that it will cooperate with a FIFA investigation of allegations that its president planned to sell his vote in the current bidding war for the 2018 World Cup. Being from the country that hosted the last one, we all know how corrupt, full of shit and secretive FIFA is, so I cannot imagine that anything will ever come of this investigation. I recommend you read Ivo Vegter's FIFA related columns on The Daily Maverick. Like this, for example.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Hong Kong news 18 October

Welcome to today's run-through and interpretation of Hong Kong's news, courtesy of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) and The Standard. The SCMP is chosen because it is the top selling English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, and The Standard is chosen because it is free and people stuff it into my hands when I walk around the city.

Protestors in China smash up a Japanese-made car. Image from

The Standard led this morning with a story about anti-Japan protests in China, and anti-China protests in Japan. There was a kerfuffle in the sea last week when Japan and China both laid claim to a portion of the water as its own territory, and both nations are now getting pissy with each other, less so in government, and moreso the man in the street. Interestingly, China banned protests in Shenzen and Guangzhou where the Asian Games are scheduled next month. Maintain pretty picture at all times when cameras might be present. Follow Beijing Olympics as example. It will be interesting to see who the USA sides with, with long-time agreements with Japan being tested against a powerful diplomatic Chinese prescence - one the US doesn't want to piss off.

The Chinese (propaganda) press machine has mounted and distributed an attack on the Nobel chaps for picking Liu Xiaobo as winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace. The People's Daily said that this year's award strayed from the ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize. As if this year was the problem. Did you see who won it last year for doing diddly-squat?

The SCMP's main story was that Bishop Tong, Hong Kong's top Catholic leader, admitted yesterday that "sex scandals have rocked the universal church, including the local diocese". Later on the page they said that the Titanic sank, apartheid ended and that the USA invaded Iraq.

The poverty-loaded people gap here in Hong Kong is fairly prevalent, much like South Africa, so there must be some sort of resentment in the other front page story of the SCMP: Hong Kong universities are ofering pay packages of up to HK$200 000 (about R180 000) per month to recruit top professors from around the world. Up until 2004, university workers' pay was linked to those in the civil service, but nowadays universities have more control over their own wage bill, and therefore moreoptions when it comes to recruitment. The demand for extra lecturers is due to the commencement of four-year degrees in two years' time and the deficit of educators required stands at about 1000. I have to read more to find out why the change in the tertiary education system though. Either way, the quality of education should not be compromised by unreasonable budgets, particularly in a staunchly capitalist country like Hong Kong.

Paul Zimmerman, chief executive of Design Hong Kong has publically warned that the glut of property agencies and excessive rents that are too high for brand new businesses is going to kill the spirit of entrepreneurship in this city. The investment required in a new business here is to much, and too risky, he says.

Graham Henry has fast-tracked Sonny Bill Williams, a rugby league convert, into the All Blacks squad after only playing five professional rugby union games. The NZ squad's next fixture is against Australia in Hong Kong at the end of the month. Piri Weepu is out of the contest after dislocating his ankle over the weekend.

This has nothing to do wth Hong Kong, but Samuel Eto'o again had to confont racist chants when he scored the only goal of the game as Inter Milan beat Cagliari yesterday. Will this ever end? The game was delayed by a few minutes because of the chants directed at Eto'o. The fans should be told that they may not attend the stadium for 10 games, or something hideous like that. It is absolutely shocking that this still continues after all that Football Against Racism wank. Come on Platini, this is your shit to deal with.

There is zilcho Hong Kong sports news from the weekend except for horce racing which I don't understand.

Graham Street Market

(Click image thumbnails to see a bigger version)

Just down from where we’re staying is the Graham Street market: a sloping street with every kind of food you can think of, and many you can’t. Alongside its stands of fruit, (very alive) fish, meat, bread and a whole lot of stuff I don’t recognise – seriously, they have these things which look like apples but they have spikes sticking out of them and I am not sure if it is from a tree or the sea – you can also buy slops, children’s’ clothing, toys and behind the stalls are restaurants and more shops selling food.

A view down Graham Street Market. Photo by Simon Williamson.

It’s a place raging with a bit of controversy as the market, where many local Hongkongers do their grocery shopping, is going to be razed so that residential skyscrapers (who are we kidding? That’s an average Hong Kong building) can be built.

I usually walk to work with my significant other in the mornings and his office is right at the bottom of Graham Street, where the market starts. So I always walk back up it. It is a fascinating set up – a complete balls up from the outside, until you stroll in and join the throngs wrestling their way to where they are trying to barter. The only thing I really buy here is fruit. I far prefer a quick visit to a market than a squish in the teeny tiny aisles they have here in grocery shops, and our closest decent grocery shop is about a 10 min ride up the escalator. According to a few touristy reports I have read, these kinds of markets are the real Hong Kong. The cynic in me finds that hard to believe after our experience in Mong Kok and I have a feeling that places like the Graham Street Market can help rich snooty Hongkongers feel like they are part of their own city – such as Soweto does for urban people in Joburg and Mzoli’s does for Capetonians. I certainly don’t scoff at places like these – the three listed I very much enjoy (ok I finally confess: I actually don’t like Mzolis all that much).

Above: Fish being kept alive, waiting for someone to come and buy them. Below: Fish after this process is complete. Pics by Simon Williamson.

What I cannot deny is that it is closer, cheaper and a far more enjoyable and interesting experience to buy goods in the Graham Street Market than it is in the 7-11 across the street or the Park ‘n Shop up the hill. The first time I saw live fish in the market get their heads lopped off as soon as someone wanted to buy them, or saw a crab being removed from a tank and be systematically tied up, alive, for the customer, I was grossed out. Totally. In fact it’s still something that doesn’t sit so well with the little part of my stomach that tries to prevent nausea. But here in China it is how people buy food. When in Rome... you know?

I do not believe that I am joining in some cultural recess of Hong Kong that no one outside locals manage to permeate. But I do feel like a have a foot slightly further into the East than I would have. I’d be lying if I said that grappling over a price with someone who can only speak Cantonese didn’t thrill me a bit – I’m still convinced I’m being ripped off though. I smile as they yak out words I can’t understand, and we make hand signals to each other amongst a lot of pointing and acting like the animal I wish to buy. Really though, putting my thumbs in my arm pits and clucking like a chicken is not the most absorbing way to buy food as I am one of those people who likes great distance between what is on my plate and what runs around a farmyard.

So when you people do come and visit, take your valloids before we go grocery shopping.

PS. Can anyone identify these things on sale at the Graham Street Market? I'm no foodie so am not sure.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Foraging for food

People filled me up with this wank that Hong Kong was this totally Western city that somehow wound up next to China. Well, let me tell you, get that right out of your head. This is an Asian city - the premier language is most certainly not English (although the language of business is, and all signs are in English and Cantonese) and many Hongkongers only know a few useful phrases.

The most noticeable Asian aspect of this city, though, is the food. There is a McDonalds somewhere in the city, and the odd Western takeway like Subway, but for the most part it is Chinese. I have eaten more noodles in the last fortnight than I have in the previous 27 years of my life, and I've taught myself to use chopsticks - the excuse of being left-handed which I've used throughout my life doesn't fly here.

Restaurants in Hong Kong are pretty expensive, even by Cape Town standards. Pizza is excessively pricey (you won't find one for under R100, and that will be for a small margherita) as is steak, probably due to the fact that everything in Hong Kong needs to be imported - I cannot fathom where would be enough land for farms. Or even just one cow, to be completely honest. It does mean, though, that groceries are also damn expensive, particularly in the central part of town where we live. The South African rand is about 10% stronger than the Hong Kong dollar, so two pieces of lean chicken breast, costing about HK$50 at a Pick n Pay type of store (called Park n Shop, believe it or not) are about R45. So it's almost worth eating out as much as we do.

Every kind of restaurant you can think of is here. Thai, Italian, British which you can easily browse if you're prepared to pay for it.

Our personal restaurants of choice are what translates to "tea shops", called yum cha in Cantonese, if my Wikipedia browsing is anything to go by. This is where it seems Chinese people eat - I have never seen a non-Chinese patron in one of them, other than the two of us. We started going to them less for tea and more for the amount of money they charge for food - which keeps our bank accounts happy - but the quality of food served is also decent. There are stupidity traps though. The first time we went to a tea shop, we were served tea as we sat down. On our second visit to one of these shops, the waitress plonked two cups of hot water down on the table. In the spirit of trying to be Chinese, we sipped on it, assuming it aided digestion or some such shit, until we saw the table next to us putting their cutlery into it. We very quickly pretended we hadn't been so stupid, and ordered from the menu, which, in these kinds of restaurants, is noodles with a meat or soup prepared in some fashion. I find these tea shops are the best place for chicken dishes, but there is always pork (I think it's the most popular meat here) and beef on the menu, and you're looking at about HK$30 to HK$50 per meal. A lot of meals here are served in soup - like sweet and hot pork with noodles (which could conceivably stand on its own, but is served) in a bowl of soup. I assumed that sweet and hot pork was a mistranslation of sweet and sour, but no, they really meant sweet and hot, as the burning in my mouth testified.

On that note, there is a restaurant which all visitors will be taken to called Chilli Haven (we only noticed the name of it afterwards). We were walking around looking for a spot to eat when we came upon this cute little restaurant with affordable prices. In we innocently went and ordered two Tsingtao's (Chinese beer) while we pondered the menu. The beers were served in bowls, and I'm still unsure as to whether this is some ancient Chinese custom, or the staff were snickering around the corner, watching two morons lap up beer from a vessel ill-suited to the purpose. Our waitress, a seemingly innocent twenty something woman (but was actually a totally psychotic bitch) recommended we order the dumplings, a speciality of the restaurant. We took that, some peri-peri chicken dish and a dose of sweet and sour pork. Well, it tasted like these dumplings were grown in an Indian chilli plantation, cooked in gunpowder and were then pissed on by fire ants, and we put our brave faces on as we schlepped through them, wiping sweat from brow and trying to keep the limpid snot from escaping our noses as tears poured out of our eyes. During this process of trying to remember to breathe, I somehow managed to touch my eye with a sauce-covered finger - it caught fire and melted a little bit before I managed to save it by putting an ice-cube beneath my eyelid. We don't really know what the other food tasted like because our mouths were on fire until the following day, when we were distracted by the pain of, well, let's just say the food was digested in a very heated manner.

The one last and most important adjustment we have been forced to make in a culinary sense, is the staggering price of liquor in bars, compared to in grocery shops. In the 7-11, a beer is about HK$8, so not too far off what we pay in South Africa. However, a beer in a bog-standard bar in Soho will knock you back about HK$60 which is even more than you get schmucked for in a London pub. Wine, oir tipple of choice back in SA, is prohibitively expensive here - the cheapest bottle we can find (so our regular selection) is from Chile and costs about HK$45 - double the cost of a Zesty White. So we've had to revert to the amber drink of men - beer. Yes, glorious beer. In fact I am sipping on one right now while I type this.

And not one menu has had dog or cat on it. I am very disappointed.

ERRATA: In the post I mentioned that Tsingtao was a Japanese beer. It's actually Chinese. It's been changed.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Hong Kong news 15 October

Apologies for the lack of news yesterday, but my one-eyed reporting was compromised by my need to go out for dinner. Never fear: I have covered two days' worth of news today.

Please note the change in the title. My mornings are getting quite busy (due to the extra sleep I am getting) so I'll post the news whenever I feel like it. This is from the South China Morning Post (SCMP), a pro-Beijing English daily. Actually, it's the top selling English newspaper in Hong Kong and is about as objective as The Citizen/Daily Mail.

The Singapore skyline. Image hakked from Thanks folks.

Singapore's economy laughed off the recession as it grew 18.1% in the first half of this year which is the greatest increase since records began in 1975. How weird that these British colonies are better at British things than the British are...? Banking and economics in this case.

Beijing will spend 4 trillion yuang (which is about 4.1 trillion ronts) over five years across key industries: energy, materials, IT, biology and new medicine, aerospace, marine, manufacturing and hi-tech services. How cool would it be if China joined the space race?

The dollar weakend to its lowest level in recent times yesterday, including dropping to 81 Japanese yen. The Hong Kong Dollar is pegged to the US Dollar so the debate as to whether it should be unpegged is raging again, although HK CEO, Donald Tsang says that it is a lifeline (or some such shitty analogy) and that the currencies will remain pegged.

Chief Executive, Donald Tsang Yam Kuen (basically the president of Hong Kong) gave his penultimate policy address on Thursday. Hong Kong's biggest social problem is housing. Poor people cannot afford to live here because the huge demand for houses, and the trickling supply of them forces the prices sky high. Tsang proposed two initiatives to help people with housing. The first being a rent-to-buy where purchasers rent a property for a fixed term and then decide to buy it - the rent they've paid counts as money spent towards buying the house. The second initiative is to make 20 000 property units available every year to keep the property prices at an acceptable level. Critics believe that neither of these initiatives will work, and as this is the "We love the Chinese Government" English mouthpiece, the SCMP has quoted every critic it can find. At length.

A cab driver was arrested for taking advantage of drunk people who wound up in his taxi in the early hours of the morning. A stiff sentence - 32 months in prison - for stealing from 10 different passengers (wallets and phones and things) while they lay passed out in his car is reflective of the fact that I am not going to flout the law here.

Property magnate and government employee, Lau Wong-fat, the Hong Kong government's Peter Mandelson, a man who's crookedness seems to be reported on every day, has received the backing of Donald Tsang, the HK CEO. Lau Wong-fat probablty owns Tsang's house.

Donald Tsang has promised to table a bill regulating working hours. In yesterday's paper, a woman didn't qualify for a public transport discount because she worked less than 72 hours per week... so there are people that work more than that. Seriaas. It pays to be on the correct side of colonialism, doesn't it?

50%-60% of Hong Kong's waste is recycled. I find this very hard to believe. But the greenies don't even think that's high enough as South Korea allegedly recycles 90% of its waste.

An anonymous threat grounded 14 Cathay Pacific flights (13 passenger, 1 cargo) yesterday. It was later found to be a hoax. I hope they catch this anonymous caller and castrate him (or de-tit her). There is nothing more infuriating. Well, an actual bomb I suppose...

China will be sending over 1500 participants to the Asian Games in Guangzhou next month. Insanity.

There is absolutely no sport news regarding Hong Kong. It's all Liverpool, baseball, Chinese basketball... so you'll have to wait I'm afraid. I think the Hong Kong Sixes cricket squads have been announced though, so let me see what I can dig up. Keep an eye on twitter.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Hong Kong morning (afternoon) news 13 October

Today's interpretation of the news. Nothing made up or unsubstantiated of course.

In an open letter, a group of Chinese ex-politicians and leaders has lambasted China's attitude toward freedom of speech, even comparing it to the colonial era in Hong Kong and Macau (which was colonised by the Portuguese) where democratic rights were established. This is important, because it includes censorship of "Premier Wen Jiabao's repeated calls for political reform and deprive the people their right to learn about it". In fact, a speech which Jiabao made in Shenzen about this topic had parts deleted before it could be considered by the Chinese media. Lots of open letters like this are published in China which usually achieves nothing bar the signatories getting into hot water with the government, however, the high profile nature of the people who signed this doc means they will probably all be fine. Weirdly enough, two people who signed this letter previously worked for the CCP - the Central Propaganda Department. Go figure.

China, her neighbours (meaning the Yank's floozees, South Korea and Japan) and the USA are on the verge of having a squawk about China's actions on the South China Sea. China reckons aggrieved parties (meaning South Korea and Japan) should deal directly wth Beijing. Washington said that it is committed to coming up with a multilateral solution (meaning China should back the fuck up and let South Korea and Japan do what they want before they cock around with easy and cheap US-shipping routes, I'd imagine). Its going to boil down to China telling the States to go away, and the States saying no.

The Hong Kong SAR government expressed disappointment that the President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, has officially announced that he will not prosecute all the officials who cocked up so badly during the hostage situation in Manila which left 8 Hong Kongers dead. Instead, because they are buddies of his, he is going to blame two journalists and aim some tiny charges at high ranking offials.

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong's airline, over the last two years installed these fancy economy class seats so that passengers could recline without disturbing people sitting behind them. They have moved them off aircraft that serve long haul destinations because of the amount of people who claimed they are uncomfortable. Bully for you complainers... like economy class on all airlines isn't uncomfortable.

I have mentioned Lau Wong-fat before. He is the oke who owns 700-odd properties in Hong Kong and always seems to be in some sort of shit. Well, ithappened again. It was found out that he has leased one of his plots of land to an illegal paint-balling business. Being the owner, he is partly culpable. Oh and he's also a bigwig in government. Corruption is rife around the world, my pretties.

Donald Tsang, CEO of Legco will make some yearly address tomorrow. Listening to a politician speak is totally the most engrossing thing ever, innit?

South Korea was given the green light by the FIA during its pre-Grand Prix inspection.

The only story in sport today relevant to Hong Kong is that Colin Montgomerie will be playing in the Hong Kong Open next month. Wank wank wank. He's won it before though.

Finding a flat

The average size of a Hong Kong apartment.

As you know, Hong Kong is full of lank tall buildings - many of which are shoddily-built, cheap, crap accommodation - due to the ever-neccesary need to house the 7 million people dwelling here. Think 10-story buildings with no lifts, 200sq ft studio apartments (divide by about 10.7 for sq metres) going for HK$10 000 (about R9000) per month because flats here are hard to come by and so the price is quite ridiculous.

It's not easy. You are not going to live in a big flat, you will not have a garden. Buying a flat solely on space... well that philosophy will disappoint you - and your prioroties need changing. That being said, you are going to be looking for property amongst the glinty lights of one of the most beautiful skylines in the world, so there are, of course, definite benefits in living here.

It does mean that your factors which decide whether a flat is good or not change. As I mentioned, throw space out of the window. What you want in that sense is storage and place to store furniture. We want a 2-bedroom place, but there's no point in two rooms if one of them is too small to put stuff in (which is the case with plenty). We want one bedroom where we'll sleep, and to use the other as an office and guest room, so it will need a desk and sleeper couch to fit snugly - problem is that with an open sleeper couch in Hong-Kong-number-two-bedrooms is that the bedroom door won't close. I swear, these apartments are that small.

Kitchen space also seems a concern for many prospective renters, as every estate agent we've come across tells us about the size of it. Well, from our point of view, if the house has a microwave in it, a place for the cleaner to wash the dishes and somewhere to keep the beer cold, we're quite pleased.

Furniture in this city is as cheap as chips. Second-hand furniture is, obviously, even cheaper. We are going to check out some oke's spread of stuff this evening, where for about R1000 we will get a couch, tables, chairs, wardrobe and some useful extra appliances thrown in like a rice cooker (hahahaha) and a shoe rack (collectively, Mike and I own six pairs of shoes). It does mean that we don't need to find a furnished place, which we expected we'd have to do when we arrived.

Getting out of this tiny studio "serviced" apartment is goal number one. We're both getting a bit antsy living in such a tiny space - I am starting to be able to empathise with the Chilean miners - and we have way too much stuff to fit in here (and four boxes which are being shipped, currently en route to Hong Kong). We are out of the flat regularly - running every night, eating out, testing out the plethora of bars in this district (we're right near Soho), I often meet Mike for lunch during the day, exploring other parts of Hong Kong as well as planning our first Asia trip, which, currently, is looking like Seoul, but we're not really sure yet.

Hopefully when we do decide to go, it's from a base which we can call home. We're pretty close to choosing one now, so cross your bloody fingers. It's where you're staying when you come and visit.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Hong Kong morning news 12 October

Today's finest from the South China morning post, with added editorial by Simon Williamson.

Today's image lovingly stolen from the Daily Telegraph.

I start today with the pro-Beijing SMCP’s opinion piece entitled “Did Liu Xiaobo deserve it?”, regarding his Nobel Prize for Peace which he will get to see when he gets out of prison in 11 years time. The opinion page of today’s paper has two articles on it which directly oppose each other. One is a bland highfalutin translation from Kaifang (Open) Magazine by Jin Zhong which says Liu is wonderful because he is pro-political reform and that this award is a golden opportunity for China to begin democratisation. The other column in the page is by Barry Sautman (political scientist and lawyer) and Yan Hairong (anthropologist) who claim that Liu, in statements made in 1988 and 2007, believes that the West is superior to China and therefore is the way that China needs to lean – risking oligarch-like looting of public organisations as industry becomes privatised. The second column maintains that the people of China will not ever choose the system Liu wants for them. Interesting stuff, but real surface and guessy arguments.

On the front page of the SCMP there is a story about the heads of the US and Chinese military meeting in Vietnam today and thawing frosty relations. China is getting pissy because the US is sending in more and more of its army into the Asia-Pacific region, and the US is getting whingy because China is making its army bigger and bigger quickly. I did a once-over of the NY Times coverage of the meeting and from the US view, dialogue seemed far more strained.

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Legislative Council (Legco) and he signed an order to build a landfill in a country park. This pissed off the greenies who began protesting and spiralled into a big mess. Now, Legco reckons it can overturn an order signed by Tsang... so because of this excess litter, the Hong Kong government (well, the little pretend government that China lets it have) could conceivably wind up in the equivalent of the Constitutional Court over who in government can do what.

Mystery attackers are giving law firms kak at the moment. A follow up to yesterday’s story about property gone wrong, this kind of thing also makes me smile a bit. Someone spray painted a law firm’s entrance with red spray paint last week, and then last night someone took an axe to the glass door of another firm. Police are looking for suspects. Umm... why don’t you just see who lost cases in the last month?

Bangladesh are pissed off because Hong Kong has excluded them from the legendary and famous Hong Kong Sixes cricket tournament due to be staged next month. This is probably because there isn;t much tourism, relations or money passed between the two countries, but if I learnt anything during the World Cup in South Africa, it was that there were loads more Honduran people who came over than I imagined...

China wants to host the Olympics again, but this time in Guangzhou. Different attitudes totally from Hong Kong which is still debating whether to enter into the race for the 2023 Asia Games.