Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rest and Recreation

I am writing to you from sunny (blue skies) Hong Kong and it is Sunday morning. So good to look out of our windows and see blue skies and green hills.

In Singapore, although we are on a tiny hillock, we look out on condominiums and commercial buildings. And a building site - a portion of the Thai Embassy which is being torn down to make way for something new.

Whereas Singapore is relatively flat and development has spared few places, Hong Kong is hilly and 'civilisation' is concentrated in several spots. This means once out of those areas, there is much nature to be enjoyed.

Whilst children rarely have homes with gardens to play in, unlike Singapore, the government has provided and maintains walking trials, picnic and barbecue facilities in the country parks and at beaches.

Sounds a bit strange, but there it is - look at a Google map of Singapore and of Hong Kong. Aside from restricted areas, nature reserves, reservoir/catchment areas and golf courses development is fairly evenly spread in Singapore. This allows for some low rise homes with gardens. Of course we have made up by planting trees and such along our roads and now in vertical gardens.

Our trees are awesome, they stand majestically and spread their shade over many of our arterial roads. Unfortunately, tropical trees have a predilection for shedding branches in storms and cars and motorists have died as a consequence.

Like the flash floods that suddenly hit Singapore this year, they're deemed acts of God for insurance purposes.

Now look at a Google map of Hong Kong island (we are comparing island with island). All the built up areas are along the coast. The middle of the island is dominated by greenery in the form of hills (county parks and reservoirs).

So the chances of getting a green view are better in Hong Kong. Personally, I think the fabled harbour view is over rated.

On good days such as these Hong Kongers throng the beaches, creating traffic jams for those who live in Repulse Bay. And they stream up Tai Tam Reservoir Road to walk the many trials that emanate here.

The couch potato that I am, I only walked ONCE - just before we left HK for Singapore this time - in the Tai Tam Country Park. Although we have been living in this vicinity since 1989! But now I have done it, I can say it was thoroughly enjoyable. I just need someone to drag me out!

From not having bothered to touch a golf club since April, I had a lesson and then a round of golf in the two days I was here! Definitely a case of feast or famine! And I am playing today too!

When I went up to the golf club on Friday (a public holiday in Hong Kong), I saw a new dining room - it had been re-designed and renovated during the summer hiatus. Stunning - and done without the trials and travails that our Singapore club is going through.

Some of the men's locker rooms have been renovated too and should be finished by now and if not, soon. I was shown some photographs and they have selected a more traditional look with dark-stained lockers - what I call a rendition of what American designers think of as the English country club look!

So much of the renovation and construction work in Hong Kong (public or private) is done with little fuss and inconvenience to other people. 

For example, driving along the Tolo Highway to the golf club there are a few places where construction is taking place. There are warning signs of lane closures nice and early so one can be prepared, and when one is passing the work sites, the barriers are set in from the margin of the lane so that the passage of vehicles is not impinged.

In many other places the barriers, work vehicles, workers and building materials or debris sit on the lane dividing line between lanes so that motorists and other road users shy away. This effectively closes half that lane and you often find motorists straddling two lanes as a result. Thus a 3 lane road becomes a 1 1/2 lane road.

At HKGC we are building the great wall of China to fence off the front of our car park from the road, but even that has not caused much inconvenience. But then that's nothing compared to the new buildings that sprout almost as fast as mushrooms! 

Even though interest rates are low these days, there is still an incentive to build quickly - to achieve a revenue stream. Or to get the early completion bonus if it is a major public project.

Maybe Hong Kong should export its expertise in project management and construction? But then they are too busy building and making money to go and teach!

Aside from having the sun shine down on me since I arrived, the smiles and genuine greetings of everyone at the golf club warmed the cockles of my old heart. So nice to return to one's club and be made to feel welcome!

The wait staff are resplendent in their new uniforms (they put my sloppy golf outfits to shame!) which were designed by a HK designer, Barney Cheng. 

Incidentally the Cheng clan are great supporters of the club and we have had a few Cheng club captains with the likelihood of more in this and future generations. Other clans are well represented too, so be careful of whom you speak when at the golf club!

Well, I must run because I am cadging a lift today. Our car needs a service (scheduled for tomorrow) and we will be going out for dinner after golf so I thought I'd travel with my hosts. This means I won't be drinking and driving later!

(Written in haste so please excuse even more mistakes than usual!)

And, in case you don't know, I am here on my own! Lin is in Singapore as he's not allowed to travel (germs and such in aircraft and chemo on Monday). So I am here for a holiday - and maid hunting because our HK maid has given me notice.

Friends say she is not too bright to give up such a cushy job; maybe that's why my nickname for her is Einstein!

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