Friday, 27 October 2017


(Turn and face the strange)
David Bowie, Changes.
Since 2006, I’ve spent the winter months in Hong Kong and the summer months in my home town in the UK. And every time I return to Hong Kong, Paula asks me whether I can spot what has changed during my absence. Hong Kong is always changing, but there seem to have been more changes than usual this year. This is an account of some of the more striking changes I’ve noticed this time.

It was dark when I got back to Fanling last Friday, but as usual our plan was to cycle along the frontier road on Saturday. During my absence, streetlights had been erected at 15–20-metre intervals along the entire length of this road:

This road was part of the ‘closed area’ until 2013, and it had always been illuminated by floodlights—also visible in the photo—to deter illegal immigrants. Consequently, this strikes me as a complete waste of money, unless, that is, they are no longer functional.

Having completed the frontier road, we then continued along the long and winding road, and it wasn’t long before I could see some apparent changes ahead. However, it was only when I was almost on top of it that I discovered a new rain shelter on the banks of the Sheung Yue River.

A short distance further, on a path described in Room for Improvement, I stopped to take the next photo. You will probably be wondering what is significant here, but note the whitish patch on the path. The concrete here was loose, and it would go ‘click! clack!’ as you rode over it. This is one of several such repairs that I’ve noticed while cycling this week.

After our Saturday bike rides, Paula and I always go to Sun Ming Yuen for afternoon tea, and on the way we have to negotiate the junction shown in the next photograph. I wrote about how this junction had been (badly) redesigned in The Design Floor, the problem being that when each of the four roads meeting at this crossroads has a green light, the other three are on red. However, a disproportionate amount of the traffic on the road on the left of the photo turns right, and a huge amount of traffic from the right turns left. Under the old arrangement, that traffic backs up to the next but one traffic light, which is clearly unsatisfactory. The change has been for this left-turning traffic to proceed at the same time that traffic in the opposite direction is turning right, making it even more awkward for pedestrians to negotiate the junction.

Incidentally, Paula wasn’t aware of the change here, partly because she doesn’t make a point of learning the sequence at any light-controlled junction. Given that I cross when I judge it safe to do so, not when the green man is illuminated, I was bound to notice this change.

Sun Ming Yuen doesn’t have any specials at weekends, but we also go two or three times a week for morning tea, and an innovation that I heartily approve of is shown in the next photo: smaller steaming baskets that hold just two rather than three or four dumplings. The photo shows a basket of two siu mai (minced pork, prawn and Chinese mushroom; my favourite) alongside a standard basket that held three char siu bao (steamed bread with barbecued pork in hoi sin sauce). The third bun is in my bowl.

Another important task on my first day back is to stock up with beer. I usually do this at the local branch of ParknShop, which when I left for the UK had a single entrance/exit. As you can see, that entrance now has a one-way turnstile, because the checkouts have been moved and a separate exit opened.

And the beer itself has also been the subject of change! My first choice is always Tsingtao, and in the past it has been sold at a variety of discounts. The nominal price is HK$14.90, but ‘buy three, get one free’ was common, as was three for $35.90. You can imagine my surprise (and delight) at finding it being offered at six for $60, which I’d never seen before. I took the following photo in the local branch of rival supermarket Wellcome (I’d gone in to check whether it was matching the ParknShop price, because whenever the offer price changes, there always seems to be some coordination/collusion between the two, which doesn’t make any sense).

An old man used to live in a hut at the beginning of the path between the edge of Fanling and where I live, and when he died or was rehoused, some enterprising artists decorated the hut to commemorate the fact that he kept a lot of cats (The Cat Man’s Hut). The hut has gone, although the cat farmer painted on the door can still be seen. This statue of a cat farmer appeared while I was away (the plaster pak choi is not new):

I’ve saved the best until last. My Sunday bike ride takes me through the village of Chow Tin, which I featured in Disappearing World #4. I took the photographs for that post back in May, and if you check the second photo in that post, all you’ll see is a blank wall. Now look at it!


  1. Welcome back !

    Hope restaurant reduced price for the smaller serving.

    Excellent grafitti/street art, best I have seen in HK.

    1. Thanks for the comment Kimono. I did suggest that the smaller baskets were part of the weekday specials menu, so, yes, the prices are much lower.

      As for the painting, I agree: it really is stunning. But have you checked out ghost alley?

  2. Can see the differences here and there. Surely, this is a place of change.

    1. And there have been more changes than I’ve listed here!


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