Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bicycle clear-out

What a lovely sight on a weekday morning - a nice, clean ferry pier that doesn't look like a bicycle graveyard:

But for how long, I wonder?

I still think NWFF should set up a few stalls in that space and either open them for tender or offer them for rent to local craftspeople/ traders.

It will create a buzz for people coming out of the ferry, generate more revenue for the ferry company - and, more importantly, keep those illegal parkers at bay.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dragonboat festival

We were woken up early today to the rhythmic sound of gongs. It's Tuen Ng festival again – let the battle of the dragonboats and who-has-the-longest-lens begin!

The weather was absolutely perfect for a day of watching the races... blue sunny skies and a nice stiff wind to keep temperatures down.

There was a carnival feel in the air. Even the sad old dragon at the entrance to the beach got its ceremonial garb out.

Apparently there's some secret illegal betting going on and the rivalry between the local fishing teams and the sponsored (mostly expat) teams is bitter.

You can tell which ones have the most money by their coordinating outfits. The poorer ones just make do with a motley bunch of T-shirts.

But for spectators like us, who don't have a particular team to root for, it was just a fun, colourful event.

It even prompted Buffalo Wilbur, always the last to be picked out for playground football teams, to want to join a dragonboat team too.

He wants to join only the most unfit, it's-not-the-winning-it's-the-taking-part team because he's worried his team-mates might just kick sand in his face.

For some people, though, it was just business as usual.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is this dumping in Shap Long legal?

Is this a typical developer's dirty trick: dump, degrade the area, then apply for permit to build houses on the grounds that the place is not a nature reserve any more?

The poor buffaloes. This has been their field for decades, now they have been forced to forage along the strip of land between the Shap Long beach and the mountains.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Property crunch

People have been asking me what's up with the property market in Mui Wo.

Why are the real-estate agent websites all not updated? Is there a dearth of places for sale in the area?

And why are the available properties so expensive? Is Mui Wo becoming an expat area, with expat prices?

Never let it be said I don't listen to the needs of my readers. I did take a walk around town to check and, yes, there does seem to be fewer photos up in the windows than there'd been months before.

What is happening? Gleaning from gossip from the locals and realtors here's a possible scenario:
  • There are only a small number of homes in the area and the affordable ones (ie below HK$2 million) have already been snapped up.
  • Both new and existing homeowners are banking on prices to rise further so they prefer to hold and rent out their units rather than sell – unless it's for a ridiculous sum of money.
  • Going by the laws of demand and supply, this means sale prices are high but rents are still relatively low.

So people thinking of moving to Mui Wo should rent first and buy when the supply increases again, right?

Sort of. The problem is that rents are rising all over Hong Kong and that's pushing more people off the Island and into the New Territories.

Notice how crazy rents are in Lamma? Well, some Lammaites are decamping for Mui Wo and that is increasing the demand here too.

If you're thinking of buying in the area, the agents advise you take out a lease with an option to extend so your rents won't suddenly spike at the end of the year.

But let them know that you're looking and be prepared to act fast if something does come up. As you can see from the transaction figures, there are still affordable properties around.

Don't give up hope. Sooner or later, someone will put their home on the market. It just won't be us.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Squash those litterbugs

I don't mind that people eat (sometimes very strong smelling stuff) on the ferries.

But what I do mind is accidentally sitting down on a food-stained tissue or banging my knee against a smelly styrofoam cup with curry sauce dregs stuffed into the seat.

The other day, I stepped on a piece of chewing gum which followed me all the way to work in the MTR.

Every time I get off the ferry I pass seats with trash left behind by commuters. I can understand leaving behind the newspapers... maybe the ferry crew can sell them for some money... but what about those empty bottles and styrofoam food containers?

The ferry crew are not servants; they are professional seamen.

So why do they have to pick up after these litterbugs?

I was stewing (silently) over this yesterday when a guy - who is my anti-litter hero now - spoke up. Picking up a discarded bottle, he asked the culprit, oh so politely: "I believe this is yours?"

Good on you, mate!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So that's why the walkway is taking so long...

... the workers have been raptured!

Though why they were working naked with only their hard hats on is a puzzle in itself.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Leave those buffaloes alone!

Look at those cute calves and their parents. It's so peaceful just watching them munching away in the fields and wallowing in the mud.

I can't imagine anyone having the heart to shoot at them and spray them with chemicals, as reported by Lantau Link.

Makes me so angry to think about it I want to walk around with a spray gun full of chemicals to spray in the face of that person who was so cruel to Bruce and his pals.

I mean, they are buffaloes. They can't tell the difference between garden plants and food. And if you don't put up a fence, then it should be fair play to them. Grrr....

Sign the petition to save the buffaloes here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Caterpillar season

Walking in summer can be like going into a caterpillar booby-trapped zone.

There is hardly any warning as the furry bodies are suspended in mid air on tiny, tiny threads – so fine you don't notice them until they brush against you or, heaven forbid, you suddenly get a mouthful of fluff.

I break out in hives if I so much as brush against them so I have to look extra carefully when I'm on my hikes.

Sorry for the pathetic quality of the photo above but it's already better than the one I took on my first attempt – the caterpillar somehow swung itself onto my camera, resulting in a lot of girly screaming, frantic foot stomping and a Blair Witch Project-like photo, below:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who's Daily Treasure?

So Silvermine Beach Hotel has been sold.

Hong Kong Ferry announced that: "On 12 May 2011, the Vendor has accepted the tender by the Purchaser to purchase the Property at the consideration of HK$280.8 million subject to and upon the terms of the conditions of sale.

"Taking into account the carrying value of the property and certain furniture and fixtures remaining on the Property, a gain in an estimated sum of approximately HK$240 million before tax."

Woweee, that's a lot of profit. So does that mean HKF bought the hotel for a mere HK$40.8 million? Small change, that.

But more interestingly, who is Daily Treasure Limited?

A quick Google search brings up only Daily Treasure Industrial, established in 1990, and specializing in producing decorative jewelry boxes made of real egg shells... I doubt it's the same company.

Friends in the hotel industry said they've heard rumours that the place will be turned into a conference centre. And when you come to think of it, it does make sense as the hotel is close to the airport, fairly self-contained and has a beach for team-building exercises.

I just hope they have a nice restaurant (or even spa, dare I hope?) open to the public.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fun at the fair

Now a veteran of community fun fairs, I can safely tell you what to expect.

Some entertainment by teenyboppers, guaranteed to get all the parents going: "Awwwww."

And the ubiquitous fishing lucky draw game.

It's not much but the kids and old folks do seem to have lots of fun.

I must say Rainbow and his gang should get an A for effort – these fairs are a good break in the monotony.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Buffaloes are friends, not food

Check out this charming video I found on Youtube. I know you're not supposed to approach the buffaloes but Bruce appears to be well used to humans.

I hope Bruce is not one of the buffaloes headed for Mai Po. Let's be honest – you and I know that's just a euphemism for being dragged by the horns and then slaughtered.

Kid's stuff

Spotted at Southern Comfort House (snigger) in Ham Tin today.

What a cute way to set the scene for a kiddies' party.

Friday, May 13, 2011

No parking... that means you!

It's not as if this guy couldn't find a parking space – he was in Shap Long, for goodness' sake. But he still decided that the Shap Long sitting-out area was the only place for his precious Mercedes.

I know the traffic police can't be everywhere so maybe they should give some responsible residents blank traffic summons slips to place under the windscreens of these drivers. The residents don't even have to go to court if the fine is contested – in these days of digital photography, all it takes is one picture to paint a thousand words.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Meat you there

This is our favourite frozen meat shop. It's in Chung Hau village, just behind the playground.

Apart from the usual pre-marinated barbecue stuff, you can also get a huge variety of meat here – from New Zealand lamb to Argentinian beef. Sausages like chorizo and andouilette are also available for a fraction of the price at City'super or Jason's.

And it's just next to the road too so you can often see big luxury cars parked outside while the drivers (or their maids) pop out to get something for dinner.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy birthday, Buddha

I got off the pier in Central at 9am today to be met by an unusual sight - people queueing up to get on the Mui Wo ferry. Buddha's birthday is probably the day when Mui Wo comes into its own as the place to take a bus to the Po Lin Monastery, where the action is all at today.

It's a pity though that the town doesn't take advantage of the fact and maybe hold a procession or allow vendors along the one-way road just for the day to tempt people who are waiting for the bus to Ngong Ping.

Just see how happening the road along my office is, with all the pretty windmills and dried stuff on sale to the crowds coming for the morning procession.

Those looking for a little cultural action should check out the Cheung Chau bun carnival tonight. The exciting bun scrambling competition starts at midnight.

Mui Wo residents can avoid the long queues to Cheung Chau by taking the inter-island ferry but be warned, the last ferry leaves Cheung Chau at 10.50pm and the next one is at 6am. I didn't see any notices stating they would be putting in an interim one so be prepared to spend the night on the beach.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Puppy power!

Oil crisis? Who cares about the oil crisis when you have a doggie-powered trishaw?

First swim of the year – in fluorescent waters

I took off today instead of Buddha's birthday, which is tomorrow, and boy am I glad I did. The sun was out and, as today is technically a working day, the beach was just the way I like it – quiet but with enough people to make a buzz.

Last year, the waters were warm enough by April for me to take my first dip but we've had an extended winter this year so the sea never looked inviting – till today.

So I got my first swim, first ice-cream.. and was feeling such a sense of wellbeing, until I reached home and noticed that the sea had gone a fluorescent green.

Buffalo Wilbur says that's probably just harmless dye that they use to test the sewage system for leaks. But even the intrepid fishermen (the ones who wouldn't mind eating even the ugliest of fishes which have been fed on the strangest of things) are nowhere to be seen.

Coincidence? I think not.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Village politics

Village life sounds so idyllic. What's there not to like? You are close to nature, you have lots of wide open spaces, you get to know your neighbours well...

Aha, there's the rub. We like the village, villagers tell me, but not some of the people in it – principally the village heads.

Village heads have a lot of power and, if you have the bad luck of living somewhere ruled by a despot, he/she can turn your idyll into absolute hell. Some of them have a group of, shall we say, very "persuasive" men who do their bidding – which you will encounter if you don't do theirs.

Here's some examples:

1) One indigenous head refused to allow a woman who had been living in the village for more than 60 years to be buried in the community graveyard because she didn't have the right clan surname (which coincidentally was the same as his).

2) A village head charged a contractor thousands of dollars to park and unload materials in a piece of land where he had about 1/10th of a share.

3) There's no use saying you're staying out of the politics. One re-elected head took back land he had rented out to a tenant because that tenant had not voted for him in the elections. Never mind if the tenant hadn't voted for the opposition either.

4) And then there are the stories which occasionally make it to the newspapers of village heads hiding illegal goods/drugs, safe in the knowledge that no one would dare rat him out.

Why do these heads have so much power? If they're such bullies, why do people continue to vote them in?

Simple... the Small House Policy which gives all male indigenous inhabitants a piece of land to build a house when he turns 18. This is effectively a windfall for all male villagers, who build a house, then sell it off and make millions before they even start working.

And where do the village heads come in? Guess who signs that piece of paper certifying that so-and-so is an indigenous inhabitant and therefore is entitles to that land? Guess who can hint that an approval may not be forthcoming if he/she is not voted in at the next election?

Read more about village horrors here.

Even if you're an expat (ie have no vote for indigenous/residents head), don't forget you have to live there. So you may suddenly find it is "customary to pay a small fee" to, say, get your rooftop shed approved, park your car or place plants in your garden. There have also been suspicions of pet poisoning, renovation sabotage and garden desecrating which can't be proven.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Toilet talk

The first few times we came to Mui Wo on day trips we were rather put off by the fact that, if you needed to use the loo after eating at one of the nice restaurants, you either borrowed a key to go to the rather whiffy and toilet paperless toilet at the end of the block or you used the wet and whiffy public toiletnext to the seafood centre.

On Sundays and public holidays (when the crowd of day trippers are at its peak), it can be quite a nasty experience... which had made Buffalo Wilbur upchuck his expensive meal a couple of times.

What I don't understand is, why don't the nice restaurants have their own toilets so as to extend the pleasant experience? Is it because they are not allowed to or because they want to maximise the profitable areas?

And why don't the restaurants which can boast of their own private loos make more of them?
Some of the mums who drop off their kids at the Little Owls kindergarten have said they would be happy to stay longer if they had access to nappy-changing facilities.

I'm just glad I now have my own loo to run home to after my nice meal. Or maybe I should be grateful we don't have to use ancient outhouses like the one below?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Discovering D Bay

Once in a while, Buffalo Wilbur and I like to slum it and go to Discovery Bay, even if there's no flea market to tempt us.

I know I often talk about how soulless D Bay can be but it has its positive points – chief among which is a ferry pier that looks like a proper pier with nice shops and clean wide walkways instead of a graveyard of dead bicycles and tattered banners.