Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Happy Valley. The Last Outpost?

Wednesday night on the Island is race night and a thronging crowd head down from Wan Chai to Happy Valley for a weekly dose of thundering hoofed excitement. Unlike for the weekend race goers and gamblers at Sha Tin, The Valley seems to be much more of a social occasion. Beer tents are everywhere. A well dressed singer soulfully covers classic middle of the road tunes in between the races and glamorous people swan about talking slightly too loudly into their mobile phones whilst feigning disinterest and ignorance over which horse they've just put money on. Still the floodlights are on and with a bit of elbowing you can get right up to the rails. The sport itself is exhilarating.

Horses have raced here since the earliest days of the colony. By the mid 1840s The Brits had requisitioned the flat rice fields that used to be here, drained as best they could the swamp land and had created the track. It's been remarkably preserved and protected form urban planning in the intervening 160 years and now seems almost impossibly squeezed in between tower blocks and flyovers.

By eleven o'clock it was all over. Music pumped out of the loud speakers as the PA announcers told us what a fantastic night of racing it had been and encouraged us to return in fortnight. Laughing and singing the drunken Europeans scrunched their way through discarded plastic beer glasses to the exits, whilst an army of Chinese cleaners swept in to clear the debris.

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