Tuesday, 21 February 2012

One Country, Two Systems.

With a free morning I headed north to Tai Po Market. I'd heard you could hire bicycles cheaply by the station up here and that a short peddle along the shoreline would take you into the Plover Cove Country Park.

Unfortunately by the time I reached the market the sky had cast over and things didn't look promising, so I headed for the Railway Museum, but being Tuesday - it was closed.

With the rain beginning to fall I decided the best way to make sense of the day was to catch a bus into the middle of the new territories and have a look round the Kadoorie Farm Conservation Centre, which one of the young artists at yesterdays exhibition told me is unlike anywhere else in Hong Kong.

The farm hugs the hillside, but has been carefully sculpted to provide irrigation terraces and orchards. Originally it was created after the Second World War by two Anglo-Iranian brothers who wanted to find a way in which the huge number of refugees and peasant farmers in the New Territories might develop self-sufficient practices. The farm has, ever since, provided a support, for the local community developing improved strategies to animal husbandry and even cultivating new breeds.

In recent years the farm has proved an important rehabilitation centre for animals rescued from the smuggling trade. If they can they release these animals back into the wild, although many become tame during the process and live on in the relative comfort of the farm.

I climbed two hundred or so metres up the hill before I hit the rain again and retreated back to shelter. It's such a peaceful place, in sharp contrast to the neon, rabbit run mania of the main island and it's fascinating to see a different side of Empire from the rather ashamed colonial picture so often painted. Clearly the brothers were benevolent, altruistic and through their endeavours offered both the hope and food which sustained and saved hundreds if not thousands of lives.

Back in Hong Kong this evening I spent an hour or so wandering around Soho. An impressive series of covered escalators takes you from the Central Market, up high to the old colonial houses on the mid-levels. The escalators run up hill for all but the three hours of commuting in the morning when the ex-pats glide on to them and are taken swiftly down the Peak and into their banks and businesses by the harbour. Of course I imagine if your work is as a domestic service to the wealthy then this is the one time you need them to go uphill to take you from your high rise apartment at sea level in Kennedy Town or Shek Tong Tsui to your place of work. Once you've finished cleaning then the escalators are reversed again and once more completely useless to you. The rich always seem to win.

I walked Hollywood Road to Lan Kwai Fong, full of antique shops by day and trendy bars by night. They were heaving. Hong Kong, even in the middle of the week, is, provided you've got the cash, a non-stop party city. One country, two systems.

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