Category Archives: Nature & Environment

Updates around Wan Chai

I’m still wary walking around this week as there are still lots of broken off tree branches, loose signage and chips of granite and glass on the pavement. It’s already a whole lot better, salute to the cleaning crew who work with such clinical efficiency.

I am feeling sad today for a particular tree that has been uprooted in Wan Chai. The massive and shady tree that stood as tall as the Hennessy Primary School looks to have a similar fate to the one in the news in TST. It has provided shelter to taxi drivers on their mid day break, pedestrians who just need that cover for the crossover and a green canopy (for those looking over that crazy intersection that cars need to manoeuvre) to get on to Wan Chai road from Fleming road.

Bye bye tree 😢. Corner of Takan Lodge[[[[[[
On Lee Tung Avenue, all the smaller trees that fell over are back upright and the lanterns have made their reappearance. Nothing’s gonna stop the commercial celebration of lantern festival this weekend.

The dog mascot stands sentry over the lanterns at Lee Tung Avenue

At the Blue House this Saturday evening, there’s a gathering for the mid autumn aka lantern festival. The promo leaflet is all in chinese. Essentially there’s a lantern competition for the best handmade one, a dumpling making activity and lots of general hanging around with the residents of the Blue House. I rang the organizer and was a little disappointed that you can show up but none of the listed items were actual “activities”. She postured that if you lived in the neighborhood and had “nothing else to do that evening…” you could drop by. 🤔

She also said that everyone had to bring their own food to share with others as no snacks are provided…

I attended a mid autumn festival village party in Shek O last year and it was a marvellous effort by the community to putting on a fun event for families and a whole spectrum of society, with sitting areas for eating Tong yun for the duration of the evening (made and shared for a small donation of $10-50 per person). And kids got to help out too. There were games areas with an array of prizes, a beautiful area where everyone displayed the lanterns they made. Unfortunately this year the devastation inflicted by the typhoon is so severe that the residents will probably not be in the mood to celebrate.

I’m curious to see how the Blue House organizes this and whether they can make it really nice or if it turns out to be a sloppy sort of event confined to pavements with no fun or colour to it. Let’s see.

Advertisements

Typhoon 10 Mangkhut huffed and puffed and…

The biggest storm so far of 2018 and the last two decades was fascinating to witness.

This was a great test of urban infrastructure, a lesson for architects and engineers, a real way for the community to bond through helping each other or simply keeping in touch.

Yesterday evening, I spent it at Shek O beach. The swells were increasing in size, reaching almost 2 meters in the short time we were there at low tide.

It had been an idyllic day, hot but sunny and somehow, knowing that a massive storm was soon to strike, most people were out making the most of it. Wanchai on a Saturday afternoon had an almost carnival like atmosphere.

Here are a few sights of the aftermath in Wan Chai last night.

Some dangers still lurking above and beneath your feet. Anyone heading out should wear only sturdy shoes and be highly alert for possible loose items that could cause injury.

Broken glass from windows and chunks of granite

Broken, broken, broken.

Fallen signboards and ripped lanterns
Many trees affected along Gloucester Road

Tree down on Lockhart, Firemen surveying scene

Overall things weren’t too bad in Wan Chai. The trees were the most affected, and a few buildings will need to sort their windows out. Shui On Center needs to work on their lifts and air con.

From The SCMP

All closed up at the MTR station

Tree leaning against a bench at Lee Tung Avenue.

And I’ve now figured out why the bins in Wan Chai are still in the same place. Someone thought of tethering them to the nearest railing. Such a simple and clearly effective idea. 👍😀Good thinking.

Another construction site banging near you soon

If you live anywhere along Queens Road East, you may be suffering from the development of Hopewell Center 2. The constant jack hammering (they hit a big rock and it has to go, somehow) has forced tenants who are affected by noise and vibration to locate their business elsewhere.

The dusty and dirty business of construction drives out all but the most persistent of shops and stores as foot traffic drops. The rent had better be damn good to make them stay.

I noticed the vacancies on Anton Street for a long time and I should have guessed that it was the long awaited extension of the Swire empire in Wanchai. 28 Hennessy, that white swanky building next to the Ozo hotel is going to become a massive commercial property with another larger tower beside it. Thanks to the Designing Hong Kong blog, I was able to see what the plans are.

The extension is for two basement underground car park floors (only 32 cars so not even 1 car park lot per floor of each building), a few pop up shops on the ground level (1 basement retail-what could this be?!), presumably swanky chain coffee shops from the Swire group, two levels (in pink) for some varied purpose and a green space that doubles up as a refuge zone in the event of an emergency.

This is all very well from an architectural viewpoint. But Designing Hong Kong makes the case that it is destroying the vibrant street life that existed there before.

I’m not against redevelopment, in fact I think careful redevelopment brings certain advantages to the neighbourhood. For example bigger sidewalks due to mandatory setbacks, more shade from the sun or rain for pedestrians, the renewal of pipes and electrical wires that pose a hazard in old buildings attempting to support the demands of new technology. It could also bring about a better selection of goods and services….

So I took a closer inspection of what the redevelopment plans are all about.

You can see that the plot for redevelopment is about 60% of the block, affecting three streets, Anton, Landale and Queens Road East. Anton street has no street life anymore since Swire acquired the buildings, and Ozo dominates the opposite block. Landale Street is the F&B heart of the area with ever changing local food choices serving lunch to office workers.

Check out the ground floor. There’s some allocation for retail or pop-up stores, an interactive art wall, a bit of green here and there for visual impact (ie nothing that you can picnic on).

What really bothers me is the lack of public accessible seating or areas to rest. I think that the authority granting redevelopment licenses should demand more of this from every developer. You’ve deprived the area of convenient and accessible street-level amenities like restaurants, laundry, printing shops at street level (not to mention other businesses that used to operate above) and replacing it with an office tower full of financial firms and big name institutions. You could at least make some demands on catering to public interest.

Is this all part of the payback for the connection between Admiralty and Wanchai…. the bridge and tunnel domination of the Swire group as an extension of Pacific Place and PP3.

This plan shows the 2nd floor. Okay nice podium garden, landscape garden… is it open to the public? I’ve walked past 28 Hennessy many times and it’s cold and stark lobby area does not encourage anyone to ascend the escalator to the lobby. That pink area designated for office/Exhibition/education.. what is that? Will it be a tuition center or a Wework type office?

Here’s the side view. You can see that the gardens are inaccessible, they are all above the first floor.

The picture above from Designing Hong Kong shows the “entrance” to 28 Hennessy, all concrete, no seating areas, just a stark flat area (albeit with a few token sculptures) beside the escalator. It’s sayonara to the pink building with the curved exterior that (among other things) had a yoga studio, a local shirt tailor, a little snack shop selling the traditional Hong Kong egg waffles and fruit juice. Now we have large cement trucks, cranes and piling machines to look forward to.

As developers go, Swire sets one of the highest standards in the industry. Swire, please find a way to include many more redeeming factors in this particular development. I’d like to see a great connector between Johnston and Queens Road East where people can pass through, take a break, people-watch, shade from the sun and rain.

It used to be that office staff from Central would head over one or two stops on the tram to a bustling local neighbourhood to get a cheap and filling lunch quickly and all sorts of office or personal errands done.

Now, it seems those 2 stops aren’t far enough.

…………………

Make your comment* about this development to the Town Planning Board here. It closes tomorrow (7Aug) so do it quickly.

Thanks to Designing Hong Kong for letting us know about this!

The John Denver Tree gets a new plaque

I happened to be walking by the John Denver Tree (technically it’s a Banyan) the other day when a shiny plaque caught my eye.

It looks new and much bigger than the previous one. The LCSD must have replaced it.

Does this generation know who John Denver is? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they included a QR code on the plaque to link to his most famous song… or a visit by all the artists who planted the other 622 trees in the Greening Wanchai scheme? That would be a concert not to be missed.

If you don’t know who John Denver is, this is one of his most famous songs... and it happens to be my dad’s favorite.

This is another of his famous songs which I really like, unfortunately and ironically, he died in a plane crash.

It would be really cool if all the trees had plaques in them or were dedicated to specific entertainment legends.. perhaps the public and LCSD could use them as landmarks and everyone would take better care of them.

Check out my trees of Wan Chai page (yeah I’ll be adding to it gradually, it’s really not easy to take nice photos of trees…) and go see this tree at the intersection of Wan Chai road, Johnston Road and Fleming Road. It’s along the Tram tracks.

Rant: Thoughtless, Careless, Lazy

Rant #1 Planter beside Wanchai market bus stop

There simply is no excuse. These polluters are just inconsiderate and downright lazy. The rubbish bin is less then ten paces away. Can you not finish your food or drink or blow into your snotty tissue before you get into the bus queue?

I would try to understand it if there were no rubbish bins around but in this case there are two within 20 feet.

There are 3 planters along this railing and the one closest to the start of the bus line is the one filled with trash. I feel so sorry for the plants.

Who do they expect to clean it up once it’s full? Perhaps it will start to smell and annoy the perpetrators. I hope they are regulars and see their disgusting handiwork daily.

Rant #2 Queens Road East Sidewalk

Okay these guys are just completely thoughtless. Renovations go on in Hong Kong every day, it never ceases due to the opening of new shops, offices or general upkeep and maintenance of facilities. So do the guys who keep these wheels turning consider the limited space that is available in public areas? Look at how these guys arranged their heavy sacks of sand on a busy sidewalk today.

Crazy. A stroller can barely fit through without manoeuvring and nicking the wheels. A disabled wheelchair user or a dependent who needs an assistant to walk beside them? Forget it.

There is no way to move that heavy pallet. I tried. Why don’t they leave it in the street lay-by instead?

If you backtrack, it’s at least 50-60 feet to the nearest traffic light. And if you’re going to the post office or Wu Chung House that’s a detour of at least 150 feet to get to the other side of the street and back to get there.

It had better be gone by tomorrow or I’m filing a complaint. I had to consciously avoid it twice today with a stroller. Ridiculous.

Update: the pallet as of 9.30am this morning 22nd Nov has been removed 👍

A paved hike from Parkview to Quarry Bay

(Sept 2017) The pollution was bad for the last week in Hong Kong. Two typhoons threatened to come but dissipated to the South and North respectively.

We decided to go on a leisurely family paced hike from Parkview down to Quarry Bay. The incentive? Lunch at the end of the journey. This walk isn’t the most scenic or spectacular, but it is all paved and mostly shaded, which makes it a good walk with kids. It’s downhill, uphill, downhill and round several bends. There’s lots of spiders and bugs to look at along the way but no toilets til you get to the summit. Bring water and snacks for the kids so that they don’t complain too much along the way and get a power (sugar) boost if necessary.


The view gets a little more scenic once you’ve reached the summit and start to head back down the hill towards Quarry Bay. The path is a proper road that’s wide and not too steep.


Half way down, the exposed bits of path allow you a view towards the big buildings and beyond. It would have been a better view if it weren’t for the pollution.


As it was a sunny sort of day, I was grateful that the shade from trees resumed after a few minutes for the rest of the hike.


On the way, you’ll walk past the Biodiversity museum. The gates were open and it seemed like there was an event of some sort taking place, but I didn’t go in. If you go, please let me know what it’s like inside.

Further down the path, look out for some amusing signs.


This sign says “Do not Pick wild mushrooms for consumption”


This one says “Be considerate to speak softly”


Just so you know, I didn’t see any wild animals or wild mushrooms that day. I did look, but they must have been picked or fed already.

Pretty soon, you’re back in civilisation and the residential homes are in view.


A small temple at the end of the path marks the end of the trail  and the start of hustle bustle Quarry Bay.


We went up over the overhead bridge, across the road and to the right. Take the left at the second traffic junction you come to and follow the road down and rojndcto the right. We ended up at the Butcher’s Club opposite Swire’s swanky office building for a hearty lunch of burgers and duck fat fries.

This walk takes approximately 2 hours at an adult leisure walking pace, add an hour if you’re bringing toddlers who wish to inspect every insect they see. 

Typhoon season: Huff, puff, blow your house down…

All the excitement about a typhoon 8 this Sunday is now dissipating as Typhoon Mawar has been blown northerly and will hit Shantou and the coast of China instead. Perhaps we’ll get some rain in Hong Kong but that’s looking less and less likely now as the storm track shifts. It’s now a T1 and might not get much above that.


I was away when Typhoons Hato and Pakhar blew into town, Hato caused a 2 hour delay in my flight take off time and we sat in the plane the entire duration of the lightning strikes and heavy downpour at the airport. In the robust metal tube of the new A350 the storm didn’t seem all that intimidating. 

Friends and neighbours updated me on the disruptions and damage all over (I’m sure you’ve seen the footage circulated online by now). We secured our windows and doors before we left but neglected a few pieces of laundry which were blown to the floor and soaked on our return. Our balcony plants were snapped and decimated by the strong winds and heavy downpour but the flat generally seemed in good shape on our return. 

Mr Rammstein took a walk around Queens Road East area after the typhoon Hato blew over and sent me a few pictures. Credit and effort goes to him for these.

Completely devoid of people at Hopewell Center
A neighbour’s broken window

And now of some fallen trees and branches pictures.

Snapped branches of trees at the Wu Chung house bus stop
Tidy pile of leaves and branches outside bank of china
Leaves and branches by the old post office recycle bins
Branches and splinters near Green Common
By the ruttonjee hospital exit on Wan chai road

These fallen branches were all cleared up soon after Hato blew by. But clearing up after Pakhar has taken considerably longer. There are still fallen branches and leaves on sidewalks up by Kennedy road and tree cutters are doing their best on Stubbs road creating large logs out of fallen tree trunks. (You can see this if you hop on the 15 bus towards the Peak from Wan chai).


Many of these trees are still with their snapped branches dangling at crazy angles. It’s probably best to avoid walking near them in the current weather as you don’t know when the rot sets in or the wind might blow it in your direction. Obviously the clearing up will take several more weeks due to the huge amount of work all over the island and beyond.