Category Archives: Nature & Environment

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. 


Has anyone noticed the new plant boxes in Wan Chai? 

These plant boxes appeared sometime this morning (Friday, June 30). I know because I left home at 8.15am and they weren’t there yet. But on my way back before noon, they appeared. 

How fancy! Is a VIP coming this way I wonder? 

I wonder if they’ll be removed at the end of July or are they here to stay?

They are of quite solid quality and the distressed wood look is quite nice. Unfortunately, they look a bit shallow and the soil they used doesn’t look particularly nutritious.

Thanks LCSD.

I’ll have to see if these planters have been placed elsewhere. Hopefully they’re here to stay.

None seen along the rest of Queens Road East… or other parts of Wan Chai.

Hong Kong’s first typhoon 8 signal of 2017

The first typhoon of the year that sweeps into town usually generates a lot of excitement. You’ll hear everyone talking about it and stocking up on groceries as though a civil war is about to erupt. Intermittent rain, gusty winds make for a fun time to be outdoors as long as you’re properly attired. This weather calls for sturdy waterproof Wellington boots and wind-proof umbrellas. 

All the shops tape their glass panels to prevent shattering and staff are dismissed once the signal 8 is “hoisted” by the Hong Kong Observatory. The pavements empty out but the streets are full of stuck traffic. Heavy buses loaded with people, underground station platforms are shoulder to shoulder, everyone trying to get on a train home. The trains run less frequently during a typhoon and that contributes to the messy gridlock. 

Here are a few photos of diligent shops taping up their windows. It’s a sight that we never see in South East Asia.

Hay! Restaurant has a lot of glass panels to tape up.

I sense that Tesla only did it because everyone else was… their Xs are too small for the window panel and wouldn’t hold the glass together if something struck it.

MUJI doesn’t take any chances…taped glass top to bottom with another screen behind it.. they’re well prepared for a serious typhoon. This company really has their SOPs down. 

Okashi gallery also did a nice taping job.

Sunlight tower taped their doors but it also looks somewhat decorative.

Here’s a video of the outdoor Wan Chai market at 5pm. All stalls are shut but there is barely any rain or wind. Hmm. The typhoon will probably be gone by tonight, which is too bad as it would be nice to sleep in to the sounds of rain.

A hike from the Wong Nai Chung reservoir to Violet Hill

It’s getting quite warm now in Hong Kong so hikes need to be done early in the morning or on a cloudy day. On Sunday morning we got bounced out of bed for a hike up to Violet Hill at 7.30am.

We got the taxi to drop us off at Wong Nai Chung reservoir, which is on the left of the road towards Parkview. From there, walk around the reservoir’ path (stop to look at the terrapins in the water if you wish) and follow it to the steps just beyond. This is the trailhead.

Our Violet Hill hiking route – start at reservoir, end at Parkview
 It starts off nice and green. You will see the steps amidst all the foliage.

After a few minutes uphill, we came across a rest hut. Stop here if you need to catch your breath. But there isn’t much to see so the girls decided it was best to carry on.

Up and up the steps, very quickly we were up looking over the buildings.

And the foliage gradually changes.

Pine trees up on the hill

There’s a mild uphill for a bit on a meandering path. Walk slowly here to admire some flora.

Twisted tree trunks that look like gnarled fingers
Baby fern emerging

This walk has some unpaved bits, but it’s not hard for children. We had an 8 year-old, a 6 year-old, a 4 year-old and an 8 month-old with us (in a sling).

Rocky path or just a deteriorating stone stair?

Spot the flowers and bush fruits on the walk, keep your eyes open as there really aren’t many of them. The flowers are often found low to the ground, easier for pollination by crawling insects.

There were also a few fungal fruiting bodies among the dead leaves. Not sure if any of these are edible so please leave them where they are.

Then up a long stairway into the mist.

Young bamboo sprouts

On the way, look out for bamboo sprouting their new shoots, beautiful stars on a trajectory. I think each little star can become a bamboo plant.

After another bit of foliage, you get to the trigonometry point.

Well, trigonometry points usually have views but it was a very misty day and we couldn’t see anything beyond 20 feet. So after a brief hangout, a bit of orange eating, water drinking and sitting on the trig base, it was time to continue.

The Violet Hill Trigonometry Point, Hong Kong

Then it was downhill on a dirt path, a little rocky but nothing a four year old in a dress couldn’t handle.

Panoramic view of Violet Hill trail

You can see the wonderful view I had. White mist..! The bright side of it is that there was a fantastic breeze and so so cool. For anyone with acrophobia, it’s the perfect day to go hiking. Couldn’t make out the ravines at all.

Down, down, down we go
Down we went back into the subtropical foliage

Subsequently, it was a bit flat then a slightly rocky uphill again.

Along this path, there were some interesting objects and flowers.

Beautiful lonely purple blue orchid
Whose glasses are these?

Then the uphill ended at an intersection, whereupon we went towards Parkview.

After a short flat open path, it was downhill again, we met our first big group of hikers coming the other way. We stopped briefly to let them pass.

The slope became flat and open again. We saw a mango tree in bloom, a small centipede and a tree that was devoid of leaves and possibly dead.

About 5 minutes after that we went past some huge rocks and got to some stairs leading down.

We descended down into a paved path and a long stairway which put us on the main road just outside Parkview.

You might like to use this ordinance map to get a feel for the terrain. I’d highly recommend it for kids 3 and above. It takes about 1.5 hours to complete the circuit (maybe 2 if your kids keep stopping to check out the views or dig for quartz).

Urban pollution: Noise, Air & Dust

In response to this article about HK smog creation and this article about the latest pollution standards.

To live in Hong Kong is to experience a continuous assault on your senses. 

For an auditory assault, descend from your high level apartment to street level and it goes from a soft hum of white noise to the full throttle of taxis and impatient car honking, the screeching of the tram, the sirens of ambulances and police vehicles in a hurry, the yelling of vendors through speakers (this should be banned), the cacophonous music of buskers, delivery men rolling their metal carts, the never ending drilling and thunderous clanging of construction both above your head and beneath your feet. 

Extracted from the EPD of Hong Kong

Then there’s the olfactory assault. The smell of dog pee, the trail of cigarette smoke still curling from the smoker two steps ahead, the dampness of drains and venting of sewers, the exhaust of restaurants and vendors with their frying, baking, steaming. The repetitive waves of exhaust fumes from cars, trucks and old buses shifting from idle to acceleration. 

It can be exhilarating and exhausting if you’re not used to this dense urban environment, and especially so if you have a baby. 

I was walking down Wan Chai road on a Saturday morning and cars were stuck and some drivers didn’t take their hands off the horn. I gave those drivers my most evil glares… what did they expect? Smooth traffic on a Saturday afternoon? If you want to get there fast, leave your car at home and take the train. Poor baby had repeated auditory shocks from the honking and gave up sleeping. For the rest of us, we grow accustomed to the noise but that does not mean it’s plessurable to be on the streets.

This made me reflect on electric automated vehicles and how much more pleasant dense urban environments could become. 

Imagine no idling engine fumes from vehicles stuck in traffic for an hour.

Imagine no out of date enviro 500 buses (the private companies should have a scrappage scheme in place) but quiet clean electric double deckers with no crazy braking bus drivers.

Imagine no honking from ten cars stuck behind an unloading truck or a taxi that was a bit slow in dropping off a passenger curbside.

Imagine no traffic jams as the cars would be automatically redirecting to use the best route.

Imagine no frustrated drivers as they could all be transfixed by the latest Facebook posting.

Imagine that if you wanted, you could get out of the car and walk to your destination and your car could self park or meet you there.

Imagine if your government made it possible. 

Hong Kong is the no.1 Tesla adopter, so the rich are onto something. (Tesla owners, Thank you for choosing a vehicle that does not engine idle and pump out fumes and noise on acceleration).

But if the rich policy makers and businessmen want clean air and less mental stress for their children, better lobby for something to be done at street level, because that’s where the kids are spending most of their day. 

The first baby step? Pedestrianise the streets for a day on the weekend. That doesn’t involve legislation or taxpayer dollars.

Next, get the finance minister to get off his rear on the budget and do something for the local community. That will draw political ire away from the current status quo if people of all economic backgrounds just became healthier. This may offset the budget for the health ministry. 

See what air pollution does to your body in this short animation.

Glass recycling in Wan Chai

Ok. Found some places where you can send your glass bottles for recycling. I read this article in the SCMP about April, the green activist who organizes dump trucks and volunteers to collect glass from various parts of Hong Kong. 

They are spread out over different days, times and areas so I’d advise you to check before lugging all the glass you have down there. 

This is the information for Wan Chai.

Green Glass Collection point Wan Chai
Glass recycling collection sites Wan Chai

You should also refer to this link to confirm that the glass you’re sending is suited for recycling

But here’s a quick graphic from their site to tell you what they do take (check out their site to see what they don’t).

On their site, they list restaurants and bars who actively work with them to recycle glass bottles… you can check out if any of your favourite watering holes are among them….!

P.s. You might also like to know that if you buy the glass bottles Kowloon Dairy milk, you can rinse and return for a dollar at any 7-11, PnS or Wellcome.

Is Hong Kong’s recycling effort just lip service?

The children’s book “Michael Recycle” is about a town full of trash and a superhero who changed their perceptions and encouraged them to think about the planet… ultimately where the process of recycling saved the day.

The book Michael Recycle about recycling for a better world

Encouraged and inspired by Michael Recycle, we decided to put some papers and wine bottles in the recycling bin. However the one in the basement of our building only has paper, plastic and metal recycling bins. None for glass. Hmm. I ended up hoarding the glass bottles for half a year and have only disposed of it last week when I finally found a glass recycling bin. Note that if you buy glass bottled Kowloon dairy milk, you can get a dollar back for each bottle returned at 7-11. Here’s a site discussing it.

A search online for recycling bin locations  in Wanchai is confounding. I almost gave up.
I also discovered that I had some old DVDs and CDs but where would those go? It certainly doesn’t belong in the metals bin. I checked online and found a blogger who also has an interest in the subject and listed out recycling bins in Hong Kong. She sent me this link. Ok fair enough. I’ve checked them out and also included ones that I’ve found which are unlisted on the site. Here they are for your reference.

Here’s what I found:

Recycling Bin on Wan Chai Road & Queens Road East

On the corner of Wan Chai Road & Queens Road East, the bin takes metals, plastic and paper. General trash goes on the orange bin.

Recycling bin at Wanchai Convention Center

These bins found along the corridor of Wan Chai Convention  Center opposite the main gift shop allow you to drop batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, metals, plastic and paper.

Recycling bin, corridor of immigration building
Tucked away in the corner of the corridor in immigration building (walking towards the Wan Chai Convention Center) are these bins for batteries, metals, plastic and paper.

Recycling bins on the corner of Luard & Hennessy outside the HSBC

These bins on Luard and Hennessy look like they need a good clean and clearing out. Only metals, plastic bottles, paper are accepted. Everything else goes into the leftmost trash bin. You can see the plastic bottles overflowing… not surprising after a weekend.

Recycling bins outside Wan Chai Post office, Queens Road East

Here’s the recycling bin outside the old Wanchai post office on Queens Road East. Only metals, plastic bottles and waste paper accepted. It looks like the bin man needs to clear the bottle compartment and shut the doors properly.

Recycling bins at Spring Garden Lane Park

These look like newly installed recycling bins. Same deal but with a new graphic sticker overlay. Metals, plastic, paper and general trash on the left reminding you it goes to landfill.

Recycling bins outside Southorn Playground, Johnston Road

These are the recycling bins outside Southorn playground, Johnston Road exit. Accepts only metal, plastic, paper and general trash.

Recycling bin, Hennessy Road exit

This bin on the other side of Southorn playground takes the metal, plastic bottles and paper. Note that there are two  boxes for the plastic bottles, presumably because sports elicits thirst and reasoned that an extra bin for bottles would be warranted.
Recycling bins, Tai Wong East Street Sitting Out Area
Clothes recycling bin, Tai Wong East Street

At the Tai Wong Street East Sitting out area, the recycling bins accept metals, plastic bottles and paper. There’s an additional used clothes bin opposite it too.

Recycling bin for metal, plastic, paper

Outside Lockhart Road Market Building, this recycling bin accepts metals, plastic bottles and paper.

Last but not least…. (drum roll)….
By far the cleanest and most comprehensive recycling bin is found in the lobby of Central Building. It’s on the left of the corridor as you’re walking towards the Convention Center. This recycling bin takes batteries, compact discs and DVDs, metal, plastic, paper, glass and copier toner. 

It wasn’t easy to seek these bins out. I had to be on the alert to spot them and I’m so glad I’ve found a bin which takes more that the usual metal, plastic and paper. I wonder why there aren’t more glass recycling bins? 

I also noticed that most of the bins filled up quickly with the plastic bottles as no one bothers to crush them before throwing them in. These machines by reversevending should be installed instead. The machines would compact the bottles and are very neat. I bet that it’d be super popular in Hong Kong.

How can recycling get more attention? Is it just about leaving bins everywhere and decorating them with stickers? 

It really is a state of despair in Hong Kong.  We can sort out our trash and make an effort to take it to these bins but what happens after that?….. check out this article.