Sunday, April 30, 2006

No city should be too large for a man to walk out of in a morning*

One of the things I find very hard to deal with in Manila is the almost total removal from nature and all things green…

As those of you who live in Hong Kong know…from almost any point on either the island or Kowloon it is fairly quick to get to the ‘country’….my last apartment in HKG was in Sheung Wan…within half an hour I could be up on The Peak with either a gentle hour’s stroll around the top or a number of other hikes which could take you either down to Aberdeen, to Pokfulam, into Central (actually that one’s less of a hike and more of a roll!) or along the back of HKG island…. My favourite walk was The Dragon’s Back. Hours and hours of hiking in the country… Even better of course if you live on Lantau; when I lived in DB every Sunday morning involved a two hour hike up the hills at the back of DB…just glorious; and that was from a starting point less than five minutes from my front door. When I tell people unfamiliar with HKG about the wonderful country parks and hiking, I am looked at in disbelief….HKG to the unfamiliar has only urban jungle and miles of concrete.

In Hong Kong, where almost 7 million people live in an area of little more than 1,000 km2 , some 40 percent of the land is in protected areas. This percentage is one of the highest in East Asia. Despite keen demand for land for other uses, Hong Kong has been able to maintain a large portion of its territory as well-protected areas. (complete article)

These parks incorporate hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails….the majority are easily (using public transport) and quickly accessible from the urban sprawl.Here in Manila…if you want to get out to the country it takes a few hours…and that’s with your own transportation…using public transport to do that is a little daunting, even for me! There are little pockets of green within the city of Manila, but these are not quite the same...and the Metro Manila authorities are not so good and protecting them. And to be totally honest, a stroll around a city park is just not the same as being out on a hiking trail...the size of Manila really prohibits having nature so close to everyone except those on the outskirts...if only it were easier to get to the country using public transport...

This weekend’s Financial Times carries an article about Hong Kong’s countryside.

The Hong Kong I love is the other one; the one that exists, almost unnoticed, alongside the first. This is the Hong Kong of uninhabited green hills, evening birdsong, giant spiders and five times as many varieties of butterfly as the whole of Britain.

This is not a natural wilderness untouched by man - the lakes are actually reservoirs built in the British colonial era - but by comparing the denuded hills of old photographs and the views now, you can see that the subtropical scrub and forest have recovered wonderfully since the days when wood was cut for fuel. (probably, due to continued tree planting)

I was nevertheless surprised to find that I could walk half way across the island, which has some of the most densely populated urban areas on earth, without meeting a single person. We have lived in Hong Kong for nearly three years and have not come close to walking all the trails in the territory, even in the limited space of Hong Kong Island itself.

The first walkers I encountered - I fancied they were discussing the merits of Filipina maids and tanned Australian tennis coaches - were expatriate wives from Parkview, the apartment complex made famous last year by the trial of Nancy Kissel, who drugged her husband, a Merrill Lynch banker, and clubbed him to death before rolling the body in a carpet and hiding it in a storeroom.

(reading that last paragraph one wonders if the writer had a bet on that he could tie in Nancy Kissel with an article on HKG’s nature!!!)

In case you still doubted the wonders of HKG’s countryside…here are 88 Natural Wonders of Hong Kong.

Now all Hong Kong needs is clean, fresh air in which to enjoy it all…

*Cyril Connolly


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could not agree more about the greenery here. Would post more but need to rush to catch the Po Toi ferry!

I hope Manila is working out welll for you.

7:48 am  
Blogger Madame Chiang said...

Po favourite corner of Hong Kong...

9:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And it was particularily fine today with clear skys. Topped off with possibly the best sea food in Hong Kong.

Rush back!

5:57 pm  
Blogger Madame Chiang said...

now that's not fair...taunting me like that....ok, then...make it me photos...!!

6:48 pm  

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