Tuesday, 18 August 2009

HongKie Town

OK, I hope the Hong Kong people are not offended by the title. This is my fourth trip into the city. Landed at 6.45 am and got picked up by my "old" friend from HBP days (Chin Hock) at about 8.30 am for a half day tour. Everytime I come to Hong Kong, he plays host. We had dim sum of course and went back to the noodle shop he brought me to in an earlier visit for lunch. Visited some of his projects and chatted about the social transformation taking place in Hong Kong. All the industries are moving to China because development costs are lower and operational cost (like labour) is also much lower. So the lower rung of society in Hong Kong are faced with much fewer jobs options. They really cannot pick and choose anymore. Many industrial zones in the city have been rezoned to "business or other use". Which means many old industrial highrise (yes, multistorey factories) are being torn down to be rebuilt as offices. It's all built and sell here. Yes, you can sell before completion but you get the money only after the Occupational Certificate is obtained, followed by the Compliance Certificate. The last one is from the land office which certifies that the crown lease have been properly registered. Seems a lot easier than the Strata Titles Act back home. But I hear also alot of complaints about bureaucratic bottlenecks in the government approval system. Sounds like home.

The other thing which sort of gets Chin Hock animated is how the activist are pushing their agenda to the detriment of business. For instance, the activists accused the government of benefitting only the rich developers when auctioning land for development. So the process was changed but now the government officers have to watch the backs all the time, including abandoning auctions which seemed to fetch too low a price. So this affects the supply of land for development. We both agreed that for "real democracy" to work, we have to first learn how to listen to one another. Often the public forums on TV are lopsided. The moderator leans to the side which he/she favours and shuts up the other side.

As in any social networks there are weaknesses. For instance if you are really poor and entitled to government aid, you can actually be quite rich. Say you have 4 kids and you are a single parent, and poor, you can get about $3,000-4,000 per kid per month - that's like $10,000 a month in aid. Not bad huh, for being poor.

The flight from Chicago was uneventful. Perhaps an anti-climax. I decided to go early. Took the train from downtown Chicago. Costs only $2.25 compared to about $30 for airport shuttle - and much less carbon. No jam, but very noisy. And Chicago bade farewell with a drizzle (it was dry the whole week). Reached airport about 4 pm, queued and got attended to at 4.30. With fingers crossed I dumped all the documents on the counter. Yah, yah, the lady said the records still don't match but goes ahead punching a lot of keys. "Hey, I'm going to put you on an earlier flight at 5.30 pm; there's been lots of delays today", she said. I was a little surprised but OK (original flight 8.30), if I can make it to the plane. Got my bag checked thru' to Penang and all boarding passes printed. Everythings A, OK. That means more time to kill in LA. And let me tell you LA Airport is one big boring place - for shoppers that is. Hope they keep it that way. I wanted to have one last meal of udon at the airport but saw that they used disposal hard plastic bowls so decided to skip. Ended up with an organic banana.

My last tourist duty in Chicago was the Field Museum. Man, this is one World Class Museum. I would say a class of its own. For USD15 you can roam around all the open exhibits but if you want the specials (like 3-D dinosaurs, pirates, etc) it goes up to about $34. If you only got one or 2 hours just go for the basic. Its an ABSOLUTE MUST SEE. Honestly. I love the evolution exhibits, the wildlife (I think the taxidermist did an incredible job). Some of the exhibits have been there for more than 100 years from the time of the Columbian Exposition. And the dedication of the early explorers is amazing. And there's big bad SUE. Well, they have got the bad rap because of all the Jurassic movies. Sue is actually an almost complete authentic real-life skeleton of a T. Rex. Actually they don't know if it is a boy or girl; Sue is the name of the fossil hunter who discovered it. I wonder how much she got for it. Probably peanuts. But Sue was in a legal dispute and the Field Museum working with McDonalds (yes, that one) put in a bid of USD8.4 million to get the fossils. So, who got rich from nature's work? I think the fact that you can see a real dinosaur makes you believe they existed hundred of millions of years ago. And even without the skins and meat.

Goodbye Windy City. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to eat the famous thick pizza. Maybe another time.

@HongKong Airport
p.s. Thanks Chin Hock for another lovely visit.

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