Excerpts from 1,600-word article


What an exciting offspring this marriage of East and West has produced. Excellent creature comforts, well-organized tours, creative cuisine and easy access to mainland China may lure you to Hong Kong, but it is the marvellous mix of old and new worlds that is endearing once you are here. Where else, for example, will you see such a harbour scene? Here, in the wake of jetfoils, cruise ships, giant freighters and ferry boats, jaunty little junks rock like toys in a bathtub with the tap turned on. In the shadow of high-rise apartments, thousands cling to the lifestyle of sampan dwellers living and working on their primitive boats. Rice pddies and market gardens worked entirely by hand are a brief train journey from the futuristic office towers on Hong Kong Island; mountain top retreats are in yet another world just a ferry boat ride away. Without a doubt you will join the crowds in multi-level, North American-style shopping malls. But then look around. Never far away are the narrow alleys and market streets where your bill will be calculated on an abacus, weight is determined by a bowl on a bamboo stick, and instead of sugar-coated capsules in bottles with child-proof lids, medicines are the crushed organs of animals and reptiles dispensed in brown paper cones.

Hard-pressed to name the single highlight of my busy week in Hong Kong, I have to say I was fascinated by the retail trading scenes. Such as the Bird Market on Hong Lok Street, close by the noisy tea house. After breakfast that morning, and a walk in the park, Mr Chu would have brought Mimi here to buy her a treat. Grasshoppers to go, toys for her cage, a honey-based drink to sweeten her voice? One man I saw had a sprig of fir tied with red ribbon and two silver bells in his canary's cage, presumably in recognition of the Christmas season.