The cripps in Hong Kong Hong Kong, Repulse Bay, Cripps, Crippo, Mark Cripps, Joss Cripps

Zai Jian 再見 (Hope to see you again soon)

A diary about our expedition to Hong Kong


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

smog tastic not

There's been bad fog and air pollution in HK of late. As I write, I can hear the fog horns from passing container ships (they kept us awake two weekends ago).

Here's an email I got from an air pollution/HK planning lobby group today.



Rugby Sevens 2010 in doubt: Doctors advise against strenuous exercise

Roadside air pollution reached 495 yesterday. Doctors advised people to avoid heavily polluted areas and strenuous exercise. A reading of 0-50 is acceptable under Hong Kong guidelines. When it hits 101-200, people with heart and respiratory illnesses are in trouble. Over 200, healthy people start to suffer eye irritation, coughing, phlegm and sore throats, and suffer severe internal injury. (Photographs by Paul Hilton. Visit Clean Air Network for more information: )

Hedley Index shows air pollution was off the charts
According to the Hedley Environmental Index the levels of particulate matter exceeded 700 micrograms per cubic metre yesterday, more than 14 times higher than the annual level of 50 micrograms per cubic metre acceptable under the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines.

This chart tracks the readings for particulates. Yesterday's air pollution (far right) was well off the charts. You can monitor the latest readings by clicking the chart or visiting:

Track HK's air pollution with the Hedley Index on-line

These charts show the different types of air pollution yesterday. Particulate matter (left) aggravated Hong Kong's notorious air pollution problems. There was a dip early afternoon when the wind picked up briefly. Check out today's readings by clicking the chart or visiting:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stirfried bullfrog with Szechuan pepper anyone?

I have been really neglecting my blogging this past six months.  Yet again, in my defence, I’ll say I’ve been extremely busy, also I’ve been travelling a heck of a lot (amassed nearly 250,000 air miles in the past 7 months) – and the tragic circumstances at the beginning of the summer meant I’ve not really been in the best of moods to be honest.

Anyway, there are several stories and observations (and thousands of photos) garnered from my travels sitting in the pending folder – so I’ll try to finish those soon.

I’ll start with tonight.

For the past few days, I’ve been in Shanghai – working with a new client and delivering some digital marketing training for them. 

Tonight I had a (mostly) splendid Szechuan dinner (in Shanghai’s xian tian di district) with a colleague who’s an Israeli German Anglophile currently living in Manhattan (I tweeted from Tokyo last week that here I was, an Englishman living in Hong Kong drinking Irish Guinness in a Tokyo (Spanish) Tapas bar listening to Dixieland jazz with an Australian colleague based in New York – does my head in sometimes). 

As has been written here before, I’m a new(ish) vegetarian – but I eat fish (‘Pescitarian’).  Apart from a being a constant source of mirth amongst my colleagues and friends (AND FAMILY!) it causes all sorts of problems in China when I try to eat out.  (Vegetable fried rice inevitably comes with pork of course).  And so, I agonised over a decision whether or not frog (on the menu) was meat or fish (my colleague and I decided it was not Kosher anyway).  I determined it was ‘kind of fish like’ (it swims – but by that logic, are dogs on my acceptable meat list?) and therefore edible (I think the frog <or field chicken> thought otherwise).  Actually I was wrong.  It was close to inedible.  I’ve eaten frogs legs in France of course, but this was my first stab at bullfrog.  Yuk.  An unsatisfactory chickeney, gristly affair made worse by the countless number of small (knuckle??) bones embedded in the fatty flesh.  Yuk.  All of this was made worse by (and I knew it was going to be spicey) the mouthnumbingly spiciness of it all.  Bloody hell – excrutiating.  Now I’ve had time to research it, I should have known better – but at the time I did not know what hit me.  Putting a morsel in one’s mouth is OK at first – then your lips tingle.  Then the underside/side of your tongue starts going numb.  Then you get a (hard to describe) lemony, coriander, tingly, zincy taste.  Next, your mouth is on fire and your throat constricts.  Vile.  It’s all caused by copious quantities of Szechuan pepper – I must have eaten it before but never in this quantity (or authenticity I guess).  

From Wiki: Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper, or chili peppers, but has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth (caused by its 3% of hydroxy-alpha-sanshool). It has an alkaline pH and a numbing effect on the lips when eaten in larger doses. 

No kidding. 

To be avoided.  Unpleasant.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Go-Karting Cornwall 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A discourse on Hong Kong taxi drivers

I'm writing this sitting in the back of a (an?) Hong Kong taxi.

Generally speaking, you get two types of taxi drivers here.

Firstly, mostly younger, are the normal safe drivers. You know, those with good eyesight and usual reaction speeds. They know the rules of the road - looking in mirrors before pulling out, indicating and how to negotiate a roundabout ... that kind of thing.

And then there is the second type. A polar opposite of the above. Average age - 86, begloved, partially sighted, ADD ridden, twitchy and sometimes rocking perpetually in their driving position rainman like. They fart, belch and mutter away to themselves in Cantonese. Worse, because they drive 12-hour shifts, they pee in disused water bottles which are emptied road-side by a process of the bottles getting thrown under the vehicle, and then pulled back into the cab with a nasty piece of (usually) orange coloured shabby nylon rope. Don't walk too near taxi ranks for fear of getting splashed or overcome with cooked urine smells. These drivers tend to pull out from the side of the road right in the path of a speeding dustbin lorry; they're unable to understand or adhere to basic lane discipline - especially important around Hong Kong's switchback roads and are blissfully ignorant of the location of any major landmark on Hong Kong island (about the size of the Isle of Wight for petessakes) - and it's not a language thing -- they don't seem to know the location when expressed in either English or Cantonese -- oral or written. Don't get me started on their prowess on roundabouts - they simply have no idea how to enter one! Typically (sometimes) they approach it by slowing down ... Wait for the car to the right to enter the roundabout and then pull out in front of it as it just as it reaches our lane. But the worst (and most car-sickninglyinducing trait) is that, under the false impression it saves them on their petrol bills, they dab dab dab at the gas pedal for the whole journey. Dab dab dab - so much so that at the end of the ride I have to rush to a dustbin to barf and I feel I have a nasty case of whiplash.

Guess which type of driver I have this morning?


OMG - guess what? my driver just stopped at a green light ... i had to poke him in the shoulder to tell him to go!! Unreal. Mr Chow Kwok Fai - driver of red cab # JP4260 - mate, it's time for you to retire or retest mate before you kill someone.

Monday, September 28, 2009

billy's bday may 09

boy it was wet

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Malaysian Tapas

I do have a strange life I think.

It's early evening. It's hot and steamy. And exotic.

Here I sit - alone - in a traditional Spanish restaurant, listening to The Archers podcast on my iPod. I've just enjoyed the most wonderful (vegetarian) tapas and three glasses of ice cold salty-tasting sherry.

Outside I can't see Seville or Grenada or Barcelona (but I fully expect to).

No, what I can see are the streets of Kuala Lumpur with muslimWare clad ladies arm-in-arm with their strutting perfumed manicured Bulls - the spectacular Petronas Towers as a glowing backdrop.

Very strange life.

Just about to get an overnight flight to Shanghai to witness the total solar eclipse (assuming the skies clear - unlike Cornwall in 2000). Longest totality this Century ... Fingers x'd.


Ps La Bodega: 'tapas y vinos'

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Typhoon Molave - Anti-climax

Hmmm was that the best you can do?

Although MANY typhoons have blown through Hong Kong in the 4 summers we've lived here, I've always somehow managed to be out of town during the big ones. And so, naturally I was excited (and a bit nervous) to hear that a full-blown level EIGHT typhoon was scheduled for the early hours this morning.

Last night the weather did turn particularly nasty and so we stayed @ home - cleared the roof; put towels under the windows (in case of leaks etc).

Went to bed as the weather service were confirming a T8 was on the way.

I vaguely remember Joss waking me up @ 03:00 "it's a bit blowy Mark". Then sound asleep until Archie Tiggered in @ his customary Sunday hour of 06:54 :-(

It'd blown to a level 9! 12cms of rain in an hour. Rockfalls. Landslides. Trees down. 140kph wind.

And I slept through it ... there'll be more!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Perfect Storm

Tropical cyclone "MOLAVE" is heading straight for us - due to land in 48 hours time. 98kph winds -- we get cyclones/typhoons all of the time of course, but I've not seen the map show a cyclone path predicted to go bang on top of us.

They're telling us it's not a fully formed cyclone complex, so although there will be "disruption", it won't be as bad as it might otherwise have been!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer in the city

Last Saturday it rained all day and we barely left the appartment. Minor excitement from a Typhoon 3 but short-lived as it was a pretty tame one, not a good biblical storm, leaving a rather depressing caged in day - you can only put up with so much wii and lego-making - extraordinarily good though I have become at locating the vital pieces needed for Exoforce lego warriors.

So when Sunday dawned bright and clear, it was definitely time to get out and about. We haven't ventured off the island for a while so after a little bit of research and inspite of the fact you're not really supposed to swim in the sea for 3 days after a typhoon because of all the crap that gets washed out of the drains and down into the sea, we decided to go to Lantau to Cheung Sha beach to check it out. What a great day - all the connections worked - ferry to Lantau, Bus to Tai O, some other daytrippers on the bus going to The Stoep (S African Mediterranean restaurant on the beach) so we knew we were heading in the right direction. The beach was great - huge waves, good food and great weather. Billy and Archie spent about 5 hours in the sea - and 3 days later no one has been ill. Either we are getting immune or the water really was quite clean. Suspect the former. Anyway a great day out; South Lantau is so green and rural that Archie asked if we were in another country.

We're definitely going back.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Billy: toothlessly ruthless

In a classic "thister thusie thucked a thilver fithle" way, Billy managed to loose both of his top front baby teeth within seconds of each other. And got HK$40 in the process. Neither Joss nor I were in the country at the time and suspect foul play a la 'Dennis-the-Menace' string round the door knob.

Billy however insists he was simply exceptionally keen to open the toy Optimus Prime Transformer2 packet (free in Coco Pops this month) with his teeth -- he felt both teeth pop out onto the kitchen floor. hmmm sounds suspect to me.

Can't help smiling at him everytime he tries to talk to me!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Long weekend in Shangri-La

Mark and I spent a wonderful 4 days in rural China in Yunnan Province a few weeks ago. Looking back now so much has happened subsequently in our lives, I can appreciate the blessed time we had.

Ljiang was beautiful, with the caveat that it would be hideous in Golden Week. Cannot believe that the place would fit all those people when the hotels are full. It took 5 minutes to drive past one hotel.

We had a wonderful volunteer Guide, Jack, who showed us round the museum, temples and the old town; he had great sense of humour. We missed him in the evening when Dayan Town became like some Universal Studios theme town, with every shop thumping out music and the place losing much of its charm. Afer a drink in the 'Sexy Tractor' bar and a quick pizza in a restaurant looking out on hill decorated with a beautiful golden temple, we were glad to leave; our guide had told us that UNESCO has raised concerns about the level of commercialism and we could really see why. The next day we drove to Shangri-La, via Tiger Leaping Gorge - the Chinese equivalent of the Grand Canyon, and if the tourist signs are to be believed ... deeper, more impressive and providing a better 'communing with nature'. We walked, in the pouring rain, about 2k along the side of the gorge, the walls elevated around 100ft on either side. At times we were steered into tunnels to avoid rockfalls, the tunnels were so clean and white they felt like operating theatres. Stationed along the walk were men, dressed in camouflage, armed with loudhailers who barked orders alternatively in English and Chinese to stand back from the edge if anyone emerged out of the shadow of the overhanging rock. These disengaged voices turned out to be pre-recorded, presumably to avoid any creative licence being applied. We were both a little underwhelmed by the gorge, and pleased that it was en route to our next desination. Many people were making the 5 hour round trip from Lijiang. But then it had been so foggy in Lijiang we couldn't even see Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, let alone go up it. We arrived at Banyan Tree Ringha in the early evening- it really feels different up there, closer to the Tibetan way of life; What a very special place. The wooden house we stayed in looked like a village house on the outside, but inside rather different from the open fire to cook on, sharing the room with animals, no lighting etc...The next day went for a trek, our party was Mark, the tour guide and 2 'sous' guides who brought the horses and the picnic lunch. Actually it was no party, we climbed up to around 4800 metres and the altitude certainly made us catch our breath a few times on the steep climbs. The scenery was stunning and what was so special was to see rhododendrons, irises, varieties of snowdrops, crocuses and other bulbs that I associate with England but which probably originated from Asia. I'll leave Mark to write about our lunch experience in another blog as it deserves its own posting. Then we hacked back down on these wobbly old ponies. My best memory is listening to the guides singing as we ambled down the mountain in the sunlight, rolling with the gait of horses and taking in the multiple shades of green of mountains covered with pine trees and surrounded by rhododendrons. Amazing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What time is it? Where am I?

I have so many things to blog about -- so many places we've visited ... so many things we've done in the past 6 weeks or so since we last properly blogged ... but IT'S BEEN CRAZY BUSY -- LOADS OF TRAVEL.

This past week I've outdone myself in travel - wild ride but holding up remarkably well!

Today is Monday 20th April and I'm in New York.

Monday last week I was in Sydney.
Tuesday last week I was in Hong Kong.
Wednesday last week I was in Singapore.
Thursday and Friday last week I was in Hong Kong (only one night in my own bed :( ).
Friday night - overnight to London.
Saturday and Sunday in the UK.

Brings us back to today in New York! I've just checked in for my return flight back to HK in 48 hours time.

Wild huh? My poor family don't see much of me at the moment.

All this travel made a wee bit more tolerable by being upgraded to First Class on the Cathay flight back to UK. I slept for 9+ hours. Spent two hours watching Slumdog (not had a chance to see it before now). I quite liked the movie - thought it a bit sanitised however. But OK. Felt very incongruous watching images of Mumbai slums whilst sitting in my First Class "suite" on board CX jumbo eating caviar (seconds!!) and sippling ice cold Grey Goose. (Suddenly got a taste for caviar and vodka -- we went to a friends' dinner party a few weeks back -- they gave us caviar which they'd recently brought back from Harbin in North East China ... it's a few tens of pounds for a massive jar there. Equivalent in Fortnum and Mason's would set you back a couple of hundred I reckon. Anyway it was GORGEOUS - but a habit I'll try to kick (hardly vegetarian after all!).

Saturday morning I arrived at my parents' house - early morning. They did not know I was paying them a surprise visit (to coincide with my Mum's bday). So that was great fun. England looked spectacular -- a rare and perfect Spring weekend. Bluest of blue skies. Blossom. Lambs frisking etc etc. Had a great lunch in a gastro pub near Stonehenge -- "The Black Horse" in Great Durnford. Fab food - pork in calvados/cream sauce for Mum; home made steak and kidlee pie for Dad ("I said Kidlee DiddleI?") and smoked haddock & spring onion fishcakes for me. Yumtastic.

Popped in on a couple of old friends who live nearby (Farmer Tim; Mike & Sarah and their new son "Jack" ... brother to "Daniel" ... yes they realise now).

Walking in the sunshine through the country lanes around Great Durnford made me feel a tang of homesickness -- but not too bad. Wish weather was better here in Manhattan -- chucking it down right now and a rather dodgy landing (wind shear) at JFK just now.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Tired, emotional and want to be in my own bed!

It's been a long month - hence lack of blog entries.

I've been travelling non-stop for weeks and I'm exhausted. In fact I'm writing this in the back of a taxi en route from the airport back to home in HK.

The last five weeks have been 4 days in each of Tokyo; Singapore and Beijing twice. Next week is Sydney and Perth (holiday thank goodness). The following week it's Singapore and then New York. Then the following week in Beijing and Shanghai.

Good for the airmiles. Bad for the nerves and for family life. I'm rapidly losing my hair - not to mention other things.

Why emotional? I landed 90 minutes ago. No sign of my baggage. No one around to tell us what's what. So I blew my stack @ one of the officials I happened to stumble across - he muttered stuff in Cantonese to a colleague which really sent me over the edge.

And, of course, this is the one time I leave my baggage claim receipt in the seat pocket of the plane. And follows loss of my Hong Kong ID card (major hassle getting a replacement - hope it turns up!)

Anyway - the plane was delayed in Beijing because the automated baggage system had broken. All baggage had to be hand loaded. This caused suspicion with Hong Kong customs and so certain bags were held back at random for closer inspection. Including mine. But no one thought to tell me - instead left me dangling for 45 mins.

Don't need this after a long month.

It's late and I need a drink and I need a holiday.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

The day I went to Top Gear

On the 21st of February, 2009, I went to Top Gear Live! with Daddy.

It was amazing because four motor bikes were in a sphere driving at the same time (they were French drivers) and Mark Hammond said "if they crashed they would be French Fries!".

And cars were playing football - they made Hong Kong win ... on purpose.

And I saw a Bugatti which was stunning. And had a ride on a Segway which was very hard because you were the machine - because you have to lean forward to make it go forward and lean backwards to go backwards and turn left to go left and turn right to go right.

There was also a game where you had to shout to make the car go faster and show a green sign to make it turn right and a red sign to make it go left.

Finally, we saw The Stig driving a Lotus Exige and a 3D helicopter which was trying to shoot the car.

It was very cooool.


Photos of our office exterior: New Delhi

I love going to India. So much to see. Totally new experiences. But such a contrast - very rich immediately alongside very poor. Sometimes it's all a bit overwhelming -- a shock to all of the senses.

These pictures are of the approach into our offices in New Delhi (we're above where it says FMCC in the top picture). On the immediate pathway into the offices, one has to pass several shanty huts. By no means the poorest dwellings in India - but enough of a contrast to make you think.


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Proud owner of a 'Rob and Nick Carter'

Years ago, I bought a photograph from a-then budding new artist called Rob Carter. (X-ray seahorse). Specialising in 'painting with light', since then, Rob and his wife Nick have become quite famous artists - collected by all sorts of folks (Elton John; Matthew Williamson etc) ... and now us!

I saw one of R&N's spiral light artworks in a Cork Street gallery about 4 years ago and hankered after one ever since -- but they were well out of my price range. Sadly thanks to the recession and the weak pound, they're a bit more affordable these days.

After a bit of negotiation (thanks to Asia for those newly acquired skills), I managed to acquire one -- 'Colour Changing Spiral' (2005)' -- flown in via TNT from the UK, it arrived this week in a HUGE packing crate .... weighing 750kg, the poor delivery guy had to single handedly lift (drag!) it up the 6 flights of stairs (60 steps) to our apartment. Charged us an extra $200 (£18) for that! Well-earned in my book -- took him 35 mins!

The boys enjoyed killing the oceans of bubble wrap and were not really interested in the picture!

Rob and Nick Carter work together to create what they describe as ‘images without cameras and paintings without brushes’, their stunning abstract images result from their method of working, the image is gradually created in complete darkness by applying increments of light directly to sensitised paper. Each artwork is the result of hours of painstaking labour and is entirely unique. The vibrant, high gloss colours and pop sensibility provoke an immediate visual response from the viewer - a roller coaster ride for the eye and perception.

Private collectors include Elton John, David and Victoria Beckham, Simon Fuller, Philip Treacy and Mathew Williamson, and their work is in the corporate collections of many large companies including The Virgin Group, Sainsbury’s PLC, Absolut Vodka and Reuters.

During negotiations with the gallery, I took a punt at writing to the artists about the picture and the longevity of the cibachrome it's printed on. To my surprise (and delight), Rob wrote back to me ... said he remembered the image and it was a good one and that it should last for a long time. He also invited me to visit their studio in Acton when we're next back in the UK. Finally, he sent me a copy of his book: 'Travelling Still'. What a great guy!

So, next time I get some spare cash, I'll fork out on 'Hong Kong II' in the Travelling Still series.


Seahorse image: Getty


I thought this image was faked when I first saw it. But no. Amazing!

(Photo: Reuters)

The feet of monk Hua Chi are seen close to the footprints made by him by praying at the same spot for decades at a monastery near Tongren, Qinghai province. Before sunrise, he arrives at the temple steps, placing his feet onto the footprints as he bends down to kowtow a few thousand times.


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beijing rush hour in the snow

Writing this in the back of a Beijing taxi trying to get to the office. Is taking ages.

There are a few inches of snow on the ground which is slowing everything up of course. And it's minus 7 or 8 celcius (not including wind chill).

Usually a City in the snow pretty-fies it. This is not the case with Beijing however. I think it makes it appear even more industrial and bleak. We have just driven past a manufacturing estate - sky full of pipes and wires and chimmneys and smoke and sparkes and factory roofs. Waves of workers wrapped in several grey layers of clothes against the cold are shuffling through the slush to get to work. Very Orwellian.


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Sunday, February 15, 2009

balancing act

In Asia, there are generally two types of women's loo on offer in public places - a western one and a 'long drop' - presumably the latter doesn't need too much explanation, other than to say that it builds up the muscles nicely for skiing.

So you might ask, what do locals do when faced only with the choice of western toilet. You'd think that it would be easier just to sit down - or even hover, but based on my experience recently at the Hong Kong Macau ferry terminal public conveniences, that's not the case. Every toilet seat was embellished with footprints, now imagine that scenario in an aeroplane...

Christmas in Hong Kong

5th December 2008

We hope this letter finds you in good spirits and full of festive cheer. As I write this from a cloudless sunny Hong Kong, and read reports of snow in the UK, I feel a twinge of regret that we will not be back for Christmas this year, seeing friends and family. It seems a long time since we were back in August when we spent an idyllic week in Treyarnon Bay with the Clough’s (senior and not so senior) and an energetic week roaming around Hampshire staying with the Cripps clan and other friends in the vicinity.

Thanks so much for all of you who put us up (perhaps put up with us might be more accurate) or travelled many miles to see us. We really appreciate all the effort you made and we’re sorry we didn’t get to everyone -- we just ran out of time, & energy!

Some of you have asked what Christmas is like in Hong Kong.

Firstly cold (ish): The HK observatory predicts there will be a cold snap and the temperature will drop to around 19 degrees centrigrade. But what is really strange is that the humidity has recently dropped to 30%, it’s normally around 90% which we’ve grown accustomed too, so at the moment we’re permanently thirsty, our hair resembles Struwwelpeter’s and we’re having to soak ourselves in moisturiser and lip balm.

Secondly food: although Billy would be equally happy with dim sum or sushi - on Christmas Day we’ll be having turkey, (except Mark who became a vegetarian earlier this year and will be having a nut roast) and we’ll be cooking all the traditional fare, bread sauce, sprouts and roast potatoes etc but joy of joys with ten people coming to lunch, there will be no early start for us - the turkey will be delivered to our door, already cooked. It’s amazing how quickly you get accustomed to expat life in a city that never sleeps, and where you can get anything day or night.

Generally speaking, life in Hong Kong is vibrant and highly entertaining. Christmas decorations have been up since mid November and all the skyscrapers overlooking the harbour are bearing ‘holiday’ lights. Actually Christmas holds little significance for the locals other than a chance to worship the god of Mammon and participate in the national hobby – shopping. On Christmas Day that’s what the locals will be doing and although the recession has certainly hit here, there are still long queues to get into Louis Vuitton and gleaming shopping malls full of luxury brands seem to spring up every month. And just a short hop over the South China sea, in Macau, which now rivals Las Vegas in gambling revenues if not for sheer volume of people.

This weekend Father Christmas came to our local church fete in Stanley, arriving by helicopter and departing in a black Porsche. Naturally. This exhibition sums up life in Hong Kong. On one hand there’s an exuberant joy in displaying personal wealth which would appal most Brits. No self-respecting Chinese has a car over a year old, and even your average office girl sports a Prada handbag. Yet in spite of the wealth and apparent superficiality it’s a fascinating place and every week we discover somewhere new or learn something about the culture. We’ve been welcomed and inundated with kindness; been encouraged when trying out our cantonese and mandarin phrases, and overwhelmed by their respect for children.

This year, as last, has been pretty active and we’ve been lucky enough to visit the Philippines, Thailand and Bali on family holidays – with both Singapore and Indonesia on the agenda for the New Year. Mark is non-stop travelling - spending pretty much every other week in China and India so is at home in both countries. In fact he can order a beer now in about 12 different languages. If you have an idle moment or two, we have a webblog of photos and observations about our time here together with some photos of the places we’ve visited. (

Staying on the active front what started as a ploy to get sporting membership at cheap rates for the Hong Kong Cricket Club, by joining the hockey team, has turned into a fully fledged commitment after our team gained promotion twice in one season and won the cup. Billy and Archie come to watch and to eat cookies that magically appear after every game. I think that it’s the cookies that they come for. Billy continues to enjoy Chinese Kung Fu and next weekend will be graded for a brown belt – two belts to Black belt and I’m thinking we might need to watch our backs… Archie started tennis and rugby this season and along with Billy, they spend every Sunday morning at Stanley Fort , now occupied by the Chinese Army and kindly rented to Valley Fort Rugby Club, doing drills and learning the offside rule whilst we discuss the previous night’s events over coffee. Mark has got the sailing bug, and after a week’s intense course in the Whitsunday Isles (Australia) in November, now spends Saturday mornings skulking around the HK yacht club offering his services as crew. His first week was spent in the company of two America’s cup veterans - they invited him back the next week, and asked him to bring a few cans with him…

We moved house mid Summer, from Repulse Bay to Stanley, when the management decided to put up the rent by 30%. We love our new ‘hood’. It’s right on the beach, very laid back and a totally different vibe from the expat resort feel of Repulse Bay. Just at the back of our house is the Tai Tam country park and the infamous Twins (massive hills). It’s a stunning backdrop and I’ve got myself into the habit of starting the weekend hiking up the 1,500 steps. I can also report it is very beautiful at 7am. Now is the time of the year to hike, and last weekend Billy, Archie and I hiked round the island from our house to the cricket club (about 4km) - encountering nothing more fierce than a police man training his alsation. One of our friends was chased by a cobra, but thankfully we’ve had no such experience.

Mark, Billy, Archie and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a New Year packed full of experiences and opportunities. We plan to be here for at least another year, so if you are considering a visit out East, make it next year. We would be absolutely thrilled to have your name inscribed in our Visitor’s book along with the intrepid eight who have got here already.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Back to humidity

Well, Winter's over. It lasted a week.

As I've said before recently on the Blog ... I don't think it's rained in Hong Kong since about late September 2008. We've enjoyed relatively cool, pleasantly un-humid, sunny days for about 4-5 months.

Today, Summer is back with us. We woke up to low grey but bright skies; slight fine hardly-noticeable drizzle; temperatures in the mid-high twenties .... and, here's the killer -- humidity currently @ 90% (09:00 in the morning) .. rising to 95% by lunchtime.



Monday, February 09, 2009

Typical example : one of many calls I get during the day

<phone ring>

Mark:  Mark Cripps

Random asian-sounding in-bound caller: Hello can I speak to Mr Mark Cripps please

Mark: (sigh) Mark Cripps speaking

RAI-BC: Yes, can I speak to Mr Mark Cripps please

Mark: yes, hello

RAI-BC: can you hear me, Mr Mark Cripps please


RAI-BC: Hello, can you hear me, can I speak to Mr Mark Cripps please

Mark: You are, that is why I answered the phone “Mark Cripps” and why I have said “hello” twice

RAI-BC: Pardon, sorry?

Mark: Bye

RAI-BC: Sor....

Friday, February 06, 2009

10,000 visits to the blog - from all over!

Like watching a mileometer on a car's dashboard, tonight I noticed we had our ten thousandth visitor to this blog since we started it in the Spring of 2006.

We have red dots announcing visitors from all over the world! You are welcome - hope you like what you see/read.

Don't hesitate to leave a comment below.


Mark & Joss

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

One Door Dee ... or something like that

Just got home from work.

Every now and then in Hong Kong, one gets a taxi driven by a well-meaning but ever-so irritating guy who insists on spending the whole journey correcting one's Cantonese.

Tonight was one of those occasions.

You know what kind of ride you're going to get when they ask you to repeat (6 times tonight) the desired destination. It's tempting to revert to English -- and that's what I think they're forcing you to do ... but I was not going to give the guy tonight the satisfaction.

And, dammit, I've given the directions home so many times now - 99 out of 100, there's no problem.

But tonight .... grrrrr ... My usual "Check Chue Chin Do" (Stanley Village Road) was not good enough. It has to be Check (high inflexion, more acute) Chue (low inflexion, kind of rounded) Cheeeen (high inflexion, longer) Do (no problem, but could be a bit lower).


Admittedly, we had to be careful announcing where we used to live ("Chin Seui waan" = Repulse Bay) ... as "Qingshui Wan" is "Clear Water Bay" which is miles away over on the dark side (Kowloon way - off Hong Kong Island).

So tonight's driver was correcting everything I said - I thought he was going to start on my English ... I was half tempted to talk to him in German - but last time I tried that (in 1982 I believe) got me into a bit of trouble with a British Rail guard near Torquay *long story that one*.

So, rushing out of the cab tonight, I wished the driver Kung Hei Fat Choy ... only for him to say "you should say: One Door Dee, which means 'I hope you reap lots of money'".

Just about sums this place up.

Have a grumpy new year.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Between the posts

Our goalie moved to Dubai in November to take up a job as chief engineer managing a new hotel build. As we haven't been able to find a replacement for love nor money, our captain has been pulling names out of a hat for us field players to take a turn between the posts each week. With four of us left to be picked, the pressure was getting too much and I was petrified I would pull the short straw when we played The Dutchies, top of the league, hit the ball like bullets and are frankly Amazonian. So when I saw we had a relatively easy team to play, I volunteered.

I spent the morning of the match on the internet, googling top tips for goalies. I wish I had researched how to put on the kit. Cometh the hour, I was faced with about 15 pieces of kit, all smelling fairly ripe, - the kit had got soaked the previous week and not dried properly (nice!) and absolutely no idea which part of the body to strap them to..

Here's the first attempt - actually those bowl like bits and the flappy bit hanging down between my legs where eventually resituated to cover my buttocks, but I'm still not convinced that was right either as I could barely move, so trussed up was I.
I am pleased to report I made two good saves, conceded one goal - the team defending heroically to produce a respectable one all draw.

One of those 'experiences' I won't be repeating and boy, have even more respect for our defence, thanks Sandy, Dreamy and Nat and Sophie who took one on the bonce...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hard day shopping in HK

We went shopping over the New Year weekend for traditional holiday decorations (lanterns etc) and flowers (cherry blossom; yellow gourd-type things; pussy willow etc). Hong Kong was virtually empty -- shopping is a national past time, but it's not lucky to buy new things immediately before or during the holiday period.

2.5 years on, I still find the Hong Kong signage; street scenes and markets fascinating - and very picturesque.

After shopping, we treated ourselves to a fish & chip lunch at 'The Chippy' - a tiny fish and chip shop incongruously placed in the middle of a Cantonese market, but inside it's an immediate transportation to a London cafe complete with the UK Sunday papers; pickled eggs; Capital Radio streamed via the web live etc etc. And deep-fried Mars bars. London prices too :(


Get on your bikes and ride!

Well I'm stunned!

Billy has had his own push bike for 8 months now.

Archie got a bike for Xmas.

Each of them had hardly looked at their bikes until about 6 days ago. And certainly neither of them could ride a bike sans stabilsers.

Then SUDDENLY, they got bitten by the bike bug last weekend. I'm stunned - it took each of them c. 2 days over the weekend to learn, and now they're buzzing round as though they've been cycling for years. Weird how it all clicks into place all of a sudden. I managed to capture Billy's first ride on his own -- and his smug face afterwards too!

So now we have to find a large expanse of flatness somewhere in HK for them to practice. And (stupid me) I promised them all sorts of $$ if they managed to ride a bike by 31st Jan.

I put a lot of this rapid learning down to an amazing learner bike that one of the kids in the block has. Called 'Puky' these training bikes don't have stabilisers or pedals -- kids self-propel them -- teaches balance and steering. (That's the bike Archie is on). Quite interesting to see how our children came on so quickly.


Kung Hei Fat Choi - happy lunar/chinese new year to you

We're knee deep in Chinese or Lunar New Year celebrations here.

This new year is the year of the Ox (牛) - which seems very apt given the economic climate:

The Ox is thought to be the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. Security is their main preoccupation in life, and they are prepared to toil long and hard in order to provide a warm, comfortable and stable nest for themselves and their families.

The Ox, according to tradition, is not extravagant, and a modern interpretation of this is that the thought of living off credit cards or being in debt makes them nervous. The possibility of taking a serious risk could cause the Ox sleepless nights.

Ox people are truthful and sincere, and the idea of wheeling and dealing in a competitive world is distasteful to them. They are rarely driven by the prospect of financial gain.


Here's the latest (the 3rd Chinese New Year we've celebrated in Hong Kong!) pictures of the boys dressed in traditional Chinese New Year garb .. they are encouraged to do this so that when they visit our places of work (tomorrow), all younger and unmarried people are obliged to give them 'Lai See' (red packets of money), providing that is the boys wish folks 'Kung Hei Fat Choi' whilst simultaneously clasping their hands and shaking them in front of their chests (as they're doing in the photographs).

Judging by the look I'm getting from Billy in these shots, I think this might well be the last year we see him dressed in such a way.

And some interesting New Year customs taken from wiki:

Good luck

* Opening windows and/or doors is considered to bring in the good luck of the new year.
* Switching on the lights for the night is considered good luck to 'scare away' ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the new year.
* Sweets are eaten to ensure the consumer a "sweet" year.
* It is important to have the house completely clean from top to bottom before New Year's Day for good luck in the coming year. (however, as explained below, cleaning the house on or after New Year's Day is frowned upon)
* Some believe that what happens on the first day of the new year reflects the rest of the year to come. Chinese people will often gamble at the beginning of the year, hoping to get luck and prosperity.
* Wearing a new pair of slippers that is bought before the new year, because it means to step on the people who gossip about you.
* The night before the new year, bathe yourself in pomelo leaves and some say that you will be healthy for the rest of the new year.
* Changing different things in the house such as blankets, clothes, mattress covers etc. is also a well respected tradition in terms of cleaning the house in preparation for the new year.

Bad luck

* Buying a pair of shoes is considered bad luck amongst some Chinese. The character for "shoe" (鞋) is a homophone for the character 諧/谐, which means "rough" in Cantonese; in Mandarin it is also a homophone for the character for "evil" (邪).
* Getting a hair-cut in the first lunar month puts a curse on maternal uncles. Therefore, people get a hair-cut before the New Year's Eve.
* Washing your hair is also considered to be washing away one's own luck (although modern hygienic concerns take precedence over this tradition)
* Sweeping the floor is usually forbidden on the first day, as it will sweep away the good fortune and luck for the new year.
* Saying words like "finished" and "gone" is inauspicious on the New Year, so sometimes people would avoid these words by saying "I have completed eating my meal" rather than say "I have finished my meal."
* Talking about death is inappropriate for the first few days of Chinese New Year, as it is considered inauspicious.
* Buying (or reading) books is bad luck because the character for "book" (書/书) is a homonym to the character for "lose" (輸/输).
* Avoid clothes in black and white, as black is a symbol of bad luck, and white is a traditional Chinese funeral colour.
* Foul language is inappropriate during the Chinese New Year.
* Offering anything in fours, as the number four (四), pronounced sì, can sound like "death" (死), pronounced sĭ, in Chinese. Pronunciations given here are for Mandarin, but the two words are also near-homophones in Cantonese.
* One should never buy a clock for someone or for oneself because a clock in Chinese tradition means one's life is limited or "the end," which is also forbidden.
* Avoid medicine and medicine related activities (at least on the first day) as it will give a bad fortune on one's health and lessen the luck one can obtain from New Years.



Bintan, Indonesia -- New Year

For (Western) New Year, we made a return visit to the Club Med resort in Bintan. It's been recently refurbished and it looks much smarter compared to our first visit a couple of years ago.

Club Meds are a bit like CentreParcs on Acid. Food, drink, kid's care and entertainment etc are all laid on as part of the price. Being a French company, the food and drink is actually rather excellent (despite being buffet-served). New Year's eve, we were treated to as-much-as-you-can-eat superb fruits de mer (oysters; lobster; langoustine etc) and cocktails ('blue martinis' +hic+).

Entertainment is laid on by the staff who are mainly ex-actors/dancers/singers. I think they come to Club Med to fill in between jobs and like it so much never leave! Again, they're pretty good and some are extremely talented! Buckets of team-spirit. Loads of free sports stuff too (I took the Hobie cat out for a couple of hours sailing).

On the downside, we think the boys have had their fill of kids' clubs - and even of Club Med's circus school. They were reticent to join in. So, this year we're going to have to re-think what type of family holidays we have. Some of our friends take their (same aged) kids off trekking, or helping out with charity projects in Burma or visiting museums etc in Vietnam. Don't think our boys are quite up to this yet!