Hong Kong is not the cleanest city in the world, but definitely this is not a norm sight. But if you are patient enough, you’ll find out why I posted this picture and what has it to do with my not-so-sought after HK experience.
To begin with, I loathe travelling in summer, let alone for holiday! Perhaps due to the fact that I grew up in a tropical country, Malaysia, which is hot and humid all year round, the idea of travelling during summer is a no-no for me. However this Hong Kong trip was not up to me to decide since it was a business trip and I took this opportunity to extend another week for my own exploration.
I know that this won’t be a convincing reason to advise people to stop travelling during summer, but I have a more compelling reason for not doing so. It is none other than the tropical typhoon! You must be wondering, how often could it happen? I supposed it is not the question of how often but when the likelihood of it happening, and the impact is high, we are at high risk of exposing ourselves to such an incident.
It is common for Hong Kong to have tropical typhoon during summer. And so your next question will be how severe could it be? And how often will that severity occurs? I can’t answer that as one can’t quite predict or control the weather, well at least not way in advance. Hong Kong Observatory is the government department that forecasts weather and issues warning accordingly. The warnings include the speed of wind and rainfalls alongside other usual weather related information. Specific to tropical typhoon, the warnings are issued in escalating number signals, which are based on the wind speed:
a) signal 1 (or T1) is if the cyclone is within 800 km to HK
b) 3 (T3) is for wind speed between 40 and 60 kmph
c) 8 (T8), if wind speed is beween 60 and 110 kmph
d) 9 (T9) – wind speed of 110 to 120 kmph
e) 10 (T10) – wind speed more than 120 kmph
How often will T10 be issued? The latest was on the 23rd July 2012! Yes, that was when I was in Hong Kong, supposedly enjoying myself with the food and er.. warm weather. The last time T10 was issued was more than a decade! How lucky could I be?? Mind you, we did pay our first visit to Hong Kong Jockey Clubs to place our bet on the Mark 6 Lottery. Alas, we didn’t manage to leave Hong Kong as millionaire!
Anyway on the day of the typhoon, at around 4 pm, HK Observatory announced that T8 will be issued at 6 pm. My friend advised me to go back to our apartment, and stock up food, for dinner and perhaps the following day too. Just in case the typhoon will last for more than 24 hours! Ironically despite this misfortune natural danger, most people who live in Hong Kong welcome T8 with a big smile! Once T8 is issued, employers and schools are obliged to let everyone off and go home early! Damage to the economy but something that must be done. However it doesn’t stop opportunists to continue their business, especially eateries. And it also doesn’t stop adventurous people from staying outdoor to test the speed of wind! Now is that necessary?
I can proudly tell you here that you don’t need to be outdoor to test the wind. In fact when you are at high altitude (20th floor) and at an open area (no other buildings adjacent to your building), you are pretty much testing the wind.
When I rented the apartment located at Wan Chai, it was advertised as “building with mountain and sea view”. In Chinese it would be “背山面海”. Good feng shui! Feng (風) is wind in chinese and shui (水) is water in chinese. Now how ironic could it be when that night of T10 typhoon, the wind (feng) was howling scarily. The feng was so strong that I could feel the building swayed! No kidding. The shui (rain in this case) was so heavy that I could hear every rain dropped! Splashing loudly on the windows that I was really afraid that the windows will be broken. We haven’t sealed the windows with any wood planks nor tapes. Well that’s what happened in those TV series. The wind is strong that it will break the windows.
That wasn’t my only worry for that night. I was also worried that the strong wind will blew those noisy and bulky air conditioners away, which have two third of its body exposed to the outside world. But most of all, I was afraid that the strong wind will collapse the building! Yes I am paranoia but if you were in that kind of situation, you will fear for the worst! The building swayed as if there was an earthquake tremor.
And I have heard about Hong Kong buildings that may have undergone refurbishment or structurally changed without proper authority approval. So where do I based my sense of trust and security then? However despite the swaying building, I finally managed to sleep. I suspect that the swaying must have the bed rocking effect for me. Next I knew when I opened my eyes was everything was calm and signal warning has gone back to 8. But no more wind howling and no more raindrops.
So the picture above was the aftermath, the very next morning around Wan Chai. Unfortunately we didn’t take the devatasting view, but this was a rare sight, as HK is always full of people. Now, the day after makes HK looks like a deserted city.
Great experience and story to be told generations to generations but thank you, once is more than enough!