Apparently it’s snake season in Hong Kong. So The South China Morning Post informed me.
Despite having found a traditional snake shop hidden away in Central, I have never really though of Hong Kong as a place for snakes. Australia, yes. We have more than our fair share of venomous creatures, and I once sat on a red-belly black when nine months pregnant (another story). As we’re always telling visitors here, everything in Australia wants to kill you. But Hong Kong is a city of high rises, not snakes.
Which is not actually true. Most of Hong Kong is actually bushland. Simply catch a bus over to Stanley, or walk around The Peak and you will see vast stretches of tree-covered slopes, and islands dotting the bay. Often of a morning they will be covered in cloud, and steam in the humidity. Pirates spring to mind, because of all the hidden bays. As do dragons, those delightful creatures who make such frequent appearances in Chinese art and folklore.
Especially in summer, hiking is a popular past time in Hong Kong – hence the warning about snakes. Apparently there are some 55 species, but only 6 are potentially lethal. Fortunately, the last recorded death from a snakebite is over 20 years ago (which makes it last century). Snakes in Hong Kong include cobras – such as the King Cobra and the Chinese Cobra – and the delightfully named white-lipped pit viper. Simply Google what snakes are in Hong Kong and you might never leave your hotel.
I really only read newspapers these days when travelling. I always take one if they’re on offer as I walk onto the plane. English, preferably, but I’m happy to struggle with a bit of French or German. How else can I improve my language skills?
There’s something special about reading the local paper over breakfast. They’re filled with flavoursome titbits which will never make the cut for Internet versions. Such as the warning about the snakes.
Besides, I’ve always had a soft spot for the South China Morning Post. I remember as child seeing the paper slotted into wooden poles for easier reading at the Cat Street Den in the Hilton. The Hilton of my childhood has long been demolished, and it was decades before I realised the original Cat Street (complete with markets) remains – it was not the sort of place my parents would let me explore, and definitely not a place they would explore themselves. So although I have fond memories of lazy afternoons at the Country Club, it wasn’t until I began exploring the world on my own that I began discovering the other faces of places I was so lucky to visit as a child.
I’m old enough to remember Mrs Peel in the original Avengers reading newspapers in various languages, from Russian to Japanese. For a while, as a young teen struggling impossibly to emulate her, I collected newspapers on my travels. Trying to convince a newspaper seller crouched on the street by the old Star Ferry Terminal that I wanted a Cantonese newspaper was in itself an adventure.
Now we have Twitter and Facebook and a myriad of other programs to keep us informed, and through the people I follow I do find daily tit-bits of arcane knowledge. Yet still, on holidays, I love to simply sit and read a paper over breakfast.
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