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A Delicate Toehold

 
For the conservationist, Hong Kong is no paradise. It is a bustling noisy city filled with hard working people and administered by a group of brilliant British civil servants.
When you first arrive it can be a frightening place. A stream of humanity moves in crowded streets jammed with traffic. Every face looks the same. High rise buildings line the bay and glow like giant white mushrooms on steep hillsides.
It was a relief to get into my room at the Regent Hotel that looks out onto Victoria Bay. The hotel is built right on the water, so no one can obstruct the view, and this is rare in Hong Kong. I was too tired to go out and brave the streets and the mass of people so I sat in a comfortable chair and looked at the view. Ships of all kinds moved to and fro across the harbour. Luxury liners, junks, sampans, destroyers, old sailing ships, dredgers, hydrofoils and police boats splashed their way across the choppy water. Clouds drifted overhead and the colour of the water continually changed from light to dark green and various shades of blue.

A fishing boat puttered past and anchored almost in front of my bedroom window. Two men deftly lowered some nets, trawled for a short distance then hauled the nets up and I saw fish flapping on the deck. A knife flashed and the fish were scaled and filleted then dropped into a bamboo basket. The men worked in unison, wasting neither time nor effort.
On the bridge of the boat I noticed a bowl of fresh flowers and a kumquat tree, the miniature fruit glowing in the sun. It seemed quaint to see the flowers and the tree on a fishing boat, but I remembered that as I was being driven to the hotel I had seen a young Chinese man contemplating an azalea flower in a tiny garden.
He had a look of concentration on his face that reminded me of a story of C. G. Jung who said that he once had a talk with Hu Shih, one of the foremost modern Chinese philosophers.
Jung said, “I noticed he was completely exhausted after two hours although I had confined myself to a few simple questions concerning specific points. It was as though I had asked him to bring me a blade of grass and each time he had dragged a whole meadow for me.” The oriental looks at the totality and this is one of the fundamental differences between eastern and western people.
The heavy fog began to lift on the surrounding hills and a pale sun showed through, turning the water of the bay into a different shade of green.
I got my binoculars out and looked at a flock of gulls, sleek and shining in the sun. They circled above a fishing boat, feeding on scraps of fish.
In the distance a solitary black kite soaring in a thermal was attracted by the screams of the gulls and swooped towards them in a long dive then circled with them. There was little else of the natural world except a pair of English sparrows that hopped along a nearby pier. This bird is ubiquitous because it adapts so well to the concrete structures and cities of man.

At nightfall, buildings were ablaze with lights and the combined effect is one of the most spectacular night views in the world. I went to bed early and was awakened before dawn by the deep blasts of fog horns. I looked out of the window and had a grand view of that lovely ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 11 sailing into harbour. What a wonderful sight it was with the early morning light glinting on her funnels. I watched her dock then left for the airport, for I was bound for the Philippines and a long trek into the hills of Mindoro.

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