DISCOVERY BAY SUPREMOS had a brain wave when trying to sell homes on top of a high hill in a wobbly property market. They built an amazing room that diagonally climbs the steep slope by itself.

You just step in at the bottom, in Yi Pak Bay, and the room gently trundles up to the peak. They built it last year, but it’s in a remote place, so I only just discovered it.

inclined lift
Photo: Hong Kong Resorts International

Surely it is only a matter of time before ALL mountains in Hong Kong have such a facility.

I may be tempted to indulge in some serious mountaineering myself if the climbing room has comfy seats, air-con, a built-in snack bar and some delightful Kenny G muzak.

Hong Kong could then license the idea to whoever runs Mount Everest, Kilimanjaro, etc. What a blessing we are to the world!

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RECENTLY I TRIED to explain Hong Kong, and especially the property scene, to visitors.

It started oddly, when I arrived at the airport and noticed that the “avoid contact with camels” anti-MERS poster had gone up in the airport arrivals hall.

I told my guests: “Put your hearts at rest. Avoiding camels is not going to be difficult here.”

VISITORS: “So why is that poster there?”

Me: “Hey, you want rationality, go to Germany.”

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LATER WE STROLLED past this block in Hung Hom, where the floor number banners are extra prominent, causing the tourists to stop and ask why there are only three floors between the 10th and the 15th storeys.

ME: “It’s to deliberately confuse evil spirits wanting to curse people on the unlucky 13th and 14th floors.


Evil spirits in Hong Kong have poor math skills and no professional accreditation body. It’s not something we’re proud of.”

VISITORS: “You’re joking right?”

ME: [Gives them the look]

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IN THE NEWSPAPER, we find property agent Louis Chan Wing-kit of Centaline complaining about “the confusing directions in the stock market.” Translation: “The downward direction in the stock market.”

But when black-suited property agents stop us on the street to push brochures into our hands, I note that what’s remarkable how little their sales pitch has changed.

Sales pitch today: “Prices are falling: this is the best time to buy.”

Sales pitch last month: “Prices are rising: this is the best time to buy.”

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READER ROBERT FERGUSON wanted to add to our never-ending list of oddly named businesses. Acne Studios has opened in Central. It seems to sell clothes. Polka dots perhaps?

Photo: Robert Ferguson
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GOING BACK TO the newspaper property ads, we notice that sales agents are starting to become more creative with their descriptions, which are even more euphemistic than normal.

1) “Easy to maintain”—It’s small

2) “Compact”—It’s ridiculously small

3) “Cosy”—It’s too small for a cat

4) “Excellent transport links”—It’s over a bus station

5) “Lively neighbourhood”—It’s over an all-night dai pai dong

6) “Close to amenities”—It’s over a 7-Eleven

7) “With closet”—They won’t let us call it a third bedroom or maid’s room any more

8) “Charming”—Old

9) “Classic”—Very old

10) “Opportunity”—Derelict

11) “Low maintenance garden”—There’s a concrete square outside

12) “Ideal for first-time buyer”—Only for the utterly desperate

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THE VISITORS THEN asked me to sum up the confusing political debate here. I did so with this dialogue:

HONG KONG ELITE: “We are re-interpreting ‘democracy’ in the Basic Law to mean ‘authoritarian rule by the elite’.”

STUDENTS: “You can’t do that.”

HONG KONG ELITE: “This type of unreasonable refusal to compromise is what’s ruining Hong Kong.”

Nury Vittachi

Nury Vittachi

Nury Vittachi failed to win the Man Booker Prize this year. He also failed to win the Pulitzer Prize. He hopes to make it a clean sweep by failing to win the Nobel Prize for literature. He does not live on The Peak with 20 cats and a parakeet called Trixy. He is not strange.