Thursday, 30 January 2014

Galloping into the Year of the Wood Fire Horse

The fragrant water narcissus welcome in the new year at Victoria Park
Happy New Year! All the best in the Year of the Horse!

Today was a half day of work for most people, and while there weren't many people in the gym, they were lining up at bank machines taking out money, and in supermarkets buying up food for the next few days.

I remember almost 20 years ago when the entire city was shut down for Chinese New Year. Literally nothing was open, except for public transport. My expat male friends would stock up on instant noodles because they didn't know how to cook...

But thanks to the Asian financial crisis and successive economic problems, stores open one or two days afterwards, or if you're 7-11 or Circle K you're open year round regardless of the holiday. Some shops still take the five days off as it's their one major holiday of the whole year.

In any event this year was not bad for those who sold items at Victoria Park. Some cut prices to get rid of stock to break even, others who had really popular items like phone app cushions even raised prices because they was running out of them.

The flower stalls did very well this year because the weather warmed up and the flowers started to bloom and apparently there were many people who shelled out thousands of dollars for orchid plants.

However the biggest losers this year were the chicken sellers, particularly live ones whose birds had to be culled because of the detection of the H7N9 virus in mainland chickens. But the issue is that the birds are not checked at the border and instead after they are mixed in with the local chickens.

This practice has to stop because it hurts local producers; all birds are culled because it isn't detected until an autopsy is done. Traditional Hong Kong people like to eat fresh chicken and not frozen ones, and their habits will not change. And so the government needs to rethink how it inspects food from China.

The possibility of contracting H7N9 from chickens scared of many people who would have otherwise bought a frozen chicken. It should be a must for New Year's Eve dinners, but again this year it's off the table.

Fortune tellers have predicted the Year of the Horse will be a rocky one as it is characterized by wood and fire, which could lead to "explosions" with fire consuming the wood.

Some have interpreted this as the economic bubble bursting, property prices dropping or the overall financial picture of Hong Kong. It will also be politically unsettling with the possibility of Occupy Central later this year.

What's also interesting to note is that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was born in the Year of the Horse so he will face many difficulties this year.

And by the way the Lufsig toy at Ikea was all sold out yesterday -- some 2,000 of them snapped up in a few hours. What does that say about Hong Kongers and their opinion of Leung?

Hope he's ready for the rough ride in this Horse Year.




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