What with the livid, email-writing expat housewife and our own neurologically unsound pestilence now locked up in the attic of the comments section, it’s good to see people going nuts the honest, healthy, old-fashioned way – in real life. What’s more, in the time-honoured tradition of such deranged folk, they even look intensely pleased about it.

They are Hu Wei-hsin and her apparently supportive (too hen-pecked to show embarrassment?) husband. Ms Hu has had a problem with a neighbour who burns incense outside the door of their home in a place called Lai Chi Kok Bay Garden. I have lived with this situation on and off for the bulk of my life, and my strategy is to ignore it, or, as the delicate if slightly dusty plumes of sandalwood seep into my apartment, think to myself, ‘hey – free incense’. Some people like sticking joss sticks in oranges and burning them out in the hallway, and you just become inured to it.

Or you can follow the less-sanity-more-fun approach as Ms Hu is doing and sue the neighbour. Obviously, the crazier you get, the more fun it is. So Ms Hu is claiming HK$100,000, saying that the fumes caused the premature birth of, and subsequent health problems for, her obviously hyper-sensitive baby.

A quick look around shows Lai Wan Fa Yuen to be a rather down-market place – 500 square feet for less than HK$3 million, including yellowy-brown mini-bathroom! The incense-burning Ma household next door say they have been using their smoky method of deity-appeasement for 40 years to keep the family safe and ensure that the son gets home every day in one piece. Trying not to be overly presumptuous or prone to stereotyping, we can hazard a guess that they are former public housing dwellers with modest education who have come up in the world enough to own a private unit in the New Territories.

Ms Hu, on the other hand, has a master’s degree and has lived in the USA. Sadly, we do not know much about her roots, but something tells me that she finds the earthy and unpretentious nature of her neighbours disagreeable not because it is alien to her but perhaps because they remind her of her own rather humble origins not so long ago. I also wonder whether Ms Hu’s wisely unnamed husband was a ‘good catch’ and she feels driven to this extreme behaviour to keep up appearances in his eyes. This is pure, scurrilous speculation on my part, but when you parade yourself grinning in front of the media while accusing the folk next door of harming your baby, you are inviting it – begging, in fact.

Much to their credit, the feisty Ma clan is fighting back, deliberately sweeping extra dust up against the Hu’s front door and uttering ancient voodoo curses designed to ensure the baby grows up never to pass any exams. There is nothing like a bit of New Territories lunacy to brighten up our day, and like the other 7 million people of Hong Kong I look forward to seeing what tomorrow will bring from Lai Chi Kok.

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12 Responses to Incensed

  1. Sir Crispin says:

    Oh I dunno, I think many might tend to agree with Ms. Hu about the outdated, or is it quaint, adherence to these silly old superstitions. I myself get annoyed walking down the street while getting bombarded by smoke and flying ash from those big red buckets as the numb nuts burn hell money. I especially find the Lockhart girlie bar strip rather counter-intuitive: “Dear [insert appropriate deity] please accept this bogus offering and help us to have a prosperous evening trading in the sale of female flesh.”

  2. Maugrim says:

    The whole story is hillarious, especially the reactions of both the cursor and the cursee. I don’t know. I just assumed a bit of incense, a few oranges, a perpetual red light and a ‘bau gung’ statue whether it be a shop or a bus station were some of the things that gave our city cultural character. Im far more annoyed with the dolts downstairs that keep a permanantly yappy dog in a building that clearly bans them. At least incense dissipates.

  3. Saints Preserve Us says:

    Hoorah, at last LM is toast! Finally, buttering up Hems has got us out of this jam. Hopefully, lashings of high tech solution will leave LM sandwiched and incommunicado for some time, to conserve the sanity of Hemlock’s other humble but spread out fans.

  4. expat says:

    In a shop or out on the street – fine, quaint, whatever. In a confined space right outside your door – something else entirely.

  5. Har Gau says:

    Lai Chi Kok is now in the New Territories? The fear of the Dark Side is strong indeed …

  6. Vile Traveller says:

    Wherever it is, it is definitely ‘Over There’ and so legitimately geographically dubious.

  7. Mary Ma says:

    No, not dubious at all: it is north of Boundary Street, so technically speaking it is ‘New Territories’, although it is part of the greater Kowloon sprawl.

    Anyone who has the benefit of a master degree-based income and who lives there by choice is obviously mentally or psychologically impaired.

  8. Walter De Havilland says:

    I went to Lai Chi Kok once in the early 1980s. It had a rather sad, run-down, amusement park with a even sadder elephant that was fed on a diet of Mars Bars. Poor beast eventually passed on – no doubt on a sugar high.

  9. anon says:

    Just finished watching Buckingham Palace videos. Great stuff. So where does BP fit, in this debate about HK hamlets?

  10. gunlaw says:

    Talking of a “good catch” all trawling in Hong Kong waters is now banned – so we can take it that incense burning and grave side hill fires will be next.

  11. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Depends what the masters is for. In my highly prejudiced view, anyone who declares they have a masters, but does not reveal what the masters is for, implicitly discloses that it’s for something not that prestigious. Moving back in with mum & dad in a tiny NT apartment while pregnant suggests that her master degree-based income was not all that large.

  12. Jim says:

    I thought everyone had a masters degree now days.

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