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May 2009

Lake Silver

image From the people who brought you Palazzo in Fo Tan (Sino Land and the MTR) comes another hilariously overblown marketing campaign for Lake Silver in Ma On Shan.  The TV adverts have Palazzo-style opera-lite music and computer graphics, and on Wednesday the SCMP came adorned in a glossy full colour advertising wraparound that even referenced their earlier development.  There's also a fancy website.

You won't be surprised to learn that it has an idyllic setting with "spectacular waterfront views of Sai Kung, Pat Sin Leng, Tolo Harbour and Ma On Shan coastal mountain ranges."  Wow, all of that from the window of one apartment?  Excellent…

What's not to like?  It's on the MTR and it's in the countryside.  Fantastic.  The picture shows the development surrounded by green stuff.  But wait - could that be Symphony Bay next door?  Could that be the Lee On estate in the other direction?  And could it be that other developers plan to build on adjacent sites?  Maybe Henderson Land will be building something equally magificent right next to Lake Silver?  I rather think they will.

Check it out on Google Maps (no I can't figure out how to get text to wrap round):


View Larger Map

As for the rail connection, well this is actually the Ma On Shan line that runs to Tai Wai (where it connects to East Rail), one of the new lines built by the KCR before it was swallowed whole by the MTRC (once described as a property developer than happens to run some trains).  The newspaper advert claims that it will take 17 minutes to get from Tai Wai to Admiralty on the new Sha Tin - Central link.  Well, maybe, one day.  What they are careful not to explain is how long it will take to get from Lake Silver to Tai Wai.  More than 17 minutes, I fear. image

The other striking feature of this development is that it seems to include a very substantial lake and/or swimming pool.  Hence the name, I suppose.  I’ll be fascinated to see the finished development to see if it bears any resemblance to the marketing material.  Property developers don't lie, do they?


Out of Service

Picture the scene: it's raining and you are looking for a taxi.  There's one with the "Taxi" light on.  You get closer and notice that it's "out of service".

Maybe the driver is waiting to pick up a passenger who has made a telephone booking; or it could be that he is only interested in a fare to the other side of the harbour; or perhaps he is going off duty.

All of these different things are indicated by putting the "Out of Service" sign on top of the taxi meter.

Surely there must be a better way?  Why can't we have a system that allows taxis to indicate that they are waiting for a passenger and are not available for hire?  

I suppose it's asking too much for officialdom to acknowledge that some taxis only want fares to the other side of the harbour?  Yes, I know that there are a few "cross-harbour" taxi stands, but there aren't enough of them - and how many people take taxis from taxi stands?  


Sha Tin to Central - or maybe not

image

Last week the SCMP had two stories about the so-called "Sha Tin to Central link", the new rail line being built by the MTR (MTR Corp submits new rail plan and vows to minimise disruption.

When completed the 17km extension will not only give commuters in Ma On Shan and Sha Tin a direct rail route to Central and Admiralty, it will also link East Kowloon to the New Territories West via West Rail.

And look, there's a map to show us the route (see right)

Except that I'm fairly certain that the latest plan is to link up Ma On Shan Rail with West Rail by building a line from Tai Wai to Hung Hom, and to extend East Rail to Central.  They will then be renamed the East-West line and the North-South line.  So Ma On Shan will not have a direct connection to Central (though Sha Tin will).

I tried to check this on the MTR website, but I couldn't find anything very clear.  I don't think I imagined this, though.


Buy the book

Someone kindly recommended www.bookdepository.co.uk a few weeks ago.  They ship books to Hong Kong and they don't charge for delivery.  Hurrah!

Amazon (both UK and US) also ship to Hong Kong, and offer much bigger discounts.  The problem is the delivery charge - Amazon UK add £4.99 per shipment plus £2.99 per item (i.e. £7.98 for one item, £10.97 for two items), which totally wipes out any savings on books with a cover price of less than about £15.  Amazon US have a lower shipment charge ($4.99), and higher per-item charge ($4.99) but the effect is much the same.

Amazon charge same for delivering one small paperback or a boxed set of hardbacks, which means I will never order a cheap paperback from them, but I may order a more expensive title (this also applies to DVDs, which can make boxed sets excellent value for money).  Maybe they make their charges so high to encourage people to sign up for Amazon Prime (a single annual charge for unlimited shipments), because it's hard to believe that it really costs them £7.98 to ship a paperback to Hong Kong.  

Anyway, Book Depository do things differently.  Order a paperback with a cover price of £7.99 from them and you will likely pay £7.19 including delivery (roughly HK$85), whereas it would cost about HK$150 shipped from Amazon or about HK$120 in a Hong Kong bookstore.

Delivery is by airmail and seems to only take 5-10 days, so no complaints there.  They don't use such elaborate packaging as Amazon, and that must keep costs down, but the books have arrived in good condition.

Unfortunately their customer service isn't so good.  I wanted to order one book in advance of publication, and they were advertising it with a bigger than usual discount, but I decided to wait - and a few days before publication the discount had disappeared completely (whereas Amazon were offering a 60% discount).  I questioned this and got no reply.  I followed up and got a vague response.  I tried again, and this time they suggested I order it from Amazon.  Doh!

Then mysteriously they started offering their usual 10% discount again.  Puzzling.

In fact there are many slightly weird things about their website.  Most books have a very prominent link to Amazon.co.uk that tells you the price and the delivery charge.  I suppose this is for price comparison, and also generates some revenue for them if you do order from Amazon.   They even say:

The Book Depository and Amazon: why do we link to Amazon.co.uk?
We are not in competition with Amazon, we complement Amazon by providing books which have poor availability, offering considerable discounts on certain titles which Amazon are unable to. On the other hand, we recognize that our customers want books quickly and, so, if we do not have stock -- or if Amazon is considerably cheaper -- our customers are able to order direct from Amazon via a link from our website. Our aim is to make "All books available to All", so we make it as easy as possible for you to order and obtain books quickly and efficiently. We hope to give you visibility of other bookseller's availability and prices; you will also find our catalogue on internet marketplaces at Amazon, Play, and other retailers.

Well, I suppose they are not in direct competition with Amazon, and it works for them to co-operate instead of trying to compete.  Probably for sound commercial reasons rather than pure altruism.


All ends up

Since the Football League introduced the play-off system, the end-of-season schedule of matches has been fairly consistent.

The Football League season ends in early May (with League One and Two on the Saturday, and the Championship on Sunday).  A week later the Premier League season ends.  Then it's the FA Cup Final, and finally the Play-Off finals at Wembley over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend (at the end of May).

Not this year.  The Football League season ended 2 weeks ago (as normal), but the Premier League season carries on until the Bank Holiday weekend.  Then we have the Champions League final, and (unless I'm very much mistaken) the FA Cup Final will mark the end of the season.  Which is nice.

It's often said that the winners of the Championship play-offs suffer because they can only start their preparations 3 weeks after the other two promoted teams.  This year might be different, though, because either Burnley or Sheffield United will be promoted just one day after the end of the Premier League season.  So if United win they will have the opportunity to bid for a sulky Argentinean with a history of scoring vital goals at the end of the season...    


Second division

Everyone must know that the English Premier League is on Now TV.  What about other European football?  Of course there's a lot on other Now channels and on Cable TV, but there is also some in strange places.

The Championship (the English 2nd Division) is shown on TVB Pay Vision, but they don't have a sports channel so the games go out on channel 898 (TVB PayVison Info - normally used for programme information) and tonight you can watch Burnley vs Reading in the play-offs.  The two language options are Cantonese and silence. 

Or tonight on one of the free-to-air ATV digital channels you can watch Rangers vs Celtic from the Scottish Premier League.  Earlier this season another 'Old Firm' clash was on ATV Home, but it was a dull 0-0 draw, so tonight they are showing a 42 year old James Bond film instead.

This season, TVB has been showing the Coppa Italia (Italian Cup) on Jade, with a few games on Pearl (for matches that are in peak times in HK), and the final is on Wednesday night (Thursday morning here).  The final is Lazio vs Sampdoria, which might help to explain why it's on free-to-air TV - no-one takes the Coppa Italia very seriously.


Typical PCCW

Now TV is getting a good kicking in the SCMP from readers who are not at all happy that Australia TV is becoming a subscription channel (after previously being free).  PCCW weasels (for it is them) issued a statement saying that this was done after consultation with Australia TV, but it appears to be the type of consultation where one party tells the other what they are going to do, listens politely to objections - and then carries on regardless.

It has been pointed out that the channel is "free" on Cable TV, but what that really means is that you have to subscribe to the Cable TV service to get a selection of channels, whereas PCCW charge for individual channels, with no minimum. 

PCCW is apparently charging HK$12 per month for doing nothing (well, OK, they need a satellite dish and they use their marvellous high-speed network to send it to your Now decoder box).  Well, why not?  Viewers who don't have Cable TV are probably unlikely to switch just to avoid paying a few dollars a month, and it's hard to imagine that anyone at PCCW cares about upsetting their customers.