The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 23 July 2012

Hazy in Hong Kong

Hong Kong really is a great city, but ask any expats here and most of them will tell you that the air pollution is the main problem about living in HK. Unlike most other problems that comes with expatriate living - ranging from the important such as the language barrier, to the mundane such as not being able to find your favourite cereal - bad air quality is not something that you just adapt to, nor is it something that you can just ignore. About six months after moving to HK, we invested in a high performance air purifier, and it runs almost 24/7 except when we're away on holiday. One of hubby's colleagues owns two of them, and an expat friend in China said they have three air purifiers in their apartment. As to whom is responsible for the bad air, there is a lot of finger-pointing towards the mainland (particularly when the prevailing wind blows from there), but HK no doubt contributes its own fair share.

On Saturday at 6:30am, I looked out the window to see a usually hazy morning. By the time hubby got out of bed two hours later, the haze had gotten so bad that hubby (who rarely uses the camera on his own volition) was inspired to take a photo.

With air like this, it's no wonder that most expat kids develop asthma within 2 years of moving to Hong Kong:

Later in the day hubby suggested we should do a photo comparison of the same view on a clear day, and I recalled that I already had taken many photos on a clear day for a panoramic shot in 2010. I found one of the shots was roughly the same view as hubby's photo.

Shot taken on a clear day in November 2010:

Isn't the difference quite shocking? The thick haze remained for most of Saturday, which made the unbearably hot >35degC day feel gritty and yucky. Then an evening thunderstorm rolled through, and the rain cleared up the haze. We were stunned not just by how well the rain had cleaned the air, but also by the beautiful full-arched rainbow complete with its reflection! This was the first time our almost-4 boy saw a rainbow.

It looks like the dirty air in Hong Kong can do with daily showers. Shot taken on the same day as the 'hazy' shot above, after an evening thunderstorm (click image to view larger image):

I do like it in Hong Kong - there are many good reasons why we fell in love with the city when we first came here for our honeymoon almost 8 years ago. I just wish we didn't have to deal with the crappy air quality which is undoubtedly affecting our health.


  1. that would make sense what you have said about air quality, i went to hong kong on my honeymoon in 2010 and i was there for about a week and couldnt understand why my asthma was so bad.
    its a great city and i would very much like to visit again or live there but I agree, the air quality or murkiness as i called it back then, could do with a 'clean'!

  2. Hi Hannah,

    Thanks for your comment. My son who is not yet 4 was diagnosed last year with early stages of asthma, after my boy showed vast improvements after being on the nebuliser at the clinic for only 10 minutes. This was only 1 year after moving to Hong Kong. He doesn't get very bad attacks, just coughs that gets more persistent and worse until he starts wheezing and has difficulty breathing. I'm sure you know what I mean. Anyway, we use his Ventolin inhaler quite frequently (except for the odd week when we have good air), but he didn't need the inhaler at all when we went to Australia for 2 weeks in April, He needed the Ventolin soon after we returned to HK :(

  3. I found I was forever reaching for my inhalers over there, it wasnt until I was in Bali on the second leg of my honeymoon did i realise that maybe the city's atmosphere had something to do with it!
    I do hope things settle down and work out for you and especially your son. It must be fustraing to be in such a great city but to have this downside to it as well!