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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 42: 5 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysBack to the hotel. As in any fast city, the traffic moves incredibly slowly, and there is no time for a breather before going into a Press conference. I have been happily unrecognised for most of the journey, and it's disconcerting having to play the celebrity again. I agree with Paul Theroux and Norman Lewis that travel is best enjoyed by being as inconspicuous as possible. The newspapers want funny stories and lots of incident, but I haven't edited the journey down yet. It's still a big, rambling, extraordinary experience, not easy to sum up in headlines. Clem says there has been keen interest in the journey here and when he was talking to a radio station earlier in the week he was introduced, with an apt slip of the tongue, as the producer of Around The World In Eighty Delays! Thank God for the trouser-eating cockatoo. It's just what the Press want to hear - and it even ends up in the London papers.

After a quick lunch I'm onto the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. I'm surprised that the enterprising Chinese haven't slung at least one bridge across the downtown area, but heartily glad they haven't. Today the water of the unstraddled bay ripples in bright sunshine. They call this millionaire's weather, and I'm off to millionaires' territory - the Happy Valley Race Course. I reach it by tram, a well-worn vehicle of character that used to run in Glasgow in the 1940s.

Happy Valley is an extraordinary phenomenon. Billions of dollars change hands here on the two days of the week when there is racing, because it is the only legalised gambling in Hong Kong, and the people of the city love to gamble. (Living here at all is a gamble, I suppose.) The Hong Kong Jockey Club, a very exclusive and traditional band of gentlemen, have found themselves sitting on a goldmine, which they are permitted to continue sitting on if they re-distribute a certain amount of profit in good works around Hong Kong. So everyone's happy and the place is aptly named.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 42
  • Date: 5 November
  • Country/sea: Hong Kong
  • Place: Hong Kong
  • Book page no: 136

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  • Gambling
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