The way we all drive, we'll be the only politically correct motorists in China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 January, 1997, 12:00am

The postbag yesterday made it clear that Hong Kong motorists want to keep on driving on the left, even after the handover in June. After all, 'taking the left path' has a nice, ideologically ring to it, I heard from one of Hong Kong's dozens of Peter Chans.

Thailand, Indonesia, India, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Macau also still drive on the left, said reader Stephen Argles. It's more than a few. A total of 63 countries still have left-hand driving, Hong Kong travel specialist Jock Dawe said.

China itself had motorists driving on the left until 1945 or 1946, I heard from Duncan Parkinson. The then ruler of China, Chiang Kai-shek, was advised to switch the country to right-hand driving by an American.

The reason? General Motors only made right-hand drive cars. Not a very ideologically sound reason for switching, but apparently it was followed.

Incidentally, a reader tells me that the Swedes changed from left-hand driving to right-hand driving at peak traffic hour for a good reason.

It was reckoned that if they had done it at night, the chances were high that motorists would wake up the next morning, sleepily get into their cars and drive off on the wrong side, crashing into their neighbours.

'It was considered safer to do it when everyone was wide awake and on the road,' she said.

The next morning people still woke up and crashed into their neighbours, but, hey, at least they'd tried. John Kuzmik tells me that he had also heard that the Hong Kong road system eventually would shift to driving on the right.

He had been told that the shadow SAR's Ministry of Transportation had a meeting and recommended that the change in Hong Kong should take place gradually. First, trucks and large buses will transfer to driving on the right, and cars and light buses will make the change at a later date. If you are right, John, that'll mean danger and chaos on our roads.

So, no change there. Steve Whorf popped into Watson's at Admiralty over the weekend and noted a section marked: 'Family Planning'.

There would seem nothing unusual about that - except fir the fact that there was nothing on display there but batteries. There were several big names at the Asian Newspaper Expo which opened in Hong Kong yesterday. I spotted Sir Geoffrey Howe hobnobbing with organisers, and former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke was there too, and did not cry once.

Conference attendees invited Your Humble Narrator to attend, so that they could pick his brain on serious topics, such as the most memorable newspaper classified ads.

Here are four from last year: 1. Kansai Flea Market of Japan: 'Free desk table for a lady with thick legs and wide drawers.' 2. The Manly Daily of Australia: 'For sale: Chinese carved solid teal altar table from the Ming Dysentery.' 3. From the travel pages of the Japan Times : 'For general information about the US Virgins, call 800 372 8784.' 4. From The Star of Malaysia: 'The Tua Seng Concrete Trading Co is pleased to inform you that our employee Mr Jamda Danai has been missing from work since the 2nd of the 4th 1996.' Still on newspapers, the January 7 issue of the International Express informs us there is a UK politician called 'Tory Blair'. Some confusion? (Spotter: Rupert Woolley.) Bumped into David Tang, of Shanghai Tang, yesterday, who says he definitely is not marrying his British fiance on June 30 this year, proving rumourmongers such as myself wrong.

He decided June 30 would have had a curious significance as a marriage date.

While Hong Kong is being handed by Britain to China: 'I would be handing over all my worldly wealth to Britain, in a sense,' he said. 'This would make it a sort of reverse handover.' Overheard at the weekend: A man who had just broken up with his wife was telling his friend how he had moved from a palatial residence to a tiny flat.

'It's not the space, so much, but what I really miss is all the pampering, you know,' he said.

So he was really missing his wife? 'No,' he said. 'The maids.' Arab homes are big. A survey of household items yesterday found one home in the United Arab Emirates had 868 telephone paging devices. No doubt one for each member of the harem. Just a thought: By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends. (Murray McWilliams)