It's that perfect time of year for hiking - at least it was until Stygian gloom descended in the middle of last week and the air took on the distinctive taste of oxygen mixed with particulate carcinogens. Which may be just as well because hiking at this time of year is dangerous. It's not the trails themselves - although some are taxing enough to demand stout footwear, experienced legs and a good map. The true risk comes when the hike is over.
There you are, at the end of the trail, drenched in sweat and giving off a healthy glow. You jump on to a bus and instantly feel pneumonia close at hand. The source of the threat is the bus' air conditioning, which, despite the outside temperature being 18 or 19 degrees Celsius, is set for the height of the Hong Kong summer. At the end of three different hikes over three weekends, all of them ending close to dusk, I suffered the same frigid assault. Why are buses running their air conditioners at full blast in the middle of winter? Apart from the threat to people's health, there is the adverse impact on the environment and the increase in costs for the passengers. Not that the buses are the only offenders. A trip to a dim sum restaurant in the IFC Mall on Sunday was spoiled by air conditioning so powerful I had to wear a ski jacket throughout lunch. With the Copenhagen climate conference in full swing, maybe Hong Kong could make a contribution by shutting down the air conditioners on days when most people outside are wearing winter coats. Or is that too much like common sense?