If there is one thing the Old Fogies enjoy, it is a day at the races and we were fortunate to be in Hong Kong at a time when the horse racing season began. Hong Kong has two race courses, Happy Valley and Sha Tin which offers top quality horse racing.
Sha Tin was built-in the New Territories district in the 1970s on reclaimed land and is located against a dramatic backdrop of high rises and hills. The racecourse was originally built with capacity for 35,000 and one grandstand, it now has capacity for 85,000 and two grandstands and considered one of the great racecourses in the world.
Fortunately, although the Sha Tin racecourse is in the New Territories, it is quite easy to get to using the MTR train system with a stop opposite the racecourse. We arrived fairly early and joined a heavy throng of racegoers making their way to the course. Overseas visitors can join the many locals in the main stand or pay extra for a guest badge which gives you more access to different parts of the course.
Entering the course, there were gongs to ring for good luck, feeling we would use all the luck we could get we banged away until we became part of a media scrum and faced with TV cameras and photographers. Thinking we had perhaps overdone the gongs, we were little concerned that we had upset somebody. However it quickly became clear that we were of interest with the local media because they were anxious to show overseas visitors enjoying a day at the races. Mrs Nice in particular seemed to be enjoying all the attention flitting from interview to interview, she even managed to sidle into my interview and take over.
The hot humid weather and media attention had us scuttling into the main stand and looking for some refreshments. Mrs Nice was tempted with some beef with rice and bought it over to the table, the tasty morsels of beef were few and hid big chunks of gristle in the sauce. It seemed to be a local delicacy which our fellow diners devoured with relish. We managed to eat the rice and vegetables, the gristle remained on the plate.
The Season Opening meeting is one of the main racedays and the racecourse arranged for entertainment in the parade ring, acrobats and Chinese Lions appeared for a routine before the jockeys came into the ring to line up before the senior members of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. A large Gong appeared which was struck in a ceremonial way to officially mark the start of a new season.
After the entertainment it was time for the serious racing business to begin and the horses began to appear for the first race. One of the reasons we enjoy racing is that it attracts a wide range of people and the crowd is often entertaining in its own right. The Hong Kong crowd differed considerably from your normal British crowd who often see a day at the races as a day out to socialise and have a good time. In Hong Kong, there is a social aspect but betting is taken very seriously and many people spend a lot of time studying form.
Perhaps we did not study form enough, for after a series of losing small wagers on the first few races, we made our way to the exit, banging a few gongs and touching the lucky horses on our way.
If you visit Hong Kong, a visit to Sha Tin or Happy Valley will be full of entertainment, both horse and human related. It is a great way to mix with the locals and see the Hong Kong population at play. The racecourses cater for overseas visitors with special tickets and access to different areas of the racecourse.
Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.
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