A giant inflatable duck, somehow, makes Hong Kong a better place, writes Asia Sentinel’s John Berthelsen

It is difficult to say just what made Hong Kong, of all places, fall absolutely in love with the Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s giant yellow rubber ducky, which was towed into Victoria Harbor three weeks ago. But fallen in love it has.

Indeed there was a palpable sense of loss when the 16.5 meter creation went flat a week ago, a victim not of disaster but routine maintenance. The deflated duck left children crying and even a few adults pushing back tears. It was a sad time around the harbor.

Ducky's back. Pic: AP.

But there was relief on Tuesday. Hundreds of people cheered when the duck returned to its place of honor on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. The walkway off the Star Ferry was so crowded with ducky devotees that it was difficult to walk in the area. The duck, strange as it seems, somehow makes the city a better place.

The duck arrived in Hong Kong on May 2, following visits to Osaka, Sydney, Sao Paolo and other parts of the world. And even after three weeks as an adopted fowl of Hong Kong, it is still almost impossible to get close to it because of the thousands of people who line the dock, gazing at a big bobbing duck that after all does nothing more than its regular-size counterpart does in a child’s bathtub. At 9 am Thursday, a businessman who got off the Star Ferry to walk to work in a nearby office building said he was stunned by the number of people who were just standing there, looking at the duck.

“What are they doing? Are they a bunch of hillbillies?” he asked, apparently too busy to get the whole duckgeist.

Despite one suit’s sour mood, Hofman appears to have been right to have created the duck. He said he came up with the inflatable creature “to amplify the healing power of the classic bath buddy. Its playful presence revives the happiness of life’s simple pleasures, beyond the usual barriers of language and culture.” It seems to work. A duck craze has taken over, the latest of many periodic fads to inundate Hong Kong –but it is different. It is gratuitously nice, and fun, for no discernible reason, a near miracle in this city.

Little yellow ducks have sold out across the city. Restaurants (“Have a quack bite”) have made up duck recipes. Ducky cookies are selling at Al Molo and BLT Steak in Harbor City. Strawberry Forever is selling ducky-shaped ice cream. People are wearing yellow duck accessories. Thousands of miles away, an Australian shop that sells baby accessories online has reported a Hong Kong-fueled boom in rubber duck orders, with people buying them by the dozens.

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