Taking a break from a crazy schedule of marathon running, physiotherapist Justin Faulkner discusses the Hong Kong of his teenage years and the favourite things in his flat.
I’m Australian by birth, but have lived in Hong Kong since the age of 14.
My father ran a construction company and worked on a number of projects, including the building of Route 3 out to the airport. I went to South Island School. As teenagers, we were lucky to be allowed quite a bit of freedom, because it was so safe. We hung out at the classic old bars in Lan Kwai Fong, like Scotties! My father didn’t want to holiday back in Australia, so we travelled widely around Asia. I remember visiting India at four, and Japan at nine.
At 18, my father bought me my first car, a little red 1969 MGB. But he wouldn’t let me drive it until I’d taken it apart and put it back together again! My 50kg German Shepherd, Billy, used to sit in the front seat, and together we’d cruise around Hong Kong. There was definitely no space for anyone else!
The tallest building in Central was Jardine House when I was a teenager, so the city looks rather different now.
Rents were $8 a square foot in the Centrium when we set up the physiotherapy practice in 2003. But you wouldn’t pay anywhere near that today! The pollution has improved over the last few years, though, especially since so many factories closed in the Shenzhen area after the economic downturn. It’s not good, but it’s better. We don’t get so many of those days when you can’t see across the harbour. I love the clean air, wide-open spaces and beaches in Australia and visit several times a year, but we’re not trying to save money so we can go back and buy our dream house.
This is my home, and the best thing about this city for me will always be its safety and convenience. I run outdoors most days, and can be in Pok Fu Lam Reservoir or the trails behind Queen Mary Hospital in 15 minutes from my front door. There isn’t another city in the world where you can do that.
After leaving South Island School, I went to study physiotherapy at UCL in England.
We had a family house in central London, which was a luxury for a student – I was a rare breed in my street! My ambition was always to be a sports physio, so I contracted to the NHS for a while, and then went to work for the West Ham youth soccer team. Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard were all part of the team, but they weren’t superstars then!
While back in Hong Kong on a trip, a physiotherapy practice offered me a job, and I was lucky enough to end up working on the Hong Kong Sevens on my first day. I’ve been to 31 Hong Kong Sevens in a row, and worked for the Rugby Union on and off for 18 years. I was physio for the national 7s team for 10 years, running onto the pitch with water, or to deliver instructions from the coach. There have been a lot of sprains, bumps and cuts, but I’ve been lucky as far as rugby injuries are concerned. In my whole career, I’ve never had to put anyone in a neck brace and stretcher them off the park. We still look after the Valley RFC and Hong Kong Scottish teams at PhysioCentral, and we treat a lot of sports people coming through Hong Kong, especially tennis players. My favourite was Steffi Graf; she was terrific, really relaxed, and so interesting to chat to.
I’ve just run 62 marathons in 100 days with one of our clients, Mina Guli.
She set out to run 100 in 100 days and is committed to raising awareness of water shortages around the world through her charity, Thirst – previously she ran seven continents in seven weeks, and 40 marathons in 40 days! This time we started at the New York Marathon, and then ran 42.2k every day in cities including London, Paris, Rome, Delhi, Hong Kong, Dubai, Cape Town, Melbourne, Lima and Mexico City. Six or eight hours running every day is a long time to be talking to yourself, so Mina likes me to run alongside her. But this time I had to tie myself to her so she didn’t injure herself – she gets excited, and runs faster than she should! She did amazingly well.
My favourite pieces at home are my custom-made chairs from Timothy Oulton.
When we moved, we got The Home Stylist to show us how to move things around to make them sit a little better, but the chairs were definitely my choice. I love the Art Deco feel and the fact they share the same metal trimmings. Otherwise, it would have to be my collection of framed jerseys. My most treasured one is probably from the Wallabies, signed by the 1999 World Cup winning front row, but I also have one from the Asian Games, when Hong Kong was just pipped by Japan to the silver medal. It was Hong Kong’s first ever team medal, and I was proud to be the physio.
The quirkiest thing in our flat is probably the huge orchid in our garden. It’s 20 years old and our lease specifies we have to look after it and keep it alive! I was seriously worried it would get damaged by Typhoon Mangkhut, but it withstood the winds, and it flowers every single month.
Saatchi Art saatchiart.com
Grissini Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road 2588 1234
Tsukiji 46 Gage Street, Central 2542 3802
Comptoir 42 Forbes Street, Kennedy Town 2453 9873
See more in our Living in Hong Kong section:
This article first appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.