The Stairway … uh, wait a minute, Escalator to Heaven

By , July 30, 2010 11:00 am

One of the fascinating things about Hong Kong is how simple names that are attached to some of the places or features are. One such feature is the Central Mid-Level Escalators, Central because of its starting point in the Central district of Hong Kong, Mid-Level because of its end point which is on the Mid-Level area, and Escalator, because it is indeed an escalator or a set of escalators that was built in 1993 to ease congestion on the narrow streets at a cost of $245 million Hong Kong Dollars. It is estimated that some 54,000 pedestrians use it a day, twice what was originally estimated. The 800 metre long set of escalators moves downhill from 6 am to 10 am and uphill from 10.15 am to midnight, climbing some 135 metres in height. The escalators also provide the visitor with opportunities to see some of the older parts of Hong Kong and a notable building along the route of the escalators is the classical styled former Central Police Station main building with a façade featuring Doric columns, which was completed in 1919.

The Mid Level Escalators were built in 1993 and provides quick and easy access from Central to SoHo and the Mid-Levels.

The Mid Level Escalators were built in 1993 and provides quick and easy access from Central to SoHo and the Mid-Levels.

The escalators make ascending the steep slope of Victoria Peak a breeze.

The escalators make ascending the steep slope of Victoria Peak a breeze.

The Mid-Level Escalators provides sightseeing opportunities to the visitor - the Main Building of the Central Police Station on Hollywood Road constructed in 1919 is seen here.

The Mid-Level Escalators provides sightseeing opportunities to the visitor - the Main Building of the Central Police Station on Hollywood Road constructed in 1919 is seen here.

The escalators provide many a photographic opportunity.

The escalators provide many a photographic opportunity.

The escalators also provide an opportunity for the visitor to get up close to day-to-day lives of the working folk of Hong Kong.

The escalators also provide an opportunity for the visitor to get up close to day-to-day lives of the working folk of Hong Kong.

A shop window seen from the escalators.

A shop window seen from the escalators.

The escalators when built, also served to revive some of the areas higher up which had up to then been rather inaccessible and forgotten, particularly the area that has become known as SoHo. Sharing a name with the red-light district of London’s West End, and with New York’s trendy area South of Houston Street, Hong Kong’s SoHo, in this case South of Hollywood Road, has since been transformed into a trendy nightlife hub with a cluster of cafés, restaurants and bars, as well as trendy outlets that cater to the young and upwardly mobile.

The area south of Hollywood Road along the route of the Escalator is referred to as SoHo and has been transformed by the construction of the escalators.

The area south of Hollywood Road along the route of the Escalator is referred to as SoHo and has been transformed by the construction of the escalators.

Hollywood Road.

Hollywood Road.

The SoHo area features cafes, bars, restaurants and trendy shops.

The SoHo area features cafés, bars, restaurants and trendy shops.

A trendy SoHo cafe.

A trendy SoHo café.

The Mid-Levels area that the escalators are intended is not an area that I can claim to have visited, but from descriptions that I have read of the heavenly views of Victoria Harbour the location halfway up Victoria Peak provides to its exclusive and upmarket residents, it can perhaps be described as being heaven on earth. What I did have the opportunity to visit, together with some of my fellow bloggers on the guided walk with Mr. Leon Suen (please visit the post on Wing Lee Street in Sheung Wan), is perhaps a surer stairway to Heaven – the stairway that leads to the Jamia Masjid, off the escalators on Shelly Street. The mosque that we see today is built in an Indian Islamic style and is the second mosque building that has stood in its place, having been rebuilt in 1915 by a certain Essack Elias of Bombay. What is interesting is that the name of the benefactor who would probably have been a convert to Islam, is of Jewish origin, and can probably be traced back to the numerous Baghdadi Jews who settled in Bombay in the 1800s and could perhaps be linked to the Eliases of Singapore who left us Elias Road and the David Elias Building. The original mosque was apparently named the “Mohammedan Mosque” and built in 1890 and wasn’t large enough to cope with the growing Muslim population in Hong Kong.

A surer Stairway to Heaven ... the steps leading up to the Jamia Masjid, off Shelley Street.

A surer Stairway to Heaven ... the steps leading up to the Jamia Masjid, off Shelley Street.

The Jamia Masjid seen from Shelley Street.

The Jamia Masjid seen from Shelley Street.

The mosque was rebuilt in 1915 by a certain Essack Elias.

The mosque was rebuilt in 1915 by a certain Essack Elias.

Wandering around the grounds of the mosque and inside the mosque itself, one is somehow transported away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Hong Kong just down the escalators, into a world that seems so cool, calm and peaceful, and I could almost imagine myself being brought to another world (that is on a quite Monday – I am not sure if that would be the case on Fridays when I guess the compound and mosque would be teeming with Muslims coming for Friday prayers). It was a certainly a nice respite from what was an extremely hot, humid and hurried day, and should anyone be in the area and seeking a respite from the hurried pace of life around, this is certainly the place to be.

The mosque and its grounds offers a respite from the backdrop of the busy Hong Kong that surrounds it.

The mosque and its grounds offers a respite from the backdrop of the busy Hong Kong that surrounds it.

It also offered us respite from the midday sun...

It also offered us respite from the midday sun...

Views of the very tranquil Mosque and the grounds of the Mosque

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Ms Matchmaker’s Guide to Hong Kong #3: My Love Affair with the Fragrant Harbour

By , July 30, 2010 8:50 am

The truth is, I have found this trip to HK rather challenging to blog about.

The reason is… I am not really sure I can be classified as a tourist… and the trip is sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board after all! 🙂

Prior to the trip, I asked my HK friend, “Hey, what are the attractions I should check out in HK? I am going as a tourist this time!”

My HK friend replied, “唔好讲笑啦!你係四份之一个香港人哦!” In other words, she’s saying, “Stop kidding me! You are a quarter of a Hong Konger!”

Erm, I guess she’s not wrong. I actually go to HK once a month because we have a HK branch.

Come to think about it, HK and I go a long, long way back…

My “love affair” with the fragrant harbour HK started when I was 5 years old. That was my first overseas trip, and my parents brought me to HK for a vacation. Looking at the photos, I had a blast at Ocean Park!

My first trip to HK without my parents was when I was 17 years old. And that was the first time I stayed in a HK condominium. It was indeed an eye opener! I have been told that Hong Kongers rarely would invite friends to stay in their homes. The reason is not that they are not hospitable or not friendly. The reason is because they do not have space in their homes! My friend’s place is probably quite big compared to the normal standard, but compared to my home in Malaysia (where land is not as ‘precious’ as in HK), it is really rather tiny. I remembered my friend’s kitchen… after both of us squeeze into it, there’s hardly any more space for a third person!

And finally, when I turned 28 years old, my dream of working in Hong Kong finally came true! After my numerous visits to HK where I enjoyed myself so much, I told myself, “One day, I want to work in HK!” Having quit my job in 2004, I was not too sure how I was going to fulfill this dream. The opportunity presented itself when we decided to set up a Lunch Actually branch in HK, having done our market research that there is a demand for a modern dating service in HK! And that was when I started my monthly visits to HK.

What do I love about HK you might ask…

There are so many things that I love, and here’s just among the top 5 things I love about HK!

P10402431. The Energy and The Vibrancy of the City

If there is a city that never sleeps, it has to be Hong Kong! Many shops in the shopping belt are opened till 10pm or 11pm. When you walk around Causeway Bay or Tsim Sha Tsui, you will feel like it’s 8pm when in fact it’s already 11pm! There are still lots of people walking around or out shopping! Some people find the city claustrophobic. But I love the hustle and bustle of the city. I like the fact that people go around with a sense of purpose and urgency. I expected to take 4 months to set up our HK branch, but it only took us 2.5 months, and I think a big part of it is attributed to how fast and efficient the Hong Kongers are!

2. The Cantonese Language

My mother tongue is not English, nor is it Mandarin, it is actually Cantonese! My dialect group is Hakka, but because my mum does not speak Hakka, we ended up speaking Cantonese at home. Do you know that as compared to Mandarin, Cantonese might be even more difficult to learn because Mandarin only has 4 different sounds (or some may say 5), but Cantonese has 9 different sounds! When I come to HK, I feel as if I am home… because everybody speak Cantonese! And when I connect with people in Cantonese, I just feel instantly closer to them! 🙂

3. The Tram or better known as ‘Ding Ding’ to the locals

The tram system on HK island is convenient and affordable. In fact, it’s extremely cheap! You can get from one end of the island to the other end with HKD2. Yes! That works out to 40 cents in SGD! I love to take the tram especially in the winter months. The cold wind will be blowing on your face while the tram saunters through the new and the old Hong Kong. I remember telling my friend how much I love taking the tram. And she said, “我睇你叮啲几耐!” (Let’s see how long you can take the tram!) Haha, and she’s right! Because when the summer months come by, it becomes extremely hot and humid and I do not advise you to take the tram then, unless you want to have a free sauna treat!

4. The Desserts

Hui Lau Shan Mango Dessert Drink

HK is a food paradise, no doubt about it. But more specifically, it is a desserts haven! If you are a mango lover, you have to check out 《许留山》which serves delicious mango-themed desserts! You cannot miss it because its branches are spread all across town. Another of my favourite haunts is 《满记》(Honeymoon Dessert) which has absolutely amazing durian pancakes! And if you enjoy milk-based desserts, I love the 双皮奶 (double skin milk pudding) at 《杏花楼》. I always have it when I am in HK! 🙂

5. A City of Contrast

new old contrastIf you love contrast, you will love HK. It is a city where you can have a delicious and fulfilling meal by spending either HKD30 or HKD3000. You can admire the amazing skyscrapers or enjoy the serenity of its mountains. You can go clubbing at Lan Kwai Fong or enjoy a relaxing day at the beach at Stanley. You can shop at Prada, Gucci, LVand the likes or you can hunt for a bargain at Temple Street or Ladies Market! The options and opportunities are endless and in my opinion, that is what makes this city always exciting and intriguing.

You will always think that you have it all figured out, and then it will throw you yet another surprise!

And that is why HK is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world.

What about you? What would make it to your top 5 list for Hong Kong?

夏游香江 – 香港赛龙舟嘉年华现场

By , July 30, 2010 8:39 am

为了不让我们吃腻酒店的早餐以及有机会品尝道地特色早餐,我们第三天的早餐是在香港拥有很多家分店的翠华餐厅解决。

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在众多选择之下,我点的是早餐配套:沙爹牛肉公仔面配嫩滑炒蛋与牛油猪仔,再加上驰名的奶茶。看似简单,但其实我认为越简单的菜式却是最靠主厨本领的方式。不过翠华餐厅的名声已经是如雷贯耳,尤其是奶茶更是镇店十宝之一,果然没有让我失望。本来还想趁这一趟去尝试兰芳园丝袜奶茶,看来有了这一杯下肚也稍微满足了我要在香港喝奶茶的瘾了啦。

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典型早餐文化的景象,以报纸、茶/咖啡、早餐开始完美的一天;而我们的这一天也在早餐后开始变得更精彩了。

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甫到在梳士巴利道旁尖沙咀海滨花园就可以感觉到全场热烘烘的气氛。毕竟这个历史悠久的第35届香港国际龙舟邀请赛也广邀各地的龙舟好手、媒体人员与明星来参与其盛。而 TVB 翡翠台也为这个夏日嘉年华的压轴赛事做了全场直播。

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所以在场的来宾也轻易地感染到主办当局的用心。有者盛装出席。。。

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明星的粉丝们则不顾夏日的热炎,一早就在观众席守候,只是为了一睹明星风采。

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而选手们全力以赴,不外是为了这个金龙奖杯的荣誉。

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各路英雄齐聚一堂,在香江乘风破浪前进。

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中午一点钟,媒体明星邀请赛正式举行。

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一号队伍,坐着让全场沸腾的韩国 KBS Dream Team 成员。

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很善解人意的他们为了不让焦点一直聚在他们身上,拱手让出得奖名额给其他参赛者,呵呵~但是他们还是有机会以《最受欢迎队伍》得奖者的身份登台领奖。

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*U-Kiss 的 Alexander 和 F-Cuz 的 Jinon

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*Mighty Mouth 的 Sangchu

我的天,都已经是夏日炎炎了,领奖还那么让人热血沸腾。。。真的是韩国型男风范。君不相信?来看吧。。。

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居高临下看着粉丝们包围着护送 Dream Team 的巴士,我还真的是为那位司机大叔捏一把冷汗。

而 OMY.sg 身为其中一个媒体邀请队也派了四位代表参加“划浴缸大赛”组别。哈哈,Violet(左起)、Darren、Peter 与 Geck Geck 就分成两队披甲上阵咯~

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你看看还未开始划船的 Peter 与 Geck Geck 有多么高兴,稳操胜券的样子,嘿嘿~结果呢。。。

他们不幸地翻船了 – 胜券是没握到;海水倒是喝了几口。事后讨论时大家一致赞同两位船员的体重相去太远而造成浴缸不平衡,不过还好工作效率高的救生人员及时把他们给救了起来。所以大家还是其乐融融地说。

令人雀跃万分的是 Darren 与 Violet 的组合成功划出一片天~他们绝佳的配合为他们赢得了第二名~

恭喜恭喜~

而参加另一个提高女性对乳癌醒觉的组别 “粉红龙舟队”(Pink Dragon Boat Racing)的新加坡队伍 Pink Spartans 也夺得了冠军。

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恭喜恭喜~

不过呢,我认为最值得恭喜的是。。。

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我们十位非常荣幸而被香港旅游局邀请出席的博客还有 OMY.sg 的 Alvin。以媒体身份参与这个国际赛事这种无价的经验是很难得的哟~

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