Posts tagged: Central

And before we knew it, it was time to reluctantly say good-bye …

By , August 6, 2010 6:30 pm

Having had a great time in Hong Kong, courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and omy.sg, and having made some wonderful friends over the previous three days, the final day came all too quickly, and it was time to bid the Fragrant Harbour goodbye. All I guess were busy in the morning trying to stuff whatever shopping they had done into their bags, and when the time came to say a sad goodbye to the fabulous hotel room at 9.30 am, most of us had made it down to the glorious lobby of the hotel with bulging bags, which we soon loaded into the bus that was to ferry us around that day. Once on the bus, the ever amusing Aussie Pete, gave us an account of his shopping exploits at Harbour City Shopping Mall, and how he had managed to fill his very large and what had been an almost empty suitcase, even getting a toy dog that his son had wanted (isn’t that sweet?). That I can tell you is no mean feat, having not had much time to do any form of serious shopping, with the activity packed programme that the HKTB had lined up for us over the previous three days!

Pete started our morning with the story of how he managed to fulfill the big shopping task his wife had set him.

Evidence of Pete's shopping exploits.

The day’s programme started with breakfast at a congee restaurant that is apparently on list of recommended local restaurants in Michelin Guide, Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road. The word is that the chef has been dutifully gotten up at 3 am everyday for the last 50 years to prepare his highly rated concoction of Thai rice, crushed preserved eggs and fish bones that many crave. I myself, not being fond of congee, opted for a plate of beef brisket noodles, after which I was ready for what was to prove a very interesting walk around SoHo and Sheung Wan with Mr Leon Suen, which I have mentioned in two previous posts.

The day's programme started with breakfast at Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road in Central.

Law Fu Kee is highly rated for its congee which has been prepared in the same way for 50 years.

After the walk which ended at the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, it was time for lunch at the Yin Yang, a private kitchen with three tables housed in a historic building of 1930s vintage in the Wan Chai area, run by celebrity chef Margaret Xu. Xu had given up a job at an advertising firm to run the kitchen and an organic farm on which most of the fresh produce used in the kitchen comes from. The exclusive kitchen, known for its signature dish of “Yellow Earth” chicken which is roasted in an earthern oven designed by Xu herself, hosts up to 30 people and each sitting features a menu that is hand picked by Xu herself, which can cost around HKD 700 per person. I guess this and the sauce making session conducted by Xu herself that followed deserves another post and that I guess is what I would just do.

Yin Yang is a private kitchen housed in a historic building on Ship Street.

The historic building dates back to the 1930s.

Yin Yang's signature dish: "Yellow Earth" Chicken

The specially designed oven that the "Yellow Earth" chicken is roasted in.

We had a Blue Girl at the table.

Celebrity chef Margaret Xu later conducted a sauce making session for some of the bloggers.

Margaret's sauce making demonstration was very intently followed by the bloggers who attended the session.

Margaret Xu demonstrated how to turn this mixture of green chillies, spring onions, ginger and oil from this ....

... to this tangy tasting pesto like paste ...

... which Pete seemed to like ...

We each had a bottle to take home with us.

When the session came to an end, we had a chance to taste the tangy green chilli sauce that Margaret had shown us how to make, which had perhaps the consistency of pesto, of which Pete seemed to enjoy the most. We were each given a bottle of the green sauce which Catherine Ling of Camemberu fame mentioned goes well with Chicken Rice. With that, it was almost time for a sad goodbye to what had been a really enjoyable trip, made better by the company of the friends we had all made on the trip, including the members of the HKTB team, the omy team, and my fellow bloggers, as well as that of the excellent hospitality we all had been shown by the HKTB. After a quick look around the area, during which I had a quick glance at the Hung Shing temple on Queen’s Road East, which was constructed in 1847 and at the time of its construction was by the sea, it was time to board the bus for the airport and say goodbye to some of those who had opted to stay behind. With that, what certainly had been one of the most enjoyable trips I have made, came to an end.

A last look around: Hung Shing Temple (1847) on Queen's Road East.

An annex to the Hung Shing temple, a Kwan Yum temple was added in 1867.

Queen's Road East in Wan Chai.

Darren completing formalities, before we said goodbye ...

A lasting last impression of Hong Kong ... a city that reaches out for the skies in many ways.

Time to say goodbye.

All settled for the final journey to the airport.

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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Where life comes to a standstill for nine minutes in Hong Kong

By , July 29, 2010 12:40 pm

One of the must-dos for any visitor to Hong Kong is to catch the slow boat across the Victoria Harbour. The Star Ferry, aptly named as the ferry service is one of the “stars” of the fragrant harbour, connects Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and the New Territories on the mainland, providing a vital link that served as the main link across Victoria Harbour before the Cross Harbour Tunnel was completed in 1972. These days, the MTR offers the most efficient means of getting across the harbour to those travelling on the public transport, and one can be whisked across in a matter of minutes, as opposed to the nine minute ferry ride (not including waiting time), or being stuck in traffic, but there is really nothing like the laid back old world experience of making the crossing in a charming green and white ferry boat.

Star Ferries at Tsim Sha Tsui Pier. One painted in festive colours for the Dragon Boat Carnival is seen with one in the traditional green and white.

Star Ferries at Tsim Sha Tsui Pier. One painted in festive colours for the Dragon Boat Carnival is seen with one in the traditional green and white.

A Star Ferry against the backdrop of Hong Kong Island.

A Star Ferry against the backdrop of Hong Kong Island.

Up the stairs to the Upper Deck at Tsim Sha Tsui. The more expensive upper deck provides good views of the harbour.

Up the stairs to the Upper Deck at Tsim Sha Tsui. The more expensive upper deck provides good views of the harbour.

Tokens can be purchased at vending machines at the pier, or if you have the exact fare, you may proceed straight to the turnstiles.

Tokens can be purchased at vending machines at the pier, or if you have the exact fare, you may proceed straight to the turnstiles.

Turnstiles at Tsim Sha Tsui.

Turnstiles at Tsim Sha Tsui.

I suppose, I can be accused of being biased in stating this, having throughout much of my life had a fascination for ships, particularly old ships, and I guess taking a ride on any ferry for that matter is something I would always make a point of doing and something that I would not tire of. The ones with some of history in them can especially be irresistible: Wiseman’s Ferry being one of them, perhaps partly for that bit of nostalgia for the river crossings of old, and the Penang Ferry being another. Ferries often provide not just a means to get across a body of water, but a means to take the sights in: the Staten Island Ferry provides an excellent vantage from which the green lady we know as Liberty can be photographed, and the ferries running across Sydney Harbour which provide an economical way to take in the sights of the Sydney’s magnificent harbour in. It is in fact the Star Ferry that offers all of that, if not much more: history, nostalgia, a means to get across the harbour, and magnificent views of the harbour and the Hong Kong’s and Tsim Sha Tsui’s spectacular skyline … and a first hand feel of how the masses of people were (and still are) moved across the harbour.

The Ferry Time Table (source: http://www.starferry.com.hk/)

The Ferry Time Table (source: http://www.starferry.com.hk/)

The Fare Table (source: http://www.starferry.com.hk/). The Star Ferry provides a cheap means to take the sights of the spectacular harbour in.

The Fare Table (source: http://www.starferry.com.hk/). The Star Ferry provides a cheap means to take the sights of the spectacular harbour in.

Indeed, the nine minute ride on the Star Ferry, which the National Geographic Traveler magazine had identified as one of 50 places of a lifetime in 1999, provides not just a means to cross the harbour which would perhaps be more efficiently traversed on the MTR, but offers an experience that is unique to Hong Kong. It is on the ferry where one can mingle with a Hong Kong rush that has slows to a standstill, forced to slow to a pace that is in keeping with the old world that the ferries seem to take one back to. It is on the ferry that tourists and locals, people from all walks of life on the move, can pause for a while, where faces are no longer faces that are blurred by motion, but faces that are to be observed.

Taking in the beautiful sights of Victoria Harbour.

Taking in the beautiful sights of Victoria Harbour.

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A team of Dragon Boaters returning to the island after the races on 25 July.

A team of Dragon Boaters returning to the island after the races on 25 July.

Based on information on the Star Ferry’s website, the ferry traces its origins to 1880 when a Parsee cook, Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala, began a ferry service across Victoria Harbour using a steamboat named the Morning Star. By 1888, the Kowloon Ferry Company as it was known as then, ran the a regular 40-minute to one-hour trip, through the day, stopping only on Mondays and on Fridays for coaling of the steamboats to be accomplished. By 1890, four single-deck Star Ferries were operating, and double deck ferries were later introduced to cope with the increasing demand. These days the service is run like clockwork utilising ferries that are very much still old world in appearance, the fleet having been built in the 1950s and 1960s, leaving visitors with a piece of Hong Kong that is very much the old Hong Kong that has survived the onslaught of the fast paced world we see today.

Sights in and around the Star Ferry and the terminal


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Day 2: Hong Kong, the city of contrasts

By , July 25, 2010 7:03 am

The second day in Hong Kong began with the promise of a beautiful day that greeted me through the window of the hotel room and after breakfast, on the advice of the very informative Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB)’s PR escort, I decided to have a look at the wet market near Langham Square. So, armed with a map and my camera bag, I hopped on the very efficient MTR system at nearby Tsim Sha Tsui station and in a breeze, found myself at my destination for 5 Hong Kong dollars, three stops up the Central Line to Mongkok Station.

The modern and efficient MTR - a wonderful way to get around.

The modern and efficient MTR - a wonderful way to get around.

In contrast, the old tramways can be hot and uncomfortable - but they do provide an interesting way of getting around northern Hong Kong island.

In contrast, the old tramways can be hot and uncomfortable - but they do provide an interesting way of getting around northern Hong Kong island.

Mong Kok MTR station - the gateway to some of the street markets of Kowloon.

Mong Kok MTR station - the gateway to some of the street markets of Kowloon.

Stepping out of the station and up through a modern shopping mall – the very interesting wet street market on Nelson Street, set amidst ageing and tired looking residential cum commercial buildings, sat right next to ultra modern shopping malls and a very posh looking hotel, my very first impression of the area was that it was one of contrasts. I suppose that this isn’t remarkable and very typical of much of Asia, but why it caught my attention was that it probably typified what Hong Kong as a whole has been and still is very much so today.

The contrast seen from the glass windows of a modern shopping mall towards a traditional street market.

The contrast seen from the glass windows of a modern shopping mall towards a traditional street market.

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The second part of the day started with a coach ride under the Victoria Harbour through the Cross Harbour Tunnel, which our HKTB Media Fam Facilatator told us interestingly was also referred to as the “No-excuse tunnel” as when it was opened, it took away the excuse of wealthy men who lived and worked on opposite sides of the harbour for staying overnight on the side of the harbour on which they had their offices to be with their mistresses whom thay had kept on that same side (the ferry operated until 11 pm). Lunch was at the popular French Italian restaurant Gingko House (another contrast!) on Gough Street in Central. What is remarkable about the restaurant was not just the ambience in which you could be transported by the strains of La Vie en Rose playing in the background to the streets of Paris, but also the fact that the restaurant was started by social workers providing employment to the elderly as well as channelling its proceeds towards charitable causes.

The Cross Harbour Tunnel is also referred to as the "No excuse tunnel".

The Cross Harbour Tunnel is also referred to as the "No excuse tunnel".

Gingko House, a popular restaurant on Gough Street run for charitable causes.

Gingko House, a popular restaurant on Gough Street run for charitable causes.

The setting and music transports one to the streets of Paris.

The setting and music transports one to the streets of Paris.

Gough Street itself is a contrast of old trades and bohemian shops and cafes.

Gough Street itself is a contrast of old trades and bohemian shops and cafes.

A popular tradition on Gough Street - a queue for the very popular noodle stall.

A popular tradition on Gough Street - a queue for the very popular noodle stall.

Another very bohemian shop near Gough Street.

Another very bohemian shop near Gough Street.

Ending up in Causeway Bay after lunch where the ladies were having a makeover session with a famous Hong Kong stylist Celia Wong, I somehow ended up wandering through the sea of people that seemed to fill every inch of the lively streets of shops, shopping malls and restaurants and cafes. Amidst all this, was another startling contrast – stumbling into some of the quiet and run down side lanes and back alleys, was like stepping into another world that existed behind the façades of the buildings and the busy streets that they faced where another dimension existed. What was interesting this time around was stepping into a store named GOD, due not in any way to devine influence (except for the devine objects of desire that the store sold – GOD being an acronym for “Goods of Desire”). Again, the store was all about contrasts, with modern objects sold bearing features that were reminders of yesteryear.

It is always nice to know that GOD can be found in Causeway Bay.

It is always nice to know that GOD can be found in Causeway Bay.

Causeway Bay is also a contrast of old businesses and ...

Causeway Bay is also a contrast of old businesses and ...

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and the modern ... a modern art work seen in the atrium of Times Square.

and the modern ... a modern art work seen in the atrium of Times Square.

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The sea of people in contrast with the ....

The sea of people in contrast with the ....

the relative peace found in the sidewalks and back alleys ...

the relative peace found in the sidewalks and back alleys ...

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I guess the highlight of the afternoon was the tram ride which allowed Aussie Pete and myself to get to the Central Piers where we were to board the Bounty, a replica tall ship of the infamous HMS Bounty (for which I would devote another post to) for a dinner cruise around Victoria Harbour. The charming double decker electric trams which started service in 1912 are run by Hong Kong Tramways and offer routes along the northern coast of Hong Kong island, providing the visitor with a very interesting alternative to the MTR and the taxis to get around the Central and Causway Bay areas.

The trams are good fun for two Hong Kong Dollars a trip.

The trams are good fun for two Hong Kong Dollars a trip.

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Getting off the stop near the Central MTR station, the walk to the Central Piers took us pass the beautiful neo-classical former Supreme Court Building, which is now houses the Legislative Council (Legco), the General Post Office which has an interesting collection of coin boxes which are small scale replicas of post boxes used in Hong Kong throughout the years, and the International Finance Centre (IFC) Building which was Hong Kong’s tallest building until this year when the International Commerce Centre (ICC) Building was completed. Finally able to rest out feet after the earlier excursion around Causeway Bay at a cafe on the pier, we could now look forward to the mutiny that was to come on the Bounty.

The former Supreme Court Building, now the Legco.

The former Supreme Court Building, now the Legco, stands in contrast to the skyscrapers (the tallest of which is the IFC) it sits in the shadow of.

The Central Piers where the ferries to Kowloon (Star Ferry) and outlying islands can be taken from.

The Central Piers where the ferries to Kowloon (Star Ferry) and outlying islands can be taken from.

The Star Ferry.

The Star Ferry.

A replica Chinese junk coming in to Pier 9.

A replica Chinese junk coming in to Pier 9.

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