Posts tagged: Hong Kong Island

Hong Kong on my Mind!

By , August 29, 2010 12:01 pm


Lasting impressions of the Fragrant Harbour

On the evidence of the four activity packed and fun filled days in Hong Kong, courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), there is much to see and discover of Hong Kong. Four days certainly isn’t by any means enough and what it has left me with is a desire to return to the Fragrant Harbour for more journeys of discovery. The four days has certainly left me with much to savour: flavours of old and new that seem to complement rather than contradict in not just the cuisine, but in much of the culture and traditions, as well as in many of the day-to-day goings-on. That the trip has left me a lasting impression of Hong Kong there is no doubt. Along with this, there are many new perspectives that I have gained on places that I have previously visited, as well as the perspectives on a Hong Kong that has a memory of its past very much in how life goes on in the present, of which I have some very lasting impressions of:

Dragon Boats, Bath Tubs, Drums and Screaming Adolescents.

Food, Glorious Food!

Wonderful Sights,

Hong Kong Very Much as it is.


Dragon Boats, Bath Tubs, Drums and Screaming Adolescents!

When Pete just couldn’t keep himself dry sharing a bath tub with a model!

Mixing up bath tubs and dragon boats doesn’t always work out, as Pete and Geck Geck were to find out.

Adolescents screaming in UC Centenary Square to the beat of the drums!

The beat of traditional drums open the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, as Canto-Pop and K-Pop Artistes greet screaming adolescents.

Alexander seemed like the most popular guy in Hong Kong, much to Pete’s disappointment!

The one mighty scream for Alexander.

Adolescents screaming in UC Centenary Square to the beat of the drums!

The beat of traditional drums open the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, as Canto-Pop and K-Pop Artistes greet screaming adolescents.

More on the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival.

An overview of Day 3 and the Dragon Boat Races.


Food, Glorious Food!

Paddling Away to a Delightful Robatayaki Treat at busy suzie.

A wonderful treat to a fantastic dining experience and Robatayaki cuisine in the ambience of a circular restaurant in 1881 Heritage.

Shanghainese, Yang Zhou and Szechuan cuisine at the Hong Kong Old Restaurant.

A restaurant that built a reputation on the old money of Hong Kong which serves delightful Shanghainese, Yang Zhou and Szechuan dishes.

The Delectable Treats on offer in a Private Kitchen.

The delectable world of Margaret Xu, a former advertising agency owner who has decided to treat Hong Kong to her wonderful skills in behind the stove in her three table private kitchen in which she offers vegetables straight from her organic farm.

A French-Italian Restaurant Run for Charitable Causes.

Gingko House, a restaurant in Central in which you could be transported by the strains of La Vie en Rose playing in the background to the streets of Paris. The restaurant was started by social workers providing employment to the elderly as well as channelling its proceeds towards charitable causes.


Wonderful Sights.

The Wonderland that is the Mira.

The gorgeous world that you enter through the doors of the Mira Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The Market at Nelson Street.

Wanderings around Nelson Street in Mongkok.

A visual treat of Colour, Light and Texture.

The celebration of colour, light and texture on the streets of Hong Kong.

Sights of Victoria Harbour on Board a Replica of the Bounty.

Why there would have certainly been a mutiny on this Bounty.

In between Imagination & Reality.

A really interesting sculpture exhibition “In between Imagination & Reality” that was going on at the Atrium in Times Square featuring sculptures from two of Korea’s renowned contemporary sculptors, Yong Ho Ji and Hwan Kwon Yi which runs up to 22 August 2010. What caught my eyes were the sculptures of Yi, whose sculptures are made in distorted proportions that play on one’s mind in a way that it serves to confuse and confound what the mind makes out of what the eye sees.

The Amazing “Scarefolding” of Hong Kong.

An old practice still evry much in use in Hong Kong that is perhaps reminiscent of that in Singapore when I was growing up. It is something that one sees everywhere, being particularly hard to miss on the busy streets … bamboo scaffolding. This very old method of erecting scaffolding is used in much of the construction activity going on around Hong Kong, as well as in maintenance work on the exteriors of buildings and on the signboards that stick out from the buildings.

Hong Kong Very Much as it is.

All That Glitters!

Hong Kong at its most glitzy, where labels having made their mark in the western capitals have found not just a home, but have become an inseparable part of the heart and soul of what Hong Kong is.

The Young and Trendy Hong Kong.

Granville Road and Granville Circuit – where some delightful treats await the young and trendy shopper.

Echoes of the Sheung Wan of the 1960s: Wing Lee Street and the ladder streets.

The walk along the staircases and terraces of Sheung Wan around the area where Wing Lee Street, a terrace that was made famous by Alex Law’s award winning movie 歲月神偷, or “Time, the thief” is (The movie is named “Echoes of the Rainbow” in English, a reference to the double rainbow that features in a scene in the movie). The walk took us back to a time to the Sheung Wan of the 1960s.

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

The Mid-Levels area that the escalators to the heavenly views of Victoria Harbour the location halfway up Victoria Peak provides to its exclusive and upmarket residents. This provides another stairway to a surer path to Heaven – the stairway that leads to the Jamia Masjid.

The Star Ferry.

The Star Ferry, where life comes to a standstill for nine minutes in Hong Kong.

The Tram.

The must ride on trams on Hong Kong Island.


In between Imagination & Reality in Causeway Bay

By , August 5, 2010 1:00 pm

While wandering around the busy Causeway Bay area on the second day of my Hong Kong adventure with Aussie Pete, we stumbled upon a really interesting sculpture exhibition “In between Imagination & Reality” going on at the Atrium in Times Square featuring sculptures from two of Korea’s renowned contemporary sculptors, Yong Ho Ji and Hwan Kwon Yi which runs up to 22 August 2010. What caught our eyes were the sculptures of Yi, whose sculptures are made in distorted proportions that play on one’s mind in a way that it serves to confuse and confound what the mind makes out of what the eye sees. It was really hard to describe how “disturbed” we felt from looking at the sculptures and this is something you have to see in three dimensions rather than in two dimensional images to have the feel of it. I guess the best way that can describe how viewing the sculptures affect one’s mind is how the NUS in Singapore had described Yi’s works in an introduction made to an exhibition held last year: “the affect of art lies not so much in the poses but rather in the compression of distance, space and time in Yi’s world”.

The distorted proportions of Hwan Kwon Yi's sculptures (sometimes in all three dimensions) play on what the mind makes out of the eye sees and serves to confuse and confound one's mind.

The "In between Imagination & Reality" exhibition runs up to 22 August 2010 in the Atrium Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

The disproportionate sculptures caught the attention of curious shoppers at Times Square.

There would certainly have been a mutiny on this Bounty …

By , August 3, 2010 10:00 am

One of the many things that I looked forward to on this Hong Kong trip was the chance to board the Bounty, a tall ship which is in fact, a replica of the Bounty, infamous for the mutiny led by a certain Fletcher Christian. The mutiny which would have been construed as an act of disobedience not just against the authority of the ship’s commanding officer, Captain William Bligh, but also an act against the Crown, resulted in some of the surviving mutineers setting up a settlement on hitherto uninhabited Pitcairn Island and setting the original Bounty aflame to escape detection. By this unintended twist of fate, the group of islands that Pitcairn is in, has somehow become Britain’s last surviving colony in the Pacific. While we were certainly not in for this level of heart stopping excitement on the present replica of 1978 vintage (in fact this is the second replica built), it was for me, still something to look forward to, as I would do for any opportunity to visit a tall ship.

The Bounty, a second replica of the original, seen in full sail in Victoria Harbour (image courtesy of Hong Kong Resort Company Limited)

Tall ships are one of those things that I have always approached with the awe and fascination of a child. Captivated by the magnificent sight of tall ships in full sail from images seen in photographs and in the movies, and in part, drawn to the silhouette of a brig in the Old Spice brand of men’s toiletries that were popular back when I was growing up, I have long hoped to be able to sail on one, and work her sails. I guess the opportunity somehow never presented itself, and so, the next best thing for me was to attempt to visit one whenever I could. I managed a visit to one earlier this year, when the fastest tall ship, the STS Pallada, a Russian merchantmen training ship called to port in Singapore, and so it was very nice that I have a second opportunity this year, not just to board one, but also stay on her for a cruise around Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, albeit not with sails for practical reasons, but by her diesel power.

The figurehead of the new Bounty (image courtesy of the Hong Kong Resort Company Limited).

This replica of the Bounty that is in Hong Kong, was built in New Zealand in 1978 for the movie “The Bounty”, which starred Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins and was released in 1983. This would have been the same ship I had wanted to go onboard during a visit to Sydney some years back, but not having had the time, decided to give it a miss. This Bounty has, since 2007, been in the service of the Hong Kong Resort Company Limited, a company which operates the Discovery Bay Resort on Lantau Island at which the Bounty is based.

The bounty coming in to Central Pier 9 as the sun sets on Hong Kong.

A close-up of the stern.

The replica is not constructed of wood as one might think, being constructed of steel and clad in wood to give an authentic feel. While not as imposing as the Pallada which has a 49.5 metre tall main mast and measures some 106 metres (sparred), the 42 metre replica does have a spacious deck which measures 30 metres in length and 7 metres in width, and in the shadow of the rigging of the main mast which towers some 33 metres above deck, and the two other masts, the visitor is offered a very unique experience onboard. This makes the Bounty an ideal location for the use for which she has been put to. The Bounty is in fact available for charter for events such as corporate entertainment, private functions, harbour cruises, training activities etc, for which information is available at the Bounty’s website.

The main mast of the Bounty rises some 33 metres above deck.

The main mast holding its own against the IFC tower in the background.

The dinner cruise we had boarded the Bounty for, started from Central Pier 9, and it was a treat to stand by the wharf side and watch the magnificent vessel come in. Assisted onboard by the helpful crew, we were greeted by the sight of the expansive sheathed wooden deck, and the web of ropes and tackle along the gunwale that ran up to the masts. This, along with authentic looking fittings on deck as well as cannons lined up along the ship’s sides added a feel that we were going to have an adventure on the high seas, as it might have been for Fletcher Christian and his shipmates, sans the uncomfortable motions that might have come with the wind and the waves that in all probability have accompanied the voyage.

Blocks and tackle by the gunwale.

More rigging and tackle ...

While we may not have sailed the seven seas, the cruise around the harbour wasn’t without exotic sights. There were four to begin with, the lovely ladies in our group, who had a makeover with Celia Wong, a well known Hong Kong based stylist. While this would probably not have sparked a mutiny today, this would certainly have sparked a mutiny of a different kind in the days of Christian and Bligh, and might in all probability, have not just those loyal to Captain Bligh, but the Captain himself, join the mutineers! I guess with the company of pretty ladies, the spectacular night time views of the famous Hong Kong and Kowloon skyline, and the treat of the Symphony of Lights, was an added bonus.

Three of the four lovely ladies who might have set off a mutiny ... from left to right: Gin Oh, Violet Lim, Elaine Chua.

and here's the fourth ... Ms Ang Geck Geck ...


The company of the four lovely ladies was complemented by the magnificent views of Hong Kong and Kowloon from the harbour.

Dining on the deck was certainly a very pleasant experience. The light breeze that accompanied the cruising vessel which charted a course around the harbour made what was a balmy evening very pleasing and enjoyable. We had an opportunity to also inspect the accommodation below decks in the forward mess. An attempt has also been made to recreate the living spaces where perhaps the senior rates might have lived in. Going down through the hatch and stairway, it is probably hard to imagine conditions that may have existed on the actual ship where there would have been men tired and worn from their battles with the sea resting on what are now empty berths, right next to where livestock would have been kept during the early part of the voyage to provide the hungry men with fresh meat. Standing by the two tiered wooden bunks that lined up against the sides and centreline in the warm incandescent glow of light reflected off the lacquer of the wooden bunks and wall panels, I somehow could imagine that, and for a while I allowed myself to be transported to the original Bounty as she pitched and rolled to the rhythm of the violent sea, the creaking of timbers that strained as she rode over the waves, the bleating of goats, and the shouts of rowdy men fuelled by the contents of the wooden casks that lay on the deck, combining in a disconsolate tune. But it was only for a brief moment … the trance that I seem to momentarily be in, broken by the sight of one of the pretty ladies descending the stairway.

Dining on the deck of the Bounty.

Crew accommodation below decks.

Bunks in the old style with a modern watertight door.

The table in the mess.

Ms Ang came down for an inspection of the crews' quarters.

Back on deck, the rest of the cruise in the glow of the bright lights of Hong Kong’s wonderful harbour in the excellent company of my fellow bloggers somehow made the evening pass like a flash, and before we knew it, the evening onboard had sadly come to an end, and it was time to bid farewell to the beautiful Bounty. As we disembarked on to the pier at Tsim Sha Tsui in the glow of the clock tower, a crowd had gathered, seemingly to gawk at the magnificent vessel … but thinking about it, it might have actually been that word had got out that she was delivering her cargo of the four pretty ladies … and it was at them that the crowd were gawking at.

The spectacle of the Symphony of Lights and the beautiful Hong Kong skyline is seen through the rigging of the Bounty.

The view of Hong Kong's magnificent skyline by night was a treat!

Alvin seemed to want to participate in the ongoing Symphony of Lights!

The dance of lights on Hong Kong's skyline.

Some of the excellent company onboard ...


More night time views of the magnificent Hong Kong skyline from the Bounty.

Tsim Sha Tsui's historic clock tower (1915) ... the last remnant of the Kowloon Railway Station.

More views off and on the Bounty …

The ship's bell.

The bowsprit and figure head.

The fore deck.

View through the rope work towards Hong Kong Island.

The compass and helm.

Part of the ship's rigging ...

More of the ship's rigging.

The figure head seen from the fore deck.

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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Echoes of the Sheung Wan of the 1960s: Wing Lee Street and the ladder streets

By , July 27, 2010 6:33 pm

If you haven’t already noticed from my blog, The Long and Winding Road is that one of the things that I have a soft spot for is in old places which would be mixed with bits of nostalgia of those places in the days that have passed. While The Long and Winding Road isn’t so much a nostalgia blog as it has sometimes been labelled as – being about how I see what is around me, it does have a large dose of nostalgia for the Singapore that I grew up in, and when I am in a place like Hong Kong, I can also identify with the places and things that the local people have a nostalgia for. Hong Kong does provide a lot of that in some ways: the tramway and the Star ferry being some of the older things that are still around. There is another part of Hong Kong where it is possible to enjoy hearing the lingering echo of a forgotten past, which on this trip was introduced by Mr Leon Suen, a professional photographer who had kindly and patiently served as our guide for two hours in an thoroughly enjoyable walk around the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong Island.

Down Shing Wong Street in Sheung Wan with Mr Leon Suen.

The highlight of the walk was the walk along the staircases and terraces of Sheung Wan around the area where Wing Lee Street is. Wing Lee Street is a terrace that was made famous by Alex Law’s award winning movie 歲月神偷, 岁月神偷 in simplified Chinese or when translated into English, “Time, the thief”. It goes by the title “Echoes of the Rainbow” in English, a reference to the double rainbow I suppose, that features in a scene in the movie. I guess the walk would probably have been more meaningful if I had watched the movie before taking it, but somehow, walking down the staircases and terraces did take me back to a time as the street that Wing Lee Street was used to depict was in, to the Sheung Wan of the 1960s, much like how my walks in some of the older parts of Singapore would bring me back to a time that I would have remembered.

A building from the past along Shing Wong Street. Many of the old buildings have been demolished and replaced by high rise buildings, altering the character of the area.

Wing Lee Street served as the set for the award winning movie 歲月神偷 or “Time, the thief” which goes by the title “Echoes of the Rainbow in English.

Wing Lee Street served as the set for the award winning movie 歲月神偷 or “Time, the thief” which goes by the title “Echoes of the Rainbow in English.

The building that served as the school on the set of the movie.

The building that served as the school on the set of the movie.

Ventilation and light openings in the stairwell were a common feature of the old buildings.

Ventilation and light openings in the stairwell were a common feature of the old buildings.

Wing Lee Street and the movie Echoes of the Rainbow provide a doorway into Sheung Wan's past.

Wing Lee Street and the movie Echoes of the Rainbow provide a doorway into Sheung Wan's past.

The movie, which I made a point of watching in the plane on the voyage back to Singapore, is filled with sights, sounds and images of the Hong Kong of the late 1960s. In watching it, I felt very much that I was back in that Hong Kong, back to a time when I had my own childhood in Singapore, with strains of music of the era that echo in the background of the many warm nostalgic scenes that fill the movie. I didn’t think very much of the plot though, while it may have centred around a heart wrenching tale of a family of a shoemaker struggling to make ends meet and desperately trying to save a favoured son in his prime diagnosed with cancer as seen through the eyes of the younger son finding hard to live up to the comparisons made with his elder brother. The story which is in a sense an autobiographical tribute to the director’s own brother who died of cancer in his teens, I felt was rather shallow and predictable, but still watchable for the poignant look of the Hong Kong of old. I understand that it was only after the shooting of the movie that a decision was taken to conserve the buildings along Wing Lee Street which would otherwise have been demolished.

A gate on Wing Lee Street.

A gate on Wing Lee Street.

Windows on on Wing Lee Street.

Windows on Wing Lee Street.

A wall along Wing Lee Street.

A wall along Wing Lee Street.

Grilled windows.

Grilled windows.

A broken pane on a window.

A broken pane on a window.

The terrace that is Wing Lee Street.

The terrace that is Wing Lee Street.

An interesting part of Wing Lee Street is at the corner of Shing Wong Street (one of the “ladder streets” – named such as they are literally staircases up from the lower reaches of the Central and Sheung Wan areas to the Mid Levels higher up), where the Wai Che Printing Co. is located. It is also interesting to note that opposite the entrance to the Wai Che is the building that was used to depict the school in the movie. Entering the printing shop through the half opened collapsible gate, you would immediately be transported back in time – more so because of the sight of old wooden racks of lead type against the wall and an old Heidelberg cylinder movable type printing machine, which although still being operated by the owner, the very friendly Mr. Lee Chak Yue who is in his eighties, has become obsolete. Mr. Lee, had been using this traditional method of printing which harks back to the days of ancient China in which it was invented (it is considered one of the great inventions of China), for some 60 years and was patient enough to explain how printing is done in this traditional way where typesetting can be a lengthy task. It is a shame to have to hear from him and Leon that the shop and the wealth of history that can be found in the lead type and machines is not something that the heritage body in Hong Kong is looking at preserving. It would certainly be nice to see that at least the shop and the contents of the shop be kept where it is and preserved as a museum, but from the sound of things, that is quite unlikely.

Wai Che Printing Company's entrance at Wing Lee Street.

Wai Che Printing Company's entrance at Wing Lee Street.

A sign at the entrance.

A sign at the entrance.

Mr Lee Chak Yue, the proprietor of Wai Che is in his 80s and has been doing movable type printing fro 60 years. It is with his kind permission that the set of photographs have been taken.

Mr Lee Chak Yue, the proprietor of Wai Che is in his 80s and has been doing movable type printing fro 60 years. It is with his kind permission that the set of photographs have been taken.

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The Heidelberg moving type press.

The Heidelberg moving type press.

At the other end of the terrace there is a charming old apartment block – looking somewhat dilapidated. If not for the evidence of clothes hanging to dry on lines and letter boxes stuffed with the mail, I would have thought that they were not lived in. A feature of buildings of that era can be seen on the façade of the building, which has slots to serve as ventilation openings on the stairwell and more importantly to provide a source of light, one that you will see on many of the buildings around Sheung Wan. Other notable sights in the vicinity are the old Chinese YMCA building – a red brick eclectically designed building that dates back to 1918 which served as the headquarters of the Chinese YMCA on Bridges Street until it moved in 1966 and the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road.

A dilapidated apartment block.

A dilapidated apartment block.

Old letter boxes.

Old letter boxes.

Signs of life ...

Signs of life ...

More signs of life?

More signs of life?

The former Chinese YMCA building on Bridges Street.

The former Chinese YMCA building on Bridges Street.

The Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road.

The Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road.

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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.

We’ve Arrived!

By , July 23, 2010 7:09 am

We’ve arrived! *Roaring to go! You should see everyone’s faces before this shoot. So worn out and tired from the early flight. A quick snap before heading to the hotel.

If The Mira was a person, she’d be a woman who long for taste and stylish living and would instantly recognize a well-made designer chair. Stand close to her and you’ll sense her charming sensation of freshness. The fragrance smells sophisticated and summery. It could be distinctly Ferragamo.

When we arrived at the entrance of the Mira Hotel, we were greeted with the plain, black mirrored glass door. Simply put, the unassuming exterior design looks just like an entrance of a shopping center. Step in and you’ll be amazed with its sexy fin-like structure in monochrome palette, beautiful chandelier and stylish furnishings.

Wait. Inhale. The scent delivers a light yet burst of ripe lemons and citrus floras. This is definitely something very memorable about the Mira. LOVE IT!

The refreshing scent and all sexed up furnishings! *snap snap snap!

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