Hong Kong, April 2012: Part 1
All images © Greig Houghton 2012
A quick taxi ride from the railway station to the hotel provided us our first glance at the city and in particular the neon illuminated night skies of Nathan Road and Tsim Tsa Sui. The journey to the hotel was shortened through a friendly taxi drivers who informed us that the the street of out hotel, Hart Avenue, was "a busy place where couples go to meet". My wife and I immediately clicked what this meant, but laughed anyway at the euphemism for the oldest trade. Despite the late arrival, we dumped our bags and headed out into the hot sticky night for a quick scout round the area to try and get our bearings for the next day. Our journey did encounter a single lady of the night but this was the one and only time we saw this on the streets.
Hotel Panorama, only a 5 minute walk from the Promenade of the Stars and less to the Tsim Tsa Sui metro station was the prefect base for our trip. The hotel features a sky garden on the 40th floor of the hotel with open air panoramic views over Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island from which the hotel takes its name. The view, shown in the feature image at the top of the page, provides a near full panorama of the harbour with the exception of the western extent.
Our first day of the trip saw us head over to Hong Kong Island to explore the Central and Western Districts starting at Sheung Wan and the Western Market. The Western Market is housed in grandiose Edwardian style building complete with red bricked facade. The inside of the building features a small shopping complex which was of little interest but the Connaught Road entrance is worth a quick look for its colourful glass and arched entrance.
Of much more interest is the Sheung Wan Food Market located a block south of the Western Market on Queen's Road Central. Three floors of fresh fish, meat, poultry and a cooked food section. Food markets, to my wife and I, are places we always visit on our travels. Yes we have a great interest and enjoyment in food, bit I think local markets (not the markets aimed specifically at tourists) also provide an insight into the people and culture of the places we visit.
My photos from previous travels have always focused on buildings and landscapes (must be the Engineer in me) which I know feel lack some soul and personality to them. With this in mind I was determined on this trip to capture street style photography of local people to give a complete picture of the cities I travel to. Below are a series of photos of the faces I captured of the vendors at the market.
According to Dante's vision of the afterlife, I will be condemned to spend the afterlife futilely chasing a meaningless banner in the ante-hell. Where as in real life, despite my agnosticism, I tend to chase around foreign cities seeking out places of worship be them churches, mosques, temples and the like. Therefore, it is no surprise that our first day in Hong Kong encountered the Man Mo Temple; a tribute to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo).
The temple is located on Hollywood Road and provides a respite from the busy city streets and the nearby Cat Street Market selling a combination of antiques, modern mass production antiques and various trinkets.
The interior of the temple is somewhat dark, fragrant and shrouded in incense smoke. Rays of light stream in from the ceiling catching the smoke emitted from the smouldering incense coils suspended from the ceiling and creating a wonderful ethereal atmosphere in the temple. For some, the intense incense can be overpowering in this small temple, but for me the temple was definitely a highlight of Hong Kong.
I always find temples and churches difficult places to photograph. You must find the delicate balance between capturing the beauty and atmosphere of the places while observing the place for what it is as a place of worship and respecting the people who are there for that very reason. Sadly it is balance some tourists fail to achieve or even just don't care. On the technical side, these places always seem to be dark and with tripods out of the question the result is low shutter speeds and high ISO.
The rest of the morning was spent exploring Hollywood Road and the surrounding environs before taking the short tram ride up to Central District. Central district is the financial and commercial heart of Hong Kong and is home to the iconic Bank of China Tower, HSBC and the International Financial Centre which dominate the Victoria Harbour skyline. From the practical Engineer that I am, the best thing about central is the vast network of pedestrian bridges that span from building to building and allow the weary traveller to cross the area in area conditioned comfort and avoiding the taxi drivers in the streets below. Like many large cities, Hong Kong's regulated taxis are all a singular colour, which in the case of Hong Kong is red. This presented many photo opportunities over the trip.
I love the way shopping is organised in Hong Kong. Whole streets of the city are dedicated to shopping themes making life extremely easy for a consumer with a particular need. You need to buy flowers? Head to Flower Market Road. Goldfish or other exotic species? That will be Tung Choi Street. For Jade, you have the choice of the Canton Road or the Jade Market 5 minutes walk from Canton Road. The list goes on.
For my wife, a major foodie with her own blog at www.bakefortheborder.com, top of her wish list for the trip to Shanghai Street or as it is better known as Kitchen Street. A whole street dedicated to anything you want for cooking or baking. My wife's paradise. Fully stocked up (thankfully minus a wok) we headed back towards the hotel walking down through Temple Street Night Market and Nathan Road. The journey down Nathan Road seemed to be interrupted every 5 steps by offer of cheap tailoring, dodgy camera gear or genuine fake watches.
For the evening we headed down to the Avenue of the Stars for the Symphony of Lights. Similar to my experience of the Font Màgica in Barcelona, these musical light shows promise much on paper but never seem to live up to expectations. Still, you can not go to Hong Kong without experiencing the Symphony of Lights.
This ended our first day in Hong Kong and the first part of this multi-part post.