ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Kowloon

STAR FERRY (天星小輪): Nostalgic Journey in the Victoria Harbour (維多利亞港), Hong Kong

In 1888, the same year when Peak Tram began operating up the slope of Victoria Peak, “Kowloon Ferry Company” was also established for managing the first regular steamboat services between Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island. Soon, the company expanded to a fleet of four ferries, and was renamed to “Star Ferry Co Ltd” (天星小輪), the name that is still in use today. Named by National Geographic Traveler as one of the “50 Places of a Lifetime” and topping the list of “Top Ten Most Exciting Ferry Rides” by the Society of American Travel Writers, it is no doubt that Hong Kong’s Star Ferry has been on the radar of international travelers for quite some time. For about HK$4 (US$ 0.50), anyone can enjoy a moment of peace crossing Victoria Harbour. In the past century, as a series of land reclamations have shortened the distance between Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island, piers in Central and Wanchai have been moved numerous times, and ferry rides across the Harbour have become shorter. No matter how short the ride has become, the star ferry experience still offers some of the most rewarding views of Hong Kong’s skyline. To have a moment of relaxation, we always prefer taking the ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side when time allows. The ride is particular lovely at sunset and night.

In 1888, Indian Parsee businessman Dorabjee Naorojee Mithaiwala established Kowloon Ferry Company and operated the first regular ferry service between Hong Kong and Kowloon, taking bread, cargo and passengers with his steamboat Morning Star. In 1890, three more boats, Evening Star, Guiding Star and Rising Star joined the service. Upon retirement, Mithaiwala sold his ferries and company to another British-Indian businessman Sir Paul Chater’s (遮打), one of the first business mogul who was responsible and involved in establishing many large corporations in Hong Kong, including Hongkong Land (置地), Hongkong Electric (港燈), Dairy Farm (牛奶公司), Kowloon Wharf (九龍倉), etc. In the 20th century, the fleet of Star Ferry continued to grow as different generations of ferry piers were erected in Central, Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui. Today, the Star Ferry has eight boats in total, with an average age of 58 years old. Since the completion of Cross-Harbour Tunnel in 1972 and the Harbour crossing Mass Transit Railway (MTR) in February 1980, Star Ferry is no longer the main means of public transportation between Hong Kong and Kowloon. It does, however, carry a sense of history and collective memory of the bygone era. For both locals and tourists, the ferry also offers arguably the best way to enjoy the skyline of Hong Kong. Taking the MTR or driving through the Cross Harbour Tunnel, one can hardly notice the famous harbour.

“Night Star” [Photo: Gordon Arthur Richards Collections, University of Bristol Library (CC BY_NC_ND 4.0), 1920’s]
Built in 1963, the second generation Night Star (夜星) was painted in the colourful dragon motif to promote Brand Hong Kong, Asia’s World City. [Star Ferry near Admiralty, 2020]
As of 2020, there are eight boats in the fleet, serving the two main routes in Victoria Harbour. [View from Ocean Terminal towards distant skyline of Causeway Bay and Tin Hau on Hong Kong Island, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Both of the two main routes depart from the pier of Tsim Sha Tsui in the Kowloon Peninsula, where the Clock Tower, Museum of Art, Cultural Centre, Planetarium and Ocean Terminal Retail Complex make up one of the most popular tourist area in the city. [View from Ocean Terminal towards Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower, Cultural Centre and Star Ferry Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Night Star (夜星) usually serves the route between Tsim Sha Tsui and Wanchai. [View from Ocean Terminal towards Wanchai on Hong Kong Island, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Sailing in the Harbour during sunset is a relaxing way to enjoy urban Hong Kong, away from crowded streets and busy traffic. [View from Ocean Terminal towards Wanchai on Hong Kong Island, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The decades-old ferry offer an open experience to take in the sea breeze and scent of the ocean. [Star Ferry, 2020]
For Hongkongers, the wooden seat on Star Ferry is part of their collective memories of the city. [Star ferry, 2014]
In summer, the front end of the boat would sometimes come with air conditioning. [Star ferry, 2014]
Everything from the lacquered timber to the metal window pulls have been around since the mid 20th century. [Star ferry, 2020]
Taking the Star Ferry would allow passengers to experience the busy boat traffic of Victoria Harbour. [Star ferry, 2020]
As Central Pier 7 and 8, the Star Ferry Pier in Central is the fourth generation. It was part of the Central and Wanchai Reclamation project in the 2000’s. Despite the controversy of mimicking the past, the Edwardian building design was based on the historical second generation pier at Ice House Street from the 1910’s. [Central Star Ferry Pier, 2020]
Every Sunday, the upper deck of the pier would house the city’s largest organic farmer’s market, selling local produces from New Territories and Outer Islands. [Central Star Ferry Pier, 2014]
Star Ferry occupies Pier Number 7 at the Central Piers in Hong Kong Island. [Central Star Ferry Pier, 2020]
Despite much controvesy, the building was built based on the historical second generation pier. [Wanchai Star Ferry Pier, 2021]
The present third generation Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui was built in 1957. Built in style of Streamline Moderne, this pier once echoed the now demolished Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, the third generation Star Ferry Pier in Central. [Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, 2020]
The 1950’s Star Ferry Pier and Clock Tower of the former Train Station have become icons of Tsim Sha Tsui. [Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, 2020]
Watching the decades old ferry docking at the pier is a relaxing sight in Tsim Sha Tsui. [Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, 2020]
Signifying the arrival of Kowloon, the passageway connecting to the ferry platform hasn’t changed much during the past half a century. [Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, 2020]
It is a pleasant surprise that Tsui Sha Tsui Pier can survive so many decades in the fast changing Hong Kong. [Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, 2020]
After so many years, it is interesting that a passageway taking no longer than a minute to pass through actually leaves a lasting memory in my mind. [Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, 2020]
After leaving the ferry, a flight of steps leading passengers away from the ferry platform. [Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, 2020]
The pier at Tsim Sha Tsui is a tourist attraction to photograph the skyline of Hong Kong Island. [Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, 2021]
The Tsui Sha Tsui waterfront is particularly lovely during sunset. [Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, 2020]

HONG KONG’S MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE: Not Old Enough For Conservation?

18th June 2021 was the deadline for developers to bid for the latest waterfront site in Central, between Jardine House and Central Ferry Pier.  With an estimated value at around USD 5 – 7.1 billion, the 47,970 sq.m site encompasses a piece of reclaimed land and the iconic General Post Office at Connaught Place.  Completed in 1976, the fourth generation postal headquarters has been a prominent fixture in the city’s evolving skyline for 45 years. Despite efforts from conservationists, the building would inevitably be replaced by another glassy skyscraper in the near future.  While few people see the modernist post office as an architectural masterpiece, many Hongkongers have expressed their resentment about the potential loss in the business district.  With its horizontal features, modular brise soleil, and concrete vaults, the General Post Office is a decent example of modernist architecture in Hong Kong, the design movement that first emerged in the West between the World Wars. Using modern construction methods and materials like steel, reinforced concrete and glass, Modernism rose to become the dominant architectural style after WWII.  In Hong Kong, the Modernist style in the city is often referred to as the “Bauhaus style”. 

Founded by German architect Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus was probably the most famous and avant-garde design and art school between the world wars (1919 – 1933). From art to graphic design, architecture to interiors, typography to industrial design, influences of the Bauhaus have been an omnipresence in our lives.  Commonly known as International Style, the minimalist and rationalist approach of the Bauhaus reflect the rapid modernization of the 20th century.  To envision Modernism, architectural masters like Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, or Mies van de Rohe might be looking for a novel design methodology and architectural tectonics that define the functionalism and aesthetics of the Modern Age.  By the time Modernism has arrived to Postwar Hong Kong, the style was quickly adopted due to pragmatic reasons such as construction speed, design modularity, minimal detailing, and versatile functionality.  Modernist apartment blocks, office towers, factories, schools, sport centres, parking garages, market complexes, and government buildings flourished across the city to cope with the population and economic boom, replacing earlier colonial structures and pre-war tenement buildings.

As Hong Kong further developed into one of Asia’s most prominent financial hubs in the 1980’s, the architectural world has already entered the age of Post-Modernism.  Some notable Modernist buildings such as Gropius’ Bauhaus in Dessau, Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa’s City of Brasilia, Le Corbusier’s various projects in Europe, Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House, etc. have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, but many more Modernist buildings have become subjects of demolition and redevelopment.  Modernist architecture has yet been widely recognized as a precious heritage, nor have them been well loved by the public.  Many have already been torn down in Hong Kong in the past three decades.  In recent years, this attitude has finally come to a twist.  The potential demolition of buildings like the General Post Office have raised public awareness of the modern heritage.  This is a realization of what heritage and cultural legacy really are in the making of a diverse urban culture and defining the zeitgeist of an era.

Not all Modernist buildings are designated for demolition in Hong Kong. Some have been preserved and revitalized with new uses and appearances, such as the Murray Building (美利大廈) on Cotton Tree Road.  The 1969 government office tower was recently converted into a 5-star hotel by architect Norman Foster.  Such adaptive reuse of the Modernist building is a convincing way to preserve memories and manage urban changes while retaining the essence of the original architecture.

Modernist buildings once dotted around Hong Kong, from residential blocks, office towers to all kinds of public buildings. Mei Ho House (美荷樓), formerly part of Shek Kip Mei Estate, is the sole survivor of a “H” shape apartment building. Built in 1954, the Modernist building has been preserved and converted into a youth hostel and a small public housing museum in 2013. [Mei Ho House, Junction of Castle Peak Road and Tai Po Road, Sham Shui Po, 2021]
Completed in 1960, the existing Garden Centre (嘉頓中心) at Castle Peak Road in Sham Shui Po has gained approval for redevelopment. Designed by famous Chinese architect Chu Pin (朱彬), the Modernist building has all the reasons to be preserved as a modern heritage. Unfortunately, the building is likely to be gone soon. Chu Pin was one of the first generation of US educated Chinese architects. Obtained his master degree at University of Pennsylvania in 1923, Chu Pin moved to Hong Kong in 1949 and established himself as a successful Chinese architect in the city. His other works included the first generation of Man Yee Building (萬宜大廈), home to Hong Kong’s first escalators, and Takshing House (德成大廈), the demolished office tower where curtain walls where first used in Hong Kong 60+ years ago. [Garden Centre as seen from Garden Hill, Sham Shui Po, 2021]
News on the fate of former State Theatre (皇都戲院) in North Point captured the hearts of Hongkongers in the past few years. Built in 1959, the former cinema was one of the last surviving large scale theatre in Hong Kong. In 2020, developer New World Development agreed to preserve the building and revitalize it into a new cultural and heritage facility. [State Theatre, King’s Road, North Point, 2017]
In Central, Modernist style Public Bank Centre (大眾銀行中心) from 1977 and The Center (中環中心) from 1998 stand as representatives from two different eras. [Public Bank Building, Des Voeux Road Central, Central, 2020]
At the junction of Des Voeux Road Central and Pedder Street, the third generation General Post Office (erected 1911) was demolished in 1976. [Photo: Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection, Library of Congress, public domain, 1923]
The current General Post Office at Connaught Place is the fourth generation in Hong Kong. Built in 1976, it was once located adjacent to the former Star Ferry Pier and the old waterfront. [General Post Office, Connaught Place, Central, 2021]
Constructed on reclaimed land, the 5-storey building was designed by architect K. M. Tseng. [General Post Office, Connaught Place, Central, 2021]
Despite there is urge from conservationists and the public to preserve the modernist building, Antiquities Advisory Board refuses to list any structure constructed after 1970. The building is scheduled to be demolished after the land sale tender was closed in June 2021. [General Post Office, Connaught Place, Central, 2021]
The modernist General Post Office and its surrounding open space will certainly be missed. [Back side of General Post Office, Lung Wo Road, Central, 2021]
The mailing counters on the ground floor are some of the busiest in the city. [Interior of General Post Office, Connaught Place, Central, 2021]
Over 69,000 stamps from 98 countries were put together by the staff to create a large wall mural displayed at the entrance of the General Post Office. [Interior of General Post Office, Connaught Place, Central, 2021]
Next to the iconic General Post Office once stood the Star Ferry Pier. The pier was demolished in 2006 as part of the latest land reclamation project. The 1957 Modernist Star Ferry Pier Car Park (天星碼頭多層停車場) survived 2006, but is included in the demolition zone together with the post office as part of the land sale package. [Star Ferry Car Park, Edinburgh Place, Central, 2021]
Perhaps the most famous Modernist building in the city is Hong Kong City Hall (香港大會堂) at Edinburgh Place. Designed by Ron Phillips and Alan Fitch in the 1950’s, the 1962 completed City Hall is comprised of a low block, a concert hall, a theatre, a 12-storey high block and a memorial garden. The high block houses Hong Kong’s first public library, while the low block was the main venue of Hong Kong’s major festivals of art, film, and music from late 1950’s to 1980’s. The City Hall was considered the city’s first major cultural venue that welcomed everyone. [City Hall, Edinburgh Place, Central, 2021]
At the centre of the memorial garden, a 12-sided memorial shrine stands in memory of the soldiers who fought during WWII. An elevated walkway encloses the memorial garden. [City Hall, Edinburgh Place, Central, 2021]
From the elevated walkway, a spiral stair leads visitors back down to the ground level drop off area. Before 2008, the spiral and the drop off area stood directly opposite the now demolished Queen’s Pier. [City Hall, Edinburgh Place, Central, 2021]
The City Hall still contains a few remnants from the previous colonial times. [City Hall, Edinburgh Place, Central, 2021]
Unlike previous stone and decorative architecture, the Modernist City Hall promotes clean lines, large windows, simple geometry, etc. [City Hall, Edinburgh Place, Central, 2021]
In comparison to International Financial Centre (IFC), the Modernist City Hall stands to represent a totally different era. [City Hall, Edinburgh Place, Central, 2021]
While the City Hall flanks one side of Statue Square, the 21-storey Hong Kong Club building stands to the east side of the square. [The Cenotaph, Connaught Road Central, Central, 2021]
Designed by Australian architect Harry Seidler, the current building is the third generation of Hong Kong Club. [Hong Kong Club, Junction of Connaught Road Central and Jackson Road, Central, 2021]
Being demolished and replaced by a newer structure is an inevitable fate for most buildings in Hong Kong. Demolished in 1981, the second generation Hong Kong Club was replaced by architect Harry Seidler’s Modernist version. [Hong Kong Club, photo credit: Arnold Wright, public domain, 1908]
Built in 1953, the former Bridges Street Market was one of the first Modernist market buildings constructed after WWII, replacing old markets that were destroyed during the war. It contained 26 fish and poultry stalls on lower level and 33 butcher, vegetable and fruit stalls on the upper level. In 2018, the building was reopened as a news museum. [Former Bridges Street Market, Junction of Bridges Street and Shing Wong Street, Sheung Wan, 2020]
In 1969, the upper level of Bridges Street Market was converted into a children’s playground. [Former Street Market, Junction of Bridges Street and Shing Wong Street, Sheung Wan, 2016]
Horizontal shading fins are some of the typical features of a Modernist building. [Former Street Market, Junction of Bridges Street and Shing Wong Street, Sheung Wan, 2016]
Sai Ying Pun Jockey Club Polyclinic (西營盤賽馬會分科診所) was redeveloped from Government Civic Hospital, the first public hospital in Hong Kong operated since 1874. [Sai Ying Pun Polyclinic, Junction of Queen’s Road West and Sutherland Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
Built in 1960, Sai Ying Pun Jockey Club Polyclinic is designed by the local architectural firm Leigh & Orange. [Sai Ying Pun Polyclinic, Junction of Queen’s Road West and Sutherland Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
The concrete barrel vaults on the roof of the clinic is a recognizable feature on Queen’s Road West. [Sai Ying Pun Polyclinic, Junction of Queen’s Road West and Sutherland Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2021]
The 27-storey Murray Building (美利大廈) on Cotton Tree Road was a government office building completed in 1969. After the government moved out in 2012, the modernist building was revitalized into a 5-star hotel. [Murray Hotel, Cotton Tree Drive, Central, 2021]
Architect Norman Foster was hired for the adaptive reuse project. Decorative stainless steel were used as design features in the project, offering the 5-star hotel an elegant touch. Murray Hotel opened for business in 2018. [Murray Hotel, Cotton Tree Drive, Central, 2021]
The former car ramp connected to Cotton Tree Drive is now a popular spot for selfies. [Murray Hotel, Cotton Tree Drive, Central, 2021]
The windows were oriented to avoid glare and direct sunlight. [Murray Hotel, Cotton Tree Drive, Central, 2021]

ROMANTIC SUNSET AND SEASIDE RUINS, Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門), Hong Kong

Known as the eastern gateway of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour (維多利亞港), the sea channel of Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門) is the narrowest point of the harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.  During the British colonial era, defending the channel of Lei Yue Mun was seen vital for the protection of Hong Kong Island.  Military defense had been set up on the hills at both sides of Lei Yue Mun, many of which can still be seen today as historical sites.  The area in East Kowloon around the Lei Yue Mun Channel is also called Lei Yue Mun.  One of the most important villages at Lei Yue Mun is Sam Ka Village (三家村) .  Since the opening of Yau Tong (油塘) MTR Station in 2002, visiting the once remote Lei Yue Mun has became just a half an hour metro ride from Central Hong Kong.  While in the old days Lei Yue Mun was well known for its typhoon shelter and villagers were mainly engaged in the industries of fishery, farming and mining, today when people thinks about Lei Yue Mun the first thing comes to mind is definitely the seafood.  With its picturesque seaside village setting, fantastic lookouts for the sunset, and romantic ruins of the former quarry buildings, Lei Yue Mun has much more to offer than steamed prawns and broiled lobsters.

DSC_5429In the afternoon, seafood restaurant staff were busy preparing for their evening business.

DSC_5431The Main Street at Sam Ka Village of Lei Yue Mun has dozens of seafood restaurants.  Most restaurants install large glass tanks at their shopfront to display their catches of the day.

DSC_5440Beyond the cluster of seafood restaurant, Sam Ka Village is a tranquil village by the sea.

DSC_5451The Lei Yue Mun Lighthouse has been standing at the waterfront for over half a century to guide the sea traffic at the eastern gateway if the Victoria Harbour between Sau Kee Wan (筲箕灣) on Hong Kong Island and Sam Ka Village in Kowloon.

DSC_5454Living by the Victoria Harbour has became a luxury feature for Hong Kong’s real estate.  At Lei Yue Mun, living by the sea literally means having a house exposed to the wind and waves at a few feet above the sea.

DSC_5456Fishing is one of the most popular hobbies for local villagers.

DSC_5497Like many other villages by the sea in Hong Kong there is a Tin Hau Temple in Sam Ka Village.

DSC_5504The semi open forecourt of Lei Yue Mun’s Tin Hau Temple is full of hanging incense.

DSC_5506Behind the Tin Hau Temple, there is a popular fortune teller.

DSC_5517Founded for nearly 150 years, Lei Yue Mun was a village known for agriculture, fishery and mining until the 1960’s.  After gradual decline of the three industries, today’s Lei Yue Mun is best known for its seafood restaurants.

DSC_5532The stone quarry site at the southern tip of Lei Yue Mun has been abandoned since the 1960’s.

DSC_5536Mining has been around in Lei Yue Mun since the 19th century.  In the British era, Hong Kong is well known for its fine grained granite stones.  The ruins at Lei Yue Mun are the remnants of Wong Yin Quarry (旺賢石廠), which was abandoned in 1968 after explosives were banned for mining. 

DSC_5538Ruins of the old jetty, sea walls, stone houses and concrete foundations of the former quarry have became a romantic ruin for all to enjoy.

DSC_5570Young people love to come here to take photos, or just chilled out by the sea.

DSC_5545Some visitors like to climb onto the alcoves on the seaside stone cliffs to have some sober moments by the sea.  Beyond Lei Yue Mun and across the Junk Bay or Tseung Kwan O (將軍澳) stand the new residential developments at Lohas Park (日出康城).

DSC_5583While most were enjoying the sunset or taking selfies at the ruins, a young lady came to one of the stone beaches to collect garbage.

DSC_5603In the late afternoon, even the dogs look truly relaxed at Lei Yue Mun.

DSC_5612While Hong Kong has been known for its materialistic way of living, villagers in Lei Yue Mun seem to maintain a relatively simple lifestyle.

DSC_5621Under the western sun, a swimmer enjoys himself swimming in the Victoria Harbour.  Given the amount of boat traffic in the harbour, swimming in Lei Yue Mun is in fact a dangerous act.

DSC_5633Late afternoon or early evening is definitely the best time to visit Lei Yue Mun’s Sam Ka Village.

DSC_5643Watching the sunset is so popular in Lei Yue Mun, especially for photography enthusiasts.  Most would gather near the lighthouse to witness the sun moving behind the skyline of Sai Wan Ho (西灣河).

DSC_5645The super tall residential developments Grand Promenade (嘉亨灣) look absolutely out of proportion.

DSC_5664As the day’s last twilight fades, a distinct ambiance emerges as the neon signs of the seafood restaurants are being lit up.

DSC_5682In the relaxing atmosphere of Lei Yue Mun, even a dog would wear a bow tie to pose for visitors.

DSC_5691The once vibrant typhoon shelter of Sam Ka Village has became a leisure place for busy Hong Kongers to escape from their daily hassles.

DSC_5705Half an hour after sunset, the neon signs of the restaurants have taken over the night at Lei Yue Mun.  Leaving Lei Yue Mun by boat at Sam Ka Village Pier is the best way to bid farewell.

 

 


THE BEAUTY OF CHAOS, Street Markets, Old eateries, Heritage Buildings and Calligraphy Signage of Sham Shui Po (深水埗), Kowloon (九龍), Hong Kong

Hong Kong has its charm as a vibrant metropolis and financial hub in the Far East, but it also has its issues of insanely expensive housing and tremendous gap between the rich and poor.  New immigrants, elderly and young people living in bunkers about the size of coffins (known as “coffin homes”) have made the headlines in recent years while at the same time government’s land sales and housing prices have skyrocketed to record levels.   Because of its concentration of inexpensive tiny bunkers and decades-old apartments, Sham Shui Po (深水埗), an old neighborhood in West Kowloon, has often been associated with issues of poverty and urban decay.

With its vibrant street markets selling everything from cheap electronics, second hand appliances, clothing, toys, and a wide range of DIY parts, from buttons and fabrics, to cables and motors, Sham Shui Po seems like one huge flea market.  Beyond the chaotic appearance, however, visitors may find a special nostalgic charm in this neighborhood, with traces of the beautiful old Hong Kong that have been mercilessly replaced by cold and glassy highrises, luxurious malls, and uninspiring chain-stores throughout the city.  A walk in Sham Shui Po is a diverse journey full of chaotic street markets, affordable and unpretentious food, lovely heritage buildings and much more.

01Compared with many upscale residential neighbourhoods and the city’s commercial heart, the streets of the relatively less affluent Sham Shui Po are much more human and pedestrian oriented.

02Sham Shui Po still has a variety of traditional businesses from Old Hong Kong, such as a high concentration of pawnshops.

03Some old apartment flats in the area have been converted to subdivided rental bunkers.  The worst type is called “coffin homes” due to their tiny size similar to real coffins.

04Every view in Sham Shui Po seems layered, chaotic and complicated.

05Quite a number of streets in Sham Shui Po are famous for street markets. Catering for different clientele, each market zone is more or less designated for a distinct type of merchandises.

06Looking from above, the streets of Sham Shui Po seem like an abstract painting composed of rows of colour swatches.

07While the streets are vibrant and chaotic, the rooftop level seems like a totally different world.

08Ki Lung Street (基隆街) is popular with customers looking for DIY supplies for clothing, including fabrics, buttons, ribbons, trims, zippers, you name it.

09Nicknamed Street of Beads, Yu Chau Street (汝州街) is another street in the area famous for DIY clothing accessories.

10Known as the miniature of Sham Shui Po, Pei Ho Street (北河街) is a market street famed for its fine clothing in really affordable prices.

12Another well known market street is Apliu Street (鴨寮街), a large flea market specialized in electronic parts and second-hand electronics.

13There are many stalls at Apliu Street (鴨寮街) specialized in electronic repair.

14Other than shopping, food lovers also have their reasons to visit Sham Shui Po for some of its more small, traditional and down-to-earth eateries that are disappearing fast in other areas of the city.  Sun Heung Yeung (新香園 (堅記)) on Kweilin Street (桂林街) is one of the most popular Hong Kong style cafe in Sham Shui Po, famous for its beef and egg sandwiches.

IMG_0888Established in 1957, another renounced eatery in Sham Shui Po is Wai Kee Noodle Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵 ) on Fuk Wing Street (福榮街).

15Wai Kee Noodle Cafe (維記咖啡粉麵 ) is famous for their beef and pork liver noddles (豬潤牛肉麵) and Coconut Jam French Toast (咖央西多士).

16Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) or Kung Wo Soybean Product Factory is another major attraction for food lovers.

17With over a century of experience, Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) sell all kinds of bean curd or tofu products.

18Even the interior of Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong (公和荳品廠) is full of nostalgic ambience.

19.JPGApart from shopping and eating, Sham Shui Po is also a great place to admire Hong Kong’s old architecture.  The government proposes a series of urban renewal.

20Sham Shui Po still has a considerable amount of tong lau (唐樓) or old tenement buildings with a covered colonnade on street level.  The ground floor was usually occupied by a small shop, such as a pawnshop or food vendor.  This type of architecture once dominated much of Hong Kong before 1960’s.

21The 5-storey Nam Cheong Pawn Shop at 117-125 Nam Cheong Street was built in the 1920’s.  Even the iconic cantilevered pawnshop signage have becoming rarer nowadays.

2258 Pei Ho Street is probably one of the most famous heritage buildings in the area.  Built in 1920’s and served as a pawnshop until the 1970’s, it was then converted into a shop selling dried seafood until present days.

23The curved balcony of 58 Pei Ho Street is quite unique.  The amazing feature window a level above the street is such a lovely design gesture back in the old days when there was less vehicular traffic.

24Old Chinese calligraphy signage can be seen all over the streets of Sham Shui Po.  Before graphics design being computerized, most Chinese signage came from the hands of a professional calligrapher.  Each neighborhood allowed a few calligraphers to earn a living, and each calligrapher had his/her own style.  It’s the individual human touch that makes these calligraphy signage unique, especially in the  age of computerization and standardization.

25Built in the 1940s, Hang Jing Pawnshop is no longer in business.  The colonnaded area is now used as an outdoor workshop of a nearby shop.  On the columns, beautiful calligraphy of the former pawnshop is still visible.

26On the concrete wall of Hang Jing Pawnshop, the old calligraphy set in the plaster represents a bygone era


YEN CHOW STREET HAWKER BAZAAR (欽州街小販市場), Sham Shui Po ( 深水埗), Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, redevelopment of an old neighborhood is often a controversial matter, especially when it involves eviction of existing occupants, or replacing an old neighborhood with new residential towers and shopping malls.  In recent years there has been public concerns regarding the anticipated relocation of the vendors at Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar in Sham Shui Po.

Opening its doors since the 1970s at the intersection of Yen Chow Street and Lai Chi Kok Road, the specialized textile bazaar has been a popular destination for fabric seekers from fashion design students to amateur seamstress throughout the city.  The bazaar stalls are laid out in a grid pattern, under patches of roof covering consisted of corrugated metal and nylon sheets.  A visit to the bazaar is like a treasure hunt that involves meandering through narrow aisles and flipping through piles of colourful fabrics, bags of buttons and rolls of ribbons at each 3m x 3m vendor stall.  The bazaar is chaotic, cramped, dark, and can be stuffy in humid summer days.  Despite its resemblance to a shanty town , the bazaar does not deter anyone who determines to hunt for prizable fabrics and accessories in affordable prices, and to enjoy a disappearing shopping culture that emphasizes human interactions.  It is the type of old school shopping experience in which friendly and long-lasting relationship between returned customers and vendors can be built up over time.

The unique atmosphere, unpretentious setting, and sense of community of the Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar belong to a disappearing Hong Kong.  In a city shaped mostly by retail franchises and real estate developers, and where retail streets and shopping centres are looking more repetitive as ever, small independent businesses and grassroots communities are becoming more vulnerable and helpless in the rapid process of urban development.

1From outside, Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar looks like a shabby village built at a city park.

2Once inside, the chaotic bazaar is a treasure trove for many.

3Fabrics and accessories are piled up high along both sides of narrow aisles.

4Some vendors own multiple stalls.  In many occasions, customers would need to call the owner over from another corner of the bazaar.

5After forty years, a number of the existing trees have become permanent features in the bazaar.

6Each stall has its unique arrangement and textile selection.

7Some stalls even offer sewing service.

8One may wonder how the vendor can keep track of his or her merchandises from the piles of items at the stall.

9Apart from fabrics, ribbons are also popular.

10And so as buttons of different colours and styles.

11Encouraging messages written by customers and supporters for the bazaar vendors are pinned up at a stall.

12Big banner urging for establishing an official textile market at the current location is hung at the bazaar entrance.

13A supporting banner made of fabric strips is also hung at the exterior fence along Lai Chi Kok Road.

14Photos showing the vendor community expressing their unity and determination to fight for their own survival at the current site, in protest to the government’s relocation proposal of the bazaar.


JCCAC – Factory-Turned Art Centre, Hong Kong

Throughout much of the 20th century, Hong Kong has undergone massive economic development and urban transformation, from a small trading port before WWII to one of the most successful industrial capitals in Asia in 1970s.   From 1980s on, most of the city’s manufacturing industries have moved to either China or elsewhere in Asia. Today, large numbers of industrial buildings that once housed almost half of Hong Kong’s work force have been given a “second life” and converted into various spaces for light manufacturing, creative industries, storage facilities, or small offices for all kinds of businesses.  JCCAC in Shek Kip Mei is a recent example of adaptive reuse of former industrial building in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Opened in 2008, Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC) is a “multi-disciplinary arts village and art centre”, providing affordable studios and exhibition facilities for the art and design community.  The centre welcomes the public to visit the shops, studios and café within the complex 7 days a week.  From time to time, JCCAC would host shows and design fairs to further engage the public and the immediate neighborhood.

I visited JCCAC during its annual handicraft fair. Much of the ground floor atrium was turned into a market fair, while many studios on the upper floors had their handicraft shops open to the public.  The open roof was animated by various activities.  At one corner, a patio was packed with stalls selling vintage clothing, housewares and books.  At the other corner people were lining up for henna art.  On the wall adjacent to the main stair was a photo exhibition with the theme on local community.   A local band brought in live music to create an upbeat atmosphere.  Looking out from the roof parapet, layers upon layers of apartment blocks seemed never ending.   Recent effort by the housing department to upgrade or redevelop the old housing estates in Kowloon was clearly visible from the vivid new paint colours on the apartment facades, planters with local flora, and new green roof design.

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HONG KONG – a New Chapter

Angela and I started “Blue Lapis Road” in 2013 to publish a photo journal of our backpacking trip to South America as we wandered through the vast continent in 90 days.  It has been over 3 months since we left Valparaiso of Chile, the last destination of our S.A. trip.  Since early March, I have relocated to another continent and started a new life chapter in Hong Kong, a city that I was once very familiar with as I spent my childhood here two decades ago.

With vibrate city life, complex social structure, recent colonial memories, multifaceted regionalism, intertwining global cultures, hyper dense neighborhoods, vast countryside, and subtropical beaches, Hong Kong has much more to offer than just fine dining, crazy shopping, and extravagant night life.

In the next chapter of “Blue Lapis Road”, we are going to share with you our explorations in this magnificent metropolis, Hong Kong.

BlueLapisRoad_HK Introduction