ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “銅鑼灣

BREAKING THE BARRIER, Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊), Hong Kong

In Canada, there has long been a debate of tearing down the elevated Gardiner Expressway in Toronto waterfront. Maintaining the deteriorating and somewhat underused infrastructure has become a burden for the city. As the trend of urban sprawl reversed in recent two decades, land in downtown Toronto, especially along the waterfront of Lake Ontario, has become precious asset for the city. Since 1960’s, the Gardiner has been a prominent barrier that cut off the city from its waterfront. The uninviting wasteland underneath the expressway has prevented most pedestrians walking to the waterfront especially at night. Since 1990’s, studies have been made for replacing the expressway, such as turning it into a tunnel or an urban park like the Highline in New York. Despite all the studies and debates, most of the Gardiner Expressway still remains in Toronto waterfront today. On confronting an aging waterfront expressway that hinders urban development and pedestrian connection, Toronto wasn’t alone. Negative aspects of these waterfront expressway are quite universal: poor waterfront access, wasteland below the structure, discontinued harbourfront, undesirable air ventilation, unattractive streetscape, high maintenance cost, etc. Since 1990’s, a wave of waterfront revitalization projects and demolition of elevated expressways have sprung up across the globe. Double decker Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco was torn down in 1991, and so did Rio de Janerio’s Perimetral Elevated Highway in 2014, and Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct in 2019.

In Hong Kong, sections of elevated expressways flank the Victoria Harbour in Western Kowloon and Eastern Hong Kong Island. The idea of building an expressway in Eastern Hong Kong Island was brought out in 1968 to tackle the traffic problems of King’s Road. It wasn’t until 1980’s that an elevated expressway, namely Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊), was erected between Causeway Bay at the centre of Hong Kong Island and Chai Wan (柴灣) at the eastern end. The expressway includes a viaduct along the harbour between Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣) and Quarry Bay (鰂魚涌), passing by North Point (北角) along the way. East of Quarry Bay, the expressway shifts slightly inland from the coast, leaving a strip of waterfront promenade between Quarry Bay and Shau Kei Wan (筲箕灣). Designating the waterfront for public enjoyment was never the top priority in the 1980’s. From Causeway Bay to Quarry Bay, there are only a few boat landings and viaduct pillar supports where the public can walk out to have a peek of the harbour. In 2008, the authority proposed to construct a waterfront promenade between Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter and Shau Kei Wan. In the past decade, stretches of waterfront promenades have been built to connect the harbourfront from Central to Causeway Bay, up to East Coast Park Precinct. East of Causeway Bay however, the waterfront promenades remain fragmented. After years of speculations, boardwalk constructions under the expressway have finally commenced in North Point. If the works can really deliver a continuous walkway below Island Eastern Corridor, then sooner or later we can walk along the north coast of Hong Kong Island all the way from Central Pier to Aldrich Bay Promenade (愛秩序灣海濱花園) in Shau Kei Wan, via a 9.5km pedestrian path. Then the barrier that separates the harbour from Eastern Hong Kong Island would finally be broken.

Today, about 6.8km of Gardiner Expressway in Toronto is still elevated from the ground. [2013]
The wasteland beneath Gardiner Expressway remains as a barrier between downtown Toronto and the waterfront. [2013]
In Hong Kong, the Island Eastern Corridor begins from Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter at its western end. [2020]
Together with Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Connaught Road West Flyover, Island Eastern Corridor serves as the main artery road on Hong Kong Island known as Route 4. [2020]
From Causeway Bay to Quarry Bay, Island Eastern Corridor is mainly a viaduct that runs along the waterfront of Victoria Harbour. From East Coast Park Precinct to City Garden (城市花園), construction work of a waterfront promenade is still ongoing. [2022]
The majority of Island Eastern Corridor in North Point was built over the water. [2021]
Built in 1984, the monolithic Provident Centre (和富中心) is a spectacle when driving on Island Eastern Corridor. Back then, the building code has little restrictions on the facade length. The continuous facade of Provident Centre has led to a negative impact on ventilation of the local neighborhood. [2014]
In North Point, people can still enjoy the harbour view below the elevated expressway. [2021]
At the end of Tong Shui Road (糖水道), North Point Public Pier has become a public harbourfront lookout for the neighborhood. [2020]
Only a handful of boats would use the pier. For most of the day, the wharf serves as a gathering node for the local community. [2020]
The public pier is particular popular at sunset. [2021]
Many would come to the pier to enjoy the sunset after work. [2021]
Liking it or not, Island Eastern Corridor is part of the waterfront scenery of Eastern Hong Kong. [2021]
At a bend of Hoi Yu Street, an unofficial lookout beneath Island Eastern Corridor is frequented by people who come for recreational fishing. [2020]
The local community even set up their own “footbridge” to reach the outermost pillar support of the expressway. [2021]
The lookout is popular throughout the day. [2016]
While most come for fishing, some would come to the lookout just to chill out by Victoria Harbour. [2020]
The lookout offer fine views of Kowloon East, including the famous Lion Rock (獅子山). [2020]
Kowloon Peak (飛鵝山) is the most dominated feature in Kowloon East. [2021]
The causal lookout has come to an end in recent months, as the space has been boarded off as a construction site for future’s boardwalk project. [2016]
Since the closure of the lookout, people have shifted to other waterfront parks to fish, where proper railing and fixed benches are provided. While the level of safety has improved, the sense of freedom is inevitable compromised in the new setting. [2017]

PRESENT & FUTURE OF TYPHOON SHELTER, Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣), Hong Kong

At the east end of Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter (銅鑼灣避風塘) sits one of the hottest attractions in recent months. Officially opened on 25 September 2021, East Coast Park Precinct is one of the several projects aiming to enhance the waterfront experience along Victoria Harbour. The main feature of the park is the 100m long breakwater that marks the eastern end of Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter. Unlike most harbourfront promenades in the city, the majority of this breakwater is handrail free to avoid interruption to the seaview. At its tip stands a cylindrical structure spiraling up two to three storey high. The strange looking tower is actually a vent shaft of the Central-Wanchai Bypass East, constantly bringing fresh air into the submerged tunnel. East of the breakwater, a harbourfront promenade may not be the biggest open space in the city, but it offers an inviting and safe space for skateboarders and roller-skaters to practice their tricks and socialize with each other. Unlike most parks in the city, there aren’t that many restrictions at this space, not a piece of lawn that cannot be stepped on, or planter edges tilted to prevent people sitting down, or signs prohibiting people to eat and drink. Although not a big park, at least East Coast Park Precinct is easily accessible and welcoming in design, drawing large crowds of visitors, either for the skyline views, or for the recreation spaces.

Compared to most big cities in the world, Hong Kong is particularly problematic on the issue of public space. Worse than residents of Tokyo, Singapore or Shanghai, a 2018 study shows that urban Hongkongers have only 2.7 sq.m of open space per person, which is slightly larger than a toilet cubicle. In comparison, New Yorkers enjoy over 10 sq.m of public space per capita. Furthermore, these open spaces are not evenly distributed across the city. For some of the most vibrant and busy districts, such as Mongkok and Causeway Bay, the number drops to 0.6 to 1 sq.m per person. Many studies around the world have shown that having access to open spaces can bring great health and social benefits to people. Perhaps there is great opportunity for Hong Kong to tackle the open space issue today. As many old godowns and piers along Victoria Harbour become obsolete, expanding the extent of public promenade along the harbour is definite a good move to enhance the well-being for everyone.

For some of the busiest districts in Hong Kong such as Causeway Bay, residents has only 0.6 to 1 sq.m of open space per person.
Adjacent to Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, construction work is still ongoing at the newly opened East Coast Park Precinct. [2022]
At tip of the 100m breakwater stands the bullet shape vent shaft structure of the submerged Central-Wanchai Bypass East. [2022]
East Coast Park Precinct has instantly became a popular spot for sunset watching. [2022]
West of East Coast Park Precinct, the 300m+ breakwater separates Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter with Victoria Harbour. [2022]
Similar to Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, the period from sunset to dusk is the most beautiful moment to visit East Coast Park Precinct. [2022]
On a clear day, East Coast Park Precinct offers an alternative location to appreciate the city’s skyline in comparison to the more common lookouts in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui. [2022]
As darkness falls upon, the LED signs and facade lighting of the distant skyline appears to be more vivid and outstanding. [2022]
Beyond the vent shaft structure stands a small light tower at the tip of the breakwater. [2022]
The breakwater tip allows visitors to take in the urban scenery of both sides of the harbour. [2022]
Compared to the commercial skyline of Wan Chai and Central in a distance, the lights from Tin Hau and Tai Hang beyond Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter is much more subtle and coherent. [2022]
Composed of plastic bottle caps of different colours, the sunshade near the vent shaft structure echoes well with the undulating water. [2022]
Though not for everyone’s taste, the vent shaft structure has become a unique new feature at Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter. [2022]
At the newly opened East Coast Park Precinct, Victoria Harbour is definitely the main draw for visitors. [2022]
The Victoria Harbour installation is quite eye-catching in the evening. [2022]
The waterfront promenade is perfect to walk the dog. [2022]
Apart from visitors coming after the sunset and night scenery, the promenade is highly popular with skateboarders. [2022]
Many skateboard beginners comes to the promenade to sharpen their skills. [2022]
Tracks on the floor also encourage skateboarders and roller-skaters to have fun at the promenade. [2022]
The promenade welcomes skaters of all ages. [2022]
Fixed furniture are also present for the non active users. [2022]
Some advance skateboarders prefer to practice their skills at the curbside at the edge of the park. [2022]

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Foggy Night at East Coast Park Precinct

Foggy night at East Coast Park Precinct. [2022]

THE HEAVENLY QUEEN OF CAUSEWAY BAY, Tin Hau (天后), Hong Kong

One stop east of Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣) brings us to Tin Hau, a small MTR station that serves the easternmost neighbourhoods of Causeway Bay. At the station, it is not uncommon to see girls putting a big smile on their faces and taking selfies in front of the station name sign. In Chinese, “Tin Hau” (天后) literally means “heavenly queen”. The term is often used to name a famous diva or female pop icon. Yet for the station, “Tin Hau” actually refers to a small Tin Hau Temple at the foothill of Red Incense Burner Hill (紅香爐山). This Tin Hau Temple of Causeway Bay is one of the 100+ temples in Hong Kong dedicated to Tin Hau the Heavenly Queen, a Chinese sea goddess also known as Mazu (媽祖). Tin Hau is worshipped in the coastal regions of China, Taiwan, and among Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. The goddess is originated from the legendary shamaness Lin Mo (林默) in Fujian province of China dated back to the 10th century. Since Lin’s death, the shamaness of a local fishing village was somehow deified into Tin Hau, and spread wide beyond her home region.

At the site of an original temple dated back to 1747, the present Tin Hau Temple of Causeway Bay largely maintains the layout and appearance from its extensive renovation in 1868. Legend has it that local fishermen (some say a Hakka family from Kowloon Bay who often came to Causeway Bay to harvest grass) found a red incense burner in Tung Lo Wan (Causeway Bay), the former bay covering the area of today’s Victoria Park and parts of Tin Hau. They believed the incense burner was a representation of the deity Tin Hau, and thus constructed the first shrine at the temple site (previously by the shore). As believers and donors grew, the shrine soon developed into the temple that we saw today. Similar stories of fishing communities and their Tin Hau Temple are commonly found across the city, revealing the early history of Hong Kong before the British arrived.

Despite there are many Tin Hau temples in Hong Kong, there is only one Tin Hau MTR Station. After the station’s opening in 1985, the surrounding neighbourhood was soon named as Tin Hau as well. Adjacent to the shopping district of Causeway Bay, Tai Hang, and North Point, and encompassing half of Victoria Park, Tin Hau has been developed into an affluent residential area today. Most visitors come to Tin Hau either for Victoria Park, or for the restaurants along Electric Road (電氣道) and Tsing Fung Street (清風街). Named after photos depicting a Swedish lake taken by photographer Kim Holtermand, a touch of Scandinavian minimalism has been introduced to Tsing Fung Street in 2015 at TUVE Hotel. The hotel’s rustic interiors made of grey bricks, textured concrete, timber, white marble, oxidised metals and raw brass is like a world apart from the busy streets of Tin Hau and Causeway Bay, inviting visitors to experience the beauty of simplicity and tranquility at the heart of a bustling city.

Tin Hau Temple in 1868. [Photo by John Thomson, Wellcome Collections, public domain]
Lying 300m inland from Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, the Tin Hau Temple was once just 30m away from the waterfront. [Photo: Tin Hau Temple of Causeway Bay, 2022]
Series of small renovations since 1868 have largely preserved the century old building. [Photo:Tin Hau Temple of Causeway Bay, 2022]
The temple may not be as famous as Wan Chai’s Pak Tai Temple or Tai Hang’s Lin Fa Temple, Tin Hau Temple of Causeway Bay has its decent number of worshippers. [Photo: Tin Hau Temple of Causeway Bay, 2022]
The temple contains a fair amount of historical artefacts dated back to the 19th century. [Photo:Tin Hau Temple of Causeway Bay, 2022]
Viewed from Red Incense Burner Summit, the residential buildings of Tin Hau (foreground) and the commercial buildings of Causeway Bay (centre of photo) are largely separated by the greenery and open space of Victoria Park, Causeway Bay Sports Ground and Chinese Recreation Club (中華遊樂會). [Photo: View of Tin Hau and Causeway Bay from Red Incense Burner Summit, 2020]
Separating the core shopping district of Causeway Bay and Tin Hau, Victoria Park is the most popular park in Hong Kong. [Photo: Victoria Park, 2022]
With height of over 30m, the eight Kapok Tree or Silk Cotton Trees (吉貝 or 美洲木棉) at the Tin Hau end of Victoria Park are some of the tallest trees in Hong Kong. [Photo: Causeway Road, 2022]
The Kapok Tree or Silk Cotton Trees (吉貝 or 美洲木棉) are around 60 years old. [Photo: Causeway Road, 2022]
Across Causeway Road from Victoria Park stands Hong Kong Central Library. [Photo: Central Library, 2014]
Moved to its current Tin Hau’s location after the war, Queen’s College (皇仁書院) is the first public secondary school in the city. [Photo: Causeway Road, 2022]
Sandwiched between the Central Library and Queen’s College, Causeway Bay Sports Ground and Chinese Recreation Club offer a pleasant green buffer between the main thoroughfare of Causeway Road and the neighbourhood of Tai Hang. [Photo: Causeway Road, 2022]
Established in 1910, Chinese Recreation Club (中華游樂會) is one of the earliest sport recreation club for the Chinese community in Hong Kong. The club received the land adjacent to the village of Tai Hang from the colonial government. [Photo: Tung Lo Wan Road, 2022]
Chinese Recreation Club sits along Tung Lo Wan Road, where the original coastline of Causeway Bay was located. [Photo: Tung Lo Wan Road, 2022]
The tennis courts of Chinese Recreation Club (CRC), the field of Causeway Bay Sports Ground, and the Victoria Park beyond create a precious opening in the densely built up Causeway Bay. [Photo: View of CRC and Causeway Bay Sports Ground from Tai Hang, 2019]
Lying at the eastern limit of Causeway Bay, Tin Hau was actually the original spot of Causeway Bay or Tung Lo Wan. On the other hand, the area around Causeway Bay MTR Station was previously called East Point. [Photo, Electric Road, 2014]
Just like many areas in Hong Kong, the old neighbourhood of Tin Hau is changing fast in the recent decade. [Photo: Wing Hing Street, 2014]
One thing remains unchanged in Tin Hau is its well mix of new and old eateries and restaurants, including the traditional bakery Violet Cake Shop (惠籮餅店). [Photo: Electric Road, 2022]
One of the most famous eateries in Tin Hau is the Michelin recommended Sister Wah Beef Brisket (華姐清湯腩). [Photo: Electric Road, 2014]
During our years in Tai Hang, one eateries that we visited the most in Tin Hau is Kwan Yu Roasted Meat (君御燒味). [Photo: Electric Road, 2022]
For more specialty restaurants, we would sometimes head to the Tsing Fung Street Flyover. [Photo: Tsing Fung Street, 2017]
Under Tsing Fung Street Flyover, the minimalist and rustic aesthetics of Tuve Hotel express their theme of “timeless, placeless and genderless” through architectural design. [Photo: Tsing Fung Street, 2022]
With its sleek and minimalist design, the 64 rooms of Tuve Hotel offer a unique experience of Tin Hau. [Photo: Tsing Fung Street, 2022]

REINCARNATION FROM THE POPPY DREAM, Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣), Hong Kong

Wandering the most popular shopping streets of Causeway Bay, it is impossible not to stumble upon streets or places that are named after either a tai-pan (business executive 大班) of Jardine Matheson (怡和洋行) or the family of Lee Hysan (利希慎). Paterson Street (百德新街), Jardine’s Bazaar (渣甸街), Jardine’s Crescent (渣甸坊), Yee Wo Street (怡和街), Percival Street (波斯富街), Matheson Street (勿地臣街), Keswick Street (敬誠街) all refer to the former executives of Jardine Matheson, the giant enterprise that is involved in almost all major business sectors one could think of in Hong Kong; while Lee Garden Road (利園山道), Hysan Avenue (希慎道), Lan Fong Road (蘭芳道), Hysan Place (希慎廣場), Lee Garden One to Six (利園一至六期), and Lee Theatre Plaza (利舞臺廣場) can be traced back to the family of Lee Hysan, the biggest landlord of today’s Causeway Bay. And, what did Jardine Matheson and Lee Hysan had in common apart from owning most of Causeway Bay for the last 180 years? The answer is OPIUM.

No matter we like it or not, the founding of Hong Kong is inseparable with the opium trade. It was the consequences of the two Opium Wars that Hong Kong Island and Kowloon were ceded to Britain. It was the opium trade that first brought wealth to the city. It was the opium trade that brought in investments to develop Hong Kong as the most efficient port city in the region. Soon after becoming a British colony, Hong Kong emerged as the world’s official hub of opium trading and processing. By mid 19th century, three quarters of Indian opium were being handled in Victoria Harbour, and 40,000 chests of opium (worth 16 million pounds sterling at that time) were stored in the city on average at anytime. Due to the trade of opium and other products such as tea and silk, there was a large demand for godowns (warehouses) along the harbour. On 14 June 1841, less than 6 months since the British began their rule, the first lots of land were sold in Hong Kong. For 565 pounds sterling, Jardine Matheson & Co. (怡和洋行) bought 5,309 sq.m of land in East Point to set up their first offices and godowns in the colony. Their office was set up at Lot No. 1, where the former Excelsior Hotel (怡東酒店) stood in modern days. Formed in 1832 by William Jardine and James Matheson, Jardine Matheson traded tea, cotton, silk, and also opium in the Canton area. After settled in Hong Kong, it soon grew to become the largest foreign trading company in the Far East. In the following decades after purchasing their first lots of land, the company continued to expand their headquarters in the area, building godowns, wharves, offices, factories, houses for ships and crews, and infrastructure across Causeway Bay. In 1872, Jardine Matheson ended its involvement in the opium trade after acquiring enormous profits. In the next 150 years, the company continues to diversify itself into the present Fortune Global 500 company, with a huge business portfolio both in Hong Kong and abroad: shipping, railway, real estate (Hongkong Land), hotels (Mandarin Oriental), ice and dairy (Dairy Farm), Hongkong Tramway, Star Ferry, aviation management (Jardine Aviation Services), motors (Jardine Motors, Jardine Cycle and Carriage, Astra International), export and import, banking, cotton spinning, textile manufacturing, sugar refinery, construction (Gammon), food industry (Maxim’s Caterers, Pizza Hut HK), retail (7-Eleven HK, IKEA HK), engineering (Jardine Engineering Corporation), insurance, beer brewery, cold storage… and the list just keeps on going.

Seven years after Jardine Matheson stopped their opium trade, Lee Hysan (利希慎) was born in Hawaii in 1879 into the family of Lee Leung-yik (利良奕), a businessman who obtained great wealth in the Hong Kong’s opium trade. After working as a teacher, interpreter, bank staff, timber factory owner, and shipping company manager, Lee Hysan took over his father’s business, and became a highly successful opium trader, earning him the nickname Opium King. In 1923, Lee Hysan bought the land of Jardine’s Hill (East Point Hill) from Jardine Matheson for the sum of HK$3.8 million. Roughly defined by today’s Percival Street, Lee Garden Road, Yun Ping Road, Leighton Road, and Lee Theatre, this huge piece of land was named Lee Garden (利園山) and intended to host a series of opium refinery facilities. Soon international opium trade was banned, Lee and his family turned to other ideas for the land. In 1925, Lee Garden Amusement Park (利園遊樂場) opened its doors on East Point Hill, becoming the first crowd puller of Causeway Bay. But it was the adjacent Lee Theatre (利舞臺) at 99 Percival Street that proved to be the crowd’s favorite. Opened in 1927, the 2000 seats theatre soon became the city’s primary venue for Chinese operas, and later for movies (first being Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator in 1940), concerts, and live shows such as the Miss Hong Kong Pageant. After screening Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the iconic theatre was demolished in 1991 to make way for Lee Theatre Plaza (利舞臺廣場), a 25-storey retail and restaurant complex. Apart from theatre and amusement park, the Lee family also established Lee Garden Restaurant, Lee Garden Hotel, and a number of residential and office developments in the area, after blasting away the rocky East Point Hill bits by bits since 1953. The last bit of flattening work was completed during the construction of Hennessy Centre (興利中心), the former 41-storey office complex where Mitsukoshi (三越) Department Store was located. The site was redeveloped again in 2006 and reopened as the new 40-storey landmark called Hysan Place (希慎廣場). Today, many developments at Lee Garden are still under the Lee family’s control, including commercial complexes Lee Garden One to Six, Lee Theatre Plaza, and Hysan Place.

East Point was the heart of Hong Kong’s opium trade and almost became home of the city’s biggest opium refinery facility. But as the story unfolded, it eventually evolved into the city’s most well known shopping district: Causeway Bay, and become one of the world’s most expensive retail market. With four prestige Japanese department stores anchoring the lands of Jardine Matheson and Lee Hysan, Causeway Bay was nicknamed “Little Ginza” in 1980’s. Today, hardly any Hongkonger could connect their beloved shopping paradise with the lucrative trade of poppy tears.

Jardine’s East Point offices and godowns in 1844: offices and warehouses at tip of East Point (around today’s World Trade Centre, former Excelsior Hotel, SOGO, Patterson Street) and director’s villas on Jardine’s Hill (also known as East Point Hill and today’s Lee Gardens). The water beyond was Tung Lo Wan (Causeway Bay), the bay that later became Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter and today’s Victoria Park. [Unknown painter, wikimedia commons, public domain]
A director’s house of Jardine Matheson & Co. at East Point Hill, 1868. [Photo by John Thomson, Wellcome Collections, public domain]
Jardine Matheson’s Sugar refinery facilities in 1871 at today’s Sugar Street (糖街). [Photo by William Pryor Floyd, Wellcome Collections, public domain]
Located opposite to the Noon-day Gun at Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, The Excelsior (怡東酒店) was a 4-star hotel that served as the headquarters of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group before it was demolished in 2019. Located on “Lot No. 1”, Excelsior sat on the first plot of land sold in Hong Kong in 1841. Opened in 1973, it was the first hotel in Hong Kong to host more than 1000 rooms. [2019]
Named after William Jardine of Jardine Matheson, Jardine Bazaar is one of the oldest shopping streets in Hong Kong, dated back to around 1845. [2022]
Due to its proximity to city centre, the street market at Jardine Crescent (渣甸坊) is popular with tourists seeking for products at a bargain price. [2022]
At Jardine’s Crescent, The 50,000 sq.ft five level Victoria’s Secret flagship store closed in 2020 during the pandemic. Its 10-year lease in 2017 was estimated at HK$7 million (US$900,000) a month, which was already 50% lower than its predecessor Forever 21. The US fast fashion chain paid a whopping HK$13.8 million (US$1.75 million) monthly rent from 2011 to 2017, before pulling out as the numbers of Mainland Chinese travellers was not as high as they would expect. [2020]
Named after William Paterson, a former partner of Jardine Matheson, Paterson Street is one of the busiest shopping streets in in Causeway Bay. [2022]
Being as small and spatially efficient as possible is the key to survive the high rents in Causeway Bay (or if one has bought the retail space decades ago). Two tiny shops across from Times Square on Matheson Street somehow found their ways to sustain. To put it in context, just around the corner from the two stores, a 1000 sq.ft (plus a 600 sq.ft mezzanine) retail space was sold for HK$180m (US$ 22.9m) in 2019. [2022]
As the Chinese name of Jardine Matheson, Yee Wo (怡和) is used to name a number of things in Hong Kong, from buildings, companies to a street. Between the iconic Hennessy Road junction in front of SOGO Department Store and Causeway Road where Victoria Park begins, the 300m Yee Wo Street was one of the busiest place in Hong Kong before the pandemic, already hosting over 1 million pedestrian traffic in 2007. In recent years, bans on foreign visitors and restaurant dining after 6pm during the pandemic have devastated the business and pedestrian traffic in Causeway Bay. [2020]
Having been a landmark of Causeway Bay since 1963, the circular footbridge of Yee Wo Street is popular spot for people and tram watching. [2020]
The circular footbridge also appears in a number of films, including Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell. [2020]

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Opened in 1925, Lee Garden amusement park was an early recreational venue in Hong Kong. [Photo: wikimedia commons, public domain]
Today, Lee Gardens is a commercial area lined with office towers and luxury shops. [2022]
Named after Lee Hysan’s wife, Lan Fong Road (蘭芳道) is a small street in Lee Gardens where a number of old tong lau tenement blocks still remain. The Lee family renovated one of the corner building into a block of service apartments, namely Lee Gardens Apartments. [2022]
In this area of Lee Garden, sightlines of most pedestrians would be focused on ground floor shop windows. Many would hardly notice the office towers above, including the 52-storey Lee Garden One. [2020]
The pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the pedestrian traffic in Causeway Bay, including Lee Gardens. The emergence of vacant spaces signifies that many small shop owners prefer to periodically exit the retail scene. [2020]
Global brands are less affected by the sudden decrease of pedestrian traffic, including the Leica flagship store in Lee Gardens. Opened in 2019, the store brings together retail, cafe, and art gallery into a cool shop inspired by the aesthetics of 1960’s Hong Kong. [2022]
Meanwhile, the cluster of luxury shops on Yun Ping Road (恩平道) stay put during the pandemic despite the dramatic decrease of tourists. [2022]
Lee Gardens is one of the several locations in Causeway Bay that is dotted with luxury shops. [2022]
Interestingly, right behind the row of luxury shops of Rolex, Dunhill, Bvgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, Roger Vivier, etc. is actually the street market of Jardine Crescent (渣甸坊), where customers go to get clothing and accessories at a bargain price. [2022]
At the junction of Percival Street, Hysan Avenue and Leighton Road, the retail complex Lee Theatre Plaza replaced the iconic Lee Theatre in mid 1990’s. [2022]
The triangular forecourt of Lee Theatre Plaza often hosts temporary installations for advertisements and events, such as the giant Iron Man in 2019 while Avengers: End Game was showing in cinemas. [2019]
Designed by American practice Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), Hysan Place is the first building in the city to be pre-certified for LEED Platinum at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). [2022]
Three escalators at the intersection of Kai Chiu Road and Yun Ping Road provides one of the main retail entrances for Hysan Place. [2020]
Occupying the site of the former landmark Mitsukoshi (三越) Department Store, Hysan Place, a 40-storey complex split between retail, restaurants, and offices, has become the new landmark of Causeway Bay since 2012. [2021]

PAST & PRESENT OF TYPHOON SHELTER, Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣), Hong Kong

Despite staying in nearby Tai Hang (大坑) for five years and have regularly taken walks in the adjacent Victoria Park (維多利亞公園), we hardly cross the busy Gloucester Road to visit Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter (銅鑼灣避風塘). Only twice during evening walks did we cross the footbridge from the park to get a closer look at the yachts and fishing boats. Two years ago, in a late summer afternoon, I made a visit to the shelter when there was still light to project beautiful reflections on the placid water. Half an hour after sunset, feature lights of distant skyscrapers lit up one by one, both on the Island and Kowloon side. Near Tin Hau (天后), I walked out to one of the concrete bases of Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) via a few wooden planks, to get a little closer of the boats. To my surprise, on one of the fishing boats there were two elderly making dinner on the boat deck. They seemed to have no interest in me, nor anything onshore. It seemed that the boat deck was their living room and kitchen, and the typhoon shelter, their safe haven in the city.

Typhoon shelter (避風塘), a cove separated from the sea with a breakwater and a narrow passageway, can be found in a number of places in Hong Kong. The shelters protect fishing boats and yachts from stormy weather, especially during the typhoon season. In the old days when fishery was still a vital industry for Hong Kong, many fishermen would actually live on their boats. Apart from the time out in the sea, the fishermen would call the typhoon shelters home. Most of these fishermen were known as Tanga (蜑家) or simply the “boat people”. Often referred as “sea gypsies” in the past, the boat people were a group of nomadic people who spent most of their living on boats. They were originated from a minority ethnic group in Southern China over a thousand years ago. Throughout centuries, the boat people spread along the coastal regions and river deltas in China. They had their own customs, rituals, beliefs, cuisine, and dialect. Due to the decline of fishery, poor living conditions, and high illiteracy rate, the boat people of Hong Kong have largely relocated onshore in 1990’s by the colonial government. As descendants of the boat people assimilated into mainstream Hongkongers, their unique culture has gradually faded, except some of their cuisine that still appear on restaurant menus as ”Typhoon Shelter style” dishes.

The city’s first and probably most famous typhoon shelter is Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter. Situated at the eastern limit of the historical Victoria City (維多利亞城), the name “Causeway Bay” is literally derived from the bay with a causeway going across at present day’s Causeway Road (高士威道). The Chinese name “Tung Lo Wan” (銅鑼灣) refers to a bay that shapes like a bronze gong, a percussion instrument dates back to about 200 BC in China. The former shoreline can still be traced from the alignment of Tung Lo Wan Road (銅鑼灣道), the street that separates Causeway Bay and Tai Hang. In 1880’s, the heavily silted bay was reclaimed up to Causeway Road. Beyond Causeway Road, the city’s first typhoon shelter was established in 1883 to serve the surrounding fishing communities. In 1953, another massive phase of land reclamation converted the 30 hectare typhoon shelter into probably Hong Kong’s most well known park, Victoria Park, and pushed the typhoon shelter further north to the present location. Construction of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel (紅磡海底隧道) in late 1960’s and the Central-Wan Chai Bypass in 2009 further defined the boundary of today’s typhoon shelter. Today, not only does the typhoon shelter offer protection to boats of the former fishermen and adjacent Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (香港遊艇會), it also becomes a popular retreat for anyone who seeks a moment of serenity from the sometimes suffocating shopping scenes of Causeway Bay.

From Wan Chai, Gloucester Road winds along the waterfront to Causeway Bay, where Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter lies outside the shopping district and Victoria Park. [2022]
Today, Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter begins from the bullet-like vent tower (left in photo) to the east, stretches in front of the overpass of Island Easter Corridor (centre in photo), and ends at the entry of Cross Harbour Tunnel (far right in photo) and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (just out of photo to the right). Beyond the typhoon shelter lies Victoria Park (greenery in centre of photo), and the skyline of Tin Hau (left), Tai Hang (middle) and Causeway Bay (right). [2020]
Opened in 1972, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel remains as the busiest vehicular harbour crossing among the three available today. Beyond the tunnel entrance marks the western end of the typhoon shelter. [2022]
Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter begins immediately behind the Cross Harbour Tunnel and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. [2020]
While fishing boats dominated the typhoon shelter back in the 19th century, the yacht club has become the main user of the shelter in recent years. [2022]
Fired everyday at noon, a Jardine Matheson staff would fire the Noonday Gun (怡和午炮) at Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, creating a small tourist spectacle passed down as a tradition since 1860’s. East Point, the area that encompasses today’s features such as the Noonday Gun, World Trade Centre, SOGO, Fashion Walk, Windsor House, Lee Garden, Hysan Place, and much of what we would consider as central Causeway Bay, was the former headquarters of Jardine Matheson. Due to series of land reclamation, the gun has been relocated a few times. [2022]
The typhoon shelter extends east to Tin Hau, where the elevated highway Island Eastern Corridor starts. [2021]
The Tin Hau (Mazu) Temple Boat is one of the largest feature boat in the typhoon shelter. [2021]
Looking west to the yacht club and the skyline of Wan Chai and Central beyond, Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter is a pleasant spot for watching sunset. [2021]
Below Island Eastern Corridor, Sunset beyond the skyscrapers of Wan Chai and Central. [2022]
Further away from the yacht club, more boats of the original fishing people would be seen. The skyline of Kowloon can be seen beyond Victoria Harbour. [2020]
A small group of former fishermen still prefer to live on their boats. [2020]
Some face-lifting works are being done at the sidewalk along the typhoon shelter. [2020]
As evening approaches, a tranquil ambience would fallen upon the typhoon shelter, despite the busy traffic on the overpass. [2020]
The typhoon shelter offers a much needed tranquility for the city dwellers in Hong Kong. [2020]
The typhoon shelter has become a tourist attraction in recent years, as well as one of the last places other than Aberdeen to get a sense of how the former boat people once lived in Hong Kong. [2020]
Other than a tourist attraction, “typhoon shelter” has now been known as a cooking style, usually seafood dishes with lots of fried garlic, chilli and green onion. [2014]
Postcard of East Point (now Causeway Bay) from 1900, showing the former Kellet Island, Jardine Matheson’s buildings in East Point (now SOGO and Causeway Bay MTR Station) and East Point Hill (now Lee Gardens) at the centre, and beyond, Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter (now Victoria Park). [Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain]
Occupying the site of the former Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, Victoria Park is the most popular public park in Hong Kong. Equipped with tennis, football, basketball, handball, volleyball, swimming, running, rollerskating and fitness facilities, the park receives more visitors than the numbers of Hong Kong Park and Kowloon Park combined. [2020]
The park is also the city’s main venue to host events, from New Year Fair to Mid Autumn Festival celebrations, and from political rallies to demonstrations. [2020]
The 19 hectare park serves as a communal backyard for the surrounding neighbourhoods, including Tin Hau, Tai Hang, and Causeway Bay. [2020]
In 2013, a modern aquatic centre was built to replace the former outdoor pool, where I took my first swimming lessons as a kid. [2014]
At the park entrance sits a statue of Queen Victoria. Cast in London in the 19th century, the statue was originally erected in Statue Square in Central. During WWII, the statue was transported to Japan to be melted. Luckily it was retrieved at the end of the war and was relocated to Victoria Park in 1955. [2020]
Apart from recreational activities and social events, Victoria Park is also a convenient pedestrian link between Causeway Bay and Tin Hau. [2020]
Beside the activity areas, there is also a peaceful side in Victoria Park, where people come to sit down for a chat or rest under the shade. In the midst of the city’s main shopping and commercial district and upscale residential neighbourhoods, Victoria Park is essentially the Central Park of Hong Kong. [2020]
During our years in Tai Hang, Victoria Park was our favorite place to take an evening stroll after supper. [2019]

VICTORIA HARBOUR (維多利亞港), Hong Kong

Before the pandemic, Hong Kong was a highly popular tourist destination in Asia, ranked among the top cities in the world for the number of international visitors. Just like many tourist cities around the globe, tourism in Hong Kong has suffered enormously during the pandemic. The numbers of foreign visitors have plummeted, and the once crowded sights across the city have been largely tourist free. Despite the loss of tourist activities, this situation is prompting the return of Hongkongers to places they would normally avoid before the pandemic. Apart from popular museums, beaches, amusement parks, and shopping centres, waterfront promenades along Victoria Harbour, especially in Tsim Sha Tsui at the tip of Kowloon Peninsula, has always been packed with tourists before the Covid. Just like our childhood years, today we can once again wander freely on the Avenue of Stars or linger in the shadow of the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower without bumping into aggressive tourist groups. At night, the undulating reflections of neon lights, LED billboards, and glittering building facades in the water provides the perfect foreground for the skyline of Central, backed upon the silhouette of Victoria Peak. For decades, this postcard perfect Harbour panorama has served as the impeccable visual representation of Hong Kong’s prosperity and vibrancy, illuminating the legend of a city that never sleeps. Beyond the charming skyline on both sides of the water, the busy Victoria Harbour has much more to offer than just its visual glamour.

In Feng Shui, the traditional Chinese practice that harnesses the energy of surrounding environment, the element “water” is often associated with wealth and fortune. For Hong Kong, this water element can be definitely identified as the Victoria Harbour. From founding of the trading port, to the establishment of Far East’s finance and servicing hub, Victoria Harbour, the 41.88 km2 stretch of sea between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula, has always played a vital role. The Harbour is indeed where the story of Hong Kong begins. Known for its deep and sheltered water, the natural landform of the Harbour was one of the main reasons why Hong Kong was chosen by the British in 1841. Since the mid-19th century, the British put a great deal of effort to establish Hong Kong as their subtropical metropolis in the Far East and commercial gateway into China. The Harbour and its waterfront developments have been at the centre stage of Hong Kong’s evolution every since. To sustain population and economic growth, major land reclamation projects have never ceased to transform the urban extent of the city ever since 1840’s. More office towers, residential complexes, hotels, shopping centres, government buildings, museums, convention centre, stadiums, cruise terminals, promenades, piers, etc. would be erected after each reclamation scheme, redrawing the urban coastline at least once in every generation.

For many neighborhoods in the city, Victoria Harbour is always just a few blocks away. Exploring the everchanging waterfront areas is an interesting way to understand the past, present and future of Hong Kong. Our next series of posts will do exactly that.

British, American and Dutch ships and Chinese junks sailed through the calm waters of Victoria Harbour in 1855, under the shadow of the majestic Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island. [Painting by unknown painter, Public Domain]
165 years later, Victoria Peak has been dwarfed by the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Throughout history, Hong Kong has always been a gateway of the Far East for the West. In the past 180 years, uncounted vessels have passed through Victoria Harbour. [Photo of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon Peninsula beyond, taken by Felice Beato, 1860, Public Domain]
Taking in the business district of Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsular across Victoria Harbour from Victoria Peak (太平山) has always been one of the most popular panoramic views for tourists. [Photograph by Denis H. Hazell, 1925, University of Bristol – Historical Photographs of China reference number: Bk09-05, CC BY_NC_ND 4.0]
Today, the iconic panorama from Victoria Peak (太平山) is dominated by the closely packed skyscrapers and the splendid bend of Victoria harbour. The serenity of the Harbour during the pandemic was a rarity in the city’s 180 years of history. [Photo taken from Lugard Road, Victoria Peak, 2020]
After several rounds of land reclamation, the coastline of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon have gone through dramatic transformations. The width of Victoria Harbour has been drastically reduced in the past century and a half. [Display about land reclamation of Hong Kong Island since 1842. Photo taken at Wanchai (灣仔) waterfront promenade, 2021]
In the mid 19th century, the extent of the city’s commercial district was limited to Central (中環) on Hong Kong Island. [Photography by John Thomson, 1868/1871, Public Domain]
While Central (中環) and Sheung Wan (上環) continue to serve as the city’s central business district, the panoramic skyline of Hong Kong has dramatically expanded along the north shore of Hong Kong Island, and the waterfront of Kowloon Peninsula across the Harbour. [Skyline of Central taken in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The northwestern limit of Victoria Harbour is dominated by Kwai Tsing Container Terminals (葵青貨櫃碼頭), once the world’s busiest container port between 1992 to 2004. Serving as the biggest intermediary trading hub between China, Southeast Asia and the West, international logistics means big business in Hong Kong ever since the 19th century. [Kwai Tsing Container Terminals taken at the waterfront of Sheung Wan, 2021]
Before WWII, the Triangular Pier (三角碼頭) at Victoria Harbour in Sheung Wan (上環) was one of the busiest trading ports in Asia. The pier has long disappeared after land reclamation, but the century-old trading companies and shops selling all kinds of imported dried seafood, spices, herbs, and food merchandises survive to the present day. [Photo taken at intersection of Eastern Street and Des Voeux Road West, 2021]
From West District to North Point, a 5.5km promenade along the north coast of Hong Kong Island is set to open at the end of 2021. [Photo taken at Admiralty Waterfront, 2021]
The western end of Victoria Harbour is marked by the District of Kennedy Town (堅尼地城) on Hong Kong Island (left). Beyond the Kennedy Town and the small islands of Green Island (青洲), Kau Yi Chau (交椅州), and Peng Chau (坪洲), the ridges on Lantau Island (大嶼山) form a distant backdrop for the Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The reclamation land of West Kowloon is split between the 17-venue West Kowloon Cultural District (西九文化區), the high-end residential and commercial development of Union Square and the High Speed Railway Station. [Photo taken at Sai Ying Pun Waterfront, 2021]
Since 2014, the 60m Ferris wheel known as Hong Kong Observation Wheel in Central offers visitors a new vantage point to enjoy the scenery of Victoria Harbour. [Central Piers and HKOW as seen from Admiralty Waterfront, 2021]
The parabola gesture of the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀) marks the southern tip of Kowloon Peninsula. [Photo taken at Wanchai Waterfront, 2021]
The Ocean Terminal Deck offers the perfect place to take in the iconic skyline of Hong Kong, especially after dusk. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
For a fare less than 0.50 USD, the Star Ferry offer the most pleasant way to enjoy Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The 88-storey, 415m International Finance Centre (IFC) on Hong Kong Island (left), and the 108-storey, 484m International Commercial Centre (ICC) in Kowloon (right) tower above the tranquil water of the Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at Wanchai waterfront, 2020]
A number of typhoon shelters dot around Victoria Harbour, offering safe refuges for fishing boats and yachts during typhoons. [Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣) Typhoon Shelter with skyline of Central beyond, 2020]
The West Kowloon Cultural District (西九文化區) is finally taking shape after 20 years of planning and construction delays. In a few year’s time, a few more cultural venues would be constructed below the 108-storey ICC. [Photo taken from Tai Hang, 2018]
The northeastern waterfront of Hong Kong Island is dominated by the vehicular expressway Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊). [Photo taken from Hung Hom Waterfront, 2020]
The waterfront of Eastern Kowloon stand the new business districts of Kowloon Bay (九龍灣) and Kwun Tong (觀塘), and the former airport runway of Kai Tak (啟德). [Photo taken from North Point Ferry Pier, 2021]
Between Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門) and Shau Kei Wan (筲箕灣), the narrow passage of Lei Yue Mun marks the eastern gateway of Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken from Devil’s Peak in Lei Yue Mun, 2020]
The best moment to appreciate the panoramic view of Victoria Harbour is the magic moment at dusk. [Photo taken from Red Incense Burner Summit, 2020]

TAI HANG FIRE DRAGON, Hong Kong (Part 2 of 2)

The fire dragon dance happened over three consecutive nights in the Tai Hang neighborhood.  On the night of the Mid Autumn Festival, and the second night of Tai Hang Fire Dragon celebration, the performance would take place in both Tai Hang and Victoria Park, where the annual lantern festival was held.  After the fire dragon performers left Tai Hang for Victoria Park, the residents and local business owners in Tai Hang continued their celebration by taking over the streets in small groups, doing barbecue, having a few rounds of beer, playing with glow sticks and lanterns, and mingling with neighbors and new acquaintances under the flickering candle light.

In the Victoria Park, visitors packed the football fields to attend the lantern festival, taking photos in front of the large lantern displays.  At the other side of the park, families, children, couples and friends gathered in small groups on the grass field, having picnic, playing with lanterns, and marveling at this year’s super full moon (tradition of Mid Autumn Festival since ancient times).

1After the fire dragon dance was over in Tai Hang, Wun Sha Street, the main street in the neighborhood, was left quiet again.

2Community celebrations continued on the laneways after the fire dragon left Tai Hang.

3Barbecue was popular for celebrating the Mid Autumn Festival among local businesses in Tai Hang.

4In the good old days, playing with candles and paper lanterns on the street was popular among kids.

5The street became a secret garden for kids playing with their colourful glow sticks.

6Adults and kids had different ways celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival.

7This ice-cream store offered special mooncake flavour ice-cream.

8At the entrance to the Fire Dragon Path was a large sign for celebrating the 136th Tai Hang Fire Dragon Festival.  The Fire Dragon Path connects Tai Hang with the Victoria Park.

9A full moon rose between clouds over Fire Dragon Path.

10The festive Lantern Festival at Victoria Park included large lanterns and a fair selling traditional snacks and local crafts.

11When the fire dragon dance entered Victoria Park, the lights dimmed and all eyes were at the dragon performance.

12Traditional red lanterns were hung over the football fields of the Victoria Park.

13Many large lanterns were on display at the lantern festival, and this one made by traditional craftsman was the centerpiece of the show.

14Families and friends gathered on the grass field,

15Illuminating a paper lantern is wonderful way to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

16Everyone had their own design for their little moon viewing spot.

17Despite the fact that there were thousands of people celebrating together on the green field, there was a sense of tranquility in the dark embraced by the soft light from candles and colourful glow lights.

18Across the street from Victoria Park, the traditional signage of Tai Hang’s Fire Dragon Dance Festival reminded everyone that the dance would be held again the following night.