ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “ferry

MORE THAN JUST A DOCK: Central Piers (中環碼頭), Central (中環) Hong Kong

At midnight 12th of November 2006, Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier (also known as Star Ferry Pier 天星碼頭) Clock Tower played its last chimes of its 48-years service, before being decommissioned and demolished along with the third generation Star Ferry Pier. Manufactured by Dent (London clock maker who was responsible for the clock of the Big Ben), the clock had told the time and chimed every 15 minutes since 1958. Although the timepiece mechanism was eventually preserved, the clock tower was discreetly toppled in early morning on 16th December 2006 amid public outcries and activist protests. Then four months later, just a stone throw from the toppled clock tower, Queen’s Pier (皇后碼頭) became the next harbourfront icon to fall victim for the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project. Named after Queen Victoria, Queen’s Pier was the main arrival and departure point for all colonial governors since 1925, and the landing spot for British royal visits (Queen Elizabeth II in 1975, and Prince and Princess of Wales in 1989). After their failed attempt to save the Star Ferry Pier, local conservationists reunited at Queen’s Pier to held rallies, hunger strikes and candlelight vigils to fight against the demolition. While winning support from the public and even some celebrities, the activists once again failed to convince the government to consider preservation the colonial pier. Despite their fruitless attempts, the incidents of Star Ferry Pier and Queen’s Pier have significantly raised public awareness on heritage preservation in Hong Kong, and triggered widespread support for later conservation projects such as Central Market, Police Married Quarter (PMQ) and Tai Kwun Police Headquarters.

As a port city, pier structures have always been essentials to Hong Kong. Based on an university study of photos from 1863, there were once 56 piers and jetties between Western District and Causeway Bay in mid 19th century. Excluding the restricted zones, that works out to be 56 piers in 5.5km of shoreline, or roughly a pier every 98m. As port facilities were moved away from the heart of Victoria Harbour and the opening of Cross Harbour Tunnel in 1970’s, pier activities along the north coast of Hong Kong Island have significantly declined, except for the pleasant Star Ferry and the other boat services to the outlying islands. I still remember the excitement as a kid in 1980’s when arriving at the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier (港外線碼頭) boarding a boat for day trips to Lantau or Yamma Island, or rubbing shoulders with foreign tourists taking photos of traditional rickshaws at Star Ferry Pier (天星碼頭), or watching couples taking wedding photos at Queen’s Pier (皇后碼頭) after tying the knot at the adjacent City Hall. Each pier had its own ambience and scenery. Each pier has become a unique piece of memory. Since the completion of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project, the old Central piers are all but gone. About 300m north of the former piers, a cluster of ten new piers were established between 1990’s and 2000’s as the new Central Piers. Assigned with Pier No. 7 and 8, the current Star Ferry Pier was erected in Edwardian style mimicking its second generation predecessor from 1910’s. The “fake antique” and “theme park” approach of the architecture have drawn heavy criticism from the public. Between Pier No. 9 and 10, Hong Kong Observation Wheel, a 60m Ferris wheel, was erected in 2014 as a new tourist attraction. Despite being skeptical about the necessity of a new attraction, many do see the Ferris wheel as a delightful focus for the harbourfront, and a welcoming feature upon arriving at the Central Piers by ferry.

In colonial times, certain piers were designated to play ceremonial roles for the city. A Triumphal arch was erected at Pedder’s Wharf for the visit of Duke of Edinburgh in 1869. [Photograph by John Thomson, 1869, Wellcome Library no. 18643i, public domain]
Landing of The Duke of Edinburgh at Pedder’s Wharf in 1869. [Image courtesy of National Archives, Kew, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
Located at the junction of Pedder Street and Chater Road, the Second Generation Star Ferry Pier was constructed in 1910 in front of the former Queen’s Building. [Photograph by Eleanor Mitchell, 1912-1917. Image courtesy of E.G. France, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
In 1925, Cecil Clementi became the first colonial governor to land and sworn in at Queen’s Pier. [public domain]
Similar to modern taxis, rickshaws drivers line up outside Blake Pier and Star Ferry Pier in 1930. [Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
Blake Pier (middle left) and Star Ferry Terminal (right) had served the Central community for decades before being torn down for the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project. [Photograph by Martin Funnell, 1955. Image courtesy of Martin Funnell, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
The Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier or Star Ferry Pier, its clock tower and car park structure belong to be a single building complex. Today, only the carpark remains. [Photo of Edinburgh Place, 1957, public domain]
At midnight 12th of November 2006, the Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier Clock Tower played the last chimes. [Photography by WING, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -WING, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
Taken from the 10th Floor of City Hall High Block in October 2005, the former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier (Star Ferry Pier) can be seen on the left, former Queen’s Pier on the right, and the current Central Piers under construction at upper left. [Photography by Carismith, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Carismith, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
After failing to stop the demolition of Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, local conservationists shifted their focus to the adjacent Queen’s Pier. [Photography by CX257 in September 2007. Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -CX257, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
Local celebrity Chow Yun Fat signed the petition at Queen’s Pier in April 2007. [Photography by Leo Cheung, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Leockh, CC-BY-SA-3., Wikimedia Commons]
Locals gathered for the last night of Queen’s Pier on 31 July 2007. [Photography by Wing1990hk, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Wpcpey, CC-BY-SA-3., Wikimedia Commons]

***

A series of pier structures lined across Central Harbourfront as the current Central Piers. [Photo taken from Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier has become Lung Wo Road and the Central Harbourfront Event Space. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road outside the City Hall, 2020]
As part of the former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, the Star Ferry Car Park remains as a prominent modernist structure in Central. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road outside the City Hall, 2020]
A footbridge links the Central Piers with the main financial district further inland. Each time a land reclamation projects is completed, the time it takes to reach the piers f would increase. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road, 2020]
With reference to Edwardian architectural features, the fourth generation Star Ferry Pier has been criticized for failing to represent the contemporary spirit. [Central Pier No. 8, 2020]
For many, the new Edwardian clock tower of the current Star Ferry Pier in Central appears like a theme park backdrop. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
The real antique at the Star Ferry Pier is the ferry boats themselves, such as the 58-year old Day Star (晨星號). [Central Pier No. 7, 2022]
At the upper deck of Star Ferry Pier, a farmer’s market selling local organic produces is held every Sunday. [Central Pier No. 7, 2019]
Across the harbour, the 1957 Streamline Moderne pier structure of the Star Ferry Pier (天星碼頭) in Tsim Sha Tsui offers a glimpse of what its counterpart in Central, the now demolished Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier used to be like. [Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2021]
In June 2020, regular ferry service between Central and Hung Hom has resumed after a 9-year service suspension. [Central Pier No. 8, 2020]
The easternmost Pier No. 9 and 10 offer fine views of Victoria Harbour. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
It is pleasant to linger at Pier No. 9 and 10 at dusk. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
The public Pier No. 9 and 10 are occasionally used by private boats. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
Pier No. 9 and 10 have become a popular place to hang out after work. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
As casual public spaces, Pier No. 9 and 10 are often shared by different groups of people. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
Between Pier 7 and 8, a Ferris wheel known as Hong Kong Observation Wheel has become a new focal point in Central Harbourfront since 2014. [Central Pier No.8, 2022]
Sitting up to five people, all gondolas of the Ferris wheel are equipped with air conditioning [Central Pier No.8, 2020]
The pandemic has prevented outside visitors coming to Hong Kong in the past two years. Most tourist related businesses, including the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, have suffered a considerable time. [Central Pier No.8, 2020]

TRIANGULAR PIER (三角碼頭): The Lost Port of Victoria Harbour, Sheung Wan (上環), Hong Kong

Tucked in a small street less than 20m off the busy Des Vouex Road West (德輔道西), Coffee & Laundry, a hybrid cafe/ self laundry shop is hardly noticeable from the main street. At the shop, we specifically picked up a bottle of cold brew coffee with a label designed by local artist Don Mak (麥東記). On the label, the artist illustrates the nearby street intersection of Des Voeux Road West and Wing Lok Street (永樂街), with a tram making a right turn towards Connaught Road West (干諾道西) before reaching the highway overpass. What really interesting about the label was its hidden backside, visible only when the bottle was emptied. The hidden picture depicts the same street intersection based on a 1925 photo, long before the overpass construction and land reclamation that erased the historical waterfront. Beyond the road bend stands a pier structure with a sign that says “Hong Kong, Canton and Macao Steamboat Company”, a British shipping company that has long dissolved. This was Wing Lok Pier (永樂碼頭), or more commonly known as the Triangular Pier (三角碼頭). Among the dozen or so cargo piers lining along the waterfront between Sheung Wan (上環) and Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), Triangular Pier was one of the largest.

Almost as soon as the British set foot on Hong Kong Island back in 1841, this relatively unknown island was declared a free port, a hub of the British Empire for international trading at the Far East. Their aim was to turn this scarcely populated fishing island into a port city and gateway into China. For the next hundred years or so, Triangular Pier and its adjacent piers had played crucial roles in establishing Hong Kong as an entrepôt between the West and East, and setting the basic economic and logistic infrastructure for the later development of manufacturing, servicing and finance sectors. In the 19th century, Hong Kong was a trading hub for tea, silk, and most important of all, opium. Between 1845-49, just a few years since the founding of the city, Victoria Harbour was already handling three quarters of opium from British India to China. Next came the export of Chinese laborers to Western countries, especially during the gold rushes in United States and Australia. From the Triangular Pier and its adjacent docks, 320,349 Chinese workers departed for their oversea destinations between 1851 and 1872 alone. In the next few decades, more Chinese went through the piers, either as temporary workers with 3-year contracts, or as immigrants who would eventually settle in the West. In the end, over one million Chinese had left their homeland from the piers of Sheung Wan. Triangular Pier also served as the entrepôt between the five global trading networks: China, Southeast Asia, India, Britain/ Europe, and the Americas. In 1899, more than 40% of China’s trade was handled in Hong Kong. Because of the piers’ success, many local and overseas (Chinese and Western) merchants chose to set up their offices in Hong Kong, establishing all kinds of trade related businesses, from the obvious shipping and trading companies, to banks, insurance offices, hotels, retail, ship builders, and the Nam Pak Hongs (南北行), trading companies that served as middle person between China and the outside world, namely United States, Australia and Southeast Asia. Entering the 20th century, Hong Kong was promoted as a tourist destination. Apart from cargo shipping, the Sheung Wan piers also emerged as a popular terminal for passenger steamships serving regional coastal cities, and as a stopover port for ocean liners between Asia and the West. In 1930 alone, 1,509,557 passengers traveled by ship between Hong Kong and the outside world. As air travel gained popularity after WWII, the opening of the Kwai Chung container port in 1972, and further land reclamation works along the north shore of Hong Kong Island, the story of Triangular Pier had officially come to the end.

Despite their vital roles for the city’s development, memories of Triangular Pier and other Sheung Wan/ Sai Ying Pun piers are fading fast in Hong Kong. After series of land reclamations, pedestrians would find no traces of the former piers. The only major pier remains is the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal (港澳碼頭), providing regular turbojets to Macau and ferries to Zhuhai and Shenzhen in China. While ferry services between Macau and Hong Kong has been departing from Sheung Wan since early colonial times, the current terminal at Shun Tak Centre (信德中心) was completed in 1985, beside the former Sheung Wan Gala Point (上環大笪地), the biggest night bazaar in the city before its closure in 1992. Highly popular with locals, Gala Point offered a variety of affordable entertainments and services, including outdoor eateries, street performances, storytelling, fortune telling, puppet shows, kungfu display, etc. Across the street from Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, the majestic North Block of Western Market proudly occupies an entire city block since 1906. Known as the oldest market building in Hong Kong, the four-storey Edwardian-style building is perhaps the only remnant left from the times of Triangular Pier at Sheung Wan waterfront today.

A bottle label by artist Don Mak (麥東記) depicts the current scenery of where the former Triangular Pier was located. [2020]
The back of the label depicts the Triangular Pier in early 20th century. [2020]
Taken in 1920, the aerial view shows the business district of Central on the left, and the densely built up areas of Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun to the right. The Triangular Pier and other piers of Sheung Wan are located at the right hand side in the photo. While Central was the main business districts dominated by Western companies, Sheung Wan was the main hub for trading firms established by Chinese merchants. [public domain]
Busy cargo piers at the waterfront area near the Western Market. [Photograph by Underwood & Underwood, 1900’s. Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/98507421/%5D
Workers unloading cargo from a freight boat in 1910’s. [Photograph by Eleanor Mitchell, est. 1912-17. Image courtesy of E.G. France Historical Photographs of China Mi01-066, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net), (CC BY_NC_ND 4.0)]
On 20th October 1906, Paddle Steamer Hankow at Canton Steamer Wharf in Sheung Wan after a fire that claimed 130 lives. [Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain]
Around one million of Chinese emigrants and labourers departed from the piers in Sheung Wan for destinations such as the Straits Settlements (Penang, Singapore, Malacca, and Dinding), North America and Australia. Many would transfer money back to their home in China through banks in Hong Kong. [Chinese miners in the Colorado School of Mines’ Edgar Experimental Mine near Idaho Springs, Colorado, US. Photograph by James Underhill, Public Domain.]
Today, the skyline of Sheung Wan is as dense as ever, with the red and blue twin towers of Shun Tak Centre and Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal standing out at the waterfront. [2020]
The former Triangular Pier was located at the intersection of Des Voeux Road West, Wing Lok Street and Connaught Road West, while the original waterfront is now occupied by a vehicular overpass. [2020]
The area of the former Triangular Pier is still occupied with nam pak hongs, the trading companies specialized in food merchandises from China. [Intersection of Queen Street and Connaught Road West, 2020]
Triangular Pier was also named Wing Lok Pier. From the site of the former Triangular Pier, Wing Lok Street stretches from the western end of Sheung Wan towards the business district in Central. [Intersection of Wing Lok Street and Des Voeux Road West, 2021]
In 1932, Wing Lok Street (永樂街) was home to a number of small banks, including Tianxiang bank (天祥銀號) on the left, and Five continents bank (五州銀號) on the right. [Photograph by Hagger F. Image courtesy of Historical Photographs of China FH01-150, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net), (CC BY_NC_ND 4.0)]
Today, the small banks of Wing Lok Street might be gone, but the old nam pak hongs trading companies remain. [Wing Lok Street, 2021]
The famous Dried Seafood Street and Tonic Food Street actually refers to a group of streets: Des Voeux Road West, Wing Lok Street and Bonham Strand West, where nam pak hongs offer both wholesale and retail of dried seafood, herbs, and Chinese medicine. [Wing Lok Street, 2021]
Near the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, the former waterfront during the time of Triangular Pier is now occupied by the overpass of Connaught Road West. [2020]
Located at the waterfront of Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park (中山紀念公園) sits on reclaimed land outside the former Triangular Pier. [2021]
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park commemorates Sun Yatsen, father of Modern China, who had spent time as a student in the Central and Western District in Hong Kong. [2022]
A large lawn at the heart of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park provides decent open space for the public. [2021]
200m east of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park stands the twin towers of Shun Tak Centre and Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal. [2020]
During the Covid pandemic, turbojet journeys to Macau are largely cancelled. [2020]
The Macau Ferry Bus Terminus is where the former Sheung Wan Gala Point (上環大笪地) night bazaar was situated. It was closed down in 1992 for the new waterfront redevelopment master plan. [2020]
Beyond Macau Ferry Bus Terminus, the waterfront promenade a pleasant spot for runners. [2020]
Across the street from Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, the historical North Block of Western Market is the oldest remaining market building in Hong Kong. [2020]
After renovation, the former Western Market has become a rather quiet shopping complex. [2020]

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]

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]

A DIP IN THE RED SEA & FERRY TO EGYPT, Aqaba, Jordan

2006.05.24.

After the legendary lost city of Petra and epic desert of Wadi Rum, we finally arrived in Aqaba, Jordan’s only coastal city right by the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern end of the Red Sea. Serving as an essential port for the Middle East, Aqaba is also popular among tourists, thanks to its regular ferry services to Egypt and the world famous Red Sea coral reefs in the area. Before heading over to the land of pharaohs, we decided to spend a relaxing day in Aqaba.

In the morning, we took a shuttle bus from Crystal Hotel to the Royal Diving Centre. After paying a 10 JD entrance fee, my friend and I, who had never dived before, went for an introductory session. Then we spent the afternoon snorkeling with a disposable underwater camera. We saw some nice corals and a lot of colourful fish. We snorkeled for a few hours and returned to the diving centre. Upon leaving we tried to get the refund of the entrance fee. Their policy was that whoever diving at the centre would not require to pay the admission. The staff hesitated for a while and told us the cashier was closed for the day. We had no choice but to return the next morning. The next morning we returned to the Royal Diving Centre for our refund. The staff tried to avoid us. We expressed our discontent and at last a manager came out with a big smile and gave us the refund. Leaving the diving club behind, our hired taxi took us to the passenger ferry terminal. It took us over an hour to go through the customs and deal with the departure tax. At last we were led to board a shuttle bus that drove onto the ferry along with the passengers.

Once on board, we found the Egyptian custom officer to stamp our passports. The ferry didn’t leave the dock until way over 11:30, over two hours since we got to the terminal. At last, the ferry sailed slowly southwest towards the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, with Saudi Arabia to our east. At around 14:30 we arrived at the Egyptian port of Nuweiba. The hectic scene of Nuweiba was our first impression on Egypt. At the minbus station we met three Australians. The six of us hired a minivan to Dahab, the popular backpacker resort at the Egyptian side of the Gulf of Aqaba.

Dahab seemed pretty quiet to us, probably because of the recent terrorist bombing a month ago on April 24th, which claimed 23 lives in total. The town looked very young and causal. At the station we met Alex, a staff from Bishibishi Garden Village, a relatively new hotel in Dahab. We met Jimmy the owner and decided to stay at one of their air conditioned triple rooms. After dinner, we strolled around Dahab, dropped by an internet cafe, and bought another disposable underwater camera for the following day.

With only 15 miles of Red Sea coastline, Jordan doesn’t have too many dive sites and beaches, but the ones near Aqaba are quite lovely.
The turquoise water at Aqaba was a big contrast to the red dunes and rock mounts of Wadi Rum.
I took along a disposable underwater camera with me while snorkeling in Aqaba. The resulting photos are not the best quality but still serve the purpose of documentation, and has offered me s whole lot of joy while exploring the water world. One of the first fish I encountered was a regal blue tang.
I followed one fish after another while snorkeling near Aqaba.
The coral reef is the main draw for the vibrant tourist scene in Aqaba.
Floating atop corals and fish was one of the most relaxing experience I have ever had.
There are many species of corals in the water of Aqaba.
Acknowledging the value of coral reefs, Jordan has been putting effort in protectig and restoring the corals. Starting from 2012, corals were placed in baskets and metal structures to replant at damaged reefs.
The water at Aqaba was cooler than I thought.
To the west of Aqaba lies the arid landscape of Israel.
We could see the turquoise Gulf of Aqaba from our room at Crystal Hotel.

HONG KONG’S SOUTHERNMOST POINT, Po Toi Island (蒲台島), Hong Kong

While remote Fan Lau (分流) is the westernmost village in Hong Kong, Po Toi Island (蒲台島) is its counterpart at the southernmost point of the territory.  From 2000 inhabitants in the 1950’s down to about 10 today, like many rural communities in the city, Po Toi Island has gone through a rapid decline in population in the modern era.  The remote island with a population of merely 10 would become lively during weekends when a few boat loads of visitors arrive at the dock.  Beautiful granite formations, ancient stone carving, a lone lighthouse, a few simple houses, several fishing boats and nets, and racks of drying seafood and seaweeds, Po Toi Island is a peaceful getaway less than an hour ferry from either Aberdeen (香港仔) or Stanley (赤柱).  A day before Chinese New Year in a fine Sunday morning, we decided to take the 8:15 ferry, the only scheduled departure of the day, from Aberdeen to Po Toi.

DSC_9237There are either one to two ferries on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from Aberdeen going to Po Toi Island.  On Sunday, there are more Po Toi bound ferries departing from Stanley.  For us, we opted for Aberdeen because of the unique scenery of its famous typhoon shelter, the home of Aberdeen Floating Village (香港仔水上人家).  There were once over 6000 inhabitants living on the boats in Aberdeen, one of the most significant port in Hong Kong since the 19th century.

DSC_9268Today there are still a number of boat villagers staying, and so as their fleet of fishing boats, seafood stalls, floating restaurants, and the seafood wholesale business, etc.  At 7:30am on a Chinese New Year’s Eve, local residents were busy shopping for seafood from the fishermen at Aberdeen Waterfront Promenade.  On such an important day of the year, their seafood would be sold out in less than an hour.

DSC_9296Decorations for the Chinese New Year could be seen at piers and boats along the promenade.

DSC_9329Under the soft morning sun, colourful boats of all sizes crisscrossed the waterways among the boats parked between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau Island.  The Ap Lei Chau Island sheltered Aberdeen from the wind and waves of the open sea, making Aberdeen Channel one of the best typhoon shelter in Hong Kong.

DSC_9346Despite most fishermen have moved onto apartments in Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau, the scenery of Aberdeen is still dominated the channel and typhoon shelter.

DSC_9397The open waterway in the middle of Aberdeen Channel was like a water highway to us.

DSC_9404Our ferry also passed by one of the famous floating seafood restaurants in Aberdeen.

DSC_9433And we also passed by the Ocean Park, the iconic ocean-themed amusement park and aquarium.

DSC_9435From a distance, we also recognized the beautiful Repulse Bay.

DSC_9453Our ferry finally docked at Po Toi’s pier at Tai Wan (大灣).  There weren’t that many visitors around.  We only shared the island with a handful of tourists and the remaining Po Toi inhabitants.

DSC_9473Po Toi remains as a remote, sleepy and simple fishing village.  From the pier, we walked for a few minutes to reach the main beach in the middle of Tai Wan (大灣).  There was a seafood restaurant called Ming Kee, probably the only seafood restaurant on the island.

DSC_9480Dried seafood (fish, squid, and even octopus) were common sights.

DSC_9481There were racks on the main beach Tai Wan (大灣) where villagers dried their fishing nets and other fishing equipment.

DSC_9490Some houses on Po Toi were colourfully painted, presenting a great match to the bright blue sky.

DSC_9518On the other end of Tai Wan (大灣) stood an old Tin Hau Temple, dedicated to the sea goddess of Tin Hau for protecting the fishermen at the sea.

DSC_9506Inside the temple, we saw a number of decorations related to the fishing culture of Po Toi, such as the wooden model of a dragon boat.

DSC_9578Adjacent to the Tin Hau Temple, we followed the metal chain up the granite hill to start our day hike.

DSC_9575On two thirds the way up we could clearly see the magnificent scenery of Tai Wan (大灣) and the public pier below.

DSC_9690Looking south we saw Lighthouse no. 126 and the southern tip of the island.

DSC_9724We leisurely walked down the hill in the direction of the lighthouse.

DSC_9741On our way we passed by some graves facing the sea, quite a scenic resting place for the departed.

DSC_9755Atop another hill we encountered a well known attraction on Po Toi.  Known as the Monk Rock, this rock formation resembled a Buddhist monk when viewed from afar.

DSC_9758A few tents were set up near Lighthouse No. 126.  Po Toi is a popular spot for camping.  Far from the city’s light pollution, those who brave for the night here get a chance to admire and photographing the starry night sky.

DSC_9778We finally reached the No. 126 Lighthouse, a simple white washed structure perched on top of granite rocks, overlooking the southern shore and the vast South China Sea.

DSC_9786Reaching the No. 126 Lighthouse at the southernmost point of Hong Kong overlooking the boundless water in a day of very fine weather was emotional and satisfying.

DSC_9814We then moved on to the real southern tip of the island.  The South China Sea looked surprisingly busy with cargo ships.

DSC_9863Heading back towards the pier, we reached another attraction of Po Toi, the interesting rock formation with large vertical stone strips known as the Buddhist Palm.

DSC_9866More graves appeared as we walked closer to the village.  Like grey boulders, the tombstones looked quite blended in with the overall natural setting.

DSC_9889There are a number of ancient stone carvings in Hong Kong and its outlying islands.  There is a mysterious one on Po Toi, simply known as Po Toi Island Stone Carvings (蒲台島石刻).

DSC_9903Back to the village, we decided to sit down at Ming Kee (明記海鮮酒家), the only seafood restaurant on the island.

DSC_9906We just ordered their set lunch with shrimps, squid, small abalone, sweet and sour pork and stir fry vegetables.

DSC_9925After lunch, we wandered along the beach at Tai Wan (大灣).

DSC_9960Po Toi is the most famous spot in Hong Kong for seaweed and kelp.  We could clearly see the seaweed above the water.

DSC_0001There were drying kelp and seaweed allover the tiny village.  We couldn’t resist but bought a few packs.

DSC_0007A dog lying beside the rack as if guarding the drying kelp.

DSC_0018Before leaving the island, we sat down at one of the simple snack shops and ordered the kelp and green bean soup (海帶綠豆沙), a sweet delight full of aroma of seaweed and herbs that every visitor should try a bowl.

 


DAY 69 (1 OF 3) – MAGELLAN STRAIGHT

Today, we left Patagonia (would return in a few days) and headed south to the Island of Tierra del Fuego.  In the next few days we would be staying in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world after Puerto Williams of Chile (a smaller town at the opposite site of Beagle Channel).  It was a unique experience crossing the Magellan Strait, the famous channel that separates Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.  During the 20-minute crossing, we had to get out of the bus and stayed in the passenger lounge of the ferry.  Our eyes were glued to the windows in the passenger lounge in hope of spotting  marine wildlife.  Happily, we saw a group of dolphins jumping out of the waves three times.

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Previous Destination – Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, reading from post Day 62.1

Read more on Ushuaia in 2013 South America
Day 69.1 – Magellan Straight
Day 69.2 – Arrival, Ushuaia
Day 69.3 – Fuegian Grill, Ushuaia
Day 70.1 – Museo Maritimo, Ushuaia
Day 70.2 – Chiko Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 70.3 – Beagle Channel & Isla H
Day 70.4 – Kalma Resto, Ushuaia
Day 71.1 – Pier, Ushuaia
Day 71.2 – Fuegian Trees, near Estancia Harberton
Day 71.3 – Penguins, Martillo Island
Day 71.4 – Estancia Harberton
Day 71.5 – Kaupe Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 72.1 – Post Office, Isla Redonda, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Day 72.2 – Senda Costera & Bahia Lapataia, Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Day 73 – Stranded in Ushuaia Airport

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought