ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Landmark

LANDMARKS FOR THE LOCALS, North Point (北角), Hong Kong

What does “fort”, “oil”, “electric”, “power”, and “wharf” have in common? They are all street names in North Point that reveals the neighborhood’s strategic location and utilitarian past. The “fort” or battery hill is long gone, leaving behind a parkette up on Fortress Hill Road that even local residents may not know about its existence, and the name “Fortress Hill” that defines the westernmost area of North Point District. The former oil depot, powerplant and wharf facilities that gave us the street names “oil”, “electric”, “power”, and “wharf” have all been replaced by high density residential developments. In the 20th century, North Point has gone through series of transformations, from just a defensive battery at the northernmost point of Hong Kong Island and a cluster of infrastructure facilities that supported the adjacent Victoria City, to an area teeming with domestic life where amusement park, theatres, swim sheds, department stores, and red-light businesses sprang up and then mostly faded away. Due to a large influx of mainland immigrants in mid 20th century, especially the Hokkien Fujianese and Shanghaiese, North Point has become the most densely populated place on earth in late 1960’s, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Today, the urban density of North Point may no longer ranked top of the world, but a stroll on King’s Road, the district’s main thoroughfare where blocks after blocks of concrete apartments encroaching in all directions, can still be disorienting for many.

Published by Hong Kong Art Centre as part of “Via North Point” art programme in 2020, a local magazine did a poll with a group of local residents about their favorite landmarks in North Point. Unlike the monumental and glamorous urban icons in Central or Tsim Sha Tsui, their top five selected landmarks include two theatres, a pier, a market and even a street intersection. For them, these daily scenery have defined the collective identity and a sense of belonging for the community. For us who have been working in the adjacent Quarry Bay for the past eight years, North Point is also an area we would pass by almost everyday. We share some of their sentiments and also find beauty from these what may seem like ordinary street scenery by first glance. Here are their top five favorite landmarks in North Point:

NO. 5: King’s Road (英皇道) and the North Point Road (北角道) Intersection (4.3%)

Being the most important thoroughfare in North Point, King’s Road is probably the street that most residents in the neighborhood would visit on a daily basis. [2014]
Densely packed concrete buildings abutting each other is a common scene in King’s Road. [2014]
Taking the tram is probably the best way to experience King’s Road. [2017]
With a concrete footbridge, an apartment block painted with eyecatching red outlines, and a rail junction where the tram turns into Chun Yeung Street Market, the intersection of King’s Road and North Point Road is a well recognized intersection in North Point. [2021]
Against the backdrop of eye-catching Coronet Court (皇冠大廈), even a simple footbridge can be photogenic. [2022]
Coronet Court (皇冠大廈) dominates visually at the street intersection even if one is not facing the building. [2022]
From the footbridge at North Point Road, scenery of King’s Road can be neatly framed. [2022]
Somehow, openings of the footbridge match perfectlynfine with the round corner of the adjacent building. [2021]
At North Point Road, some trams would divert from King’s Road and make a detour into Chun Yeung Street Market. [2022]

NO. 4: State Theatre (皇都戲院) 8.7%

Now under scaffolding, the listed former cinema awaits for its turn of rejuvenation. Opened in 1952, the unique concrete structural arches on the roof have make the former cinema a one-of-a-kind building in the city. [2021]

NO.3 : North Point Pier (北角碼頭) 10.9%

Offering the most prominent harbourfront promenade in the area, North Point Pier has been a local’s favourite for years. [2020]

NO. 2: Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) 17.4%

Founded by Shanghainese emigrants in the 1950’s, Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) is the most important theatre in Hong Kong to showcase Cantonese opera. [2020]
Neon sign of Sunbeam Theatre has been a prominent feature in North Point for decades. [2022]
Sunbeam Theatre features Cantonese opera all year round. [2022]

NO.1: Chun Yeung Street Market (春秧街街市) 21.7%

Appeared on foreign travel shows and guidebooks, Chun Yeung Street Market is no doubt the most well known attraction of North Point. Named after a wealthy sugar tycoon Koeh Chhun-iong (郭春秧) who bought a huge lot of North Point in 1921, Chun Yeung Street Market has been a busy commercial street for a century. [2017]
Bisected by the tram railroad right in the middle, Chun Yeung Street Market is renowned as the only railroad market in Hong Kong. [2022]
Known as Little Fujian, Chun Yeung Street Market is a great place to find traditional Fujianese and Chiuchow food. [2022]
Double Happiness Noodle has been a fixture at the street market for half a century. [2015]
Many come to Chun Yeung Street Market for seafood at bargain prices in the evening. [2014]
While Chun Yeung Street Market is famous for produce, meat and seafood, the adjacent Marble Road Market is filled with stalls selling all kinds of dried goods. [2015]
To many, Chun Yeung Street is a great spot for urban photography. [2022]
Handcrafted souvenir mahjong tiles depict the landmarks of North Point, including Chun Yeung Street Market in the far left, then Sunbeam Theatre (second from left), and North Point Pier (third from left).

LANDMARKS IN FORTRESS HILL:

Situated between Causeway Bay and the heart of North Point, Fortress Hill (炮台山) has long been under the radar. In recent months, East Coast Park Precinct in Fortress Hill has emerged as one of the hottest new attractions in Hong Kong. Apart from the harbourfront lookout, the following two spots in Fortress Hill are also gaining popularity on Instagram as well.

Oi! Art Space (油街實現), Former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club

Oi! Street Art Space is housed in the former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club headquarters and clubhouse. [2022]
Serving as the former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club headquarters and clubhouse between 1908 and 1939, the masonry building is now a Grade II historic building and a popular landmark in the neighborhood. [2022]
Oi! Street Art Space is an inviting community art centre. [2017]
Small art exhibitions would sometimes be held at Oi! Street Art Space. [2017]
Open to both Electric Road and Oil Street, Oi! Street Art Space is a highly welcoming node for the community. [2017]

Staircase at Fortress Hill MTR Station

Thanks to IG and blogs, perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Fortress Hill is the checkered staircase right by Fortress Hill MTR Station. [2017]

SIX ARCHITECTS, SIX ICONS OF CENTRAL (中環), Hong Kong

For Hong Kong, skyscrapers in Central have always played bigger roles than just making money. The combined efforts of developers and architects redefine the city’s skyline for each era. [Photo: View of Central taken in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Buildings in Central have been going through cycles of urban redevelopment since the 19th century. [Photo: China Building 華人行 (top), Entertainment Building 娛樂行 (right), Central Tower 中匯大廈 (middle), Edinburgh Tower and Gloucester Tower of The Landmark 置地廣塲 (left), 2020]

Ever since the British set foot on the Island and found the City of Victoria, Central (中環) has always been the centre stage of commercial development in Hong Kong. Since 1841, the business district has never ceased evolving and expanding. In cycles of urban reincarnation, company headquarters keep on reinventing themselves every few decades. Every time a commercial building is torn down and redeveloped, company owners and commissioned architects would find an opportunity to consolidate their corporate identity and design visions, creating architecture with a certain style and building technologies that defines the zeitgeist of an era.

Apart from a few preserved colonial buildings, the current skyline of Central is pretty much defined by Modernist and curtain wall structures erected since the Central Redevelopment Scheme of 1970’s. The completion of Jardine House in 1972 as the tallest structure in Asia manifested the arrival of city’s golden period. Then came 1980’s when different design styles flourished in Central, from the geometric beauty of Exchange Square, stunning high-tech HSBC Main Building, to the complex interlocking twin towers of Lippo Centre. 1990’s and 2000’s saw the Hong Kong handover and the city’s maintaining its status as the financial hub of Far East, with Bank of China Tower and Two International Financial Centre (2IFC) challenging the height limits of the sky. From Jardine House to the IFC, six architects were responsible for contributing a small piece of his design vision to the architectural scene of Hong Kong. Their works have defied the test of time and remain as the urban icons of Hong Kong.

***

JAMES HAJIME KINOSHITA (木下一) OF PALMER & TURNER (P&T): Jardine House 怡和大廈 (Formerly Connaught Centre 康樂大廈)

Completion Date: 1972, Height: 178.5m (52 floors)

From the Japanese internment camp at Slocan of British Columbia during WWII to the architectural office Palmer & Turner (P&T) in Hong Kong in 1960’s, Canadian Architect James Kinoshita has come a long way to find his destiny. Intended to come for a short visit of his girlfriend (now his wife) in 1960, Kinoshita ended up staying in Hong Kong ever since. During his 28 years at P&T, Kinoshita brought a wave of Modernist architecture to the city when colonial buildings still dominated the skyline of Central. Apart from Modernist buildings such as Hilton Hotel, AIA Building, The Landmark, Electric Headquarter and Sui Wo Court, Kinoshita’s most well known work is probably Jardine House, the 52-storey office tower with the iconic round windows. When opened 50 years ago, Jardine House was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia. The project opened up the contemporary era that completely transformed Central. Half a century later, Jardine House remains as an integral part of the city’s skyline.

Architect Kinoshita credits his wife Lana as the source of inspiration for the circular windows of Jardine House. [2020]
Jardine House was the pioneer project that initiated the network of Central Elevated Walkways. [2020]

***

REMO RIVA (李華武) OF PALMER & TURNER (P&T): Exchange Square 交易廣塲

Completion Date: 1988, Height: 188m (Tower 1 – 52 floors – Tower 2 – 51 floors)

In the East Galleries of M+ Modern Art Museum, the axonometric drawing of the Exchange Square twin towers by Remo Riva is prominently on display. Remo’s drawing of the embracing geometries is part of Things, Spaces, Interactions, an exhibition that presents design objects with profound influence in Asia over the last 70 years. Similar to James Kinoshita, Swiss architect Remo Riva came to Hong Kong during the city’s blooming years and joined Palmer & Turner (P&T) in 1972. Responsible for 15 building projects in Central, such as Standard Chartered Bank Building, Entertainment Tower, the Landmark, and the Exchange Square, almost every visitor in Central would come across Remo’s works. Fully utilizing the advantages of the Central Elevated Walkways, Exchange Square opens its entrance and forecourt at the raised pedestrian network, leaving the ground floor for a transportation interchange. Apart from international banks, law firms, and foreign consulate offices, the most well known tenant in Exchange Square was the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

West of Jardine House stands the towers of Exchange Square. [Photo: Lung Wo Road, 2020]
Adjacent to the Exchange Square and Jardine House, the empty site and temporary footbridge of the Central Reclamation Phase 3 will soon be developed into a commercial complex. [Photo: Man Yiu Street, 2020]
From Connaught Road Central, entrance plaza of the Exchange Square is connected to the Central Elevated Walkways. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2022]

***

NORMAN FOSTER: HSBC Main Building 香港上海滙豐銀行總行大廈

Completion Date: 1985, Height: 178.8m (44 floors)

A client briefing of creating “the best bank headquarters in the world” summed it all up. Norman Foster won the commission of the HSBC project in 1979, which was his first project outside the UK, and also his first over three stories tall. Billed as the world’s most expensive architecture at its time and a showcase of expressive steel structure and innovative building technologies, it is no surprise that the HSBC Main Building is one of the world’s most recognizable examples of high-tech architecture, along with Centre Pompidou in Paris and Lloyd’s Building in London. The current bank building is the fourth generation headquarters of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in the city. Famous for its steel suspended structure, column free interior, high level of access to natural lighting, giant mirrors that reflect sunlight into the building, a 40m atrium, lightweight movable floor panels, and prefabricated components from all over the world (such as the five steel modules prefabricated by Scott Lithgow Shipbuilders in Scotland, glass, aluminium cladding and flooring from United States, and service modules from Japan), the HSBC will remain as a historical milestone for Foster and one of Hong Kong’s most iconic buildings for many years to come.

With a building cost of roughly US$668 million, HSBC Main Building was the world’s most expensive building at its time. [2021]
After 37 years, HSBC Main Building remains as a great example to exemplify innovative solutions of building technologies. [2020]
Eight steel masts and five double-storey trusses hold up a steel suspension structure to carry the load of the building, allowing a column free spaces in the middle. [2020]
The ground floor of HSBC Main Building serves as a covered plaza where pedestrians can freely walk from Des Voeux Road Central to Queen’s Road Central. [2020]
With the mega steel suspension structure, the heart of HSBC Main Building is free of columns. [2020]
Commissioned in 1935 from Shanghai based British sculptor WW Wagstaff, the two bronze lions at Des Voeux Road Central have been the guardians of the bank tower since the third generation of the HSBC Building. Near the end of WWII, the lions were shipped to Japan to be melted down. Before the lions’ planned demise, the war ended. The statues were saved by an American sailor at the dock of Osaka and eventually returned to Hong Kong. [2020]
In the past, a large Christmas tree used to be erected at Statue Square outside HSBC Main Building.

***

PAUL RUDOLPH: Lippo Centre 力寶中心 (Formerly Bond Centre 奔達中心)

Completion Date: 1988, Height: Tower 1 – 172m (44 floors), Tower 2 – 186m (48 floors)

Hongkongers are fortunate to have at least one prominent work of late Modernist master Paul Rudolph. There were originally three architectural proposals by Rudolph for Hong Kong, but only Lippo Centre was realized. Studied under Walter Gropius with classmates I.M. Pei and Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph was widely considered to be a master of Modernist and Brutalist architecture. After leaving Yale where he chaired the Department of Architecture for six years (with students such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Robert Stern, Muzharul Islam, etc.) and erected some of his famous Brutalist buildings, Rudolph shifted his focus to international projects in Asia in his latter career. Lippo Centre was one of his final realized projects. Rudolph wrote: “The aesthetic intent is to…give the building ‘presence’ when seen at a great distance, from the middle distance, and from close distance, and from close hand. At the same time, it is intended that the building inhabit the sky, and become dematerialized by reflecting the ever changing light.” Unlike Rudolph’s concrete buildings from his earlier years, Lippo Centre is highly reflective, perhaps to suit the taste of commercial clients in Asia. To some people, the interlocking massing of the hexagonal twin towers resemble koalas climbing a tree. The playful tower design has created 58 different office plans and many corner windows, and expressed the aesthetics of complexity and layering that still impress spectators of today.

Lippo Centre presents the complex planning and rich spatial qualities of Rudolph’s projects. [Photo: Queensway, Admiralty, 2020]
The scene of Lippo Centre’s giant pillars and stacked massing have become an iconic feature in Admiralty. [2022]
Some see the facade of Lippo Centre resembling koalas climbing up a tree. [Photo: Garden Road, 2020]

***

I.M. PEI (貝聿銘): Bank of China Tower 中銀大廈

Completion Date: 1990, Height: 367.4m including roof feature (72 floors)

From JFK Presidenial Library, Le Grande Louvre to Miho and Suzhou Museum, Chinese American I.M. Pei was one of the most well known Modernist architect of his era. As Aaron Betsky writes in 2019, “with I.M. Pei’s death, the last of the modern monument makers has passed.” Pei was certainly a man who made monuments. In 1982, Pei received an offer from the Chinese government to design the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, the city where Pei spent the first decade of his childhood. Designated as the signature project to showcase China’s modernity, economic strength, and open engagement with the world, the project was more than just making a pretty bank tower, especially during the time when the British colony was preparing for its Chinese handover in 1997. When completed in 1990, It was the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia, and the first supertall skyscraper (300m+) outside United States. Structurally, the tower was also the first composite space frame highrise with triangular frames transferring the load to the four corner columns. The powerful geometry and structural framing bring out a timeless design language that expresses the aesthetics of purity and elegance. Nothing fancy. Not a single line is unneeded. It stands as an urban monument overlooking the bustling activities of Central and Admiralty over the past three decades.

Viewing from Central, the cross framing of Bank of China Tower still looks smart and elegant after three decades of time. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2020]
No matter from which direction, Bank of China Tower will stand out from the background instantly. [Photo: The Cenotaph, 2020]
The bracing structure of Bank of China has become an icon that all Hongkongers can recognize. [Photo: Hong Kong Park, 2020]
From the street, the stone motifs near the base reveal a sense of tradition and solemnity in the design. [2022]
The design has successfully incorporated traditional motifs into the building. [2022]
Traditional Chinese gardens were used by Pei to create a green buffer from the adjacent traffic. [2022]
From Victoria Harbour, the structural frame of Bank of China Tower has stood out in Hong Kong’s skyline since 30 years ago. [2020]

***

CESAR PELLI: Two International Finance Centre (2IFC) 國際金融中心二期

Completion Date: 2003, Height: 415m including roof feature (88 floors)

As property prices and rents in Hong Kong skyrocketed in 1990’s and 2000’s, office architecture has tilted even more towards maximizing the lettable square footage than making a design statement. Notable for designing the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, World Financial Center (now Brookfield Place) in New York, One Canada Square Tower at Canary Wharf in London, Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, Wells Fargo Tower in Minneapolis, UniCredit Tower in Milan, Torre Banco Macro in Buenos Aires, and the list just goes on and on, Argentine-American architect César Pelli seemed to be the perfect fit for designing another iconic skyscraper in Hong Kong after the millennium. Before the completion of International Commerce Centre (ICC) in 2011, Pelli’s Tower Two of the International Finance Centre (2IFC) was the city’s tallest building and remains as the most notable element in today’s skyline. Apart from attracting institutions such as Hong Kong Monetary Authority or companies like Ernst & Young, Financial Times and Henderson Land Development, 2IFC is also a popular movie shooting spot, where both Lara Croft in Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003) and Batman in The Dark Knight (2008) chose to jump off from the very top. Apart from its height, the skyscraper is specialized for housing financial institutions, with 22 trading floors, advanced IT equipment, raised floor facilities and column-free spaces.

2IFC under final stages of construction back in 2003. [Photo: Cheung Kong Centre, 2003]
Three former tallest buildings in Hong Kong from left to right: Mandarin Oriental Hotel – 26 storeys, 1963-66; Jardine House – 52 storeys, 1972-80; 2IFC – 88 storeys, 2003-10
2IFC can house up to 15,000 people at work, and is equipped with double-deck elevators. [2020]
2IFC is home to some of the city’s most prestige financial institutions and businesses. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2020]
Due to its height, 2IFC is prominently visible from many places in Hong Kong, including the Mid Levels on the slope of Victoria Peak. [Photo: Hornsey Road, Mid Levels, 2020]
The roof feature and uplights of 2IFC serves like a beacon for the city’s skyline. [Photo: Connaught Road West, Sheung Wan, 2020]

***

Across the street from I. M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower, construction of a new 36 storey office tower had begun. World renowned design firm Zaha Hadid Architects aims to create a glassy urban oasis at this prominent location. Would this be the next generation of architectural icons in Central? [Photo: Queensway of Admiralty, 2022]

FLOATING WAY: Central Elevated Walkways (中區行人天橋), Central (中環), Hong Kong

In March 1992, Space Design, a Japanese monthly journal of art and architecture published a special feature on “Hong Kong: Alternative Metropolis” as its Issue 330. One of its articles was “Ue-no-michi”: Floating Way – Central New Town, which introduces to Japanese readers the Central Elevated Walkways, an extensive footbridge network that connects a significant numbers of office towers and shopping centres in the central business district of Hong Kong. The authors mapped out the system, and examined its significance on master planning and urban development of the city. In fact, this pedestrian circulation system has long been a well known reference case for urban planning studies around the world. Without touching the ground, one can pass from one office tower to another, or transfer from a ferry pier to a bus terminal, or access to restaurants, shops, services, hotels, apartments, post office, banks, or ascend to the Mid Levels from the harbourfront. Not only does the network enhances pedestrian connectivity in Downtown Hong Kong, it also offers a safe, weather protected, well lit, clean, convenient, and sometimes air conditioned public space network several metres above the dust, noises and air pollution of the streets. Separating pedestrian and vehicular circulations is also beneficial to vehicular traffic on the streets, where pedestrian traffic lights can be placed much further apart.

The Central Elevated Walkway began in 1970’s, when developer and Central’s biggest landlord Hongkong Land (置地) constructed a footbridge between Connaught Place (now Jardine House), Swire House (now Chater House) and the General Post Office. From then on, the government, developers and banking corporations continue to expand the network to include more buildings and bridge connections. Similar strategy has been adopted elsewhere in the city, notably in business districts Admiralty and Wan Chai, entertainment district Mong Kok, industrial district Tsuen Wan, etc. In 2012, architects and scholars Adam Frampton, Jonathan Solomon and Clara Wong published Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook. The three architectural scholars provide a detailed analysis of the elevated walkways in Hong Kong with beautiful isometric maps. Apart from pedestrian circulation, the book also celebrate the social aspects of the raised spatial system as an essential and integral layer of the city.

Navigating the labyrinth of elevated walkways in Central is not as difficult as one may think, as users can always rely on the clear signage and street scenes below to orient themselves. Elevated several metres above ground, the walkways offer a unique vantage point to enjoy the urban scenery of the financial district. Every Sunday, the covered elevated walkways and adjoining podiums would be turned into a gathering point for foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Sitting in small groups on folded cardboard, the domestic helpers (mainly from Philippines and Indonesia) would gather and eat, chat, pray, dance, sing karaoke, tell jokes, watch smartphone videos, play card games, make long distant video calls, etc. The walkways where normally dominated by quick pace pedestrians would suddenly become a vibrant social hub as if a public park.

Built in the 1970’s by developer Hongkong Land (置地), the elevated walkway between Connaught Place (now Jardine House), Swire House (now Chater House) and the General Post Office at Connaught Road Central. [Photo: Connaught Place, 2021]
The walkway can be accessed via footbridge from Jardine House, or via a staircase from the building’s plaza. [Photo: Connaught Place, 2020]
Horizontal LED screens have been installed at the 1970’s walkway recently. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2022]
Across from the 1970’s walkway, a newer footbridge connecting Worldwide House and Exchange Square was erected by the government in 2000’s. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2022]
A range of footbridges span across the major thoroughfare Connaught Road Central. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2020]
Compared to the aluminium enclosure of the 1970’s walkway, the glassy canopy of the 2000’s footbridge represents building technology from a completely different era. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2020]
Fritted lines on the glass canopy provides a certain degree of sunshading for the footbridge. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2015]
Since 1970’s, Hongkong Land has linked up its office buildings and luxury shopping complex Landmark Atrium with footbridges. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2022]
Being the biggest landlord in Central, Hongkong Land was the first company to construct footbridges between its buildings. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2022]
The bridge at Standard Charter Bank is cladded with a similar stone material as the bank tower. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2022]
The elevated walkways offer a different urban vista from the streets below. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2022]
Views from the walkways of Hongkong Land are often dominated by signage of international fashion brands. [Photo: Pedder Street, 2022]
On Sunday, the elevated walkways in Central would be occupied by groups of domestic helpers, including the footbridges at Hang Seng Bank Tower. [Photo: Des Voeux Road Central, 2020]
Moving up and down hillside Central via the Central to Mid Levels Escalators to watch the urban scenery unfolding in front of our eyes is like entering a bustling motion picture as silent spectators. [Photo: Cochrane Street, 2021]
The longest elevated walkway is located at Connaught Road Central, where it links Exchange Square in Central all the way to Shun Tak Centre in Sheung Wan. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2022]
The elevated walkway goes in parallel with Connaught Road Central. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2021]
Across Connaught Road Central, the walkway passes by a series of small commercial towers packed tightly together. [Photo: Connaught Road Central, 2020]
The elevated walkway merges with the podium and upper entrance of Exchange Square. [Photo: Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2020]
From the walkway, pedestrians can access the podium of Exchange Square. [Photo: Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2020]
The podium of Exchange Square is popular with groups of domestic helpers on Sunday. [Photo: Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2021]
Owned by Hongkong Land, the 5-storey Forum is a new addition to the podium of Exchange Square. [Photo: Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2021]
As part of the International Finance Centre (IFC) Mall, the neat footbridge links the Four Seasons Hotel with the main mall complex. [Photo: IFC Mall and Four Seasons Hotel, 2020]
Apart from Landmark Atrium, IFC Mall is another high end shopping centre in Central fully connected with the elevated walkways in a number of directions. [Photo: IFC Mall and Four Seasons Hotel, 2022]
At its north, a footbridge links the IFC Mall with Central Piers. [Photo: IFC Mall and Central-Wan Chai Bypass, 2014]
The footbridge passes over the newly completed Central-Wan Chai Bypass before arriving at the Central Piers. [Photo: IFC Mall and Central-Wan Chai Bypass, 2020]
At the IFC Mall, even the department store Lane Crawford is serving as a pedestrian linkage over a busy street. [Photo: IFC Mall, 2022]
Further west of IFC Mall, the walkway network extends towards Shun Tak Centre and Hong Kong and Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan. [Photo: Man Kat Street, 2020]
The walkway makes a bend towards Victoria Harbour as it approaches Rumsey Street Car Park in Sheung Wan. [Photo: Rumsey Street Car Park, 2022]
Across the Harbour, the International Commerce Centre (ICC) stands like a monumental totem pole in West Kowloon. [Photo: Rumsey Street Car Park, 2022]
Have a view of West Kowloon Cultural District before entering Hong Kong – Macau Ferry Terminal at Shun Tak Centre. [Photo: Rumsey Street Car Park, 2022]

THE GOLDEN GOOSE OF VICTORIA HARBOUR: Central Harbourfront (中環海濱), Central (中環), Hong Kong

Between April 2021 and March 2022, land sales have generated an HK$91.6 billion (US$11.7 billion) income for the Hong Kong government, out of which HK$50.8 billion (US$6.5 billion) came from a 47,967 sq.m lot at Central Harbourfront, the prestige waterfront in the city’s financial district. Like many business areas in the city, this land is created from a massive land reclamation project. Every time a massive reclamation project along Victoria Harbour is completed, the government would increase its land supplies and potential sources of income. The city’s iconic skyline would undergo another phase of transformation, and the harbour would once again get narrower. This new piece of land comes from Phase 3 (2003 – 2018) of the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project, the last major plan (first initiated in 1985) that altered the waterfront between Central and Wan Chai. Land sale has always been a major revenue source for Hong Kong ever since early colonial times. Due to the limited land supply and continuous growth of the population and economy, reclaiming land from the sea was a cost effective way for urban expansion given the city’s rocky and mountainous terrains. Since 1840’s, about 7000 hectares (70 sq.km) of land has been reclaimed. Compared to 59.1 sq.km of Manhattan Island, 70 sq.km is a decent piece of land housing 27% of Hong Kong’s population and 70% of its businesses. While the search of flat land has always been a challenge, voices against land reclamation among the public has gained momentum in recent decades. Given the negative impact to the environment and Victoria Harbour, many now consider land reclamation as an unsustainable solution that would likely do more harm than good.

Victoria Harbour is a vital component for the economic success of Hong Kong since the founding of city. It is a safe, all-weather and deep harbour, a perfect place to establish an international port as history has proven. Yet, 180 years of land reclamation has narrowed the water to such a great extent (distance between Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui has been halved) that the natural potentials of Victoria Harbour has been diminished. On the other hand, many began to recognize the significance of waterfront planning and its impact on shaping the city’s identity. Up until 1980’s, the harbour was developed mostly for the purposes of infrastructure, with wharfs, piers, godowns, warehouses, and dockyards occupied most of the harbourfront, leaving only pockets in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui for public and commercial uses. Under such context, the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance was passed in 1997 to recognize that Victoria Harbour is more than just a safe port. The law acknowledges that “the harbour is to be protected and preserved as a special public asset and a natural heritage of Hong Kong people, and for that purpose there shall be a presumption against reclamation in the harbour.” First covering only the waters around Central, then expanding to the entire harbour in 1999, the law basically put a stop to land reclamation in Victoria Harbour. If the law is here to stay, then the HK$50.8 billion land at Central Harbourfront would be one of the last available plots of waterfront land in Central. Meanwhile, plans for creating a more accessible harbourfront for all to enjoy have begun to realize, with the completion of various waterfront promenades on the Island’s north coast in recent years. Also from the Phase 3 of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation, the lot east of the HK$50.8 billion lot remains unoccupied in the past decade. Designated as Central Harbourfront Event Space, this land has been a vital public space at the heart of the city, hosting events from music festivals and sporting events, to large scale art installations. After this lot is developed, would the 180 year transformation of Central Harbourfront can finally call it a day, or would the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance be reverted one day due to economic and political pressure? The future is anyone’s guess.

Stretched from the General Post Office to the Ferris Wheel at Central Pier, the HK$50.8 billion (US$6.5 billion) lot is one of the last pieces of reclaimed land in Central. [Photo taken from footbridge connection of Central Piers, 2019]
Included in the HK$50.8 billion (US$6.5 billion) lot, the current General Post Office (4th generation) will likely be demolished in the near future. [Photo taken from footbridge connection of Central Piers, 2020]
The same piece of land seemed like a large construction site about a decade ago. [Photo taken from footbridge connection of Central Piers, 2012]
The HK$50.8 billion (US$6.5 billion) land has been idled as an empty lawn for almost a decade already. [Photo taken from footbridge connection of Central Piers, 2020]

***

The year 1873 saw the completion of Praya Reclamation Scheme phase 1, extend the waterfront from Queen’s Road Central to Des Vouex Road Central. [Photo by John Thompson, 1873, Illustrations of China and Its People, public domain]
After completing the second phase of Praya Reclamation Scheme, the Central waterfront was extended to Statue Square and Connaught Road Central. [Hong Kong skyline in 1920’s. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
In the subsequent decades, land reclamation in Central pushed the waterfront to the current City Hall and General Post Office. [Skyline of Central in 1970’s. Image courtesy: ken93110, wikimedia commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Central and Wan Chai Reclamation began in 1993 and ended in 2019, adding the Terminal of Airport Express, the International Finance Centre (IFC) complex and Central Piers in 1996, the government headquarters in 1999, a series of commercial buildings and waterfront promenade in 2008, and the submerged Central-Wanchai Bypass in 2019. [Photo taken at Ocean Terminal, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
Most of the business district of Central is located on reclaimed land created from the Praya Reclamation Scheme in the 19th century, several smaller projects in mid 20th century, and the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation Scheme between 1993 and 2018. [Photo taken from The Cenotaph, 2020]
In late 19th century, Paul Chater (Hongkong Land) and James Johnstone Keswick (Jardine Matheson) carried out the Praya Reclamation Scheme that dramatically transformed the north coast of Hong Kong Island, while their companies remain as the largest landlords in Central today, owning a large amount of commercial buildings including Jardine House, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Prince’s Building, Chater House, Alexander House, etc. [Photo taken from Statue Square, 2020]
Owned by Hongkong Land, the luxurious Landmark Atrium is another icon in Central. [2020]
Illustrated on the ground floor pavement of the HSBC headquarters, the shoreline of Central has undergone multiple transformations throughout the past 180 years. [2020]
Commonly known as the original northern shoreline on Hong Kong Island, Queen’s Road now lies somewhere between 500m to over 1km (in Wan Chai) inland from Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken at Intersection of Queen’s Road Central and Ice House Street, 2020]
Des Voeux Road Central was constructed after phase 1 of the Praya Reclamation Scheme. [Photo taken outside of Central Market at Des Voeux Road Central, 2021]
Named after Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Connaught Road was completed in 1890 as a waterfront thoroughfare. Today the road is completely landlocked after a series of land reclamation. [Photo taken outside of Exchange Square at Connaught Road Central, 2020]
The towers and shopping mall of International Finance Centre (IFC) are resulted from the Phase 1 of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project (1993 – 2019). [2020]
Phase 3 of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project includes the Central-Wanchai Bypass, which starting from 2019 connects Central to Causeway Bay via a tunnel under the harbour. [2020]

***

Much of the reclaimed Central Harbourfront is designated as an open space for public events such as the Hong Kong Marathon. [2017]
Hong Kong ePrix, an international Formula E race, is also held at the Central Harbourfront Event Space. [2019]
Between 2016 to 2018, Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival, the city’s biggest annual music festival, was held at Central Harbourfront Event Space three years in a row. [2017]
In 2017, British trip hop and electronic band Massive Attack was the final guest of the three day Clockenflap festival. [2017]
Before the pandemic, the Clockenflap events were some of our most memorable nights we spent at the Central Harbourfront. [2017]
During the pandemic, the Central Harbourfront Event Space was used occasionally for fairs and large scale art installations. [2021]
Inspired by Victoria Harbour, American Artist Patrick Shearn from Poetic Kinetics covered a large strip of the event space with a colourful kinetic sculpture that waved in the wind. [2021]

QUEEN’S ROAD CENTRAL (皇后大道中), Central-Sheung Wan (中上環), Hong Kong

Six years before the handover of Hong Kong to China, Taiwanese songwriter and singer Lo Tayou (羅大佑) published a song called “Queen’s Road East” (皇后大道東) in 1991. Emerged as a satirical reflection of Hongkongers’ collective feelings in the eve’s of the handover, the song became an instant hit. Even today, the song still offers an interesting cultural reference to understand the city’s unsettling moment before 1997. In the face of Hong Kong’s social uncertainties and imminent changes in near future, lyricist Albert Leung (林夕) made use of a wide range of symbols in the song, from “portrait on the coin” and “noble friend” to signify Queen Elizabeth II, to “waves of pedestrians” to suggest the mass exodus of Hongkongers. But the biggest symbolism is in fact the name “Queen’s Road East” itself. Physically divided into three sections, namely Queen’s Road East, Queen’s Road Central, and Queen’s Road West, Queen’s Road was used in the song to symbolize the three main players in the city’s story: “East” for Hong Kong, “West” for Britain, and “Central” for China (in reference to “Middle Kingdom”, the Chinese name of China). While “Queen” is unmistakably a reference to the city’s colonial past, the historical and economic significance of Queen’s Road has suggested a meaning way beyond colonialism. It is in fact a symbol of the city’s success story. As Hong Kong’s first main road, Queen’s Road was home to the first city hall, first post office, first luxury hotel, first bank headquarters, first residences of government officials, first business district, etc. After almost 180 years of urban transformations, its importance in the commercial heart remains vital to this date. The rich history and symbolism of Queen’s Road has made it a sensible choice for Lo Tayou and Albert Leung in their iconic song, and a reference point to tell the story of Hong Kong.

For its architecture and luxury shops, Queen’s Road Central is indeed a popular destination for both foreign visitors and local Hongkongers. Constructed between 1841 and 1843, Queen’s Road was originally named Main Street (大馬路). It ran through the first business district in the city between Sai Ying Pun (西營盤) and Central (中環). The road was soon renamed as Queen’s Road in tribute to Queen Victoria. As the road further extended in the west and east direction, Queen’s Road was eventually divided into three main sections: West, Central and East. Connecting Sheung Wan (上環) and Central along the island’s original shoreline, Queen’s Road Central (皇后大道中) has long been considered as a synonym of Downtown Hong Kong. Subsequent land reclamations in the next 180 years pushed Queen’s Road Central further and further inland. The business district has long extended way beyond its original extent around Queen’s Road Central. Yet, buildings along the road continue to be sold, torn down and replaced by taller replacements, from the 19th century Neo-classical structures to the 20th century Modernist buildings, and then to the contemporary glassy skyscrapers. Due to its historical significance, Queen’s Road Central is probably one of the most documented street in Hong Kong. Having the historical photographs in hand while taking a brief tour of Queen’s Road Central offers a fruitful way to understand the tale of constant changes, and endless cycle of deconstruction and reconstruction in one of the fastest growing metropolises in modern history.

Running across the former extent of Victoria City (West District, Sheung Wan, Central and Wanchai), Queen’s Road is the first main road in Hong Kong. [Street sign of Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
In the early days, Queen’s Road was no more than a street of dirt. [A Chromolithograph of Queen’s Road based on a drawing by Eduard Hildebrandt, Public Domain, 1865]
This Central-Sheung Wan (中上環) diagram highlights the extent of Queen’s Road Central and some of its notable street numbers in correspondence to the photos below.
1 Queen’s Road Central: HSBC Main Building (香港上海滙豐銀行總行)
Completed in 1985, Norman Foster’s HSBC Main Building is the fourth version of the bank’s headquarters at the very same site. [Junction of Bank Street and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
1 Queen’s Road Central: HSBC Main Building (香港上海滙豐銀行總行)
At the ground floor covered plaza, markings on the floor explain the building site in relationship with the various land reclamations of Central. [Junction of Bank Street and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
9 Queen’s Road Central: The Galleria (嘉軒廣場)
The Galleria formerly housed a flagship Hermes store
, before the French luxury goods company sold the 7500 sq.ft retail space for about USD 86 million. [Junction of Ice House Street and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
12 Queen’s Road Central: Shanghai Commercial Bank Tower (上海商業銀行) & Landmark Atrium (置地廣塲)
In 2016, Shanghai Commercial Bank moved into their new tower after years of construction. Much of its ground floor is rented out to a flagship boutique of Versace. Across the street stands Landmark Atrium, one of the city’s most upscale shopping centres. [Junction of Duddell Street and Queen’s Road, Central, 2020]
Rickshaws lined up both sides of Queen’s Road Central at the junction where today’s Shanghai Commercial Bank stands. [Photo in Public Domain, Junction of Duddell Street and Queen’s Road, Central, 1900]
15 Queen’s Road Central: The Landmark (置地廣塲)
Home to the likes of Gucci flagship and Harvey Nichols department store, Landmark Atrium is one of the most well known luxury shopping destination in Hong Kong. [Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
15 Queen’s Road Central: The Landmark (置地廣塲)
The Landmark partially occupies the site of the former Hongkong Hotel
(香港大酒店
), a majestic luxury hotel. [Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
Founded in 1868 and closed in 1952, Hongkong Hotel (香港大酒店) was the first luxury hotel in Hong Kong. It was later replaced by the office tower Central Building (中建大廈) and The Landmark (置地廣塲) a complex of luxury shopping centre and office buildings. [Photo by Lai Afong, Public Domain, 1880’s]
30 Queen’s Road Central: Entertainment Building (娛樂行) at Intersection of Pedder Street
Designed by P&T Architects, the neo-gothic Entertainment Building was erected in 1993 on the site of the former King’s Theatre (娛樂戲院). Instead of movie billboards that once dominated the scenery at this location, a large LED screen on the podium facade
to engage pedestrians from all directions.
[Junction of Wyndham Street, D’Aguilar Street and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
30 Queen’s Road Central: Entertainment Building (娛樂行)
Long gone the days when Central was a destination for moviegoers (except a small cinema in the Entertainment Building). In 1928, the air conditioned King’s Theatre (娛樂戲院) was erected along with a ballroom and restaurant. It lasted till 1962 and was replaced by the 1,300-seat second generation. The theatre finally closed in 1990 to make way for the current office tower. [Junction of Wyndham Street, D’Aguilar Street and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
30 Queen’s Road Central: Former King’s Theatre (娛樂戲院)
The 7-storey King’s Theatre was opened in 1931
. Its predecessor on the same spot, Bijou Scenic Theatre, was one of the first cinema established in Hong Kong. [Photo by Harrison Forman, American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, 1940’s]
31 Queen’s Road Central: LHT Tower (陸海通大廈) and Theatre Lane (戲院里)
The street name “Theatre Lane” says it all. Decades ago, Theatre Lane was flanked by Queen’s Theatre (皇后戲院) and opposite from King’s Theatre (娛樂戲院). Both famous theatres were demolished and redeveloped in the 1990’s into new office towers: King’s Theatre became Entertainment Building and Queen’s Theatre was turned into LHT Tower with the eye-catching slanted facade verticals. [Junction of Theatre Lane and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
31 Queen’s Road Central: Queen’s Theatre (皇后戲院)
In 1907, Victoria Theatre and Hong Kong Theatre opened in Central. Located at the intersection of Theatre Lane and Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong Theatre was the first cinema founded by local Chinese. It was replaced by Queen’s Theatre in 1924 with 1,200 seats. Queen’s Theatre was later replaced by its second generation in 1961, and eventually demolished in 2008 for the new office building. [Photo by Harrison Forman, American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, 1940’s]
80 Queen’s Road Central: Pottinger Street (砵典乍街) or Stone Slab Street (石板街)
One of the most popular tourist destination in Central is the historical Pottinger Street. Its stone steps lead tourists all the way from Queen’s Road Central to Tai Kwun, the former Police Headquarters in Central. [Junction of Pottinger Street and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
100 Queen’s Road Central: Don Don Donki (驚安之殿堂) at 100 QRC
Open 24 hours 7 days a week and famous for its vast selection of household and food merchandises imported from Japan, the Japanese supermarket Don Don Donki at 100 QRC is their 5th outlet opened in Hong Kong since 2019. The pandemic is preventing Hongkongers to visit their favorite destination: Japan. For the time being, Don Don Donki is benefiting from the situation and is determined to speed up their expansion plan of opening 24 stores across the city. [Junction of Central-Mid Levels Escalators and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
100 Queen’s Road Central: Central-Mid Levels Escalator Since its inauguration in 1993, the Central-Mid Levels Escalator has completely transformed the pedestrian patterns and urban scenery of SoHo, bringing people up to the Mid Levels from Queen’s Road Central. [Looking down from Central-Mid Levels Escalator, Central, 2020]
93 Queen’s Road Central: Central Market (中環街市)
Famous for its Bauhaus style, the 83-year Central Market is undergoing a major revitalization work. It would be adapted into a new shopping complex. [Junction of Jubilee Street and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
93 Queen’s Road Central: Central Market (中環街市)
Before the modernist version was erected in 1938, the earlier versions of the Central Market had always been a traditional Western architecture.
[Image courtesy of Historical Photographs of China reference number: NA16-019., University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net), CC BY_NC_ND 4.0, 1895]
99 Queen’s Road Central: The Center (中環中心)
At 346m, The Center is the fifth tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong. It is one of the tallest steel buildings in the world without reinforced concrete core. In 2017, the building for sold for a world record of USD 5.15 billion. [Junction of Jubilee Stree and Queen’s Road, Central, Central, 2020]
99 Queen’s Road Central: The Center (中環中心)
To facilitate the skyscraper’s construction, several historical structures were demolished and streets shortened in 1995. [unction of Jubilee Street and Queen’s Road, Central, Central, 2021]
99 Queen’s Road Central: The Center (中環中心)
The main lobby is raised up a level for better views, leaving the ground level to become a semi-open plaza. [Junction of Jubilee Street and Queen’s Road Central, Central,
2021]
128 Queen’s Road Central: Peel Street (卑利街)
Graham Street Market, the oldest street market in Hong Kong, is accessible from Queen’s Road Central via Peel Street or Graham Street.
[Junction of Peel Street and Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2020]
A century ago, Queen’s Road Central was flanked both sides by qilou (騎樓), or arcade buildings. These unique architecture originated from the British in India, who came up with the idea of adding verandas in front of buildings for shading in hot climate. These architectural type then spread into Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Southern China and became widely popular in the 19th century. [Photo by Lai Afong, Public Domain, late 19-century]
176 Queen’s Road Central:
Not many qilou buildings survives in Central-Sheung Wan today. [176 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, 2020]
176 Queen’s Road Central: Peel Street (卑利街)
The qilou at 176 Queen’s Road Central has become a precious survivor in the area. [176 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, 2020]
176 Queen’s Road Central: Kam On Building (錦安大廈)
A thin building called Kam On Building marks the junction of Wellington Street and Queen’s Road Central. [Junction of Wellington Street and Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, 2020]
181 Queen’s Road Central: Grand Millennium Plaza (新紀元廣場)
Similar to The Center, Grand Millennium Plaza was also a redevelopment project that dramatically transform the urban fabric of the area. Old tenement buildings were demolished and small streets and lanes were removed to make way for the current two office towers and a neo-classical plaza.
[Junction of Bonham Strand and Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, 2020]
378 Queen’s Road Central: Possession Street (水坑口街)
In Sheung Wan, Possession Street, the spot where the British navy first landed on the island, defines the end of Queen’s Road Central and beginning of Queen’s Road West (皇后大道西). [Junction of Possession Street, Bonham Strand and Queen’s Road, Sheung Wan, 2020]

HOW WE USED TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS

2020.12.24.

We got off work early for Christmas Eve. Some restaurants were about to close as we picked up our takeout from a small Japanese restaurant in Tai Hang. In Hong Kong, no restaurant is allowed to serve customers (except takeouts) after 6pm. No countdown events, Christmas parties or family gatherings. Just a simple dinner at home for the two of us seemed to be the most appropriate Christmas Eve celebration for this unusual year. 2020 is an extraordinary year. I can hardly recall another incident in my lifetime that has simultaneously affected virtually every single human being in the world. The terrible pandemic is forcing all of us to face the same fear, frustration and isolation. Most planes have been grounded, borders shut, and international tourism has almost come to a complete halt. This abrupt disruption to our lives lead us to realize that celebrating a festive moment with families and friends or spending the holiday season at a foreign land shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Memory is interesting when it works with time. At this bizarre moment of frustrating lock downs and social distancing, a recollection of how we had spent Christmas and New Year in the past two decades remind us how we used to freely experience the world and appreciate every little things around us. Looking beyond the vivid fireworks and lavish parties, it was our curiosity, freedom and gratefulness that allowed these joyful moments to simply make us happy in different stages of our lives. At this time of physical restrictions and emotional stress, looking back at these little moments of ours have become more precious than ever. Everyone deserves memories of celebrations that worth cherishing. Hope our little sharing would remind you some of your own best moments of Christmas.

We wish you Merry Christmas and good health for the upcoming 2021.

Separately we both had a school term in Rome. In the eternal city, both our studio and apartment were located in the lively neighbourhood of Trastevere.
Rome, December 2002
Wooden decorations for Christmas tree, festive balloons, magic shows, and many others. The Christmas market at Piazza Navona was our first experience of an European Christmas.
Rome, December 2002
I used to go to Vatican for evening walks during my stay in Rome. Vatican was relatively quiet and peaceful throughout much of December. A large Christmas tree was put up at St. Peter’s Square.
Vatican, December 2002
Another big Christmas tree was set up at the Victor Emmanuel II Monument.
Rome, December 2002
After graduation, we moved to London in 2007. At Christmas, we made a short trip to the Belgian capital for Christmas break. Like many locals and tourists, we spent the night at the Grand Place for light shows and Christmas countdown.
Brussels, Christmas Eve, 2007
Back in London, the Covent Garden was particularly festive during Christmas. The Apple Market was full of delightful vendor stalls and dining patios.
London, December 2007
Elegant, sparkling, and eye catching. One thing we loved about Christmas in London were the amazing shop windows.
London, England, January 2008
Cinema became a big part of our lives in London. We often went to the BFI and Leicester Square after work. At Leicester Square, a carousel and small fair would be set up during the holiday season.
London, December 2008
We decided to stay in England at our second Christmas in London. We made a short trip to the area of Liverpool and Manchester. During that trip, we were particularly fond of the Christmas lights in Leeds.
Leeds, England, December 2008
In 2009, we returned to Toronto to do our professional licensing. In Toronto, Christmas is always cozy and homey, and so does its lights.
Toronto, December 2010
In 2011, we made a trip to Cambodia and Hong Kong. With two of our friends, we experienced one of the most noisy countdown at the bustling Pub Street in Siem Reap.
Siem Reap, New Year’s Eve 2011
On our way to New Year’s countdown in Downtown Toronto, we stopped by the atmospheric Distillery District to test out my new DSLR. From then on, film camera has eventually faded out from my travel packing list.
Toronto, New Year’s Eve 2012
Before relocating to Hong Kong, we made our 90-day trip to South America. We spent the entire month of December in Patagonia and made it to Ushuaia (world’s southernmost city) in Argentina. Reaching the “End of the World” definitely deserved an early Christmas dinner at the beautiful Kaupe restaurant.
Ushuaia, December 2013
Ushuaia is the main port going to Antarctica. We didn’t take the chance to do an Antarctica Christmas trip. Perhaps we would regret it, who knows.
Ushuaia, December 2013
For almost a week we based ourselves at Argentina’s El Chalten to do day hikes near Mount Fitz Roy. At Christmas Eve, we did the longest day hike of the week to the glacier lake right below the magnificent mountain.
Mount Fitz Roy, Christmas Eve 2013
We booked the best room at Yellow House Hotel well in advance just to take in the panoramic harbour view of Chile’s Valparaiso, and enjoy the world famous New Year fireworks from the comfort of our room.
Valparaiso, New Year’s Day 2014
Getting off work at 2:30pm on Christmas Eve, talked about a short getaway trip during dinner, bought the plane ticket right away, then packed a small carryon bag and get a bit of sleep before heading off to Hong Kong International Airport at around 2:30am on Christmas Day. At 7 in the morning, we finally arrived in Taiwan. That trip remains as our quickest travel decision so far.
Main Station, Taipei, Christmas Day 2014
Thanks to the convenient public transportation network, we have been to many neighbourhoods across the city of Hong Kong. Because of Cinematheque movie centre, we often find ourselves in Yau Ma Tei, home to a wide spectrum of people from new immigrants to elderly. Christmas Carol in Yau Ma Tei has to be catered for all.
Hong Kong, Christmas Eve 2015
New Year, Chinese New Year, HKSAR Anniversary, and Chinese National Day. There were once numerous firework displays each year over the iconic Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. All shows have been scrapped for 2020.
Hong Kong, New Year’s Eve 2015
Most Hong Kongers love to visit Japan, and so do we. Their fine sense of beauty and comfortable balance between traditions and technologies go beyond just commercialized eye candy for festival decorations and celebrations.
Railway Station, Kyoto, December 2016
Famous for their lighting technologies, Christmas lights in Japan often create a coherent ambience reflecting their pursuit of romantic fantasy for the holiday season.
Kyoto, December 2016
Under the dreamy lights, the sense of community remains strong during Christmas in Japan.
Kyoto, December 2016
We didn’t expect to see Christmas celebrations in Myanmar (Burma), a Buddhist nation in Southeast Asia. Seeing such a large crowd and festive decorations in Yangon was a pleasant surprise.
Yangon, December 2017
Christmas celebration, Southeast Asian style. Street food is definitely a must.
Yangon, December 2017
I took my parents to Shanghai for a short trip. At the Bund, we passed by the historical Peace Hotel and its Christmas tree.
Shanghai, December 2018
After two trips to India, our third journeys to South Asia was a winter getaway to Sri Lanka. The trip was full of history, spices and fine tea. In a Buddhist country, we were surprised to see so many churches in Negombo, a coastal town near Colombo. A heritage since the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, Christmas is celebrated in a number of coastal towns in Sri Lanka.
Negombo, December 2019
After visiting and staying at a number of cities around the world, Hong Kong remains as our top destination to experience the festive energy and Christmas decorations in an urban setting. Political and social unrest in 2019 have taken a toll in the financial hub. Tai Kwun, a cultural and commercial complex at the former colonial police headquarters in Central, remained as the place to go for expats and the younger generation.
Tai Kwun, Hong Kong, December 2019
Due to the pandemic, most Christmas celebrations have been cancelled across the city. Christmas trees have been downsized, and lighting decorations have been scaled down. In Central District of Hong Kong, the high-end commercial complex Landmark Atrium remains as one of the few venues still maintain a relatively large Christmas installation.
Landmark, Hong Kong, December 2020
But perhaps the most representational thing for this year’s festival season is the Christmas face mask. Social distancing with a bit of festive joy, why not?
Hong Kong, December 2020