6pm, December 1st 1890. On a hill close to Wan Chai historical waterfront, two British steam turbines began to generate power in Hong Kong’s first power plant, lighting up a group of electric street lamps in Central. Back then, no one could imagine that the small group of street lamps would one day turned into a world famous night view. As the demand for electricity surged, the power plant was relocated to a bigger facility in North Point, then a bigger one in Ap Lei Chau, and lastly to the current one on Lamma Island. On the slope where the city’s first power plant once stood, a bronze plaque in a shaded parkette is all that is left. In the past, electricity meant light, and light meant the sun, moon and stars. Centred around the parkette, three tiny streets, namely Sun Street (日街), Moon Street (月街) and Star Street (星街), and a network of small streets and alleys form what we now call the Starstreet Precinct (星街小區). Cosy cafes, lovely restaurants, galleries, boutiques, and design shops draw visitors every weekend and Friday night to explore the precinct. Tucked away on a slope with less than 100m from the busy Queen’s Road East and just a stone throw away from the financial district, the pedestrian friendly Starstreet Precinct is the best kept secret of Wan Chai, offering a relaxing and otherworldly ambience that some have described as “European”. What does it mean by “European” is subject for debate, the tranquil neighborhood nonetheless serves well as an urban oasis. In 1988, Swire Properties, the owner of the adjacent Pacific Place, began to purchase properties in the precinct and gradually revitalize the area into a vibrant and multicultural quarter. Their effort apparently paid off. Among with Melbourne’s Smith Street, London’s South Bank, Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard, and Tokyo’s Cat Street, Wan Chai’s Starstreet Precinct was named one of 30 coolest streets in the world by Timeout in 2021.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen (孫中山), Father of Modern China, delivered a public speech at Hong Kong University in 1923. Began with a rhetorical question “Where and how did I get my revolutionary and modern ideas?” Sun’s answer was Hong Kong, the British colony where he came 30 years prior at the age of 17 and stayed for 9 years as a high school and medical student. During his time in the city, Sun was impressed by the architecture, urban order and public safety of Hong Kong, and the efficiency of the government. Whereas just 50 miles away in Heungshan (now Zhongshan), Sun’s home village in Qing China, government officials were highly corrupted and incompetent. His experience and knowledge obtained in Hong Kong had inspired Sun’s ideas of the Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命) and strengthened his will to establish a modern China.
Sun Yat-sen spent most of his time in the core area of Victoria City, now the area of Central-Sheung Wan. In 1996, the Hong Kong Government began to promote a tourist route called Dr. Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail (孫中山史跡徑) to commemorate the famous visitor. 16 spots related to Sun were identified along the 2-hour historical walk in the Central-Western District. Nine local artists were commissioned to design unique plaques that can be seen as urban artworks. These spots include the locations where Sun attended schools, places he lived, venues he met with his political partners, and sites where his organizations engaged in revolutionary activities. In 2006, the Edwardian Classical Kom Tong Hall in the Mid-Levels was converted into Sun Yat-sen Museum. Not only does the museum provides another focal point in the city to learn about Sun’s story, it also offers the perfect reason to preserve the 1914 building. Kom Tong Hall was the former mansion of businessman Ho Kom-tong (何甘棠), the younger brother of Robert Ho Tung (何東), the richest man in Hong Kong at the turning of the century. Listed as a declared monument, Kom Tong Hall (甘棠第) was one of the first buildings in Hong Kong to use reinforced concrete structure and fitted with concealed electrical wiring. The historical architecture itself is well worth a visit. The story of Sun Yat-sen remind us that Hong Kong, as a melting pot between East and West, and the old and new, has been a source of inspirations and a window to the outside world for the Chinese community in the modern era.
Sleepy town of Selcuk welcomes one of Turkey’s biggest concentrations of tourists. Home to the mighty Ephesus, as well as the ruined Basilica of St John (where some believed was the final resting place of St John the Apostle) and House of the Virgin Mary (a stone house where some said was the final home of the Virgin Mary), Selcuk has its unique power to attract visitors from around the world while maintaining the tranquility as a small town in the Aegean Region. After visiting Ephesus, we strolled around the town for a short while and completed the day by enjoying a glass of wine and a moment of perfect sunset on the rooftop of Homeros Pension.
Away from the Classical ruins, Selcuk is still dotted with historical buildings from the Middle Ages.
Alpaslan Mesciti is a 14th century building. Today, the building continues to serve as a mosque.
The Turkish way to chill out: to smoke Turkish tobacco with a water pipe or nargile in the front porch of their home or shop and watch the world goes by. The tradition started 500 years ago in the Ottoman Empire. Its popularity declined as cigarettes entered the Turkish market after World War II. In recent two decades, water pipes have made a solid comeback for the younger generations.
Other than smoking nargiles, some locals we met chose to play music to celebrate the last hour of sunlight.
Many of the elder generation preferred to socialize at the outdoor area of a cafe.
Near Homeros Pension, the beautiful sunset made everything to appear under a tint of orange.
Walking under the last bit of sunlight on the hill was a sublime experience.
For our short stay in Selcuk, we picked Homeros Pension, a family run guesthouse full of character.
The common areas of Homeros Pension are richly decorated.
Local handicrafts fit perfectly well with the interior.
Apart from local handicrafts, we could also find gifts left by previous travelers, such as these koalas from an Australian traveler.
The delicious food at Homeros was prepared by the experienced hands of the elderly staff.
The rooftop patio was a fantastic spot to enjoy the sunset. We were invited by the friendly staff to have a glass of wine during sunset.
With the clean air and relatively low buildings, we had no trouble watching the sun setting below the far horizon.
Watching the marvelous sunset and mingling with the other guests at the guesthouse on the rooftop patio was the perfect way to end our day.
Our car sped through the dusty country road towards one of the designated viewing platform in Old Bagan. It was our last chance to enjoy the sunset scenery over the pagodas of Bagan. We thought we were late, but instead we were among the first few to arrive at the viewing platform. We picked out spot to view the sunset in front of the golden fields, romantic pagodas and distant mountains. We were occasionally distracted by the passing cattle and humble shepherds. As the sun set behind the surreal skyline of Medieval pagodas and spires, we knew that our brief tour of magical Bagan was coming to an end. It might have been too much history and Buddhist philosophy to take in in less than two days, but the experience did prove more than worthwhile for a spiritual journey to the religious and historical heartland of Myanmar. After the sunset, Win Thu and our driver dropped us back at Oasis Hotel. At the parking lot, we went through the formality of payment and tipping, and earnestly thanked them for introducing us the wonder of Bagan.
We passed by a number of fascinating pagodas on our way to the viewing platform.
The late afternoon sun was gorgeous, casting a beautiful orange glow on the bricks of the pagodas.
The platform was just a earth berm in the midst of grass fields and pagodas.
The sun was still high above the pagodas when we arrived.
A number of pagodas stood out in front of us.
Another marvelous temple was partially covered by scaffolding.
The shrubs right in front us began to glow under the golden sun.
The silhouette of pagodas and spires formed a romantic skyline in front of us.
Our focus shifted to the cattle passing behind us.
The white cattle and the red pagodas together formed a surreal picture.
The view of the shepherds and cattle was a great bonus for us.
The cattle gradually disappeared beyond the woods behind us.
It was a perfect day to watch the sunset.
We stood silently to watch the sun lowered behind the distant mountains.
Once the sun was gone, most tourists soon left the platform. We stayed for a little longer to absorb the tranquil atmosphere of Bagan.