Hidden gems of Hong Kong
Hong Kong Impression
In my mind, Hong Kong is a crowded and noisy place. It is
When you actually get closer to the city, however, you’d be surprised by how different it is from what it looks like in our mind. Simply speaking, Hong Kong might be a dream for many, but it is home for those who live here. The hurrying pedestrians in the metro, the food stalls in small alleys, the ships berthed at the port, and a bowl of steaming fish ball noodles, all are not as glamorous as what we see in Hong Kong movies, but these plain and ordinary colors contain connotations and information beyond description.
I’ve been to Hong Kong many times, most of them I was just in transit. This was the second time that I actually visited it. It was eight years ago, as I recall, when I visited for the first time. I went to the Avenue of Stars, Central, Victoria Harbour, and Victoria Peak like those first-time visitors, all of these places were packed with people. Therefore, this time around, I wanted something different and wanted to enjoy a different side of this city.
The points of interest on this trip are relatively less known, and most of them are probably unfamiliar to most of you except Victoria Harbour. But if you are a frequent user of Instagram, particularly those who are passionate about photography, then you’d notice that the photographs of these points of interest have often been featured and have become the new targets for new travellers to Hong Kong.
Quarry Bay, the Monster Building in Transformers
Quarry Bay, its Chinese name 鲗鱼涌 is probably hard to pronounce correctly, should seem familiar when you lay your eyes on its pictures. Yes, it once appeared in the movie Transformers 4. And it comes with a very weird name known as the monster building. The construction of the monster building started in the 1960s, and it is best known for an extremely dense population. The E-shaped building consists of five buildings which are Fok Cheong Building, Yick Cheong Building, Yick Fat Building, Montane Building and Oceanic Building with a total of 2,243 units accommodating more than ten thousand people. It is known as the “monster building” for its massive shape and extreme density.
1. How to get to Quarry Bay: Take MTR and exit from Exit A at Quarry Bay Station, then walk along the Kings Road for a couple of minutes, or exit from Exit B at Tai Koo Station, then turn left and walk straight. You’d arrive after you pass a McDonald’s. It is easy to find, there are maps in the metro stations too.
2. Suggested time to spend: 30min to 2hr. For someone who’s really into photography, I guess one day would be understandable too.
3. Quarry Bay looks incredible at night, and the night view here is great too.
Hong Kong seems to be a modern, fashionable, and cosmopolitan city of countless skyscrapers in the mind of many. For local Hong Kong people, there are many similar buildings to the ones at Quarry Bay in the city, but they were rarely the destinations for tourists. Now that the movie Transformers 4 aired, Quarry Bay has become a must-go for many tourists, not just for people from mainland China but also many tourists from Japan, South Korea, Europe and North America.
I’ve seen photos of the monster building with airplanes on Instagram before, they looked pretty cool, and I thought that they must be photoshopped. But it turns out that there are a lot of airplanes that fly over Quarry Bay, actually there is a plane flying over it every 3 to 5 minutes. The only thing is that the time period to take a photo of the monster building with an airplane is very short, it is often gone when you raise your camera. It is quite a torture if you keep holding your camera waiting for the next plane. I tried many times before I finally captured one. It is really something that requires patience and quick reflex, but technically it is not difficult.
Such densely packed windows give you a sense of pressure and oppression. I wonder what those who come to Hong Kong to pursue their dreams would think when they look at all of this.
Choi Hung Estate - romantic place for teenage girls
As one of the earliest built public housing estates in Hong Kong, even the walls of Choi Hung Estate were painted in rainbow colors, and so is the MTR station. They are pretty eye-catching. So, many tourists come here every day and they also make their own artistic creations.
The best spot in Choi Hung is the rooftop of the multi-storey car park, which has already been converted into a rainbow basketball field, and the walls of surrounding buildings have also been painted in rainbow colors. This is one of those places where it might be better to read about them than actually seeing in person, at least that was how I felt. For a guy like me in his 30s, I might appreciate more some other forms of art.
Yau Ma Tei Police Station - handsome Hong Kong police officers
People who love gun fight Hong Kong movies must be familiar with the name Yau Ma Tei, especially the police station here. The police station is now out of service. The building, built in 1893, brought too many memories for Hong Kong movie fans, and it was the sacred spot for Hong Kong gangster films back in the 1970s and the 1980s.
There are many tourists coming here every day, and occasionally you might just run into a couple of Hong Kong police officers, and then you just hear girls screaming out of joy.
Built in 1893, Yau Ma Tei Police Station used to be located at the intersection of Shanghai Street and Public Square Street, and therefore Shanghai Street was once called “Chai Goon Street”. The station was relocated to the intersection of Gascoigne Road, Canton Road and Public Square Street in 1922. The station was once where the wind balls were hung since it was close to the typhoon shelter and the loading dock. Now, the building has been classified as a historic building in Hong Kong.
The government intended to demolish the building for the convenience of the construction of Central Kowloon Route in 1998, but then the government altered the plan due to severe public outcry. As a result, the old wing was reserved but the new wing would be removed, since it was of less historic values. Many public opinions believed that the station should be kept completely afterwards. So after some survey and investigations, the government decided to relocate the route channel, and the entire building was completely saved.
Temple Street is not far from Yau Ma Tei Police Station, which is awfully quiet in daytime, and there aren’t any stands until 4PM. Shutterbugs prefer here to take night views. The spot is a parking lot on the opposite side of the street. Photos taken from this spot have gone viral on Instagram, and those who are interested in it might go there at night.
The life scenes in Hong Kong keep reminding me of the good nights in TVB dramas, making those who work late into the night feel warm at heart.
How to get to Yau Ma Tei Police Station: Exit from Exit C of MTR Yau Ma Tei Station, and go southwards along Nathan Road toward Wing Sing Lane, stop at Public Square Street, where you turn to Canton Road and turn left. It takes roughly 5 minutes.
Sai Wan Swimming Shed - 2 hours of waiting for 2 minutes of photo taking
Sai Wan Swimming Shed is a swimming shed built by the Hong Kong government for local swimmers back in the 1990s. But instead of swimmers, more and more tourists are coming to take photos ever since it became popular on Instagram, especially couples.
In my mind, Sai Wan Swimming Shed was nothing but an ordinary trestle pier. But it looked surprisingly beautiful at sunset when I got there. Sadly, there was already a very long line on the trestle pier and stairs, and I figured that it would at least take two hours before my turn, so I just took some photos from above.
1. How to get to Sai Wan Swimming Shed: Exit from Exit C at Kennedy Town Station of MTR and turn left, then go westwards. Pay attention to the road signs and walk down the stairs to the seashore, it’s very easy to find it.
2. The popularity of Sai Wan Swimming Shed just goes beyond a lot of people’s expectation and you probably need to line up, so I suggest you go there as early as possible.
3. It offers the best scene at sunset. The trestle pier faces the sun and you may take gorgeous backlighting photos.
4. It’s not far from Instagram Pier, and you might wanna visit there, too.
The best spot at Sai Wan Swimming Shed is the end of the trestle pier where you get to take photos from a very low angle and it looks really breathtaking against the light from the setting sun.
Western District Public Cargo Pier - a.k.a. the Instagram Pier
The lighthouse at Western District Public Cargo Pier has been popular on Instagram for a long time, and now it is a must-go for artsy tourists who travel to Hong Kong from mainland China.
How to get to Instagram Pier: Go northwards toward the sea after you get off at Hong Kong University Station.
It was already dark when I arrived at the pier since I spent too much time at Sai Wan Swimming Shed. The night view here at this moment was amazing and it felt soothing in the sea breeze. Many people gathered here to enjoy the views, it made the area even more lively, so I stopped thinking about going to the iconic lighthouse.
I really like the frame of this photo because Hong Kong’s rise heavily relied on its advanced maritime transport. More and more tall buildings are rising up in this city thanks to the shipping industry.
Many are passionate about the iconic lighthouse but I prefer the seashore scenery at night. How good it is if you just ask a couple of friends, or your lover, or just yourself alone to visit here where you embrace the sea breeze, appreciate the great view, and enjoy the quality time, whether with others or yourself.
This photo shows the affection of a father and his son. The son was having lots of fun in fishing and he turned around occasionally to share his happiness with his father, while the father was sitting quietly on the bench, casting a glance at his son from time to time.
Ping Shek Estate - the beauty of a square sky
Ping Shek Estate is something you cannot miss if you are interested in architectural aesthetics. It is also one of the earliest built public housing estates in Hong Kong, just like Choi Hung. What’s unique about it is its square structure, which makes you feel as if you were in a square well and it is of great fun to look up at the square sky.
The chance to see a plane flying over is smaller than at the monster building in Quarry Bay where flights are more frequent. You may have to photoshop a plane on your own if you are really into it.
1. How to get to Ping Shek: Exit from Exit A2 of Choi Hung Station, which is approximately a hundred meters away from Choi Hung Estate, so you can tour it together.
2. Unlike Choi Hung Estate, the good photography spots at Ping Shek are located inside buildings. For taking photos that look up to the sky, you just need to go to the public area on the ground floor. But if you want photos from the top floor looking down, you have to take the elevator, and it’s supposedly not allowed for non-residents.
Lai Tak Tsuen, the beauty of a round sky
The round sky in Lai Tak Tsuen is extremely interesting, which is contrary to the square one in Ping Shek. As a public housing property built in 1975, Lai Tak Tsuen is the only ring-shaped building in Hong Kong with 27 floors and 17 units on each floor. Each unit space fans out and the unit volume is less than 30 square meters. Each apartment is equipped with iron bars. The closest distance between two apartments is just the width of one person.
1. How to get to Lai Tak Tsuen: Exit from Exit B at Tin Hau Station, and you may go there on foot or take a taxi. You have to uphill a bit since it is built on a mountain. So, it is recommended to take a taxi.
2. There are many bus lines nearby Lai Tak Tsuen that can take you to MTR stations such as Causeway Bay and Central, so you may consider taking a bus on your way back.
All the good spots to take photos are located inside the building, just like in Ping Shek Estate. But the difference is that they are located in non-public areas and you have to use an electronic key.
Pavilion of Harmony - where heaven and man are united
Few would associate the Pavilion of Harmony with Hong Kong. However, it gives you a sense of unity between heaven and man when you lay your eyes upon the reflections on the pond. Few people know the Pavilion of Harmony, which is located in New Asia College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
How to get to Pavilion of Harmony: Exit from the University Station, take Bus 2 of the university, which is free of charge, to New Asia College, and then walk for 3 to 5 minutes.
Lugard Road Lookout - the clouds, mountains, rivers and city of Hong Kong
The Peak Tower on Victoria Peak often comes to people’s mind whenever there is a discussion of the best spots to see Hong Kong’s skyline. Basically all tourists who have been to Hong Kong have visited Victoria Peak, and they know that it is a place packed with people and sometimes you have to wait in line. It is not the best spot for shutterbugs. So, I personally recommend Lugard Road Lookout, which is 20 minutes walk from the Peak Tower, it offers better views and there’s less people. Besides, it is free and you get to enjoy cool shade under the trees and avoid the sun.
1. How to get to Lugard Road Lookout: Take bus 15C at Star Ferry in Central to the cable car station in Garden Road; or take Bus 15 to go to the top of Victoria Peak. Then it takes 20 minutes to walk there by following the street signs. It is easy to locate and the road is almost flat, not difficult at all.
Hong Kong at sunset, when the clouds, mountains, rivers and the city are simply splendid.
I have to admit that Hong Kong, in spite of its small territory, has brought lots of surprises to the world. Many people are fond of its modern side, many are fond of its city skyline, and many are fond of its liveliness. A lot of people find Hong Kong too crowded as a travel destination, but that’s because they don’t know how to find beauty. If you look careful enough, you’d discover a different side of Hong Kong’s beauty, and you’d fall in love with it.
I waited two hours at Lugard Road Lookout and finally the night fell, and the beautiful night view was about to present.
Professionals usually need a tripod to take photos of night views. But it is difficult to get a good shot even with a tripod at the Peak Tower because there are simply too many tourists. But you can take gorgeous night view photos without a tripod here at Lugard Road Lookout because there are several spots here where you can place your camera on the ground without any trees blocking your view. All the night view photos I took during my trip to Hong Kong this time were taken with my camera on the ground because I didn’t carry a tripod with me, and I was very satisfied how they turned out.
Hong Kong at night looks even more charming. In just one century, this place evolved from a little unknown fishing village to a world-renowned economic center. The neon lights here represent the dreams of many and countless families, and look so glamorous when they mix together.
We have to mention the “light show of Hong Kong” at Victoria Harbour if we’re talking about night views of Hong Kong. Personally, I believe that it is better to enjoy it at the harbour than on top of Victoria Peak.
Chungking Mansions gained fame with the 1994 movie
1. How to get to Chungking Mansions: Exit from Exit D at Tsim Sha Tsui Station.
2. Keep an eye on your personal belongings since there are all kinds of people there.
The building itself casts another kind of charm for those who dig architectural aesthetics, in addition to the movie. Built in the post-industrial period of Hong Kong, Chungking Mansions were once rated the place best reflecting the globalization and the cultural diversity in Hong Kong by the US’ Time magazine.
The spot for photography is on the third floor patio, which is very easy to find. It is worth pointing out that there’s a noticeable presence of Indian population in the complex, there are also many cheap hotels and all kinds of people check in to these hotels. I lived in one of the hotels in Chungking Mansions when I visited Hong Kong the first time many years ago.
I still remembered the time I watched Chungking Express in college and I was confused by it. I couldn’t watch it anymore after I got bored. Now I realize what a great movie it is. I have to say that only people with stories get to understand the movie Chungking Express.
By the way, Chungking Mansions are a great place if you are into Indian cuisines.
Graffiti on Graham Street - must-go for couples
Everyone would think of the graffiti on Graham Street when speaking of the popular wall paintings in Hong Kong. In fact, there are not so many wall arts here but they are popular among young couples. So, you get to see tons of photos taken here in many travel journals.
How to get to Graham Street graffiti: Exit from Exit D2 at Central Station. Walk for about 10 minutes along Graham Street then you’ll see the murals.
Graham Street is narrow and it is a one-way street, so there are cars from time to time. Besides, you only get to take photos on the opposite side of the street so just be cautious when crossing.
Central is the right place if you enjoy the modern side of Hong Kong. It hurts my neck to look up at so many skyscrapers. I wondered if those who work in Central have a sore neck, too?
Hong Kong Cultural Centre - beauty of triangles
Hong Kong Cultural Centre is a modern performance arts center where all sorts of concerts, operas, musicals, dance performance and dramas as well as experimental plays are offered. It is located next to Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier in Kowloon. The reason why it is famous on the Internet is because of its slope-style corridor, and the repeated triangular structure is really impressive. You get remarkable aesthetically pleasing scenery when sunlight passes through those slope-style columns on a sunny day. It is also a must-go for tourists to Hong Kong.
How to get to Hong Kong Cultural Center: Exit from Tsim Sha Tsui Station or East Tsim Sha Tsui Station, and walk for 5 minutes.
The spot to take a panoramic view of the center is located on the rooftop pool in the Sheraton Hotel on the opposite side.
Victoria Harbour - the dreamlike night of Hong Kong
Victoria Harbour is a must-go for all tourists who travel to Hong Kong. You just get the vibe to take beautiful photos whether in day or at night when you walk on the Avenue of Stars.
How to get to Victoria Harbour: Exit from the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station or East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station and walk for 5 minutes towards the seashore. The best spot for photograph is close to Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
An incredible laser light show will be presented at Victoria Harbour at 8PM every day. The night sky of this Oriental Pearl is decorated beautifully and it is known for one of the top three most beautiful night skylines in the world.
It is an excellent experience to tour Hong Kong at night, but many people are debating whether they should stay on land at Victoria Harbour to enjoy the light show or enjoy it on a boat. Personally speaking, both options have their own advantages.
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