Hong Kong architecture

Hong Kong architecture title picture

Hong Kong is in many ways like other large cities I’ve visited around the world, and yet like every city, it has its own personality and character. And there was an interesting dichotomy in the super fancy skyscrapers in the financial Central District, and the buildings spread throughout the rest of the city. Pretty much everywhere you go, it is a given that you will be surrounded by very tall buildings. I can only imagine what it would be like to live there all the time. I picture how dark some of the streets might get during very cloudy days. And of course there is the difference in the beauty of the skyline from a distance, and the different sort of beauty when you are smack in the middle of the maze of buildings and they rise up all around you. I got plenty of opportunity to see the skylines from a distance on both sides of Victoria Harbor. Kowloon and Hong Kong Island are only separated by a approximately five minute ferry ride on The Star Ferry (plus actual subway train lines), so you can easily take in the views from both sides.

Hong Kong architecture skyline Kowloon

Hong Kong architecture Kowloon skyline

Then you get to the maze of buildings on Hong Kong Island. The streets rise up steeply in parts from Central District, to SoHo (south of Hollywood Road), all the way up to Mid-Levels, which is located about halfway up the hill from Central District and The Peak. You can walk easily and painlessly from Central to Mid-Levels, through a series of escalators. What’s interesting about these escalators, is that there is only one set. They come down from the Mid-Levels to Central from approximately 0600 am to 1020 am. This is presumably to support the large commute of individuals who live in the Mid-Levels but work in the Central District or beyond. After that, the escalators only ascend for the rest of the day. It’s very easy to take the escalators to Mid-Levels, but keep in mind that you will be descending the stairs on your own (it’s not tremendously difficult). What caught my eye when walking around looking at the architecture is just how colorful some of the buildings are, ¬†and how densely packed they were in some areas.

Hong Kong architecture 10

Hong Kong architecture 8

Hong Kong architecture 7

Hong Kong architecture 9

The picture below was an interesting capture. I’m not exactly sure what is going on with the groups of people I saw camped out around town, mainly in places near Hong Kong Station and the like.

Hong Kong architecture 11

Hong Kong architecture 12

In both of these pictures you can see large groups of people congregating. Now Hong Kong is constantly filled with large groups of people, but what was interesting here was that these groups were just hanging out. I could never quite figure out what they were doing, but I also never asked either. None of them looked homeless, because they certainly weren’t begging for money, nor were they looking to sell anything. But on many of these walkways, you would see small areas segregated by cardboard and groups (families?) of women and girls (no men) just hanging out, sitting, talking, playing games and enjoying food. I wondered if maybe they were hanging out like this, because they didn’t have air conditioning at home and sitting out like this would get at least some cooling breezes at times. Whatever it was, it is very much part of the culture of the city, because nothing seemed overly amiss about it.

Hong Kong is a city with a LARGE population density. This is definitely not a place to go to get away from it all and be alone. But it is very interesting to compare and contrast the supermodern skyscrapers with the older parts of the city and see how it all meshes together into one community.

Another interesting trip was to see the Wong Tai Sin temple, a Taoist temple in the far north of Kowloon Peninsula. It is easily reached by taking the subway (MTR), green line Kwun Tong Line to the Wong Tai Sin stop. Take exit B2, and you will exit right in the plaza before the temple. The temple was only built in 1973, but it is very popular. It is very colorful and beautiful and it’s easy to walk around the temple grounds and see pictures of all the different gods represented at the temple. There are even some temple gardens to wander. Admission is free, with a requested donation of whatever you want to pay. Like everything about urban life, I find it interesting to look out from a religious temple grounds and see the skyscrapers around me. I know I write about it a lot, but I grew up in a TINY town with few people and lots and lots of trees. So these views are very different and very interesting to me.

Hong Kong Won Tai Shin temple entrance

Hong Kong Won Tai Shin temple plaza

Hong Kong Won Tai temple worship

Hong Kong Won Tai temple city view

Hong Kong Won Tai temple gardens

Hong Kong’s The Peak- a view from the top

Hong Kong The Peak skyline day

I spent Labor Day weekend 2013 in Hong Kong, and I really enjoyed it. Hong Kong was on my Asian travel list for years, and now I was finally able to go there. The city both seemed very familiar and interestingly exotic. I live in Seoul, so I’m not oblivious to the interesting dynamics of large Asian cities. And at times, parts of Hong Kong (particularly in Kowloon) reminded me of some of the narrow streets of different Chinatowns of large American cities. And other times (like in the Central district of Hong Kong Island), the city could be any large city with a financial district, like New York City. But even more than Seoul or Tokyo, I was struck by the sheer amount of population density in Hong Kong. Mind you, the Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area has around 25 million people (roughly 50% of the population of South Korea), but it didn’t feel as tightly confined as Hong Kong. Maybe it’s because the urban sprawl of Seoul seems greater and the clusters of high rises are more spread out, whereas everything in Hong Kong is closely packed together.

One of the best ways to get a bird’s eye view of Hong Kong is ascend to The Peak, which is the tallest hill in Hong Kong. It’s also one of hte most exclusive neighborhoods in Hong Kong, with mansion and apartments that cost an arm and a leg. There are a few ways to get to the top, but one of the quickest (in terms of ride length, and ignoring the wait in line) and most interesting is to take the tram.

Hong Kong The Peak tram

The Peak tram has been in operation for over 120 years, though the trams themselves have been upgraded over the years. It is HK $28 to ascend to the top, and HK $12 dollars to descend. If you don’t have an Octopus Card, or previously purchased tickets, you have to purchase them on site, but the ticket office is reached during the wait to actually get on the train. The tram can fit approximately 120 people on each trip, both standing and sitting, though I REALLY don’t recommend you choose to be one of the ones who stands for the trip. The trip may be only approximately eight minutes, but the ascent feels nearly vertical at times. Trust me, you are going to want to sit down and enjoy the view (sit on the right side of the tram on the ascent to see the best view in my opinion). I decided to get to the top of The Peak about 90 minutes before sunset to fully enjoy a day view and then be around to take advantage of a full night view. The wait for the tram really was only about 30 minutes, and that was when the line was pretty long.

In any case, once you get to the top, you have a variety of options. You’ll disembark in the large, multi-floored Peak Tower. You can go to the top of the mall to the Sky Terrace, which costs HK $35 for the view. If the cost just doesn’t do it for you, there is a free observation desk next to the mall. It’s at a lower level, but the view is still nice (as you’ll see from my night pictures). It was really cool to just stand up there and take in the full view of the northern side of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon across Victoria Harbor. It really makes you appreciate just how dense the population is in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong The Peak Victoria Harbor day

Hong Kong The Peak skyline cloudy

Hong Kong The Peak selfie day

The observation deck is not quite on the exact top of The Peak, but the actual peak tends to attract clouds. Even while I was there, dark clouds were lurking about and threatening to pour out some rain (as you can see in the dark clouds in some of the pictures above), but the weather stayed clear while I was up there.

Hong Kong The Peak cloudy

After fully admiring the day view, I took a short walk around the top. There are pedestrian roads around the top that enables you to see the other side of Hong Kong Island, and also enjoy the thick foliage.

Hong Kong The Peak sunset view

There are plenty of stores and restaurants on top, along with such tourist “attractions” like Madame Toussard’s. But after enjoying some ice cream, I just patiently waited for it to get dark and was rewarded with a very beautiful night view. The lights of Hong Kong really do shine bright at night.

Hong Kong The Peak skyline wide

Hong Kong The Peak night skyline

Hong Kong The Peak nighttime skyline

Hong Kong The Peak selfie night

You descend The Peak the same way you ascended and an eight minute tram ride later, you are back at sea level. The Peak tram is open from 7am to midnight, so there is ample opportunity to see it. Assuming the weather is clear, this is definitely a not-to-be-missed view. It really is the best way to take in the full view of Hong Kong below you.