First post of 2018; just so you know, my January has 32 days!
Downtown Hong Kong
Jackson walked me to different downtown areas where old meshed with new. Just when I thought there was no more room for construction, we came upon a large rejuvenation project that took up the better part of a city block. Care had been taken to not uproot the age-old trees, by placing protective barriers around each. We climbed further up the street where Jackson used to live and I was fascinated at the way every inch or space had been developed. I was surprised to find green areas within this densely built areas. On the way down we passed a large Roman Catholic Church and School; discovered tucked away eateries and tea shops, and were greeted by a sea of people when we reached the main thoroughfare. We were surrounded by towering glittering high-rises, I felt overwhelmed by their sheer size.
We decided to have a quick obligatory look at Wai Chan, an area famed by the 1960 movie “The World of Suzie Wong” starring William Holden and Nancy Kwan. Bars now line the street, and are hangouts for expats and US marines.
After strolling about town, we decided to hop on a tram to get a better look at the Sheung Wan District. It was difficult to concentrate on any given point of interest; our attention kept being drawn to the marvel of human creativity, evidenced by the towering structures that cast dazzling reflections on one another. Countless high-end shops begged to be noticed, wooing passers-by with their artful, eye-catching arrays.
As the tram took us deeper into the Sheung Wan market area, shop after shop of dried goods, displayed on both sides of the street, announced their wares through bright lit lettering and labels shining in the waning daylight. The streets resembled an array of red, green and gold serpentine weaving in the air.
The tram experience alone, gave me the feeling of living back in time (a romantic notion, no doubt, considering the hyper modern buildings that surrounded us on the journey). With a little imagination I could picture Hong Kong in earlier less bustling days.
I couldn’t pass up a fairly deserted high-end mall experience, complete with Mom and Daughter toilets!
Shek Kip Mei Housing Estate
I must admit that I was completely enthralled with the history and museum of Shek Kip Mei. It was the first public housing estate after World War II. Many returnees and also many who came in from the mainland settled in a make-shift shanty town, which was destroyed when a huge fire broke out at the end of 1953 (on Christmas night). When the government built the initial housing in 1954, rooms where simply partitioned. Each room was about 11.14 sq. m. (120 sq. ft.). Picture a family of 4 to 6 people living in such tiny space! Makes me appreciate my 75 sq. m. (807 sq. ft.) flat as a super comfortable palace. Washroom facilities where in communal areas. Cooking and laundry were done in the corridors.
Over the years, as the needs grew, additional housing blocks were built and improved. The partitioned rooms made way for larger segregated flats, with own toilets. Each flat had its private balcony to allow for cooking.
In the 1990s the government decided to demolish the older dilapidated first structures but kept Mei Ho House (or Block 41), which it turned into a historic building. Work was done to rejuvenate part of the block, which became a youth hostel and part was made into the present museum to reflect the history of the Estate. On the ground floor is the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, which used to be a factory building. At the back a café in 1960s decor that opens up into a garden patio, overlooking the ocean and a pretty garden wall, leading to a hill.
Walking through the Mei Ho House museum evoked vivid images of how people managed and thrived notwithstanding difficult economic and cramped conditions. In spite of the inspiring sights and sounds that I experienced; seeing this part of this history will leave an indelible mark.
Once the redevelopment is completed, it will be rented out and will be home to around 17,400-500 people. A long way from the metal and wood shanty homes of the late 40s.
Mid-Levels and Promontory
Pictures say it all … or offer at least an impression of the beautiful gardens at the Mid-Levels. From the Promontory we got sweeping views of the Hong Kong Islands and Central Hong Kong. It was almost too much to take in!
The Promontory View
Picture Gallery of Churches
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (RC), and Our Lady of Mount Carmel (RC). The latter has art work full of symbolism, as evidenced by the Wedding Feast at Kana; projecting the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb. Beads coming down from the ceiling, representing a shaft of light descending from the cross, water and salvation. There was much more of course that I cannot cover adequately in this space.
Farewells and Thank You’s
I cannot complete my Hong Kong wanderings, without mentioning our last evening out with friends, at one of the oldest renowned restaurants in Lan Kwai Fong and Soho area. After braving the cobblestone, and ladder streets (a bit more challenging after all the smooth pavement), we enjoyed excellent food, laughter and friendly banter. A perfect ending to an action-packed trip! Now, whenever we chat online, I can picture all of you in your digs and lovely island setting and mentally wander the streets of Hong Kong when you head to work.
A big thank you to my gracious hosts, Jackson and his generous mom, and Henry & Sharon. Thank you Herisa for making the time to meet up with us. Wow, we hadn’t seen each other since Seminary days. It was brilliant to see you and catch up! Each of you made this trip memorable.
* Updated location name to read Sheung Wan and not Sha Tin.