The last time I was in Hong Kong was in 2002, and then only for a short time before heading on to mainland China (look out for a film retrospective on this very topic in a few weeks). Not much had visibly changed – it was still hot, dirty, hopelessly overcrowded and quite vibrant. With so much unexpected time to spare, I could consult with Amy on ideas for the wedding (mostly thanks to the free internet access at the central library) and still cover most things on a tourist itinerary (museums aside, which were all closed for New Year). I had hoped to get out to Macau, but the New Year rush (quite possible of people going gambling, having being fortune-told that they’ll come into money) meant that only super-expensive deluxe seats were available and so I left it as something new to do should I ever visit again.
Above: Hong Kong Island from Kowloon. Left: The park at Chi Lin Nunnery. Below, left to right: A statue of Bruce Lee in Kowloon, the Mid-Levels; The Central-Mid-Levels Escalator, an alleyway in Central, Cheung Yee’s Crab in Kowloon Park.
Towering above the Hong Kong Island skyline is Victoria Peak (扯旗山) – home of rich expats looking to escape the heat and smell of the lower areas, great viewpoint when the weather is clear and location of a very inconveniently-sited tourist office. I traipsed up the footpath on one fairly clear day (note to urban planners: in subtropical environments, smooth concrete paths quickly develop a layer of slime and become quite treacherous), only to find the upper reaches wreathed in mist by the time I got there and the entire city completely obscured by cloud. On my next trip, the mist didn’t drift in until the evening and the neon lights down in the maze of buildings immediately brought Blade Runner to mind.
Left: Central from Victoria Peak. Below, left to right: Neon lights on the water, the suspiciously-named Giant Foot Restaurant.
Hemmed in in an otherwise-unassuming neighbourhood of the usual cookie-cutter concrete apartment towers and elevated roads is the Chi Lin Nunnery (志蓮淨苑), a Buddhist retreat that was presumably once in the middle of nowhere. If one can ignore the pale tower blocks perpetually in one’s peripheral vision and block out the constant hum of traffic, the place is quite serene and certainly deserving of its Lonely Planet entry. As the tourist guides are fond of pointing out, the wooden buildings are constructed using traditional techniques that do not require nails (though, technically, neither do the modern techniques used to build the concrete metropolis everywhere else).
Above: Kowloon from Wan Chai. Left: Chi Lin Nunnery. Below, left to right: A combination lantern/collection box/zodiac , a lotus pond; Chi Lin Nunnery.