Day 2: Hong Kong, the city of contrasts

25 07 2010

The second day in Hong Kong began with the promise of a beautiful day that greeted me through the window of the hotel room and after breakfast, on the advice of the very informative Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB)’s PR escort, I decided to have a look at the wet market near Langham Square. So, armed with a map and my camera bag, I hopped on the very efficient MTR system at nearby Tsim Sha Tsui station and in a breeze, found myself at my destination for 5 Hong Kong dollars, three stops up the Central Line to Mongkok Station.

The modern and efficient MTR - a wonderful way to get around.

The modern and efficient MTR - a wonderful way to get around.

In contrast, the old tramways can be hot and uncomfortable - but they do provide an interesting way of getting around northern Hong Kong island.

In contrast, the old tramways can be hot and uncomfortable - but they do provide an interesting way of getting around northern Hong Kong island.

Mong Kok MTR station - the gateway to some of the street markets of Kowloon.

Mong Kok MTR station - the gateway to some of the street markets of Kowloon.

Stepping out of the station and up through a modern shopping mall – the very interesting wet street market on Nelson Street, set amidst ageing and tired looking residential cum commercial buildings, sat right next to ultra modern shopping malls and a very posh looking hotel, my very first impression of the area was that it was one of contrasts. I suppose that this isn’t remarkable and very typical of much of Asia, but why it caught my attention was that it probably typified what Hong Kong as a whole has been and still is very much so today.

The contrast seen from the glass windows of a modern shopping mall towards a traditional street market.

The contrast seen from the glass windows of a modern shopping mall towards a traditional street market.

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The second part of the day started with a coach ride under the Victoria Harbour through the Cross Harbour Tunnel, which our HKTB Media Fam Facilatator told us interestingly was also referred to as the “No-excuse tunnel” as when it was opened, it took away the excuse of wealthy men who lived and worked on opposite sides of the harbour for staying overnight on the side of the harbour on which they had their offices to be with their mistresses whom thay had kept on that same side (the ferry operated until 11 pm). Lunch was at the popular French Italian restaurant Gingko House (another contrast!) on Gough Street in Central. What is remarkable about the restaurant was not just the ambience in which you could be transported by the strains of La Vie en Rose playing in the background to the streets of Paris, but also the fact that the restaurant was started by social workers providing employment to the elderly as well as channelling its proceeds towards charitable causes.

The Cross Harbour Tunnel is also referred to as the "No excuse tunnel".

The Cross Harbour Tunnel is also referred to as the "No excuse tunnel".

Gingko House, a popular restaurant on Gough Street run for charitable causes.

Gingko House, a popular restaurant on Gough Street run for charitable causes.

The setting and music transports one to the streets of Paris.

The setting and music transports one to the streets of Paris.

Gough Street itself is a contrast of old trades and bohemian shops and cafes.

Gough Street itself is a contrast of old trades and bohemian shops and cafes.

A popular tradition on Gough Street - a queue for the very popular noodle stall.

A popular tradition on Gough Street - a queue for the very popular noodle stall.

Another very bohemian shop near Gough Street.

Another very bohemian shop near Gough Street.

Ending up in Causeway Bay after lunch where the ladies were having a makeover session with a famous Hong Kong stylist Celia Wong, I somehow ended up wandering through the sea of people that seemed to fill every inch of the lively streets of shops, shopping malls and restaurants and cafes. Amidst all this, was another startling contrast – stumbling into some of the quiet and run down side lanes and back alleys, was like stepping into another world that existed behind the façades of the buildings and the busy streets that they faced where another dimension existed. What was interesting this time around was stepping into a store named GOD, due not in any way to devine influence (except for the devine objects of desire that the store sold – GOD being an acronym for “Goods of Desire”). Again, the store was all about contrasts, with modern objects sold bearing features that were reminders of yesteryear.

It is always nice to know that GOD can be found in Causeway Bay.

It is always nice to know that GOD can be found in Causeway Bay.

Causeway Bay is also a contrast of old businesses and ...

Causeway Bay is also a contrast of old businesses and ...

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and the modern ... a modern art work seen in the atrium of Times Square.

and the modern ... a modern art work seen in the atrium of Times Square.

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The sea of people in contrast with the ....

The sea of people in contrast with the ....

the relative peace found in the sidewalks and back alleys ...

the relative peace found in the sidewalks and back alleys ...

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I guess the highlight of the afternoon was the tram ride which allowed Aussie Pete and myself to get to the Central Piers where we were to board the Bounty, a replica tall ship of the infamous HMS Bounty (for which I would devote another post to) for a dinner cruise around Victoria Harbour. The charming double decker electric trams which started service in 1912 are run by Hong Kong Tramways and offer routes along the northern coast of Hong Kong island, providing the visitor with a very interesting alternative to the MTR and the taxis to get around the Central and Causway Bay areas.

The trams are good fun for two Hong Kong Dollars a trip.

The trams are good fun for two Hong Kong Dollars a trip.

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Getting off the stop near the Central MTR station, the walk to the Central Piers took us pass the beautiful neo-classical former Supreme Court Building, which is now houses the Legislative Council (Legco), the General Post Office which has an interesting collection of coin boxes which are small scale replicas of post boxes used in Hong Kong throughout the years, and the International Finance Centre (IFC) Building which was Hong Kong’s tallest building until this year when the International Commerce Centre (ICC) Building was completed. Finally able to rest out feet after the earlier excursion around Causeway Bay at a cafe on the pier, we could now look forward to the mutiny that was to come on the Bounty.

The former Supreme Court Building, now the Legco.

The former Supreme Court Building, now the Legco, stands in contrast to the skyscrapers (the tallest of which is the IFC) it sits in the shadow of.

The Central Piers where the ferries to Kowloon (Star Ferry) and outlying islands can be taken from.

The Central Piers where the ferries to Kowloon (Star Ferry) and outlying islands can be taken from.

The Star Ferry.

The Star Ferry.

A replica Chinese junk coming in to Pier 9.

A replica Chinese junk coming in to Pier 9.


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.








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