Early Morning Wanderings
Stepping outside the hotel that morning, there was a strange atmosphere outside. Despite being 8-9 in the morning, it was still quite ominously dark outside. The street lights were still on. And all that while sunrise was supposed to have been a few hours earlier!
Adding to the weirdness of it all was the fact that many stores in the malls had not even opened yet. For a place of contrasts and vibrant activity, it appears that this is a place of night owls - shops are open till late at night, but don't open for business the next day until nearly midday! Perfect for people like me I guess, once I get over the jetlag ;) Heck, the 5 hour time shift is probably good enough to make spending the evenings working with Blender HQ occur during more reasonable hours.
For the first time in my life, that morning I had Fish Congee + Chinese Donut for breakfast - no coffee or bread! Apparently this sort of breakfast is traditionally quite popular locally. It was quite strange having this for breakfast, when usually it'd be lunch or so back home, though surprisingly, it went down quite well with few ill effects. The fish congee in Hong Kong tends to use a particular type of fish that has a grey-brown fatty layer on the bottom, while having slightly "sandy" texture (as if there are heaps of small bones). This is in contrast with the cod-based versions I'm used to having here. IMO, the cod based versions are nicer, though it has to be said that their beef/pork slices in congee are a whole lot nicer!
Harbour City is one of the big shopping centres around in the area, and is located on Canton Road near the Star Ferry Terminal.
Looking out towards the harbour down the side loading zone...
Every year, Harbour City is well known for creating a Christmas display on the forecourt outside its entrance. This year, there was an Alice in Wonderland theme..
This used a red and white color scheme, and featured large oversized baubles and white reindeer. Although I liked the baubles hanging from the ceiling, I thought the rest of the displays were a bit messy and not as pretty as some of the ones from previous years (based on photos I've seen at least).
Star Ferry Terminal
The Star Ferries provide a scenic cross-harbour service at 10 minute intervals. It's one of my favourite things to do while in Hong Kong, though I didn't this time as the weather was quite nasty (i.e. the seas were looking a bit on the choppy side - which isn't that great as the waves seem to be worse nowadays when the ferries are docked as a result of the land reclamation works which have taken place to narrow the harbour).
Iconic clock tower in Tsim Sha Tsui - Former Kowloon-Canton railway station
Park and Architecture
The area between the cultural centre and Victoria Harbour is home to a nice little park, including this nice covered walkway (with viewing deck on top too) which curves around the edge of the harbour:
However, the architecture of the cultural centre itself is quite striking, with bold clear lines, interesting use of light and shade, and whimsical features...
Visually striking - sheer vertical walls are quite impressive...
Left - Tunnels/walkways with an interesting interplay of light and shade.
Right - Whimsical spiral staircase is quirky touch
It's quite relaxing standing by the sea, watching the ships slowly wobbling past. On this day, the tops of the hills on Hong Kong island were in the clouds, shrouded in a fluffy-looky misty veil.
Star Ferry on Victoria Harbour
Small vessel docked in the middle of the harbour - a fisherman perhaps?
Another view of the fishing boat
Fire/tug boat - This looks a lot like a little toy boat I used to have...
Hong Kong Cultural Centre
The Hong Kong Cultural Centre is a large cavernous building housing several auditoriums, and exhibition spaces for exhibitions by various artists/groups. It is also a popular venue for weddings - one happy couple was celebrating their big day here that morning in fact.
Next time I visit Hong Kong, I should try to find some concert to attend here to check out the auditoriums and their acoustics. In the meantime, I've visited this building twice now (the first time 2 years ago, after getting quite exhausted from all the walking). Each time, there has been an atmosphere of respectful silence inside, with dim lighting, and hardly anyone around (and those that were, talked in hushed tones to avoid disturbing the peace). The only real interruptions to the silence though were the sounds of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (Wow! They have an event like our "Classical Sparks" - orchestra playing outdoors for the general public, followed by a fireworks display) on a video loop promoting upcoming events with some or other touring artist/soloist.
At the time of my visit, a skeleton TV crew (male presented in suit, camera dude, and assistant/director lady) were also filming there. The cameraman initially spent time carefully framing up shots of various parts of the exhibition, his camera covered in a waterproof vest. Later on, it was clear that the presenter was fronting a report on this, as he was standing in front of the camera (now mounted securely on a tripod, headlamp blasting him in the face) while the other two stood silently on either side.
Bauhinia Flower - The iconic native flower of Hong Kong, featured in its flag.
Mong Kok (and surrounding areas)
After this nice walk around the waterfront, it was time to head off to Mong Kok for lunch with Grandpa at the "London Restaurant". However, getting there was far from easy. Despite being able to take the MTR down (it was really just at the far end of Nathan Road), we still had to figure out which of the four exits at the Mong Kong station would take us closest to the restaurant. IIRC, we ended up taking B2 and walking for one or two blocks down the road to get to the restaurant (fortunately the street signs have numbers indicated on them, BUT at the same time, almost none of the shops do the same!).
That afternoon, I spent some time in a meeting that took place at the Harbour Grand hotel in Hung Hom. This hotel certainly had a lobby that looked the part, a courtyard roundabout, and great views stretching right out to sea (i.e. out the harbour mouth). Despite being a bit further away from anything interesting, this hotel is certainly worth further investigation in future...