One of Hong Kong’s greatest charms is its unending contrast between the old and the new, and the best way to truly experience this dichotomous culture is to explore the city on foot. This three-hour walk takes you into the heart of the downtown, where historic buildings share space with ultra-modern office buildings, and into the back streets of the old city that was then known as Victoria when modern Hong Kong began in 1841.
When faced with the challenge of a lack of available land, Hong Kong decided to look up. Today, Asia’s world city has more than 7,600 skyscrapers, high-rises and other iconic buildings that make it a living showcase of the best in international contemporary architecture.
I have decided to go for that wak with my camera. Although it’s a dark day almost raining, I am extremely exited to capture the contrating reality of this incredible city. Per the Upper House Concierge suggestion, I will start the tour with a ride up the infamous Central-Mid-Levels Escalator. At 800 meters long, it is the world’s longest covered escalator linking the Central district to the steep, hilly Mid-Levels and Soho districts. Along the way, one can see local shops, restaurants and peek into people’s apartments.
The escalator only runs one way–downhill–during the morning commute from 6-10am, so it is best to start after rush hour. I now look for signs and the exit at Hollywood Road, about halfway up. Walk across the street and down Ladder Street to Upper Lascar Row. Also known as “Cat Street,” this pedestrian way is lined with antique shops and an outdoor market selling Chinese crafts and souvenirs. This is a great place to buy gifts and I am now ready for the usual bargaining over the price. Inside, the shops sell Chinese antique furniture, vases and sculptures. Outside, the stalls are filled with Mao relics, old Jackie Chan posters, wooden handicrafts, jewelry and various trinkets.
Next, is the exploration of the hidden alleyways leading up and down off Upper Lascar Row and Ladder Street to Man Mo Temple one of my favorite sites in Hong Kong
Close by, the Cat Street Gallery is a favorite contemporary art gallery among Hong Kong’s international community. No tour of Sheung Wan and Hollywood Road’s art and antique districts would be complete without a stop at one of the area’s contemporary galleries.
The art gallery exhibits a rotating roster of emerging and established artists from Asia and around the world.
Below I have listed a few of the most interesting and tallest buildings in the city with some curious aspects: the photos above are in exact chronological order for you to better feel the tour. Enjoy!
Bank of China Tower
Height: 367.4 metres
Architect: I.M. Pei Address: 1 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong Island
The prism-like façade of the 367.4m Bank of China Tower has become one of Hong Kong skyline’s most recognisable and appreciated features. The work of renowned Chinese–American architect I.M. Pei, the 70-storey building’s asymmetrical form is pure geometry and has been compared to a bamboo plant, which extends its trunk successively higher with each new burst of growth. An observation deck on the 43rd floor provides good views of Central. If the Bank of China Tower gives you a sense of déjà vu, you must be a Trekkie! A digitally modified image of the building was used as the Starfleet Communications Research Center in the TV series Star Trek: Voyager.Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited – About Us > About BOC Tower > Introduction
Height: 350 metres
Architects: Dennis Lau and Ng Chun Man Architects and Engineers (H.K.) Ltd. Address: 99 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong’s fifth-highest skyscraper and landmark in its own right, The Center has a structure made entirely from steel. Most notably, the building is encased in low-voltage neon bars that increase in number with their height, and are a key part of Victoria Harbour’s hugely popular nightly light show performance.Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited
Height: 178.8 metres
Architect: Lord Norman Foster Adress: 1 Queen’s Road, Central, Hong Kong Island
HSBC Main Building is the first building of its size in Hong Kong constructed entirely of structural steel without any reinforced concrete in its inner core. Designed by renowned British architect Lord Norman Foster, this hi-tech building in Central is a marvel of modern architectural design. Natural sunlight is the main source of light inside the building, with a bank of mirrors directing it into the atrium. Heat gain is also prevented by sunshades and the building’s air conditioning system uses sea water as its coolant. At the time of construction the HSBC Main Building was the most expensive building in the world, with a price tag of over $650 million.
The lions guarding the building’s entrance, Stephen and Stitt, have a colourful past; remnants of which can be seen in the form of bullet holes on Stephen’s left flank. Getting caught in crossfire was not the only adventure the pair had during the Second World War. They were also sent to Japan to be melted down, but were saved at the sudden end of the conflict when an American sailor recognised them as they lay stranded in an Osaka dockyard. Highly revered by HSBC, they are also popular with locals who stroke their noses and paws for good luck.
Height: 490 metres
International Commerce Centre
The 490m International Commerce Centre, known locally as ICC, is the latest ‘super skyscraper’ to take the title of Hong Kong’s tallest building. Together with the city’s second-tallest building, Two IFC on the opposite shore, the imposing pair create the dramatic effect of a modern day Colossus of Rhodes at the western entrance of Victoria Harbour.
The building’s 118 floors are mostly devoted to office space, but there’s also a Ritz-Carlton hotel as well as restaurants and the sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck. Adress 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon www.shkp-icc.com
Height: 283 metres
Architects: Cesar Pelli and Leo A Daly Adress: 2 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong Island
This 62-storey building at the junction of Queen’s Road Central and Garden Road is the headquarters of renowned property tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Group. Designed by acclaimed architects Leo A Daly and Cesar Pelli, the building is enclosed in a sheath of reflective glass interwoven with a rich tapestry of stainless steel. At night, a computer-controlled optic lighting system wraps the 283m building in an ethereal glow. The Cheung Kong Center’s Mitsubishi elevators are among the fastest in the region, maxing out at nine meters per second. Welcome to Cheung Kong Center
Two International Finance Centre
Height: 420 metres
Architect: Cesar Pelli Adress: 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong Island Address:8 Jackson Road, Central, Hong Kong Island
Soaring 420 metres above the Central waterfront, this commanding landmark is the tallest building on Hong Kong Island, the second-tallest in the city and one of the tallest in the world. Two ifc was completed in 2003 as part of a complex that includes the upmarket ifc mall and the Four Seasons Hotel, as well as MTR Hong Kong Station, which services the MTR Airport Express and MTR Tung Chung Line. Two ifc is one of the few buildings in the world to be equipped with double-decker lifts. www.ifc.com.hk
Height: 374 metres
Architects: Dennis Lau and Ng Chun Man Architects and Engineers (HK) Ltd. Address: 18 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
Built upon reclaimed land in Wan Chai North, the 78-storey Central Plaza stands 374 metres tall. After dusk, the bright neon rods at the top of the building change colour each quarter-hour, fashioning the city’s most visible and attractive timepiece. The plaza’s vast lobby is a palatial picture of marble, paintings and real palm trees. Sky City Church on the 75th floor of Central Plaza is the world’s highest church located inside a skyscraper. www.centralplaza.com.hk
Former Legislative Council Building
Dwarfed by the skyscrapers of international financial institutions, the charming Former Legislative Council Building in Central was built on reclaimed land using hundreds of Chinese fir-tree piles as foundations. It was opened by Governor Lugard in 1912 and was home to the Supreme Court until 1985 when it was converted into the Former Legislative Council.
Preserved as a historical monument, the two-storey neo-classical building is supported by ionic columns. Its most outstanding feature is the central pediment that contains the statue of the Greek Goddess of Justice, Themis who is blindfolded and holds a scale. www.amo.gov.hk
222 Hollywood Rd.
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Hong Kong International Airports
Total Area: 1,225 hectares
Flight Handling Capacity: 62 flights per hour
Passenger Throughput: 50.9 million (2010)
Workforce: Approx 65,000
Cargo Throughput: 4.1 million tonnes (2010)
Designer: Lord Norman Foster
Designed by acclaimed British architect Lord Norman Foster, this awesome state-of-the-art structure completed in 1998 was voted one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century by the Construction Industry Manufacturers Association. Located at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island, Hong Kong International Airport is linked to the city’s urban areas via an impressive chain of highways, railways and bridges. Hong Kong Island is less than 30 minutes away by MTR Airport Express train.
Uncluttered spaces and lots of natural light are what make this an impressive entranceway to Asia’s world city. It also remains one of the world’s largest and most popular airports, and has been recognised as the world’s best airport around 40 times.
Located within five hours flying time from half the world’s population, the airport has two runways and two terminals that serve around 100 airlines from all over the world. In addition to connecting to 160 destinations by air, the airport easily connects to over 100 cities and towns in Mainland China via road and sea transport links.
The terminals contain extensive facilities for shopping, dining, leisure and entertainment.