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Inside Volume I: My Hong Kong: 1993 & Beyond: Part 1

September 6, 2011

Kingston, Jamaica, my birthplace, was a British colony for 303 years. Hong Kong was a British colony for 154 years. I spent 28 years in Jamaica and to date, 18 years in Hong Kong. I experienced dramatic and progressive architectural changes in Hong Kong during that short period while it was not the same for the years I grew up in Jamaica.

With the weather somewhat similar in both countries, the urban plans for both cities have similar urban planning qualities that could be classified as “British Colonial Architectural and Planning” idiosyncratic idioms. The Hong Kong street scenes brought back vivid images of the Jamaican town-scapes I know so well.

Lan Kwai Fong and the Mid Level areas, where the width of the street and the ‘virtual ceiling’ of the commercial signs, (in spite of the tall surrounding towers), create a personal and human scale, make shoppers and visitors comfortable to the surroundings. The shops and hawker stalls hug the inclined landscape creating an added urban quality while restricting motor traffic. You can leisurely stroll throughout the areas to enjoy the ambience or just window-shop among the hawkers.

This old town area of Hong Kong is unlike any town-scape environment anywhere. Interesting vistas and accidental architectural iconic subtleties are everywhere you cast your eyes. My Gage Street Wet Market sketch shows colourful overhead awnings covering most of the narrow street which I suspect is to provide shelter from sudden rainfall and not for sunshade. The tall surrounding towers shade the streets, while bringing indirect sunlight for most of the day.

It is the most interesting urban area in all of Hong Kong. Unfortunately street signage is lacking, and one has to look carefully on buildings or maps to negotiate your way around. Roaming through the narrow streets, however, is the best way to experience the ambience and architectural quality of the neighborhoods. Each street has a character of its own, and together with the suspended overhead commercial signs, it is hard to lose your way around. In a short while you will discover that your sense of direction is not guided by any ‘urban nodes’, but rather by the activities, the hawkers stalls, the smells, and the level of urban noises of various streets or districts. Getting ‘lost’ here will create opportunities for you to discover more.

There are no “sitting-out” areas in these districts, matter of fact very few “sitting-out” areas exists in most urban areas of Hong Kong, but that’s another story. It seems the government’s Park & Recreation Department does not like to see people sitting out in Urban Areas! You will notice that in these photos there are no chairs or ledges for anyone to sit. I sat on the step of the street to make this sketch of “Wing Po Chai” in the Mid Levels. Of course people stopped by to see what I was doing. But if you get tired or hungry, there are few “dai pai dongs” in the district where you can grab a seat and get a good, inexpensive meal.

  1. Hopefully I will be able to expand and update the issues and events that the photos in Volume I captured. Eventually you will see photos of friends too, besides other subjects that I will share and discuss with you.

  2. Harlan Hugh permalink

    Cool post. You can really get the feeling of being there reading through the description and looking at the visuals.

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