Hong Kong: at the Doorstep of China

hong kong neon lightsGUEST ARTICLE: Hong Kong was the stop-over point for my trip to and from Europe so I was there for 2 days in September and 3 days in October.

Hong Kong Airport is just enormous. So big, in fact, that you need to catch a fast train from the arrival gates just to get to the baggage and customs hall. And then you still need a cut lunch and a compass to get to the transfer buses.

St John’s Cathedral

On Sunday morning I took the MRT to St John’s Cathedral for the 9am Mass. The building was commenced in 1847 and the foundations of the chancel and sanctuary were laid by Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh in 1869, presumably while on his way home after being shot in Sydney.

St John’s is a white-washed Gothic cathedral, with cream highlights made even more tropical by ceiling fans and lancet windows with clear glass and wooden louvres.

The absence of stained glass, however, was not so much a deliberate choice, as the result of the Japanese occupation in World War II when the cathedral was desecrated and turned into a Japanese social club.

Inside there is a nave altar with an “all seasons” frontal and two candles. There is a nice modern stained glass window in the sanctuary which goes well with the marbled reredos. There is also a small wooden set of the stations of the cross.

A full cathedral witnessed a well-conducted piece of Anglican liturgy, with robed (but not surpliced) choir, led by three sacred ministers (but without tunicle and dalmatic). The hymns were “Ancient and Modern” and, therefore, very Church of England. We prayed for the Chief Executive and “our leaders in Beijing”. There was no incense this Sunday – one of those very peculiar Anglican compromises sees it used only once a month at St John’s.

hong kong green mosque


The rest of the day was spent getting measured for a new suit and exploring Hong Kong in preparation for my lengthier stay on my return leg in October.

I took the system of “mid level” travelators and escalators all the way up through “Soho” (short for “south of Hollywood Road”), only realising about half way up that there were no downward-going travelators or escalators.

Still, it was all entertaining enough, and there was sufficient light left to photograph a quaint little green mosque somewhere near the top.

The walk back down wasn’t too bad after all, although it does get quite sticky in Hong Kong at this time of year. Hong Kong is just the most amazing city of skyscrapers – and all apparently built with the aid of bamboo scaffolding.

To Hong Kong Airport

The transfer bus back to the airport was just plain embarrassing. One of an elderly Australian couple sitting behind me, upon observing all the skyscraper apartments, was heard to remark loudly: “We’re so lucky to be going back to our own houses with a front yard and a back yard”.

My day in Hong Kong ended on a supremely ironic note.

Having initially planned to avoid APEC week altogether, I ended up staying in Sydney without hassle for the whole week and sailing through Kingsford Smith Airport on APEC Saturday, only to be left waiting two and a half extra hours at Hong Kong International on Sunday evening because the flight was delayed coming out of Sydney. Just as well I had nothing planned in London on Monday!


Back Again

Four weeks later, the return trip home saw me back in Hong Kong late on a Monday afternoon. I hit the night markets as soon as I could, since I already had dinners planned on Tuesday and Wednesday.

While I bought a considerable quantity of clothes and other adornments, I did, however, pass up the opportunity to be the proud owner of the “Calven Klain” and “GK” underwear on offer.

On Tuesday morning, I went by cable car up The Peak for a view back down on Hong Kong, which occupies a remarkably tiny space for so many skyscrapers. Most of the rest of the time in Hong Kong I spent shopping in the various markets.

hong kong skyline

I also ventured into the “Antique Street”, Hollywood Road, which was full of shops with items that were generally too large and/or too expensive for a poor public servant with a very small baggage allowance.

At one point I found a parallel street which could best be termed the “Junk Shop Street” and felt a lot more at home there.

Somehow I managed to resist the urge to buy an example of my discovery of the day – cricket and grasshopper cages – but then my luggage has been getting very full for the trip back to Sydney.

Visiting Crossroads International

On Tuesday evening, I went out to the Gold Coast to visit a friend who is now working for Crossroads International.

Crossroads, for those who have not heard of it, is ais an absolutely amazing organisation of Christian people who offer their services completely without regard to the faith or potential faith of the recipients.

Their chief activity has been to source and distribute “surplus” goods from Hong Kong to the neediest parts of the world. Much of the infrastructure on their site (an abandoned British army barracks) is devoted to receiving, sorting and shipping items which range from toys to reconditioned computers and hospital equipment.

They have also developed other functions over the years – including the establishment of a network that sources material elsewhere in the world and links it up to the places that need it, without the need for shipping via Hong Kong. This service is so well developed that it is now being used by the UN to distribute aid.

Finally, they also perform an educative role in Hong Kong offering various “experiences” to different groups of people, from school children to corporate executives. Their programs help people come to understand what it is like to be a refugee, live in a slum, or possibly have HIV AIDS. They even have a simulated shanty slum where some very high ranking Hong Kong CEOs have spent 24 hours with their families.

Meeting Friends before Departing

On Wednesday evening, I met up with an old school friend, now working in Hong Kong as a geomorphologist. We had drinks at Aqua Spirit, on the 29th floor of One Peking Street, a mezzanine level above two very swish restaurants with full length, 180 degree panoramic views across to the skyscrapers on the island.

At 8pm every evening, the buildings opposite become part of a laser light show with the outlines of buildings lighting up and coloured laser beams shooting out across the water from the taller towers.

Three (very nice) martinis later, my extremely alcoholic evening continued with dinner with an Australian Anglican priest and another Australian visitor. It took me a very long time to recover in the morning. I must be getting old!

Further Reading

This travel diary has been written by my friend Joseph Waugh who likes to travel to places with interesting architecture and history.

If you’ve travelled somewhere off the beaten track, can write well and have good quality photos I encourage you to contact me and I’ll consider publishing your travel diary here including generous attribution and links back to your website as thanks for your contribution

10 thoughts on “Hong Kong: at the Doorstep of China”

  1. Post with personal touch and experience, makes it an interesting read. Especially liked the irony of praying for the Chief Executive and “our leaders in Beijing”. Also, and you’ll pardon my ignorance, what’s with no incense?

  2. Hong Kong is a great city, I have been there over 10 times in the last 7 years. landing at the airport is an unbelievable sight. I hope to get back by mid year. Hong Kong nightlife is also great 😉

  3. I am much nearer to Hongkong (I am from Manila) but haven’t been there to enjoy the place. Hopefully, I will soon. In the meantime, I am having a great time in Tel Aviv.

  4. I first visited Hong Kong in the early 90s. What struck me then and continues to amaze me now is the “non stop” nature of the city. If you cannot find what you want in Hong Kong it doesn’t exist.

    I just discovered your blog. It is informative, lively, and the type of information my readers are looking for. My site deals with the more philosophical end of sales and travel and how the two are intertwined.

    I look forward to your continuing adventures.

    EDITOR: thanks 🙂

    PS I had a look at your site and I would suggest you include a page with a map either of America or the World which shows the criss crossing paths you’ve taken.

    If you created it as an image map with regions like this company’s worldwide distributor page you could make each continent/region clickable to go to a list of trips in that area

  5. There are many expressions of Anglicanism, ranging from the No Church/Low Church end of the spectrum to the High Church/Anglo-Catholic end. Incense (like stations of the Cross) is indicative of the Anglo-Catholic branch. Sometimes the churchmanship of the clergy does not match the churchmanship of the congregation, so that one or other may not be comfortable about the use of incense. Compromises, like the one in Hong Kong, are often the result of such tensions. Via media (“middle way”) solutions have been part of Anglicanism since the time of Elizabeth I.

    EDITOR: thanks for answering that question Joseph

  6. Thank you very much for clarifying it for me. What actually confused me is the fact that, for some reason, I thought there is some non churchmanship reason for lack of incense… So I apologize for confusion. Again many thanks for the answer.

  7. I have traveled before at Hongkong and its really really great. Before our country is better but now we are left behind. I forgot my country is Philippines. Thank you for the information.

  8. Hong Kong is a fantastic place. I have been there. Hey…does anyone know more about neon lights

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