Thursday, 2 October 2014

Hopping around HK Island

With only one full day at my disposal I decided to do the very touristy thing and take the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour of Hong Kong Island that encompasses Repulse Bay, the suburb where I lived for 39 months from 1977 to 1980. I was interested to see how my former home had changed and given HK's propensity to pull down relatively young buildings to replace them with something grander and newer I fully expected to find my own building gone.

I also was interested to see what had replaced the Connaught Centre, the office tower where I worked during those years. I had looked for it last night in the dark from the Kowloon (mainland) side and could not see it, so as I half expected it must have been replaced as well.

The first step of purchasing a ticket for the tour proved surprisingly difficult as I was sent on a wild goose chase across Kowloon because the tour arrangements 'have changed', according to the Tourist Office person I approached. It was only later, when I saw the following sign, that I twigged 'changed arrangements' was probably a euphemism for disruptions caused by the current street demonstrations.

Another euphemism, 'public activity'
Anyway, with tour ticket finally in hand and - I regret to say sweating like a pig in the humid heat - I made my way across the harbour on Hong Kong's iconic Star Ferry to join the bus at the Island terminal. A much shorter journey now than when I regularly made the same crossing all those years ago as a result of the shore line extensions with land reclaimed from the harbour.

Northern Star making the reverse journey
Approaching the Island I had my first surprise. The Connaught Centre still stands and looks the same as when I worked there apart from apparently sporting some new blinds. The reason I didn't notice it last night, apart from the darkness, was probably that with reclaimed land it no longer stands over the waterside as it did then but is located several blocks back, shielded by other, taller buildings. Notice the round windows? It was common gossip that the Cantonese referred to the building in their language as 'the building of a thousand arseholes'! This was because of all those round windows not, I hasten to add, a comment on those who worked there.

Connaught Centre
There was a twenty five minutes wait for our bus to depart on the tour which was more than sufficient time to have me roasting in the heat and the roofless bus provided another danger altogether as it passed dangerously close, centimetres really, to protruding rocks and tree branches which cracked menacingly as they hit the sides of the racing bus. Although the bus had many stops for traffic lights it otherwise raced along giving little opportunity for passengers to set up their photographs. You just had to snap away and hope for the best, all the while ducking for cover as the bus lurched into the next branch or rockface. On reflection, a ride more dangerous and thrilling than at any theme park.

Anyway as we reached Repulse Bay I had my second surprise. The apartment building, one of a complex of six identical buildings, still stands. The buildings have been refurbished but they are certainly the same buildings that I lived in and amongst.

Mine was the second building from the left
Here they are again, seen distantly this time from the other side of the Bay, with my building - second from the left in the group -  looking straight down the beach which was the view I had from my apartment.

Repulse Bay Beach
Repulse Bay Beach glimpsed again as we passed by on the return journey. In summer, it was wall to wall people across that sand.

Repulse Bay Beach
In summer we would gather in the adjoining bay, Deepwater Bay, because it was slightly off the main transport route and therefore comparatively less crowded. So it seemed again today.

Deepwater Bay
A glimpse of our twisting route;

Ocean Park Road
A much cleaner Aberdeen Harbour than I remember
Apartment blocks at Pok Fu Lam with gaps in their middle, no doubt as recommended by Feng Shui advisers;

About 2 kilometres from trip's end and with our bus on an overhead motorway with no provision for pedestrians we suddenly heard a loud crack and then a recurring sound similar to a flat tyre. The driver stopped for an inspection on the motorway and I momentarily had visions of us having to dodge cars to get back to the terminal but the driver apparently satisfied he could continue resumed driving the bus albeit at a much slower speed. This enabled me to take a photograph in some comfort of the new tallest building in Hong Kong, located on the Kowloon side.

And the chance to capture a photo of a rare piece of sedate, greenery on the Island that is next to the Macau Ferry Terminal. I think the statue may be of Sun Yat Sen, as the adjacent sporting facility bears his name.

So, the tour over, it was back to travel by foot and all those people;

and, of course, that ubiquitous popular fruit;

I decided to try out my Octopus card and return to Kowloon by the local MTR rather than the Star Ferry. I a fashion, after crossing under the harbour three times when I realised my first choice of MTR line was incorrect and would not get me to the Tsim Sha Tsui station near my hotel. It was a natural mistake for a tourist; after all the MTR crosses under the harbour through four separate tunnels.


  1. I guess 'public activity' is a little more accurate than 'incident'. The last time we were in a tropical country I said, it will be a while before we do Asian humidity again. But the real problem was that we had a host to take us around, Manny if you remember. It is better when you can set your own pace and mine would have been more time inside in aircon.

    While the Octopus card is quite sophisticated technology, it is not so easy for foreigners to use and understand and nor is the public transport. That came from an Australian born of HK parents and a public transport geek.

    Might give the hop on and off bus a miss if the journey seems so dangerous. I expect you can get everywhere by public transport, even if sounds like it might six months study in advance. All I really want to do is go to the the Peak by funicular and see the view.

    1. Hopefully you will have better luck with clear skies than I have had in this muggy weather when you take that funicular.

      By the way we passed several of HK's double decker trams and I did want to photograph them for you but their appearance in relation to us was so fleeting I never got the chance.

  2. Thanks for the thought. Melbourne exported our tram technology to HK in the nineties, no maybe the late eighties.