Hong Kong

Like I mentioned in my last post, the wife and I went from Singapore to Hong Kong to meet up with my parents for a few days. We’ve both been in Hong Kong before and we’ve checked off all the standard tourist stuff like Victoria Harbour, the Star Ferry and the peak. However, my parents have been in Hong Kong a number of times before and my mom, ever the travel agent for the family, had found a number of places slightly off the beaten track for is to visit.

The Hong Kong Heritage Museum at Shatin supposedly has a replica of an old Hong Kong street which sounded interesting to us. When we got there however all we found was a somewhat mediocre collection of Chinese artifacts (if that’s what you want to see you should come to the National Palace Museum in Taipei), and an exhibition on Bruce Lee which was fun but not really what we were looking for. The admission to the museum was free but there was a special exhibition that you had to pay for. It is possible that the replica street is inside the part you have to pay for but by the time we had seen the rest we were too hungry so we never checked it out. If you like Bruce Lee, this is a good place to go but for us it was a bit disappointing.

Around the turn of the last century people started building houses within the ruined walls of an old Chinese fortress. Little by little it turned into what became known as Kowloon Walled City. By the 1960s or 70s it had become a densely populated, largely lawless area run by triads, where drugs, gambling and prostitution flourished. Not only that, a lot of the buildings were built without permits and the construction was quite shoddy; buildings were crammed in any old way, some of them on top of older buildings, and apparently they were so close together that several of them only had three walls. By the end of the twentieth century the situation had become so bad that the government decided to do something about it and in 1997 the government evicted the 50000 residents and demolished the buildings. I think that’s a shame because I would have loved to go there but I can understand why the government took it down.
Nowadays there’s a park where the old city used to lie and in it there’s a small exhibition about the walled city containing a number of photos, some remnants of the old wall and a scale model of the city right before it was demolished. It’s far from as cool as it would be to see the real thing but it’s still pretty nice that you go to the actual place and see something, no matter how little.

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Scale model of the walled city

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Foundation of the old south gate

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Old sign sating Kowloon Walled City

The Chinese city of Shenzhen just across Hong Kong’s northern border is known for its electronics markets where you can buy all kinds of parts and accessories for computers, phones and the like. We didn’t have time to go to Shenzhen but we did go to the next best thing, the electronics markets in Hong Kong. For those interested, they are located near Sham Shui Po subway station, just outside exit D2. There are several indoor markets full of little stalls where vendors sell all kinds of electronics, parts and accessories. Though prices are low and the quality, at least of the cheaper stuff, is probably matching but if you want something that you can use and discard, this is the place to go. I didn’t buy anything, but the sheer amount of stuff for sale is fascinating.

Electronics market

In a nondescript industrial building near the water lies Ikari Area, a company that offers customers “destruction therapy”. The concept is simple, they equip you with some protective clothing and a baseball bat then give you 15 minutes in a room stocked with old electronics and empty bottles; you are allowed to destroy everything except the walls. The idea is that people should vent all their pent-up anger and frustration by smashing stuff. I didn’t really have a lot of anger or frustration to vent but I still enjoyed myself greatly. Two minor complaints however: firstly, there’s no AC in the room so it gets quite hot after a while and secondly there’s only a small black and white security camera so the people outside can’t see what you are down very well and there’s no chance to record it. Like many activities of this kind, it’s pretty expensive,  15 minute session costs 300 HKD, but in my mind it’s worth it. The place is not marked on google maps but if you want to visit, the address is:
A10, 12/F, Mei Hing Industrial Building, Block A, 16 – 18 Hing Yip Street, Kwun Tong.

Ready to smash stuff

On the north-east end of Hong Kong island, not far from the Shau Kei Wan subway stop  lies the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence. It is an old artillery fortress that has been converted into a museum and many of the old fortification and a couple of canons remain so that the museum itself is part of the exhibit. It showcases how Hong Kong was defended from invading forces, starting in Qing dynasty China, through the British period, the Japanese occupation and into modern times. There are exhibitions of uniforms, small arms and a number of photos and paintings inside, but the different parts of the fortress and all the artillery canons have information plaques on them. If you are interested in military history this is a good museum to visit and even if you are not, there are some good views from the upper levels and the cannon emplacements.

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Nice view

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Tunnel down into the a defensive bunker by the fortress wall

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Two defensive machine gun bunkers

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Disappearing gun (it gets retracted with every shot) lined up to fire towards Kowloon peninsula

On Hollywood Road there are a lot of fancy antique stores. Just half a block north is a small alley called Upper Lascar Row, colloquially known as Cat Street. The name cat street comes from the fact that it used to be the place where people traded stolen goods or “rat goods” and the people buying them were known as cats. Today you can mostly find antiques of a slightly cheaper variety than what you can find in Hollywood Road, and various knickknacks. Unless you are into antiques it’s maybe not the most interesting place to visit but if you ar passing through the area and have some time to kill, it’s still worth stopping by.

So if you’re in Hong Kong and have already checked off the most prominent tourist sites, I would recommend spending a few hours in the electronics market, and if you like military history definitely check out the coastal defence museum. The most unique experience however is to go for some destruction therapy at Ikari Area, even if you don’t have any anger to work off, its highly recommended.

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Some landscape shots of Hong Kong to end the post

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