Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Hong Kong Streetscape

Continuing with our S.E. Asian trip, we reached Hong Kong in early March this year.  It was a nostalgic trip - we visited some old haunts but what struck me was how much of our memories had been associated with food.  Please visit Foodsparks to see some of my posts on eating in Hong Kong.

My impression, from visiting the areas of Hong Kong familiar to me, was that the streetscape in Hong Kong had not changed too much from 12 years ago, the last time I was there, although it had changed considerably from the sixties.  Many areas, like the mid-levels, Sheung Wan and Western District had been gentrified.   But I was glad that some of the steep stepped streets in Central and Sheung Wan area still retained some of the old street stalls, as you can see below and street food markets were still flourishing, in fact some of the BBQ takeouts were almost as good as what you'd get in restaurants.

We stayed near the mid-levels escalator and continued to be fascinated by it day in and day out as we travelled up and down on it, getting familiar with its "directional" schedule and taking advantage of it.  It made a huge difference to the knees if it were in the direction we were travelling.  And the streetscape alongside it was fascinating, the things you could see as you travelled on it.  Particularly noticeable were the buildings that had developed beside it, taking advantage of this second elevated level of potential customers in promotional opportunities.  Take a look at the pictures below.

The escalator went downhill during the morning rush hour and uphill the rest of the time.

The second floor balcony of this building was being used as a display area catering specifically to escalator users.  The escalator was very busy during rush hour.
The escalator was built around buildings like these.  All three floors of this pizza place were packed at night.
A spa on the second floor displayed advertisement at the level of the escalator.

The old "laddered" streets remained the same with street stalls on the side.  

A picture framing shop on the road side.  I don't think this existed as such fifty years ago.  This kind of workshop would be catering to the gentrified neighbourhood.

One could catch all kinds of candid moments from the escalator...

A semi-official looking "guard" sat beside the escalator in case there were any problems - obviously none at this point

An old temple remained in the midst of the high rises 

Li Yuen Street in Central District hadn't changed at street level since the fifties, except for the merchandise and the prices - street stalls remained on both sides 

Fragrance from a street vendor's roasted chestnuts and yams filled the air on a Shaukiwan street - not so different from the fifties.

The Shaukiwan market continued to thrive.

Vegetables with farm origin (New Territories or location in mainland China) identified - prices were comparable to Toronto

Check out the prices of seafood!  They were very fresh, but so were the prices - $160 HKD (~$23CAD) for 1 catty (or roughly 1.5 pounds) for crab - that's ~$15 a pound!

Gigantic two-storied Apple Store in Central but see the street vendor below with a stash of iphone boxes on the street (also in Central)  ;-)

Brisk shoe-shine business on the street, there's even a lineup!
This was a very limited look at Hong Kong's streetscape.  We visited the very busy Causeway Bay area - it was wall to wall people, as were many areas in Kowloon which I was not familiar with.  I was too busy getting through the crowds to take pictures!  I've found that the best, and most comfortable way of getting an idea of what Hong Kong streets look like was taking a tram from one end of the island to the other (Kennedy Town to Shaukiwan).  It cost next to nothing to hop on but make sure you climb the stairs to the upper floor.  Find yourself a window seat and enjoy a leisurely tour.  It would be slow - but you wouldn't be jostled by the crowds.  The trams tend to be very crowded on weekends - afterall it is the cheapest form of transportation and for thousands of domestic help, their choice means of getting around on their day off.  

I was surprised that I didn't take any pictures of the trams - I was too busy riding on them! The only photo I could find was of this one which was a tram for private hire - first time I had seen this but apparently they were available for hire for private or corporate parties!

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