In the Streets of Hong Kong with a Leica

After witnessing the pristine, idyllic nature of Tasmania (see my previous posts), the change could not have been more extreme: The concrete behemoth of Hong Kong, the once-British-now-Chinese-governed mega city with its 7+ million inhabitants, 14 times the number of people that live on Tasmania.

This January, it was one of the coldest and rainiest months ever documented in the region, and yet, the city seemed restless. An anthill of people, a crazy and hectic lifestyle, gorgeous street vistas, where really old and weird meets really new and modern. Truly fascinating, absolutely photogenic, and somewhat insane.
Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and Tsim Sha Tsui make up the core of Kowloon. This is as busy as Planet Earth gets, and I have never seen as many people in a single spot as there. As the rain kept falling, we ventured around Nathan Road, which can be seen as the aorta of Kowloon, and its smaller side streets. Markets, temples, shops and restaurants, and apartment block ghettos like Chungking Mansions – here you could find truly anything. Just make sure you wear proper shoes while walking down side streets and market squares.

Hong Kong - Nathan Road

Hong Kong - Temple Gate

Hong Kong - Yau Ma Tei

Hong Kong - Signs

Hong Kong - Nathan Road

Hong Kong - Apartment Blocks

Hong Kong - Clock Tower

Hong Kong - Kowloon Bay

Hong Kong - Kowloon Bay

Hong Kong - Girl at Kowloon Bay

Hong Kong - Bruce Lee

Hong Kong - Chungking Mansions

Hong Kong - At Night

Hong Kong - At Night

Hong Kong-15

Hong Kong - At Night

Hong Kong - Apartment Blocks

Hong Kong - Apartment Blocks

Hong Kong - Street Cart

Hong Kong in MTR

Using the MTR, which, by the way, is the cleanest and most precise MTR I’ve yet encountered, we go slightly north. Roughly a mile and a half to the north is Che Kung, a truly beautiful temple amidst busy roads and train tracks, and nearby, Tsang Tai Uk, a walled city and relic from the past. Inside, nothing seems to remind the visitor of the neon signs, supersized screens and other high-tech of Kowloon. Life seems to have stood still many many years ago. Not many walled cities like these are left. I am surprised, that some even survived for so long.
Nearby is also the Chi Lin Nunnery. Home to nuns and functioning as a retirement home, it also features an impeccable temple complex and the Nan Lian gardens nearby. Perfect architecture, silence and serenity make it a wonderful escape, as does the fact that it is basically devoid of tourists compared to many other parts of the city.

Hong Kong MTR station

Hong Kong MTR Exit

Hong Kong - Che Kung Temple

Hong Kong - Che Kung Temple

Hong Kong - Che Kung Temple

Hong Kong - Ku Ngam Ching Yuen

Hong Kong - Apartment Block

Hong Kong - Cola Vending Machine

Hong Kong - Tsang Tai Uk Walled City

Hong Kong - Tsang Tai Uk Walled City 2

Hong Kong - Chi Lin

Hong Kong - Chi Lin

Hong Kong - Nan Lian Garden

The region of Hong Kong is technically a small archipelago formed of hundreds of larger and smaller islands. The largest island to the West, Lantau island, holds a special place on Hong Kongs map. It features some historic villages, and the mountain of Ngong Ping holds one of the world’s biggest Buddha statues. Getting there was no easy task, however. Even during the grossest January in recent history, where endless rains washed down the streets and dense fog made anything above the tenth floor totally invisible, the queue for the cable car which would lead to the top of the mountain required at least an hour’s wait. So, taking a bus instead, we eventually made it up to the statue and the village of Ngong Ping.
The historic village, which stood in the shadow of the giant Buddha at the top of the hill, was grotesquely turned into one of the most embarrassing touristic attractions I ever encountered. Shops were battling some sort of jingle war, where each shop tried to edge out the competition by volume using terrible pseudo-Asian midi music. I only lasted a few minutes before disappearing up the steps to the Buddha, of which, due to the densest of fogs, only the feet were visible. The six Boddhisattvas, which surround the majestic statue are no less beautiful.
On the Western coast of Lantau island lies the fishing village of Tai O. Bizarrely out of place in modern day HK, this village features houses built on stilts. The aspects of hygiene were dismal – observing the waters underneath the wooden poles, you could make out just about anything if you just waited long enough. Street dogs served as dishwashers, and scores of tourists ventured from shack to shack buying dried squid, fish and spices. Yet, the drastic change in lifestyle compared to its neighbouring megacities was really intriguing.

Hong Kong - Lantau Ngong-Ping Gate

Hong Kong - Tian Tan Bodhisattva

Hong Kong - Lantau Ngong-Ping Gate

Hong Kong - Tai O

Hong Kong - Tai O

Hong Kong - Tai O

Hong Kong - Tai O

Hong Kong - Tai O

Hong Kong - Tai O

Hong Kong - Tai O

Hong Kong - Tai O

Hong Kong is a crazy place. A place full of contrasts, where many things don’t make sense to an outsider. Still, its soul and character are unique among Asia’s cities. While on the first day we felt completely alienated and lost, every following day the city would make us feel more and more welcome. After a week, I slowly understood how the city functioned, and I felt sad to have to say goodbye so soon. As most Asian cities, it is a gem for street photography, and I will surely be back one day to discover more.

Hong Kong - Street View

All images taken in Hong Kong during January and February 2016, using a Leica M6. Films: Kodak Tri-X 400, Ilford Delta 100, Fuji Pro 400H and Kodak Portra 800. Developed and scanned by www.meinfilmlab.de 

1 Comment

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Elanreply
April 25, 2016 at 05:04 PM

Lovely writing and photos!

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