Central District, Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a whole new experience, it gives a kind of reverse culture shock. The city is similar to any other Asian cities but is much busier. Striking is the cultural mix of nationalities, many non-Chinese running around here. Indian tailors that make you attractive offers for suits, you fall here as a foreigner
The town exudes an open, cosmopolitan atmosphere, much more than other cities, you feel easier at home. Probably mainly due to the European influence exerted by the 150-year management by the English, even though the vast majority of the population is Chinese.
And there are streets where local products are marketed in a traditional way. Generally it is more or less understandable English, for in any case is no language barrier. This differs HongKong nevertheless significantly from the rest of China. The city is well organized. The British have been able to establish a solid basis for the structure of the city development.
The behavior of the Chinese is westernized. Much more taking into account each other. Neatly in line for the bus and not to push (queue up). Even the cars have a little more respect for pedestrians. This undermines our theory that in our eyes antisocial behavior in the major cities and tourist attractions.
You can easily relax while you walk, because the traffic often stands still. The streets in this neighborhood are overfilled with merchandise like public
Central is one of the most diverse districts on Hong Kong Island. It is the business and financial heart of Hong Kong and encompasses a large area between Sheung Wan to the west and including part of Admiralty to the east and almost everyone visiting Hong Kong Island will pass through it more than once.
Central and Victoria Peak are divided by the Mid Levels. The hills behind Central afford beautiful views of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon and its no surprise that this area contains some of the most prestigious privately owned real estate in the city.
The Central Mid levels escalator which opened in 1993 was built to allow pedestrians much easier access to the streets which wind up the hillside. Since its completion restaurants, bars and shops have sprung up in the streets and buildings next to its lower sections.
The escalator links Queens Road Central with Conduit Road crossing a dozen streets. Approximately 50,000 people use the escalator each day. The 800 metre covered walkway takes 20 minutes to traverse in its entirety but many people join the escalator for smaller sections of the route. Hollywood Road and Staunton and Elgin Streets are popular entry and exit points.
The escalator runs both up and down hill but obviously not at the same time. It runs downhill from 6am to 10am to cater for the morning commuters, then runs uphill from 10.30am to midnight. There are stairs and footpaths alongside for those needing to travel in the opposite direction.
Aside from being a quirky way to help solve traffic congestion problems, the Mid Levels Escalator has become somewhat of a tourist attraction. The first time I used it I was wandering around Central and stumbled upon it. As a tourist attraction its nothing extraordinary but it does give a different perspective into the more residential parts of Central at its upper end.
I recommend it as a lazy way to get up to Hollywood Road where Man Mo Temple is situated or relax until you reach Caine Road and then walk the short distance west to the Sun Yat Sen Museum (which I have reviewed in my off the beaten path tips).
In a so dense forest of concrete, it's nice to find a place with a traditional look and small proportions.
This square is not a big one, the statue is not impressive, but upon arriving we almost feel, at last, free to breath.
A break in the massive soil occupation.
One of the most remarkable achievements in Hong Kong is the intricate network of protected passages over the roads.
It's easy to escape the danger (the noise and the smoke) of the traffic, and it is comfortable to circulate in the air-conditioning from building to building. However, that gives us the strange feeling of being somewhat... confined, without the chance of feeling the town. And, as all the knots of the network, are shopping malls… dramatic!
There are not as many signs of British presence in Hong Kong as I expected.
Of course it’s easy to find a house, a church, a garden with colonial style, but less than expected, and discreetly hidden in the cement and glass “forest”.
One of the best exceptions is the Legislative Assembly, with a small garden “protecting” it, and throwing the modern giants to the background.
Skyscrapers are the dominant look of Hong Kong, most of them becoming anonymous in the competitive forest of steel, cement and glass.
The Bank of China, with its distinctive size and forms, glows in the whole.
With its 315 meters, the Bank of China Tower was the first building outside USA to break the 1,000 feet (300 m) mark, and the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia, in the beginning of the nineties.
Art collectors may spend hours in this road, as the shops are side by side, and the announced prices are inviting.
The others, like us (thanks God, Fernanda only collects shoes and bags), do have nothing special to see, just a quick look in the way to or from Man Mo temple.
Concrete and tarmac leave not much space in Central district, but where it is available, space is carefully treated.
Exchange square is one of the examples, a small area with lakes and statues but with the absence of something green.
St John's Cathedral is truly historical and classical colonial cathedral that survived thru wars and colonization. It is the oldest Western style architectural cathedral in Hong Kong. It was first built in 1849 as an Anglican cathedral in Hong Kong. Today, it is surrounded by the famous city skyscrapers like the HSBC Building, Bank of China Tower and etc. No doubt it is situated in the most expensive piece of land in the World, but the Hong Kong Government has preserved the church building as one of the monuments of Hong Kong. The Church is welcoming the public and tourists to visit. I really enjoyed the walk to the Church that surrounded by trees and very calm environment.
There is a large Memorial Cross next to the Church that commemorate the soldiers killed in the 1st World War.
It is a short walk from the Peak Tram Terminus, so don't miss it!
Check out more information by clicking here!
The Helena May Main Building is a classical colonial style building that was built in 1916 being one of the heritage buildings in Hong Kong. It is hard not to pay attention to this building while walking around the modern Central district on Hong Kong Island. It was named after the founder of the Women Club, Lady May, the wife of the Sir Henry May, Governor of Hong Kong at that time. The Helena May was a community club to support women living and working away from home. It gave social support and organized outreach programs for women and girls who needed help while working away from home.
The Helena May today is still following the legacy of its initial mission statement. It is truly amazing to see a social support group can sustain its club for so long, and develop with the modern facilities in this cultural heritage building.
To learn more about The Helena May, please click here!
Described as the longest escalator in the world, with its 800 meters of total length, this may be useful for locals, but not much for tourists: if you go up to the top, as they are one way only, and mid-levels a residential area, you will end facing the problem of how to get out of there.
We used it only for a couple of sections and left, allowing us to find the way to Man Mo temple, descending instead of climbing, wit a short and easy look at Hollywood Rd. Not bad!
If you are interested in the colonial history of this amazing city then a stroll along the Battery Path area of Central on Hong Kong Island is a good place to see a couple of examples of Colonial architecture. Central MTR Exit K will bring you out onto Statue Square. I have reviewed the Square in my "things to do" tips.
At the eastern edge of the square is is the Legislative Council Building. This beautiful two storey neo classical building is a declared monument. Continue walking towards the Lower Peak Tram Terminus. As you head up Garden Road, St Johns Cathedral will be on your right hand side. I have reviewed the cathedral in my "off the beaten path" tips. The grounds behind the Cathedral lead onto Battery Path.
As you walk down Battery Path towards Queens Road Central you will pass by the former French Mission building which was built in the Edwardian period. Higher up the Mid Levels, but not so easily accessible is the former Government House. This beautiful colonial heritage listed building surrounded by english style gardens is now the home and office of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and is therefore not open to the public.
Soaring at 369 metres high, it is one of the defining landmarks of Hong Kong. Again & again, many critics have called I.M. Pei's creation a masterpiece. It was meant to bring aspirations to the Chinese people, but at the same time bring goodwill to the people of the former British Colony. The building itself was inspired by the patterns of bamboo. The tower itself actually uses less steel than conventional towers of that magnitude.
One of my personal favourite buildings - particularly by night - is the HSBC building, designed by Norman Foster.
Built between 1979 and 1985, it has 47 floors and towers over the old Legislative Building. It contains (of its time) some extremely forward thinking concepts - sea water is used for the a/c, natural sunlight the major source of lighting.
But its at night that the building comes into its own - although the lighting display was not part of Foster's original design. This was added in 2003 by the HK Tourism Board, who developed 'A Symphony of Lights' incorporating a number of the high rise office buildings on HK Island. Whilst as a whole best seen from the Kowloon side of the harbour, standing immediately below the HSBC building at ground level is quite extraordinary.
After walking the avenue of stars along the waters edge, hop a ferry to cross to Soho on the other side. The ride is less than a dollars and there are many nice scenic pictures to take. When in Soho have a cafe and watch the people