"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Travel
March 30, 2011

Hong Kong Favourites (10-6)

Hong Kong is a bustling, noisy, crowded and constantly vibrant city. Industrial and heavy transport estates are surrounded by densly packed high rise and neon-lit shopping precicints that are not infrequently compared to Ridley Scott’s vision of the future in Blade Runner. But, like any city, Hong Kong has places where one can find a […]

Hong Kong In The Fog

Hong Kong is a bustling, noisy, crowded and constantly vibrant city. Industrial and heavy transport estates are surrounded by densly packed high rise and neon-lit shopping precicints that are not infrequently compared to Ridley Scott’s vision of the future in Blade Runner.

But, like any city, Hong Kong has places where one can find a little peace. In fact, every resident I talk to has a list of their own and rarely do the lists mention the same destinations. The five I’ve mentioned below are not all places I visit frequently, but they have all, at one time or another been an important sanctuary.

10. Hueng Yip Road Sitting Out Area. Hong Kong has a number of small roadside parks that are officially called sitting out areas. Typically clean and usually well vegetated, these will have comfortable benches and often include a few exercise machines for the elderly.

This one is located one street back from busy Wong Chuk Hang Road in Aberdeen, by a charming canal. For Hong Kong, this is a very mixed area – post-industrial buildings, schools, sports grounds, residential complexes, a huge municipal pool, police academy, hospices, a food market and the enormous Ocean Park complex.

One day this will be the centre of Hong Kong’s creative sector. But, for now this little park is the perfect place to sit and dream, while you catch your breath on a hot day.

9. Fuel Espresso. In every city I’ve lived, there has always been a cafe that defined my relationship to that place, a cafe that I would head to with a good book, or as a place to do some writing. It wasn’t till Fuel opened in the ifc Mall that I found that place in Hong Kong. The jazz-centric playlist, dark brown aesthetic and great coffee won me over instantly.

Of course, my relationship with Fuel has grown since then. They staged my Ladakh photo exhibition last year and I designed the sound for their new store in the Landmark building. But, I’ve always paid for my espresso there and for as long as I stay in Hong Kong they will be my coffee-haven.

8. Tap Mun Chau. I’ve mentioned Hong Kong’s smaller islands before. But, there is perhaps no island more remote or peaceful than Tap Mun Chau (Grass Island). Most people get there via a short hop from Sai Kung Country Park, but I prefer the long slow boat ride along the Tolo Channel.

The island itself is small, easy to walk around, but relentlessly charming (I have a Flickr gallery). It’s claimed that you’ll find some of the cleanest air and water in Hong Kong. Certainly the views are great and the rocky beaches quite dramatic. Find a quiet spot away from the campers and it is easy to forget that one of the busiest and most crowded cities in the world is only a few miles away.

7. Edward Youde Aviary. Hong Kong Park is right in the centre of town and one of its best attractions is this large, enclosed bird sanctuary. Apparently there are around 100 species in there, living in lush and comfortable surroundings. In a city where you seldom hear the sound of birds, this has often felt like a little slice of paradise.

It also carries a lot of significance for me, because in the years that we tried to attend church in Hong Kong, we often wound up in this aviary on a late Sunday morning. The sense of connection to nature, with the light filtering through the trees and the sound of gently running water below the high wooden walkways gave me a feeling of peace I never found in a church in this town. Sanctuary indeed!

6. Hong Kong City Hall. Nothing has ever given me a greater sense of peace than listening to good music and Hong Kong City Hall is my favourite music venue in this town. It’s a little ramshackle and run down, but the sound is great and vibe just right.

Perhaps the most memorable concerts I saw there, like Emilie Simon and McCoy Tyner, came in ’07-’08, which was a bleak period. I wasn’t enjoying life in Hong Kong and those gigs were like musical beacons of hope. In a way, Hong Kong City Hall, along with the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the Academy for Performing Arts played a major role in helping me be at peace with living in this city for so long.

ulaca 12 years ago

Not sure what your musical tastes are, but the Sinfonietta are hosting some good French soloists (violin and piano) as part of French Mai. Having performed in all the venues you mention, the acoustic at City Hall is unsurpassed in HK.

    Fernando Gros 12 years ago

    Ulaca – thanks for that. I’ve heard the Sinfonietta a coupe of times in City Hall and enjoyed that. Will pick up one of those performances for French Mai.

mochachocolatarita 12 years ago

Edward Youde Aviary is a slice of paradise indeed, very aptly described 🙂

heidi leon 12 years ago

Gracias! Este post es genial, yo caigo en la categoría de gente que cada que va a HK se siente un tanto abrumada con tanto de todo.

Este sábado voy a HK {little biz trip} pero espero darme una escapadita al menos a Fuel Espresso (aunque siendo sábado estará un poco lleno no?).

Or perhaps the aviary….

ah, casi lo olvido. La foto está maravillosa.

    Fernando Gros 11 years ago

    Heidi – gracias por el comentario. Hay un montón de Hong Kong que es feo y monótono. Por eso ha sido tan importante para mí encontrar estos pequeños lugares y cosas.

    Y Fuel es una locura los fines de semana – pero el café es tan bueno!

YTSL 11 years ago

Hi Fernando —

Tap Mun? Really? Have to admit to preferring a lot of other islands to that which I consider “cow shit island”… ;b

How about Po Toi and Tung Lung Chau? And I have to admit that I also like Cheung Chau… and Hong Kong Island. 😉

    Fernando Gros 11 years ago

    Thanks for the comment “YTSL.” Interesting way to describe Tap Mun. I’ve certainly spoken to a few people who also rate it as their favourite Island.

    Of course, any ranking like this will be deeply subjective, which is not a bad thing. We mostly talking about Islands that have more in common than what makes them different. In the end what we like will come down to why we travel to each of these Islands, what we experience and who we go with.

Herve ALL 11 years ago

Hello fernando,
Like your photographs.
I’m wondering if we could meet each other in Hong Konh.
I come from 23th to 29th May for the HKartFair.
Best. Herve

    Fernando Gros 11 years ago

    Hello Herve – it would be great to meet up. I will be out of town for a few days during HKArt, but will be back over the weekend.

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