Hong Kong

Old and new, opulence and poverty - more than any other world-class city, Hong Kong is a place of infinite contrasts

On my first day I climbed up Victoria Peak for a shot of the sunrise. Even in the early morning, the heat was stifling.

The sun stubbornly hid behind clouds, and I was forced to take shelter as a great downpour enveloped the mountain.

Still, the view was amazing.


Life in Hong Kong moves at a frenetic pace. Cars and people move breathlessly through a dense urban jungle.

Central - the down town of Hong Kong, is packed with shopping malls, office buildings and high end restaurants.

It's impossible to survive here without air conditioning. AC units dot the urban landscape like so many mushrooms upon a desiccated forest.

As I walk on the street, droplets of AC condensation fall in a perennial shower. If New York is a concrete jungle, Hong Kong must be a rain forest.

Food and shopping are the traditional activities of a Hong Kong visitor, and I began in earnest at the latter. While the tax-free haven is ideal for buying high end electronics and jewelry, the best deals can be found on the street markets of Sham Shui Po.

Sham Shui Po is a poor neighbourhood, hidden in the shadows of the shining towers by the coast. Despite high average GDP, many still live in poverty. I have heard of "cage dwellings" and rooftop shanties in this area, but did not photograph them.

Occasionally I'd pass a person sleeping on the street, and wonder if they are homeless or simply needed some rest.

The market itself is a treasure trove of vintage camera equipment. Like anywhere in Asia, haggling is a pre-requisite. I find most vendors easily accepted 100 HKD off of lenses worth 700.

I ended up buying 4 lenses in total.

Street food is another cornerstone of Hong Kong culture, though much of it seemed designed to offend the western palete. I passed on this boiling pot of indeterminate entrails..

I walked passed the unnaturally orange tentacles, lingered, and decided I couldn't summon the courage.

And I settled for something less adventurous, a high end restaurant in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui.

The meal was indeed delicious.

Private Kitchens

For my next culinary adventure, I investigated the phenomenon of private kitchens, where amateur chefs cook your meal in their own homes.

Da Ping Huo is one of the oldest and most venerable of such establishments, although the location seemed decidedly un-homely, nestled on Hollywood street between trendy bars and restaurants.

This particular private kitchen may have been a victim of its own success, or perhaps it had simply broken free of its humble beginnings as a private kitchen to become a full-blown restaurant.

Either way, not quite what I expected.

The open-air Dai Pai Dong stalls were another item on my itinerary. I arrived on Temple street to find mostly foreigners.

It seemed that the last such food stalls had already been closed.

Several ladies here worked a hard sales pitch, shouting at me across the street. I acquiesced to their pressure tactic and sat down at a table.

The food was actually quite good, though I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd been ripped off.

Ultimately, this was the highlight of my trip. It wouldn't be accurate to call this stuff jerky, as it's neither dried nor keeps without refrigeration.

Tender, moist and sweet, this cured pork is one of the best things I have tasted.

Hong Kong is a fast-paced city, even the escalators seem to move with unusual speed. At rush hour, the trains are packed

The subway connects almost every point of interest in Hong Kong. I stumbled upon this art gallery in one of the many malls in the city.

The city comes alive at 8pm, bathing the harbour in vibrant colours. This is perhaps the best time to experience Hong Kong, when the neon signs light up the streets as if it were day.

I venture out of my air conditioned hotel room for a taste of the night life.

Riding one of the many double decker buses is a great way to see the full extent of the city's signage landscape. Shopping and food as per usual, but made much more atmospheric by the neon colours.

In less savory neighbourhoods, other kinds of entertainment can be had. "Full service" at one of the infamous one woman brothels can be had for less than 200 HKD. Some supposedly advertise openly on the street, but I didn't have the luck to encounter one.

This rather racy karaoke bar was the closest thing I found. Tempting, but I didn't go in.

After a week in the city, I escaped to the nature reserves in the New Territories for a much needed break. The abundance of green space was surprising in such a tightly packed city.

I had read about the fireflies in the Tai Po Kau nature reserve, and headed there for an epic photoshoot. After seeing photos of swarming fireflies online, I was quite excited.

Lit only by the rising moon, the forest trail has a magical ambience.

Unprepared for the onslaught of mosquitos, I covered my head with a wet towel for protection. After several hours, not a single firefly appeared. Perhaps this species simply did not swarm.

I did manage to find a few hiding in the bushes.

Lantau Island

The islands surrounding Hong Kong proper is a great getaway spot. Even more so than the mainland, the weather here turns on a dime. Mere minutes before this photo was taken the sky was bright and clear.

Tai O

The Tai O village relies on fishing and tourism, living in small shanties raised above the water on wooden stilts.

But what I really came for was the hiking trail.

Following the coast for an hour, the trail ends at a "secret" water basin that forms a natural infinity pool.

There are some beautiful views along the way

The last leg of the trail is rather challenging, especially in the pouring rain. I mostly saw fit looking people along the way.

The Tai O infinity pool is perhaps the worst kept secret of Hong Kong. About 30 people had beat me to the pool by mid-afternoon, undaunted by this scary looking sign.

But it's easy to see why this place is popular.

At the end of my trip, I crossed a few more destinations off my list.

The walled villages are a legacy from the pre-colonial era of Hong Kong history. The Kat Hing Wai village is still used for private residences today, the somber stone walls now surrounded by parking lots.

Hidden in a nondescript building in Central, the Dim Sum Labs hackspace is a haven for geeks like me. If you're not a geek, enjoying a cold beer on the open rooftop is not a bad way to spend a tuesday night.

I stopped by to clean the lenses I bought.

A road-side Taoist temple. Photography was not allowed inside.

Statues of Guan Yu and other deities are worshipped, with offerings of fruits and incense.

I end my stay with a tour of the harbour on a Chinese-style Junk. The sunset on the water is an amazing view.

On my last day in Hong Kong, I hiked up Victoria Peak for another shot at the sunrise.

This time, the sun did not disappoint.