Hong Kong Part III

So you may be wondering to yourself, “Dan, didn’t you just go to Hong Kong last year?” Well, yes, but my trip here last year was more of just a fun weekend stopover to get over my jet lag and get ready for the main focus of my trip, which was Tokyo. That trip really reignited my passion for travel in general, but also more specifically for the city of Hong Kong. Even before I left I knew I’d have to get back here soon. And I did, less than a year later.

This time I not only devoted about a week and a half here, but also came here after spending a week in Taipei, so by the time I arrived I had already gotten over my jet lag and was ready to make the most of my time in this awesome, gigantic city.

I went over my gear and film in a bit more detail in my Taipei post but to sum it up these were mostly taken on Portra 400 with an old Minolta SLR and a 50mm f/1.2 lens. I also brought with me a Ricoh GR and my trusty old Fuji GS645S medium format rangefinder. Also before reading through this post, if you haven’t already I suggest checking out my post from my first trip to Hong Kong.

My nights were mostly spent wandering around the city photographing whatever caught my eye, with a few loose themes I was trying to follow. One of those themes was Hong Kong nightlife. Not nightlife like, going to clubs and partying or anything like that, but nightlife as in, what the people in Hong Kong do while going about their lives during the night.

There was never a shortage of people anywhere I went, so this kept me pretty busy.

In this picture you’ll see a relatively new development. The Hong Kong nights of old used to be primarily lit with neon lights, but with local ordinances being enacted in recent years, most of those neon signs are being replaced with cheaper, lighter, safer, and more energy-efficient LED lights. They don’t really have the same appeal in my opinion. I made it a point to try to shoot as many of the aging neon signs as I could while I was here, which I’ll post in a bit.

A lot of these were taken around Wan Chai. This happens to be an actual nightlife hot spot, but there was plenty of stuff going on outside of the clubs as well.

Here are some of the signs I found. It was unfortunately harder than I thought it’d be. Even compared to 6 years ago when I was here last it seems like they’re disappearing quickly.

These ones were all over the place though. They belong to a chain of pawn shops.

A lot of the initial concern with these signs was over their safety. With so much competition for the limited advertisement space, they would hang off the sides of the buildings over the roads. I found that most of the remaining signs seemed to be smaller, or more vertical, hugging the sides of the buildings they’re attached to.

This is an example of one hanging over the road. I believe some of the signs are deemed to have enough historical significance to be allowed allowed to stay, although I’m sure their days are numbered as well.

Wan Chai did have quite a few of them.

Neon signs aren’t the only interesting sources of light around Hong Kong though.

The other big thing I came here to photograph was the buildings. Nowhere else in the world can you find architecture like this on such an enormous scale. I started this project I call ‘Modern Living’ back in 2012, but knew that I had only just scratched the surface of what I wanted to do with the series. While my evenings this trip were spent photographing the lives of the people at night, my days were spent photographing the places they call home.

I have more of these images displayed in a more viewer-friendly format on my portfolio site at www.danvoegelin.com.

They’re a far cry from a suburban American home.

The buildings in Hong Kong are amazing, but they wouldn’t be nearly as cool if there weren’t ways to actually get up close and personal with them.

Luckily I was never short on vantage points.

Central is full of elevated walkways around the main roads too.

Even on ground level you’re always reminded of the immense scale and density of the city, here on a quiet side street no less.

Walked by this couple sharing a moment on a busy sidewalk.

And caught this couple in the middle of getting some wedding photos taken on a street corner in Mong Kok.

Now, enough people. Back to the buildings. If I’m not climbing parking garages, fire escapes, or getting onto rooftops, I’m taking hikes through one of the many mountainous trails which snake all around the city.

Back on the ground, this place has apparently become pretty popular. I had come here back in 2012 on my first trip to Hong Kong and remember seeing only one other person here, a resident walking laps around the basketball courts. Now 6 years later the place was full of people hanging out, mostly taking selfies or photos with their friends. Maybe it’s the exploding popularity of Instagram, or maybe I was just there on a slow day before, but it was kinda cool seeing so many people enjoying the unique architecture.

The Choi Hung Estate is fairly significant historically as well, being one of the oldest public housing estates in Hong Kong (built in the early 1960s) and winning at least one award for its architecture.

Many of the estates which are built on the edges of hills, cliffs, or mountains have outdoor elevator systems taking you up and down between them. Sometimes you’d see the estates down on the ‘ground’ with parks or other facilities built up above on the hillside. Oftentimes though it was just more neighboring buildings, their ground floor just 30 stories higher up.

This was another very popular shooting location. In Quarry Bay there is a group of 3 connected buildings, the Yick Fat Building, Yick Cheong Building, and Montane Mansion. If you look at them from overhead it would look like a giant E.

This place was so popular it even had signs trying to discourage people from taking pictures. Sorry to say, they had no effect on me. I do feel for the residents, living in a pretty touristy spot in downtown Boston myself, but I obviously couldn’t help myself in a place like this. I consider myself a self-hating tourist.

The buildings in the East were a bit more colorful, but the buildings here on the Western side were cool in their own right.

I felt so bad about disobeying the signs here that I had to come back 3 times. The first couple pictures were taken late at night, the next few were taken during an overcast morning just before sunrise, and this one taken in the middle of a sunny day. All but this last one were taken on 35mm, this one was on 645 medium format film. I’m thinking it should make a nice, big print.

Now every picture I have shown up to this point has been on film. I did take some digital pictures as well, but mostly just snapshots as I was walking around. Things I didn’t really want to waste a frame of film on. Some of them came out kinda cool though and show some different parts of Hong Kong, so since this is both a photo and travel blog I figured I would share them.

These last two were taken at a spot right across the street from the above building complex. Another (albeit much smaller in scale) trifecta of buildings called the Wai Lee, Po Lee, and Tak Lee Buildings.

This one was taken right by Victoria Harbor on the Kowloon side. If you’ve ever been here you know where it is, and if you haven’t but are planning on going and want to check it out, you can’t miss it. It can be a cool spot for photos with its interesting lighting and geometry. I even saw some wedding photos being taken here.

In Kowloon there is a street at least 3 or 4 blocks long which is dedicated solely to shoe stores. Hong Kongers are definitely sneaker heads, and a shoe I noticed was really popular here is the Adidas Ultraboost. I had been thinking about buying a pair before this trip and tried a few on while I was here. I ended up buying them when I got back in the states because they were a bit cheaper here, and man, they are by far the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned. Highly recommend.

This and the next two were taken at a place I had originally visited back in 2012. The Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill.

I had just stopped by on this trip to take a walk through the gardens and relax. I don’t even think I had a film camera on me. It’s a great place to just walk around and get away from the hectic pace of the city. Another highly recommended thing to do if you ever find yourself here.

And the Choi Hung Estate is just a few minutes away by foot, so you can check out both from the same MTR stop.

I also took a few shots of buildings on digital, but didn’t include them in my Modern Living series due to the format difference. They still came out kinda cool though.

And lastly, I’ll leave you with a few more shots I took in the giant building complex I talked about earlier. This is one of the few times when I actually like my digital shots more than my film shots. Maybe it’s the contrast, the colors, the resolution, I’m not sure, but here they are.

These early morning shots are probably my favorite of the 3 times I made it over here. Maybe because of the lighting, but also maybe because I was the only one there and was able to take my time, walk around, and really take it all in.

Then again it was really cool here at night too..

And with that, my time in Hong Kong has unfortunately once again come to an end. I still have tons of inspiration to shoot here, and if the cost of living wasn’t among the highest in the world, I might even consider living here. But for now I’ll have to settle for taking the occasional trip here (of which there will be many more).

And in between the time I got back from this trip and the time I finally got around to finishing this blog post, I’ve been to another 4 countries in western Europe, a few cities around the US, and am already planning my next overseas trip which I’ll be embarking on this winter. So stay tuned! I have lots more pictures and adventures coming up.

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