#117. One Night in Hong Kong

By pascaljappy | News

Aug 23

In the first episode of this tourist report, I described the light and sights of this fascinating city. At least what can be visited in a very short (less than 24h) stay.

In this second part, my focus will be on what impressed me most : the night, the lights and the buildings.

The lovely ferry in Hong Kong harbour

Night ferry

Note the word impressed. The whole experience is indeed impressive but not something someone even remotely eco-minded can appreciate. The waste of energy, the light pollution and the air pollution are nothing short of scandalous, if you’re honest. But still, for a person whose experience of big cities is limited to places such as Paris, London, Toronto and the likes, Hong-Kong by night does come as something of a culture and architecture shock.

Although poverty can be felt in other areas, the sense of absolute wealth emanating from the the malls is breathtaking.

The entrance to one of Hong Kong's many luxury malls

Take me to the mall

This picture is twisted, its horizon isn’t strait. Although that’s an unfortunate natural tendancy of mine (thankfully compensated by the artificial horizons in brilliant cameras such as the Sony NEX-7 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5) this one was deliberately shot that way. It reminds me of a painting by Sy Twombly to illustrate Plato’s Republic : a white canvas with a perfectly drawn black grid on it, to symbolise the organised status of the republic. Only in Twobly’s picture, the grid is slightly slanted to imply something more worrying. Simple and intelligent. To me, after an afternoon of walking through some of the less fortunate areas of HK, this mall entrance is both majestic and slightly nauseating. Hence the voluntary slant.

Inside the building the feeling of richness is everywhere. What a constrast with the temples.

A very elegant lady shopping inside a luxury mall in Hong Kong

The Princess

Inf fact, this whole place feels like a temple for a whole other religion.

The luxurious interior of a Hong Kong mall

Cosy Inside

My previous post was titled High-Kontrast Hong-Kong, and it certainly is high-contrast, but as mentioned earlier I wonder whether it is unbalanced and might, by natural law, someday tip over …

Utopia ?

So yes, this place is rich, rich, rich …

Three red cabs in a Hong Kong street

3 Cabs

But it’s also very interesting and, in some respects, has the makings of the utopian cities penned by Leonardo Da Vinci, Abramovitz, Le Corbusier and Buchanan (see picture below). Those visionary cities separated vehicles from humans and were meant to ensure quality of life.

At least for some social classes … (Leonardo’s designs actually had roads for the noble while ordinary people could walk in the mud and face the danger of carts and animals).

I feel the scenes below are a modern interpretation of these early drawings.

Pedestrian passageways two floors above the roads

Utopian Galleries

City highways in Hong Kong at night

Utopia Highway

Three levels of roads and passageways in Hong Kong

As Above, So Below

The last four pictures were heavily processed to render the retro and brooding feel some areas inspired me in spite of the futuristic buildings. Somehow, I love the pictures, but the scenes they depict scream of gloom and folly. What do you think ?

The final set is much softer and so were my feelings. Completing splendidly the feeling of non-egalitarian utopia are the rooftops of the malls. Here, pedestrian avenues lined with luxurious vegetation and lighting connect skyscraper dwellings of the uber-wealthy. All is peaceful and beautiful. Here and there a trendy restaurant provides breathtaking views of the sea and Kowloon. It may not be utopia, but there’s little doubt the ancient masters would have a ball seeing the splendid job their grand-children achieved.

Malls and galleries oever look the streets of Hong Kong

Above the city

Hubris, maybe. Unbalanced, certainly. But in spite of all this, it’s impossible not to feel awe and admiration.

Luxury bays in Hong-Kong's business ditrict

Luxury Bays

When talent meets money, cities like Hong-Kong happen.

The moon shines over Hong-Kong buildings in this black and white photograph

Beneath the moon

I tried to present 4 different renditions of the city, which without being overcooked, I hope convey the various feelings elicited by the place. You can tell a good subject by the amount of work you want to put into it. Whenever something leaves your uninspired, pictures are factual and bland. Boring. But whenever you react to a location or a scene, you start to visualise and distort reality. It’s the hallmark of great artists to be able to do this consistently, evolving their style through time as their view of the world shifts. Wish I was there 😉

A pink bus stop, a red bus and blue lights in Hong Kong

Red, Blue & Pink

All pictures made with a Sony NEX-5N. Another creation of human genius 🙂

  • I like your comparison of HK to the utopian visions. I never thought about it that way, but there’s a striking similarity!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Kavi. It didn’t strike me immediately either. It’s only when walking on the seafront passageways that the comparison arose in my mind.

  • owl says:

    So beautiful. And that is the problem with utopia exactly: the closer the city comes to perfect–to realization, finalization, the end-point–the closer it comes to toppling. And the poignant tension of striving for pure city, senseless and extreme, is what makes it so beautiful.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Owl, thanks for that insightful comment. Couldn’t have put it better (or as well, for that matter ;)) myself. Few cities give that impression more than HK.

  • bwbears says:

    Greetings from Hong Kong! I really love your blog. I have a NEX-3 too, enjoying my time taking pictures with it and some manual lenses as well. You have so many splendid pictures taken with your NEX-5n. I have learned a lot from your blog – great work!

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