Photos from a 7 year journey through lesser known parts of Hong Kong before, during and after ‘the Handover’. I’d like to share HK’s good, bad and ugly. Visitors to HK (and far too many of its residents) are unaware of the rich ecology and wild landscapes – unfortunately, greedy and would-be property developers were trashing HK’s lowland wetlands during the period I lived and worked there as a consultant.
I first visited HK in 1983. At the time I was still in my first career in the merchant navy. I arrived during the hottest time of the year and with limited shore leave between watches, saw little more than any tourist. A local port official (Trevor Berry) paid a visit to our ship and offered a tour of the harbour on his launch providing a great perspective of the huge contrasts HK offers between overcrowded urban and unpopulated islands.
My magnificent ship on its first voyage after drydock. So let’s see, that’s a 40,000t petroleum product carrier at the end of the most difficult, busy, international airport (Kai Tak) in the world. Not dangerous at all.
We got used to the sight of aircraft landing and taking off just a 100m or so away from our molatoff cocktail
Much rarer were the genuine traditional junks from China. 1983 must have been the very end of their viable working life.
The Governor’s launch matching the Governor’s official white uniform and plumed hat. If Chris Patten did nothing else, he at least ditched these trappings.
In March 1993, I earned my keep as a student taking photos at the HK Institute of Engineers\’ annual dinner. Guest of honour (apart from me) was Guv\’nor Chris, seen here arriving with John Boyd
Derek Lindsey (my patron and sponsor during my 92-93 sandwich year) presses the flesh with Chris. Without Derek, this would have been a very short blog
Chris waves cheerio to me from the official Daimler. We were to bump into each other regularly in Sha Lo Tung (where he later temporarily lost one of his dogs – Rum n Coke, or Gin & Tonic), or at the Fanling Rd arts & crafts depot
I was hooked after my first visit and was drawn back to HK many times in the 80s and 90s before arriving to live and work in 1995.
Here then are the ‘tourist’ shots of HK island, Kowloon and the harbour.
1983 Public housing in Kowloon
Stack ’em high. Early public apartments provided around 300-450 square feet for two – three generations of a family
Public housing may, or may not have provided a better deal than a junk in the typhoon shelter
The tall building on the right is known to the Cantonese locals as the building of a thousand arseholes, due only to the round windows and having virtually nothing to do with the history of Jardines
Stonecutter’s Island was still an island until the late 1990s. As the land between island and mainland was reclaimed, a story appeared in the local press that during Japanese occupation the island had been used to breed poisonous snakes for their venom. The concern was that any descendants would slither off into urban Kowloon.
“If one more gwailo tourist points his damn camera at me…”
Hong Kongers like their chickens fresh. I like my chickens free from chickenshit, so I’ll have one off the top storey…
…or one of these hapless chicks.
Young girl, by now you have probably inherited this stall of throbbing pulsating meat.
A cynical Environmental Protection Officer commented loudly that the nuclear option would solve HK’s environmental ‘challenges’. No fall-out from this mushroom cloud in 1985 though.
Shiny glass corporate towers
…and stunning uninhabited islands surrounded by living corals
The cross-harbour ferry journey gets shorter every few years…
…as the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ (the literal translation of Hong Kong) is reclaimed a street at a time. Former waterfront streets such as ‘Causeway Bay’, ‘Harbour Drive’ and ‘Harbour Road’ are stranded higher and drier.
For days either side of the Handover, it poured torrential rain – the firework displays (one for the departing British, and one for the incoming PRC) were both washouts as can be seen in this photo where the fireworks exploded in the low cloud over the harbour. Both sides tried to spin the rain: the Brits as a portend of doom; the Chinese as ‘washing away 99 years of shame’.
7 Years in Hong Kong is a record of a personal, professional journey. An attempt to do the best job I could. First learning from leaders and managers and later battling with them as personnel changed as quickly as attitudes.
At a time when environmental awareness was rising in the East, diehard engineer managers refused to change their ways (apart from collecting the odd environmental award won by their environmental team’s initiative).
For anyone that’s curious, the original banner photo featured two Birdwing Butterflies (Troides helena) which (along with Troides aecus) is found in only relatively few places in the new territories (although not endemic to HK). These are spectacular butterlies with wingspans up to 16cm (about 6″) and are protected by law in HK. AFCD do little to enforce the law which is flouted by Japanese and Taiwanese collectors who arrive by the busload in the right season.