HK5: Big Wave Bay & Shopping Mall

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For my last day in Hong Kong I made a small hike to Big Wave Bay. For this I walked again through the cemetery, but instead of going right to Shek-O Beach I went left, a shorter route to the Bay. Such a nice bay it is! The village looks like it is totally isolated, but in fact it is also easily reachable by bus. Its peacefulness made for a big contrast when I went to dinner with a friend later on the day in a busy shopping centre! Suzhou is very relaxed compared to all this.
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HK3: Hong Kong Polytechnical University

Jockey Club Innovation Tower: the design building from Zaha Hadid. Unfortunately it  was so humid when I came outside that the lens immediately fogged!

Jockey Club Innovation Tower: the design building from Zaha Hadid. Unfortunately it was so humid when I came outside that the lens immediately fogged!


At the time of my visit The Hong Kong Polytechnical University held its annual design exhibition of work of graduating students. The work of the design department looked great. Something to aspire to for our own Industrial Design department at XJTLU.

I was also interested in the Communication Design Ba students. In their projects they had taken on some interesting themes, such as the neon light heritage of Hong Kong, Chinese calligraphy and health data. The design of the accompanying poster presentations though, looked like they could need a more firm typographical hand. They are only means of presentation for a project but still, you are a designer or not ; ). But I might be all to critical as Dutch guy with the large interest in typography in my country.

A dissappointment, if not maddening was the new design building, designed by the late Zaha Hadid. Officially called the ‘Jockey Club Innovation Tower’–after its major sponsor–its sculpted shape looks great on the outside, a beacon of progressiveness, a shiny example of image building for a university wanting to draw in students and researchers. But. I do pity the staff and the students who have to work inside of it. Its cramped and angled spaces made me feel slightly claustrophobic. White walls and ceilings can compensate for this only to a certain degree. Way finding was a nightmare for me. The general layout of a building should be clear.

This view is also inspired by my own involvement with the design process of our new combined Architecture and Industrial Design building at the South Campus of XJTLU. The overall architectural concept–roughly rounded and angled buildings, designed by the provincial planning office–came at the expense of a practical and efficient use of spaces for teaching, research, office space and workshops. Thankfully a joint redesign helped by the head of Architecture–on our own initiative–was able to compensate for that at least partially. Ideally teaching spaces should be designed so that they match the teaching and learning methods that you use. And that goes much further then just a division between lecture and seminars, especially in a discipline like design. Labs, teaching and office spaces should be spacy, flexible and should be designed in cooperation with staff to make them useable.

HK2: Dragon’s Back to Shek-O Beach

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The first part of the Dragon’s Back trail was a concrete road, but soon I found myself on a sandy path that meandered through the shady bushes on the side of the mountain. To my surprise I could spot many butterflies, there were always a few dancing around. The cicades in the background and the lack of traffic noises, made me totally forget I was close to one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
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When the path finally reached the mountain ridge there were excellent views over the sea, and surrounding islands, beaches and villages, including Big Wave Village, and Shek-O Beach. Also nice to see were the bird of prey gliding in thermals in search for food. But as I found out not carrying something to cover my head was a major mistake: there was hardly any shadow to be found on the ridge!

The reward was Shek-O Beach, a quick and short bus ride away over the main road to which I descended at the end of the ridge. The village had several laid back places to eat and drink, nothing fancy though, and a beautiful beach where you could hire chairs or sun screens. The rocks and the beach almost looked like the south of France! After a few drinks with a fellow hiker a bus took me back to an MTR station. Recommended!
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HK2: Cape Collinson Cemetery to Dragon’s Back

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The starting point of my Dragon’s Back hike was the Chai Wan MTR-station (Metro), easy to be reached from my hotel at MTR-station Tin Hau. The station reminded me a little bit of a miniature Hoog Catharijne, the Dutch shopping centre famous for its labyrinth structure in which it is impossible to find the exit. But once I found it it was pretty easy to locate the entrance to the Cape Collinson cemetery, the quickest way up the mountain to the actual trail.

Cape Collinson cemetery was layed out on the steep and winding flanks of Collinson Mountain. The rising dead seemed to mirror the high rises in front of it, an important difference being that the latter did not have stairs but elevators. In the already scorching heat of June walking in the cemetery around noon was rather disorienting, also because of the glinstering white marble and concrete around. Time wise I could have planned my hike better…

No wonder that there were small pavilions placed on strategic points at the cemetery; much deserved shadow for visiting family members and maintenance workers. At the back a moist and shadowy flight of stairs took me finally to the bushes that were topping the cemetery. Here was a plateau called ‘Pottinger Gap’, a small ‘gap’ between the mountains which showed the first signage of the Dragons Back trail.


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HK1: Going to Hongkong

In May I booked a small holiday in Hong Kong. Primarily known as a finance and shopping centre I also found out that it was an excellent place for hiking. 28 percent of its area consists of natural parks. Perfect since I also wanted to see some nature! Websites showed fine hiking offerings on Hong Kong Island, as well as in the New Territories, all easily reached by public transport. The Dragon’s Back trail, which I wanted to walk, was even mentioned as best Urban trail in the world by Time Out magazine in 2004.

Lunch at Pudong

Lunch at Pudong

Mouth of Yangtze River

Mouth of Yangtze River

Lantau Island on Th.e foreground, Hong Kong Island at the horizon with in between Kowloon

Lantau Island on Th.e foreground, Hong Kong Island at the horizon with in between Kowloon

I booked the trip with low budget airline Spring Airlines. Risky since more expensive airlines seem to get more priority when it’s busy, and it can be busy at Pudong (the largest of two airports in Shanghai, the other being the more regional Hongchiao). Spring Airline’s plane definitely had the smallest seat pitch of any airplane I have ever sat on: I felt almost like standing instead of sitting…

The approach to Hong Kong International Airport provided beautiful views of the area. Showing multiple contrasts: that between high-rise apartment buildings and the green hills, and that of the islands of Hong Kong and the sea. Its blueness contrasted also nicely with the earth colors of the mouth of the Yangtse river, when leaving Pudong.

Living in China has made me increasingly aware that the relations between mainland Chinese and HK-Chinese can be politically and culturally tense at times. As a British colony Hong Kong fared better then the adjecent Chinese empire or state, which made some of its inhabitants doubt the advantages having been handed back to China 20 years ago.

In Hong Kong mainland Chinese are sometimes seen as underdeveloped and corrupt simpletons, whose growing influence can only spell out worse to come for their relatively open but also slightly stagnant society. The other way around Hong Kong people are often seen as arrogant snobs, admired for their shopping paradise, but on the other hand a part of China that never should have been given to a Western country in the first place.
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