Hong Kong: Playing the tourist with the Leica Q
I cannot think why I have not been back to Hong Kong for many years. I have realised yet again what a fascinating place this is. This time, thanks to Macfilos and my heightened interest in photography—especially Leica—I have been able to make lots of new friends. There is a vibrant Leica community in HK, not to mention a superfluity of photographic retailers of all shapes and sizes. This serves as a magnet for photographers, especially from Far East countries such as Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and, of course, mainland China.
Quite by chance, my randomly selected hotel turned out to be on Kimberley Road, just a hundred yards of so from one of the busiest photo arcades in the city. Then I discovered camera stores all over the area of Tsim Sha Tsui, including some internationally known Leica traders such as Fotopia, MKK and Rangefinder. I've made it my business to call on all of them for a chat and I intend to put together a mini guide to what I would recommend as first ports of call for Leica fans when visiting the area. I need to gather some more information and tomorrow will provide the ideal opportunity. It's the Hong Kong Classic Camera Fair at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei and I'll be there at the crack of dawn to see if there are any bargains to be had. I suspect, though, it will be mainly a chatting forum and an opportunity to learn more of the Hong Kong camera scene.
In between trekking around Tsim Sha Tsui in search or back-alley dealers, I've been massaging my touristy side. I am not a great tourist, with a list of must-see sights. I don't like running around all day just to see something new. I prefer a more leisurely approach and am happy just to soak up the atmosphere of a city. And there's a lot of atmosphere to soak up in Hong Kong.
Yesterday I was riding the quaint narrow-gauge double-decker trams that run along Hong Kong island for about 8 miles, although it feels like 80. Great fun and I'll be doing a few more trips before I leave at the end of next week. It's a pity that this relic of Hong Kong's colonial past is now under threat by the city planners who blame the little trams for congestion around the Central area. It is the same argument used in London 70 years ago—they banished the trams but now wish they'd kept them.
The Peak, Hong Kong's most famous landmark, is not as a remember it from my last visit. Today I went to the top and could not recognise anything that I had seen 20 years ago (except the view, of course, despite the many more skyscrapers it is still recognisable). Such is change. I don't even remember sitting in the Peak Tram, although I must have done. Today, on a recommendation from a local friend, I took the escalator from Pedder Street at Central to the Mid-Levels. This fleet (flight?) of escalators, winding up the hill cheek by jowl with buildings at crazy angles, is said to be the longest escalator in the world. I can believe it. It is a remarkable feat of engineering and serves as direct public transport to all the cross street leading up to the Mid-Levels. From the top of the escalator I walked down through tropical vegetation to the base of the veteran Peak Tramway for the ride to the top.
Despite not thinking of myself as a typical tourist, the ride to The Peak is something that has to be done and, while not quite as dramatic as the Swiss vistas I encountered in July, the view from the top in pretty fine. On a clear day (and this was the first clear day since I arrived on Monday) the view over Hong Kong and the harbour is one of the iconic sights in the world.
I have another week to get down to some serious photography and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the heavy showers, a feature of my first three days, keep off the scene.