A totally subjective list of some of Hong Kong’s greatest urban thrills:
Grimly dystopian housing projects. I always shudder when I pass the massive grey hulk facing the bay at North Point (above), and the suburban housing estate images by German photographer Michael Wolf are truly terrifying. And then there is the Escher’s concrete wishing well of the Lai Tak Tsuen housing estate in Tai Hang.
The “life sized” replica of Noah’s Ark under a bridge built by a local Christian fundamentalist group, featuring pairs of rubber animals.
This overpass in Sai Ying Pun which soars down through the rooftops, winding from a clifftop escarpment to the ground-level streets by the sea.
The Shoe Beaters of Causeway Bay, elderly voodoo women who sit under a traffic overpass doling out vengeance to their clients’ most hated, courtesy of the White Tiger Spirit, for 60 HKD a pop.
The favela-like maze of Pok Fu Lam Village, one of the last real traditional communities left on Hong Kong island. The village is daubed with images of dragons and home to an 18th century “fairy tower” and a real, six-metre-long straw dragon which dances through the streets amid twirling, burning torches every Mid Autumn Festival, resting the rest of the year in its community workshop “stable”.
West Island Necropolis, a vast, silent and beautiful hillside of tombs looking out over the supertankers passing through the straits to Lamma at the Western edge of the island.
The little-known and as-yet unopened Goddess of Tai Po, a huge milky white Kwan Yin figure which towers above a monastery at the base of the Eight Fairy Hills.
The infamous “ghetto at the centre of the world,” Chungking Mansions, home to Indian and African traders and hub of Third World petty commerce, adjoined by a back alley transcontinental drugs bazaar and the airier and more stately (but similar) Mirador Mansions, with its breezy outdoor balconies and local sweatshops. This is where China meets (and does business with) the rest of the developing world.
The reptile shops of Mongkok
Urban waterfalls here and here
The world’s longest public escalator in Midelevels is not really “underrated” since it is thronged with tourists day and night. It was even celebrated in the classic Hong Kong arthouse film, Chungking Express. Still, the escalator packs in some surprises as it glides over “Rat Alley”, one of the city’s last outdoor street markets for cooked food, a famous local snake restaurant, right by the blacked-out windows of a popular gay sauna and over the soon-to-disappear Gage Street market with its fish mongers and fruit sellers, the last true street market in Central.
The Cat Prince, HK’s most popular pet ,who sits in a shrine-like convenience store surrounded by devotees and merchandise in Hung Hom (not far from a boat-shaped supermarket).
Bizarre animal remains housed in Tin Hau temples. These include the long ribbon fish caught off Lamma and now housed in the island’s Tin Hau temple and the skin of the last tiger killed in Hong Kong (in 1946!!!) in the Tin Hau temple at Stanley.
The 76 bus – Hong Kong’s Peak is a famous (and crowded) beauty spot but the city’s 76 route public bus is a hassle-free way to see some of its best views as it crests over the montains and plunges down towards Aberdeen from Causeway Bay.
Nothing is more romantic in Hong Kong that speeding along the raised freeway over the harbour late at night and watching as the hundred storeys of the ICC tower light up in a beautiful and ever-changing moving LED animation.
This comic book building in Wong Chuk Hang
Shrouded buildings under construction or repair.
The white lily wreathes and framed ‘idol’ portraits of the annual April 1st vigil for beloved local singer Leslie Cheung. It is held outside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, from which the troubled bisexual singer jumped to his death twenty years ago.
Hong Kong Treasure, a bizarre and otherwordly Gothic costume-vintage store, obscurely located in the thick of a Thai and Chiu Chow immigrant neighbourhood in Kowloon.
The futuristic funk of the Lippo Building with its interlocking koala motif.
Art deco elegance at the Quarry Bay Funeral Home, often surrounded by vendors of white lilies and paper effigies for the dead. White cloaked mourners can be seen marching to bonfires at the nearby harbourfront to burn paper houses, money or even servants for their loved ones to take with them into the next life.
The truly stunning beaches of Sai Kung, accessible only by hike or boat and their eerie abandoned villages.
The Captain Bear Club, a post-neutron bomb Alice-in-Wonderland on a deserted tropical island accessible only by private boat.
A troop of real live urban monkeys on the city’s The Monkey Hill.
The late-Autumn hike across golden fields of Lantau’s Tai Tung Shan mountain