Bring in the Year of the Horse

Two weeks before Chinese New Year, the floor creaks as Sunny Yim walks through the bamboo theatre he has helped build. A few of his wiry colleagues stand on a platform, making adjustments to the lattice of bamboo rods that is holding this cavernous structure aloft, but the work is mostly done. Yim, a compact […]

Private Paradise

There was a time when Hong Kong was full of strange and wonderful private gardens. There was a Spanish-style garden built by a Catholic missionary on Seymour Road. In Tai Hang, the seven-storey pagoda of Tiger Balm Garden could be seen for miles around. When Sir Robert Hotung built a second house on the Peak, […]

A City Without Streets

Not too long ago, on a particularly glorious Sunday afternoon — the kind of sunny but cool day that happens all too rarely in Hong Kong — I took the MTR out to Po Lam station in Tseung Kwan O. Leaving the station, I walked along a linear park built atop the MTR tracks, which […]

Auto Invasion

Photo by Charlotte Huang Hong Kong’s not a big place, and with 28 million mainland Chinese visitors a year, it’s beginning to feel even more crowded than usual. The stress seems to have gotten to a lot of people. Over the past month, a handful of seemingly banal conflicts between Hongkongers and mainland tourists have […]

Rebuilding the Market Economy

It used to be routine: wake up, walk to the wet market and buy the day’s fresh ingredients for dinner. Markets have always been a part of Hong Kong life, but these days, they are losing ground to supermarkets, whose numbers have grown exponentially over the past two decades. Chain supermarkets Wellcome and Park’n’Shop now […]

The Ghosts of Oil Street

Oil Street. Photo by Eric To This story was originally published in the November 2010 edition of Muse, the new-defunct review of Hong Kong arts and culture. It was a hot night when I sat inside the cluttered studios of the pirate radio station FM 101, six floors up inside an industrial building in Kwun […]

On the Waterfront: Kwun Tong, Ma On Shan

Second in a series of three posts about Hong Kong’s waterfront. Read the first post here. The Kwun Tong promenade opened last year on an industrial stretch of waterfront facing the runway of the old Kai Tak Airport. It’s very short — just 200 metres — but the plan is to continue expanding it until […]

Posted in: Architecture, Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on On the Waterfront: Kwun Tong, Ma On Shan , , , , , ,

Hong Kong’s Bicycle Graveyards

Bicycle dump. Photo by Dickson Lee for the SCMP Sai Kung’s bicycle graveyard is back and bigger than ever. Last Wednesday, dozens of bikes were seen piled atop one another on a stretch of government land in the suburban Hong Kong district. It’s a symptom of a wider problem – an acute shortage of bicycle […]

Land Reclamation — At What Cost?

Construction of a new underground highway built on the last bit of land reclamation permitted in Victoria Harbour If you are reading this somewhere in Hong Kong, odds are you’re sitting on a piece of land that was once a part of the sea. Since 1851, more than 60 square kilometres of land has been […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Environment, History, Politics, Public Space by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Land Reclamation — At What Cost? , , , ,

Airing Your Laundry in Public

When I first came to Hong Kong, one of the most perplexing of park rules was “No hanging of laundry.” Surely that isn’t a problem, I thought. Do people really bring their wet laundry to the park to dry? As it turns out, they do. Though most people here have a washing machine in their […]

A Place for Bikes in the Heart of Hong Kong?

Imagine it’s a beautiful autumn day in Hong Kong. The summer’s humidity has vanished and you’re out enjoying the fine weather, bicycling along Victoria Harbour. You pass the Star Ferry pier, the new government headquarters at Tamar, then Victoria Park, all the while gazing out at the jade green water. That was the vision presented […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, Public Space, Society and Culture, Transportation by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on A Place for Bikes in the Heart of Hong Kong? , , , , , ,

Small Houses, Big Impact

Sam Wan was 10 years old when his father, an officer in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, died in the line of duty. Reeling from his death, Wan’s family moved from their Tsim Sha Tsui apartment back to their ancestral village, Tai Po Tsai, where they owned a small tile-roofed house. The year was […]

Posted in: Asia Pacific, History, Politics, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf Comments Off on Small Houses, Big Impact , , , , , ,

A Walk Through Kam Tin

Sometime in the late tenth century, a Sung Dynasty bureaucrat named Tang Hon-fat left his hometown of Pak Sha Village in Jiangxi province atook a trip south, to the coast of Guangdong. When he passed through the lush valley now known as Kam Tin, he was so taken by its natural beauty and the friendliness […]

In Hong Kong, Cleaner Water, Dirtier Air

Ronnie Wong’s swimming career began with a dive into Victoria Harbour. In 1968, the 16-year-old competitive swimmer joined hundreds of other men and women in a 1.5-kilometre race from the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui to Queen’s Pier in Central. “The moment I jumped in the water, I didn’t care about anything, just […]