This week, we’re looking at W for World Famous locations.
And for Wednesday, its the view from Victoria Peak of Hong Kong, and its residential towers.
To get to The Peak, you can go by bus, by taxi, by car – or by a funicular railway – where two carriages are connected on a giant pulley system. As one rattles up the steep railway to the top, the other descends – and they pass in the middle.
It’s a fun trip, and attracts thousands of tourists and local every day up a 27-degree slope that makes it look like the nearby buildings are falling over.
Hong Kong’s name in Chinese is literally Fragrant Harbour. If that was ever true, it certainly isn’t today.
While immeasuraably better than other Chinese cities (and particularly Beijing and Shanghai) the air in Hong Hong is not what you would call fragrant. Pungent, yes, Exotic, certainly. But not Fragrant.
Anyway, Hong Kong is a small island and a nearby mainland area excised from China in a bitter war with Britain in 1842.
The war was not one of Britain’s high-moral-ground points … it was fought by the British to force China into allowing drug traffickers to sell opium to its people.
You see, there was a trade imbalance – Britain wanted Chinese silks, and porcelain, and tea … but it didn’t produce anything the Chinese wanted in return.
Until Britain got the morally indefensible idea of selling opium from its Indian holdings to Chinese middlemen.
The Qing empire, quite reasonably, thought this was a bad idea but Britain used its military superiority to force China to accept the drug trade – and occupied first the island of Hong Kong, and then the mainland area of Kowloon, to set up a financial and military base, and keep the Chinese in check.
In 1898, a 99 year lease was signed giving Britain continued domination over Hong Kong – and for nearly 100 years, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ was a little slice of Britain in Asia.
The 99 year lease expired in 1997, and Britain handed Hong Kong back to China – which named it a ‘special administrative region’ .. ostensibly allowing it self government, but under the aegis of Beijing.
Since then, the control of the Communist Party has continued to tighten, but HK still enjoys much more freedom than most parts of the People’s Republic.
Today’s picture comes from Victoria Peak, and is of what are called the mid-levels … affluent apartment buildings that stretch from Central Hong Kong to halfway up Mount Austin (also known as The Peak).
There are giant escalators that allow residents to walk into the centre of Hong Kong, and return to their homes, while remaining close to parks and nature – and with a much better air-quality than most of Hong Kong.
(As an aside, if you want to see what these looked like as construction was just beginning back in the 70s, check out the opening credits from the movie “The Main From Hong Kong“)