This was to be my final full day of filming. I still had several key locations to film in. It was also necessary to return to several areas to obtain some better footage.
For this day, I chose to use my tripod again, after using the Movi M5 camera stabilizer for the past several days. I find that carrying the tripod around is heavier but more convenient than the Movi M5 which I usually need to keep holding if I want to use it on short notice.
It was going to be another grey day with the occasional shower, so I made sure to bring my Senz Umbrella. It is a really cool umbrella that is designed in a way that can deflect strong winds, preventing damage to it. I even managed to use it while filming with the Movi M5. Anyway, back to the daily shoot.
Exiting the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station, I made my way to the ‘Garden of Stars’ (officially the Tsim Sha Tsui east waterfront podium garden), the temporary home to sculptures of famous Hong Kong entertainers and icons. These sculptures shall return to their original home of the ‘Avenue of Stars’ (part of the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade), once the construction / improvements are completed in late 2018.
Not all the sculptures are exhibited in the garden of stars, but those that are, are very cool. They shall do proper justice as a background in every photo / selfie.
By far the most popular sculpture is that of actor and martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Be prepared to queue. People moved at assembly line speed, waiting for those few precious moments to have the Bruce Lee sculpture all to themselves for a photo. It was amusing to watch kids, teenage girls, high school guys, grandmothers and actual martial artists pose in a typical Bruce Lee fighting stance. When my turn came, I obviously did the same.
Fast forward 40 minutes after boarding the MTR at Tsim Sha Tsui Station, I arrived at The Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. The square is adjacent to another local landmark, The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC).
On my way to the square, I passed through the impressive building. There was a large recruiting fair happening with scores of young people dressed sharply. I was mistaken for being the local press covering the story. It took several minutes to cross through the massive building.
The square is named after the golden bauhinia sculpture placed here. It was a gift from China’s central government to Hong Kong, at the very spot where the handover of Hong Kong back to China took place in July 1997. At that point, Hong Kong became a special administrative region. The bauhinia flower is the emblem of Hong Kong.
There is a daily flag raising ceremony here at 8 am. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend it during my visit. It is a very popular spot for Mainland Chinese tour groups.
During most of my time there, there was an ice cream truck operator who CONSTANTLY played a 20 second loop of the ‘Mr Softee’ ice cream truck jingle. I don’t understand how that guy could stand that song playing for more than 1 minute, let alone all day. He must dream about it as well. While trying to capture the real sounds of the place, some of the shots did not go well with ‘Mr Softee’ playing in the background. So, I went to speak with the guy, asking him to stop playing the music for a couple of minutes. He accepted, I got the shots that I wanted, and the operator got a new paying customer for the day. The music resumed very shortly after.
The next point of interest took me to the area of North Point in Hong Kong Island. Chun Yeung street is one of the more interesting streets in Hong Kong. It has that ‘Authentic’ feel to it, of daily life of average Hong Kongers. The street market stalls and shops sold various foods, clothing and other knick-knacks. The street was packed.
The surrounding buildings are, for the most part, older residential blocks where the residents hang there laundry out to dry.
I set up my camera and tripod at one end of the street. I hit the record button and let the camera capture the scene without looking at the footage. Instead, I was just sucking in the vibes and ambience.
One the one hand, Hong Kong offers scenes of opulence of the highest level, the latest in architectural design, areas so clean you wouldn’t mind eating off the floor and a general sense of order. On the other hand, scenes as I have described above of a raw, densely packed mega city which maintains itself in some form of controlled chaos. I loved witnessing both. These two different sides of Hong Kong contribute a lot to its charm.
Behind me was a small area allocated for sitting. It mainly consisted of local elderly men having a break while eating and chatting. I’m sure I was a topic of conversation as the locals were staring at me and the camera gear.
After several minutes one of the elders approached me and looked at the footage I was capturing trough the camera screen. He asked If I was ‘TV’? I replied, ‘Tourism video’. ‘Ahhh’ he said, gave me a thumbs-up gesture, and returned to the elders for a fresh report on my activities.
In addition to that authentic vibe you get, Chun Yeung street has another special feature that most side streets in Hong Kong do not have. The ‘Ding Ding’ tram runs right in the middle of it! So how does a tram manage to get through a side street packed with pedestrians? HK tramways, who operate the trams, send in an advanced team of employees who walk a few meters in front of the tram and clear its route. Apparently, it works, and it is cool to see.
Boy was the monster ugly, something out of a dystopian nightmare! But what the building lacked in looks, it sure made up with character.
‘The Monster’ building is actually a combination of 5 separate 1960’s residential complexes. Together, they form a massive E shaped building with two internal courtyards. If one were to stand in the more famous eastern internal courtyard, he/she would find themselves surrounded by 3 of the 5 residential complexes (Yik Cheong, Fok Cheong and Yick Fat buildings) as well as a separate and more modern residential high rise (Kornville block 2).
You may ask yourselves why would I bother to take the time to come and see / film this monstrosity of concrete? Well, over the past few years the building has been featured in numerous tv shows and films. The densely packed and multi color schemed apartments, as seen in the eastern courtyard, provide for a certain aesthetic that would make any scene (specifically those of an over-crowded city) that they are featured in, more interesting.
The exposure that this complex has received has made it a popular tourist destination. More so, it has become a popular backdrop for professional photographers and enthusiasts. It felt odd and initially a bit unnerving to setup my tripod and camera in the eastern courtyard of this seedy looking complex. In any other city, this sort of complex would be deemed to be a no-go zone. But here in Hong Kong, it’s THE place to take your Instagram selfie. Come to think of it, with the price of real estate in Hong Kong, any one of those dodgy looking apartments are probably worth more than a brand new high-end apartment anywhere else.
When I have first arrived, there was only a local couple, a man and a woman. The woman was posing with the building as her backdrop while the man used his professional grade camera to take photos of her and the buildings.
Gradually, the place started to fill up with groups of young people carrying all sorts of camera equipment. From personal mobile phones to various cameras attached to hand-held rigs with the intent of trying to capture a cool angle of a human subject and the buildings or simply the buildings alone. During all this time, the local building residents went about their daily business and were completely un-phased by the young hordes of photographers.
I was viewed as just another photographer, completely ignored by locals and other photographers who were focused on their own setups. Filming ‘The Monster’ and other camera wielding persons made for some good footage. I personally wouldn’t bother going back there for the sake of seeing the place again. But, it would make for an interesting one time visit for someone who has not. It is of an architectural style that is disappearing fast, making way for modern and luxurious residential high-rises, which may only be afforded by the 0.1 percenters.
By the time I had finished my film shoot at ‘The Monster’, it was just past sunset. I wanted to return to Causeway Bay for some additional / better footage. Just as the previous days, Causeway Bay was lively, crowded and very brightly illuminated LED signage and giant screens. I focused on capturing footage in the surrounding area of the popular shopping malls and department stores, notably Times Square, Hysan Place and Sogo.
It occurred to me that while being so focused on capturing footage of these landmark destinations in Hong Kong, I have not bothered to do what most visitors do in Hong Kong…. shop. One reason for this was that most of what I could find in Hong Kong, I could find back home in Calgary. These days, almost every product imaginable is a just few clicks away via online shopping. Hong Kong is not cheap either
Apart from a souvenir that would remind me of my wonderful time in Hong Kong, there wasn’t anything that I really wanted to bring back with me that was unique to Hong Kong or difficult to get back home. In retrospect, a good quality custom made suit/s would have been nice (those are cheaper to get in Hong Kong). Oh well, next time…
To find some peace and quiet, as well as supplement my footage with some more ‘natural scenery’, I made my way back to Victoria Park. It was relatively quiet at this hour. The Jogging trail was fairly active, several people were practicing Tai Chi in South Pavilion Plaza, the waters of the model boat pond were calm and only one of the Tennis courts hosted a game. The central lawn, although physically deserted, echoed the city hum and passing sounds of overhead aircraft.