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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hong Kong: High Rise Act

High rise skyscrapers abound in this small territory that produces massive economic activity. Many of the world's largest corporation have set up their Asian operations in Hong Kong and the end result was an unending rows of towering buildings that covers the already cloudy skies and lights up the sky once the sun goes down towards the other part of the Earth.

I wont miss it when in Hong Kong not to see up close the iconic buildings of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation (HSBC) and the Bank of China. I've seen it countless times from photographs and video clips of Hong Kong to the computer game "Sim City 3000" and was amazed at an architecture documentary that cites both buildings as a prime example in the use of natural light.

Bank of China Tower
I got my appreciation of great architecture from my brother who is an architect and is currently teaching at the UST College of Architecture, like himself, I always try to check out the different architecture of places I visit and to each has its own style and influences depending on who colonized that country before - Hong Kong was a place that has amassed a number of varying influences in the past and has now morphed into having a design bridging the West and the East. 

Inside the Bank of China
The tropical climate of Hong Kong has made it possible for buildings like both HSBC and the Bank of China to have open spaces on its walls and ceilings to attract natural sunlight to enter through the building thus lessening the dependence on electric powered lighting. I've also noticed this style in a number of shopping malls all around Hong Kong.

HSBC Tower looks like a NASA launching pad in the outside
I first visited the Bank of China building, considered to be one of the worlds most recognizable structures. It is considered revolutionary as it swayed away from the conventional "feng shui" methods that has been a long standing tradition with the Chinese people. Feng Shui masters were not hired for advises, rather the design of this building was thoroughly dictated through matters of maximizing potential and representation of prosperity as visible through its bamboo inspired 'design expressionism'. The Bank of China Tower was completed in 1990 and stands 1,209 feet (including the antenna) with 72 storeys. I went inside the second floor which was the bank itself and asked if I could take some photographs. The guard told me "Yes but not the face" (pointing to the front view of the bank tellers). 

Entering HSBC Main, you will need to take this escalator
It was my first time to step inside a bank that big, It's like the kind of banks you see on Hollywood heist movies and as I look around I saw a long stretch of counters fronted by bank tellers and on the other sides various tables occupied by individuals who looked like as "credit analysts" interviewing bank clients wanting to borrow a million HK dollars. I had the urge of yelling "This is a robbery" but good thing I quickly realized I am not Patrick Swayze in the movie "Point Break" neither am I Chris Tucker in the Hughes Brothers' classic heist movie "The Dead Presidents".

HSBC interior WOW
After a few minutes I stepped out of the building still amazed at what I saw and hurriedly walked towards another iconic Hong Kong tower, the HSBC Main Building which was first rebuilt in 1935 to an Art Deco mixed with a stripped style. In 1978 when the size of the bank and its enormous paper documents could not co-exist anymore, it was again torn down to be rebuilt and in 1985 the construction for a new one concluded with at that time considered to be the world's most expensive building at more than 668 million US dollars.

Standing 47 storeys high, the HSBC building has a unique feature or the lack of it. The absence of an interior supporting structure makes it both an architectural and engineering wonder. The way it uses natural light as its main source of light is also a model for future environment friendly structures and has since captured the imagination and put into the designing methods of modern day architects and engineers. 

The unique entrance to the HSBC building will have visitors not getting inside the traditional door at the ground floor rather, you will have to take the escalators located under a checkered glass and move your way up towards a dual layered tower from both side adorned by steel railings with the interior being lighted up by natural sunlight.

What better way to further get a decent view of the Hong Kong city than riding the Peak Tram going up the Peak Tower. The Peak Tram terminus is located at Lower Albert Road near St. John's Cathedral and a mere 7 minutes walk from the HSBC main building. I availed of the $40 HK return ticket over the $65 HK (with Sky Pass access). The tram ride going to the peak takes around 10-15 minutes and offers an experience of riding the classic tram on a high arching degree and seeing the buildings in the distant becomes smaller and further as you it goes up. Quite an alright kind of view if you ask me.

 At the Peak Tower, the renowned Madame Tussauds' of Hong Kong is located where a collection of wax figures of world personalities are on display. I wonder when will they have a Manny Pacquiao wax figure? If they do then I'll never have to think twice of purchasing the $175 HK entrance fee.

From almost a day of walking I can feel my feet getting sore at that moment, that's why I took the opportunity of just hanging out at the terrace and enjoyed the view. Part of my enjoyment was analyzing the vast economic development of Hong Kong. They've definitely come a long way and way further than back in the days when the Philippines played the role of big brother to countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, China and only would answer only to Japan in terms of who's the boss rankings in the 1960's. 

 It was a reflection that supported my belief that it was the people themselves more than any colonizer - The British and whose rule they are now under - Mainland China, which catapulted Hong Kong to where it is right now. It is a testament to their ever driven resolve to succeed from the turbulent years of the aftermath of WWII to today - when looking at far above as my can see, I wonder if there's any more place to erect another high rise building.

Everything has been occupied already and I can only shake my head - more in amazement if Hong Kong can still find room for improvement and I bet my ass they will, and create more after that, find more after and so on. My trip to Hong Kong was really an eye opener more than just seeing the iconic towers of Bank of China and HSBC, it was a fleeting example of how a country when ruled objectively and morally and rightfully, followed earnestly by its citizens, the path to economic success will become anything but a struggle.

While my hope for our country never wanes I could only hope that we can emulate our tiger neighbors in threading their path to development. In the meantime I could only hum to a "Spacehog" song.

"and in the end we shall achieve in time
The thing they call divine
When all the stars will smile for me
When all is well and well is all for all
And forever after,
Maybe in the meantime wait and see"

Hong Kong is easy to explore and you can easily plan the Best Last Minute Holidays because of its proximity and accessibility to many nations and it being a popular destination.


Ed said...

haha, for 6 days, we walked and walked and walked in Hong Kong. was amazed at the skyrise buildings in HK. although Macau has beautiful buildings, the ones in HK are just crazy.

you're blogging so often, marky. awesome series as always.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...

Aww, you weren't able to get inside the wax museum. Will ask you sana if it's great. Medyo pricey nga.

Markyramone said...

@Ed - it feels great walking around in a new place, limot ko nga gutom I skipped lunch during my trip there. Nabawe na lng ako pg dinner pag nauwe na ako dun sa tinuluyan ko.

@Gay - yup, $175 ata - medyo running on empty na ako nyan Saturday since mg Macau pa ako the next day. I'll go back pg meron ng Manny Pacquiao haha. (or meron na ba?)

Anonymous said...

I love love love the skyscrapers. Such an inspiration when i think of how to design the interiors, also gives Hk such a chi-chi vibe! :D

I don't think its just the colonizers my kudos goes to the people an its leaders hell bent on making their country what it is today, i've always believed that heroism isn't one big act. but rather a lifestyle :P

Great photos....... of the girl i was expecting her to halfway say Welcome inside HK Triad Leader Go. (mafia) Lol!!

AJ said...

Hahaha gusto ko yung mga movie references mo. :) At ang ganda ni Michelle Yeoh. Lifelike!

tina said...

I didn't even notice these beautiful buildings I was so busy looking for a cheap Louis V at that time. Another reason to go back to HK ;D

Markyramone said...

@Lauren - loaded comment from Pandlicious, good thing I wasn't mistaken for a triad member or Jackie Chan would have kicked my ass

@AJ - that's the real Michelle Yeoh - not a wax figure - she's my HK travel buddy hehe

@Tina - haha shopping days are over, save it up for travel budget na :)

lakwatsera de primera said...

I thought HSBC building was like a gigantic robot that can transform into another thing with just one click. I'm not really into modern architecture but it surely impressed me.

Bonzenti [Con Tour Blog] said...

Marky, another blockbuster HK post. Architectural design and structural as well is really my fascination. :-). Ganda ng advise ng guard, bawal mag take ng pictures sa nag gagandahang Bank tellers...

RM Bulseco said...

Naa-amaze din ako sa mga skyscrapers. Lagi kong tinitingnan mga pictures ng skyscrapers ng HK sa Flickr eh. :) As always, gondooo nomon ng mga photos!

Markyramone said...

@Claire - i like old school architecture ren, but I'm amazed at the modern ones as well, I'd like to visit Shanghai and Beijing coz of that, mixture of the old and new.

@Bonz - thanks sir Bonzetti. Yeah unfortunately i was not allowed to take pics of the lovely bank tellers.

@RM - i always look at pics of HK on the internet before, soon you can also see it in person.

Marcos (Ambot-ah Travels) said...

We also have a number of good looking high-rises in Metro Manila but yeah, they're not revolutionary in the same sense as the Bank of China and HSBC buildings in HK, for example.

I agree that It's a shame how the Philippine economy had deteriorated during the second half of the 90s (until today). Seeing old photos and reading about the glory days of Manila (also Iloilo), it's easy to romanticize how great Manila was and could have have been (today).

Markyramone said...

Wow flattered to have Ambot-ah in here. @Marcos - yeah Manila enjoys having a lot of classic architecture (still sad about the demolish Jai-Alai bldg) but the National Post Office, National Museum and some bldgs at Escolta still presents their own charms. Wish the Govt' could preserve it in the long run.

Mindanao blogger said...

I like reading this post! Been to Hong Kong twice na and although I've seen those buildings na, I haven't thought of entering them hehehe di bale, next time I will! :)

Good job!

~ Irene

Markyramone said...

Thanks Irene. It's weird because I used to see those buildings only on TV and magazine its a unique feeling seeing it up close. It wasn't that awesome but still provides some awe.

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