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.