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Hong Kong's Skyline, Tsim Sha Tsui and Kowloon Clock Tower



One thing that every tourist should do before leaving Hong Kong is to cross Victoria Harbour by ferry. Ferries go regularly from Central Pier to Tsim Sha Tsui, in Kowloon peninsula. Tsim Sha Tsui (often called TST by locals) is one of the most densely populated commercial districts in Hong Kong, a major traffic hub and a popular tourist destination thanks to its shopping boulevards - whose luxury boutiques are mostly frequented by mainland Chinese nowadays -  old colonial buildings, high-class hotels, museums and exhibition centres.

However, the landmark of Tsim Sha Tsui and Kowloon is without doubt its characteristic waterfront promenade, which not only features an old clock tower - the last remnant of a demolished railway station - and the Avenue of Stars, but also boasts a wonderful view of the impressive skyline of Hong Kong Island, the city's financial and business centre.


 

Tsim Sha Tsui


Tsim Sha Tsui can be reached both by MTR (change at Admiralty and take the red line) or by ferry from the Starferry pier near Central MTR Station.




The ferry is, of course, the best way to get there, because one can enjoy the amazing view of Victoria Harbour and the skyline. Tickets are very cheap, ranging from HK$2.50 to HK$3.40 (just around 0,25-0,34 euros respectively). It's possible to pay either with cash or with your Octopus Card.

Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower


The clock tower of the former
Kowloon-Canton Railway Station
The first thing you will notice after getting off the ferry station at Tsim Sha Tsui is a 44-metre neoclassical, red-brick Victorian clock tower that seems out of place among the surrounding modern buildings. This clock tower is the last remainder of the former Kowloon-Canton Railway Station, which was built in 1915 and opened to the public in 1916. It was sadly torn down in 1978 despite citizens' protests. After the demolition of the station, public outcry moved the Governor to save at least the clock tower.

In the old age of 'slow travelling' the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) was the terminus of the gigantic Trans-Siberian Railway line that crossed the entire Eurasian continent. In those days the railway was the 'fast' alternative to the ship. Departing from Hong Kong, one could reach Paris via Guangzhou (=Canton), Hangzhou, Beijing, Mukden, Moscow and Berlin in 'just' three weeks, while ships took twice as long.

The demolition of the railway station was an example of short-sighted urban planning. Not only did the site remain empty and desolate for a decade, until the construction of the modern Hong Kong Cultural Centre began, but around thirty years later an MTR station had to be build and the old railway station was not there any more to serve this purpose. It could have been used as an MTR station and a place for shops, restaurants and cafes, as well as a tourist attraction. 

The old Kowloon Canton Railway Station prior to demolition

(sources: Ingham 2007, p. 167; Rodwell 1991, p. 119; Wordie, pp. 22-23; Lung 1999, p. 53).

The clock tower with the Hong Kong Cultural Centre on the background



Ultramodern streets

Canton Road with the typical luxury boutiques

The clock tower as viewed from Canton Road
Central Pier
Hong Kong's skyline as seen from the ferry

The 1881 Heritage (Former Marine Police Headquarters)


The 1881 Heritage is one of the most conspicuous buildings in the area, located at the crossroads of Canton Road and Salisbury Road, behind the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (see map). The structure was built on a small hill in 1883 (or 1881, or 1884 - strangely enough, different sources give different construction dates) to serve as the headquarters of the Marine Police. 

In 1996 the Marine Police moved to Sai Wan Ho and the building remained unused. It was declared by the government a historic site and could (fortunately) not be demolished. In 2009 extensive renovation was completed. The building now houses an upscale hotel, luxury shops and fancy bars and restaurants (Wordie, pp. 23-24; note).

Front facade of the 1881 Heritage







The 1881 Heritage by night

The Peninsula Hotel

The Peninsula Hotel (often simply called "The Pen") is Hong Kong's oldest still operating hotel, and one of the most glamorous. Frequented by tycoons and well-to-do travellers, it retains its past colonial, upper-class flair and exclusiveness.

Built in 1928, the Pen belonged to the Kadoorie family, a dynasty of Sephardi Jewish entrepreneurs originally from Baghdad. It was located in an area that in those days was not densely populated. The site was cleverly chosen in order to take advantage of the growing tourist business of the "Roaring Twenties", and of the proximity of the harbour, the waterfront promenade, and most especially of the newly constructed Kowloon-Canton Railway Station which brought to Hong Kong wealthy visitors from Europe, Russia and China. In 1994 a new tower block was added to the hotel as a modern extension to the old building (Wordie, p. 26; Vines 2002, pp. 99-100).



The Peninsula Hotel by night

Shanghai Tang Boutique 

(Former Tsim Sha Tsui Fire Station)


Until a few years ago this old colonial, red-brick building stood unused in the middle of skyscrapers and bustling streets. Constructed in 1904, it served as a fire station. As in many other cases, it was business that saved this chapter of colonial history from neglect. It is now occupied by the Chinese luxury brand Shanghai Tang.




Hong Kong's Skyline

I took this video to show you Hong Kong's amazing skyline, which is one of the most impressive and distinctive in the world. It is the symbol of the energy, the modernity and the relentless spirit of this city. Unfortunately, it was a foggy day, but there are so many foggy days in Hong Kong that it's not so easy to find the right moment to go and take a video. Anyway, I hope this will still give to those who have never been here a general idea of the harbour and the skyline.



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