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Dusk at Victoria Harbour

Kowloon Star Ferry Pier

On a remote island in the South China Sea, there once stood a fishing village that occupied the head of a small, sheltered inlet. Along the inlet stacks of incense, grown and harvested in the nearby countryside, were stored before being shipped out for sale. Passing fishermen reported that the aroma could be smelled many leagues out to sea, and so it was named Heung Gong, or “Fragrant Harbour”.

Eventually a strange people arrived in their strange ships from another island far to the west, clad in fancy clothes ill-suited to the subtropical heat. As was the custom of the time they set about renaming almost everything after their queen, from the island’s highest mountain to the prized deepwater harbour than ran along its northern shore. As for the small port of incense, it would thereafter be known as “Aberdeen”.

Aberdeen, or “Little Hong Kong” (heung gong tsai) in Cantonese, gradually lost its poetic appeal. As the colony developed the village gave way to industrial buildings, flyovers, a coal-fired power plant, and later a slew of high-rise estates to house an ever-burgeoning population.

The warehouses and trading junks have since disappeared, but today that same smell of incense drifts out from the grey-roofed temples, concealed behind an urban jungle and a coastline altered by successive waves of reclamation. This, the sweet smell of Hong Kong, is a reminder of its humble beginnings.

Bright lights, big city


The Fragrant Harbour

Causeway Bay skyline

Neon paradise

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love the contrast of colors!

    April 1, 2012
  2. Great photos and thanks for the history lesson. I visited Hong Kong about 30 years ago and don’t think I even carried a camera. How times have changed as I don’t go anywhere without one now. Glad you have one with you! Terri

    April 2, 2012
    • You’re welcome, Terri! Somehow I wish digital cameras were invented a little earlier – there were so many trips I went on before they became the norm.

      April 2, 2012
  3. Lovely city, James.

    If I ever come to visit it, I will definitely let you know so that we can take a walk and you can show me every single corner that you show in your blog 🙂

    April 9, 2012
    • Absolutely, Javi!

      Algún día tienes que venir, te va a encantar todas las experiencias que ofrece esta ciudad. 😀

      April 12, 2012
  4. I love Hong Kong mainly because of its food. The only thing that disappointed me about Hong Kong was there New Year’s fireworks…, but ahhhhh, the food! I miss great, cheap Asian food!

    April 15, 2012
    • That was one of the biggest things I missed about it when I lived abroad. Here in Hong Kong the real fireworks are reserved for Chinese New Year, so the ones on January 1st are practically a sputter!

      April 15, 2012

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