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The things I take for granted

HK Sunset_1

It’s a common sight on my way to and from work: wide-eyed visitors toting cameras around their necks, and backpackers who stop to capture the busy street scenes with their smartphones. I often turn around, surprised to see their attraction to a grimy world of exhaust fumes, dripping air conditioners and ageing metal pushcarts, combining to form a less than photogenic whole.

But once in a while the haze clears, enough to admire this hyperactive city from a distance. Just last week I met up with Alex from travelwithoutborders; our mission was to reach a viewpoint not covered in the guidebooks, known only to local hikers and photographers. For me, there was also a deep personal connection with the area, for the trailhead lies just steps away from the school I attended for 14 years.

In those days we sometimes went cross-country running, turning off the main road down an unmarked concrete path, up a wide set of stairs and along a dirt trail carved along the dry hillside. Checkpoint One was a small pavilion, beside a bridge crossing over a slender waterfall; Checkpoint Two a sizeable boulder spray-painted with its eponymous number. Both were to the left of a junction at the top of the stairs, but this time Alex and I were headed the opposite way, down a route I rarely took.

Soon the view opened up between the foliage, and we scrambled up the slope into a bald patch amid the long grass. Below us the roar of the city was clearly audible, occasionally amplified by the booming horns of ships in the harbour. To our backs the birds and insects – in close quarters but often out of sight – brought balance to an otherwise man-made cacophony. We waited as the sun dipped lower and lower toward the horizon, its golden orb turning a deep, Japanese red.

This expansive view of the impossible city, hemmed in by mountains and graced by the arms of the sea, was one I grew up taking for granted. Throughout my school years I had witnessed the skyline grow and evolve, clusters of high-rises across the harbour sprouting like bamboo shoots after the airport was moved away. I remember a time when only the Peninsula Hotel – with its twin helipads – rose above the 13-storey height limit imposed over much of Kowloon; today the hotel tower is dwarfed by many of its newer neighbours.

We continued to wait in the grass, wiping the sweat from our brows in between shots. Then Alex uttered the one word that spoke to our shared sense of wonder as the clouds turned crimson and violet while a multitude of lights flickered on below. “Beautiful,” he said.

HK Sunset_2

Sun and shadow

HK Sunset_3

Concrete jungle

HK Sunset_4

A Star Ferry vessel plies Victoria Harbour

HK Sunset_5


HK Sunset_6

Dreams of Manhattan

HK Sunset_7

Causeway Bay and Tai Hang at nightfall

HK Sunset_8

Skyscrapers of Kowloon

HK Sunset_9

Cathedrals of commerce

HK Sunset_10

Dusk on the ‘Fragrant Harbour’

55 Comments Post a comment
  1. Wow! What amazing sunset photos. Hard to pick a fave but I am going with the second last one. Beautiful.

    August 5, 2014
    • Thanks Sue. I struggled a bit to pick the photos for this post… there were just so many of them and each one was slightly different from the next!

      August 6, 2014
  2. You did a great job of capturing the loveliness of it all. The sunsets are gorgeous.

    August 5, 2014
    • Much appreciated, Rosh. We don’t get those kinds of sunsets very often so it was a real sight to behold.

      August 6, 2014
  3. Lovely post James. I wish we’d known you when we were briefly in HK a few years ago. I’d love to do that hike. We sometimes fly the Pacific with Cathay which always involves a stop in HK. Will be sure to connect with you if we do it again.
    Beautiful photos!

    August 5, 2014
    • Thanks as always, Alison. I would be more than happy to give you and Don a few pointers the next time you’re here – and even take you on that hike if work allows! Feel free to drop me an email if you do end up booking flights on Cathay.

      August 6, 2014
      • Thanks, For sure I’ll contact you if we’re going to be in HK.

        August 6, 2014
  4. Hey, James, that sure is the most magnificent aerial! 🙂

    August 5, 2014
    • And the best thing was that we didn’t even need to get off the ground! 🙂

      August 6, 2014
  5. You really captured the moment with those last sentences. Sweating in the heat was well worth it for those sunset photos!

    August 5, 2014
    • Absolutely, the heat was merely a small price to pay! Thanks for the kinds words.

      August 6, 2014
  6. …A city by a harbor is always a beautiful sight to the eyes–excellent shots, :-)!!…

    August 5, 2014
    • Couldn’t agree more! I too love harbour cities, they often have a wonderful appeal that comes from their close relationship to the sea.

      August 6, 2014
  7. My friends live in Mid Levels on Kennedy Rd and they have amazing views of the harbour. I love my visits with them and love to stand at their huge windows to admire the view. I will be back in November.

    August 5, 2014
    • Ah, Kennedy Road is a gorgeous place to live – so leafy and green, and yet so close to the city centre.

      August 6, 2014
  8. gorgeous pictures! I really enjoyed this post.

    August 5, 2014
    • I’m glad you did! Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      August 6, 2014
  9. the little girl in boots #

    Very poetic post… Thanks for sharing your secret spot with us!

    August 5, 2014
    • You’re welcome – it was just too beautiful to keep it to myself!

      August 6, 2014
  10. Jenn Bhasin #

    Love it!

    August 5, 2014
    • Despite all its shortcomings, I feel very lucky to live in a place like this!

      August 6, 2014
  11. Denise [But First, Live!] #

    Such gorgeous shots!!!

    August 5, 2014
    • It was an amazing sunset – I think any camera would get great shots from what we saw!

      August 6, 2014
  12. Beautiful pictures – well worth the hot climb! Thank you 🙂

    August 5, 2014
    • It’s my pleasure, Suzanne. Thanks in turn for dropping by. 🙂

      August 6, 2014
  13. That was a lot of city, amazing for us who lives in a very different place. Nice photos.

    August 5, 2014
    • The contrast could not be more different from where you live in Norway, Bente! If you ever came to Hong Kong, I wonder if you would love it or hate it here. It is certainly an assault on the senses.

      August 6, 2014
  14. Cindy Naidoo #

    Beautiful pics!

    August 5, 2014
  15. beautiful photos! i’m so glad we did this trail! As i told you, the view stays in my mind till now 😛 😛 -TWB-

    August 5, 2014
    • Yes, this view of Hong Kong really does rival that from the Peak! Thanks again for suggesting it to me! 🙂

      August 6, 2014
      • Let’s explore more exotic part of Hong Kong! 🙂


        August 6, 2014
      • The Wetland Park and other places are definitely on the list! 🙂

        August 6, 2014
      • i will do more research on the wetlands 🙂 🙂

        August 6, 2014
  16. CC #

    Amazing photos! How I would love to be there!

    August 5, 2014
    • It was gorgeous! I found it very hard to pull myself away from the view even after dark.

      August 6, 2014
  17. Thank you for the lovely verbal and visual postcard from Hong Kong! It has been a number of years since we were last there. The post helped remind us of many reasons why enjoyed our visits there. They also remind us of the need to bring our daughter to this special, vibrant city!

    August 5, 2014
    • You’re more than welcome – I just knew I had to share a post around those recent sunset photos. When she comes I hope your daughter enjoys Hong Kong as much as you did!

      August 6, 2014
  18. Sometimes we don’t need to look far to see how beautiful the world is. What a nice afternoon to go there with Alex as the weather look really nice! This is a series of pictures of HK skyline less known to the world. Really beautiful photos, James!

    August 5, 2014
    • Yes, you’re totally right, Bama! I’m envious that you live in such a diverse and achingly beautiful country. We couldn’t have picked a better day as I have not seen such a gorgeous sunset here since.

      August 6, 2014
  19. wonderful images! 🙂

    August 5, 2014
  20. OH WOW, thats is really beautiful indeed!! Great shots! I hope to visit Hong Kong someday! 😀

    August 6, 2014
    • Thanks! Sometimes I forget just how special Hong Kong really is.

      August 7, 2014
      • I know… When we are living in a city we are used to a routine and places, and sometimes forget its magic 😃 HK is awesome!

        August 7, 2014
  21. I love this post! Beautiful photos. I really want to experience this place one day.

    August 7, 2014
    • Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later!

      August 7, 2014
  22. I wish I have met someone like you to show me that spot when I was in Hk last March,
    I know exactly what you’re talking about, growing up in Morocco, I never paid attention to how unique my environment was until I moved to Canada and travelled around Asia the last 6 months.

    August 8, 2014
    • Having a local connection makes a huge difference – my best friend lives in Indonesia and he’s taught me so much about his country.

      Actually Morocco is right at the top of my wishlist… I fell in love with the cuisine while at college (bestilla and lamb tagine are two of my all-time favourite dishes), and I would love to explore Fes and Marrakesh!

      August 10, 2014
      • Yes Moroccan food is the best, I am sure you will love it here

        August 12, 2014
  23. yurtsevyarici2013 #

    Reblogged this on Çanakkale Şehitlik Turu.

    August 9, 2014
  24. This post makes me miss Hong Kong. Hoping to visit again in the near future!

    September 16, 2014
    • Hong Kong really is full of surprises – I hope you discover a few more the next time you come!

      September 16, 2014
  25. Jamie Zona #

    These pictures are awesome! It is true we really do take these sunsets and outlooks on the world for granted we have to remember to really look and take in the outdoors! Love the blog!

    October 7, 2014
    • Thanks for that. It is so easy to get jaded with the places in which we live!

      October 9, 2014

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