When not writing about Hong Kong, Anna enjoys ultramarathon running, pro surfing and making things up to sound cool.
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When not writing about Hong Kong, Anna enjoys ultramarathon running, pro surfing and making things up to sound cool.
Hong Kong is blessed with amazing secret islands, gorgeous beaches and brilliant hiking trails that are the envy of Time Out cities worldwide. Oddly enough, Hong Kong’s many alleways aren’t held in quite such high esteem. But if you think all alleyways are dank, dark and dangerous, then think again. The intrepid staff of Time Out have jumped oily puddles, dodged noxious bin bags and sidestepped unknown drips to locate the best secret spots in alleyways actually worth lingering in. In fact, these streets are so secret they don’t even have names...
It’s a classic Hong Kong story: huge, heritage-filled building in a prime location becomes vacant, followed by extended governmental indecision over what exactly to do with the site, leading to a building worth thousands of millions of dollars lying dormant for years and years on end. In a nutshell, this is the story of PMQ, formerly the less sexily named Police Married Quarters, a grade three historical site in the middle of Soho. PMQ, which consists of an adjacent pair of expansive, functional buildings, was constructed in 1951 – on the site of the former Central Government School Victoria College, which was destroyed during the Japanese Occupation in WWII – to provide accommodation to married junior police officers, with the intention of boosting recruitment following the huge influx of mainland Chinese into Hong Kong after the Chinese Civil War. When the PMQ buildings were eventually vacated in 2000, they were valued at $3,000m, yet remained empty for years amid a mire of indecision. Eventually, in the policy address of 2009, the government unveiled the ‘Conserving Central’ plan, which promised preservation of several key heritage sites in Central, including Murray Building, Central Market, the Central Police Station Compound and, of course, PMQ. “[PMQ] is representative of the [local] architectural style that has a simple, functional outlook with repeating units,” says Stephen Tang JP, deputy director of the government’s Architectural Services Department, who worked on t
Think all there is to Macau is a handful of historic monuments and mega-clubs like Pacha and Cubic? Think you’ve ‘done’ Macau then? Back that thought up right now. It may be a small place with a well-trodden tourist trail, but there’re plenty of amazing alternatives to the spots you’ve seen a hundred times before, as Rebeca Fellini steps out and discovers. And while you’re at it, make sure to sample the best coffee shops in Macau and don’t forget our guide to Coloane. All photography by Warton Li
As well as all the obvious reasons to love our glorious city, here are a few added extras... We all know that Hong Kong rocks a unique double decker tram and has the world’s ‘longest outdoor covered escalator system’ (how many exist, honestly?) But there are plenty of more extraordinary reasons to love our SAR. Here are 10 of them. By Anna Cummins and Kaitlin McPhee SEE ALSO: 200 reasons to love Hong Kong 1 We live forever (almost)It’s unlikely to be something wonderful in the water, but – whatever the reason is – Hongkongers have longevity. HK men live the longest in the world, and our women the second longest, with an average life expectancy of 81.2 and 86.7 years respectively – our dear old po po are pipped only by Japanese women, who live to 86.8 years on average. Our expected lifespan has seen an impressive gain of eight years since the 1980s. Of course, that doesn’t negate the fact that one in three of our elderly population lives in poverty or the worrying trend that, by 2050, 40 percent of our population will be over 65. But, take gratification in the fact that we might all be around long enough to cross the harbour on hoverboards one day. 2 We have the world's best McDonald'sIt’s official. Burger fans (and those who felt the only thing previously missing from their McDonald’s experience was a 19-ingredient salad bar featuring quinoa) can now rejoice. We officially have the best McDonald’s in the world. The first McDonald’s Next restaurant opened its doors in Admiralt
The next time you see a giant Santa in lights, waving merrily at you across Victoria Harbour, take a moment to think of Terence Wong. The electrician has earned a reputation as the ‘Father of the Christmas lights’ after overseeing the majority of the imaginative illuminations in our city for the past 31 years.Since the age of 12, Wong worked in his brother’s electrical shop when he wasn’t in school. As soon as he left Form Five, he opened his own shop in Shau Kei Wan, selling lights and doing electrical repairs – although it wasn’t always straightforward. “I was repairing a strip lamp in a classroom,” he recalls. “There was an overload and then all the power to the school was cut off, because I wasn’t good!” he laughs, before confirming: “Of course, today it would be no problem.”Christmas wasn’t always full of light and fun in Hong Kong. Wong explains that, back in the early 1980s, there weren’t any festive lights on buildings, and the main illuminations were simple strings of bulbs in Hong Kong Park. “The Sino Group asked me to put some lights on their buildings. [At first] I said ‘I cannot’ – because in that period, all the commercial buildings were glass,” he remembers. “I was worried the bulbs would damage the building. So the first time I did the lighting [in 1982], the lights weren’t put flat on the glass; they were just like a canopy, hanging down on wires suspended from the roof.”While the first, simple strings of lights were a hit, it was two more years before Wong h
Despite the recent cold snap, air conditioning across the city has been pumping resolutely on. Anna Cummins and Jocelyn Wong wrap up and head out to explore why we just can’t switch it off. Photography by Calvin Sit With the mercury dropping to an unusually frigid seven degrees Celsius during mid-February, Hongkongers have, sensibly, been wrapping up extra-warm. Yet, while being cold outside is unavoidable, we’ve also been staying wrapped up inside – for the air conditioning has been blasting merrily away in our city’s shopping centres, cinemas, offices and restaurants, in spite of the cold snap. This incongruous situation begs the question: is Hong Kong abusing its air con? One thing’s for sure. For this debate, the (woollen) gloves are staying firmly on.‘Cold air machines’ (as they’re known in Cantonese) are a way of life in our city, no matter the time of year. Many people would confess to owning an ‘indoor’ jacket – and some tourist guide publications warn prospective travellers about ‘transport and buildings that blast out cold air’. Air conditioning chugs about 30 percent of all electricity used in the city annually. It’s closer to 60 percent in the summer. This is, of course, far from eco-friendly. It takes a mature tree three months to absorb the carbon emissions created by just one regular air con unit in eight hours. We brave the chill and set out to quiz people on the matter. In a Taste supermarket inside Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong, we record temperatures of a s
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih came to Hong Kong from Indonesia, aged 21, after friends told her that the city was 'heaven' for domestic helpers. But she was placed in the house of Law Wan-tung, who swiftly began a reign of abuse – refusing to pay her or grant her holidays, and also physically attacking her. Erwiana's story drew global horror after she returned to Indonesia and photos of her – bruised, battered and malnourished – emerged. After last year's high-profile court case, Law Wan-tung has been found guilty of 18 counts of abuse and will be sentenced later this month. Erwiana now finds herself in an unusual position. She's a victim, trying to move on emotionally from her abuse, but thanks to the media attention she's been getting, she's also inadvertently become a spokesperson for the 320,000 helpers in the city. We sit down with the 24-year-old and talk with her about her feelings on her new platform, her plans for the future and what can be done to end the cycle of abuse that many helpers face daily. Hi Erwiana. Congratulations on the verdict. How do you feel now the case is over? I am very happy. It's been a long year. There were 20 charges of abuse against your ex-employer Law Wan-tung – 18 of those applied to you, but two of the charges related to her abusing previous helpers, to which she was found not guilty. What do you think about that? I feel disappointed and sad. As a helper, you are not respected and recognised. Even when we tell our story, many still don't belie
It takes a certain type of person to become a pageant queen. It takes someone ever-poised, ever-cheerful and oh-so-eloquent. A penchant for charity work helps too. Most importantly, though, they must look damn good in a swimming costume. So it’s not surprising then that 22-year-old Grace Chan, who fully encompasses these characteristics, was an early favourite to win TVB’s Miss Hong Kong 2013 contest. The serenely confident and glamorous Chan deftly charmed both the judges and the audience, securing 170,000 votes from the public on the way, in the first ever Miss Hong Kong contest to include public voting. The moment she won marked the culmination of a lifelong dream for Chan, who had longed to enter the pageant ever since she was eight years old. “My mum and dad were in the audience,” she recalls. “The moment that they announced I was the winner, my eyes shot straight at them and then I saw mum crying. And then I just cried!” Chan is Hong Kong-born, but has lived in Vancouver since she was five. It was only after graduating last year in Canada that she decided to return to her homeland, just in time to enter the pageant. “My mum came back to Hong Kong with me to see if I was going to adjust properly,” she says. “The Hong Kong culture is so different from Vancouver. That was the one thing I had to adjust to… but, because I have enjoyed that simple, quiet kind of life [in Canada], I am ready to jump into something that’s more fast-paced and action-packed. I love Hong Kong!” B
Up to 2.8 million people in Hong Kong suffer from some kind of insomnia. Anna Cummins takes a look at this exhausting problem and considers if our work-obsessed culture is slowly pushing us all towards a mental health crisis How did you sleep last night? Perhaps you struggled to get to sleep, woke up several times throughout the night, or woke up far too early. If you often find yourself counting sheep for hours or raiding the fridge at 4am, then you could well be amongst the 40 percent of Hongkongers who now suffer from some degree of insomnia. The effects of this misery-inducing condition extend much further than a feeling of tiredness: insomnia has been shown to result in decreased cognitive functioning and is also associated with a poorer quality of life and weakened immune system. Insomniacs are far more likely to suffer from long-term health problems, and the condition is very often an indicator of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Treatment can be difficult; commonly used sleep medications (such as benzodiazepine) can be addictive, and most alternative therapies such as hypnosis or herbal treatments lack evidence for their efficacy. So, why do so many people in Hong Kong struggle with sleep? Around 50 percent of insomniacs in Hong Kong – that’s about 1.4 million people – have ‘primary’ insomnia, meaning there are no underlying physical or psychological conditions causing their sleepless nights. For these people, insomnia is arguably a symptom of the hec
It costs around $5million to raise a child in HK – no wonder we’re having fewer children than ever. Anna Cummins investigates if our city is growing old ungracefully. Additional reporting by Iris Yeung "One is perfect for a solo. With two, you can play doubles. The more the merrier. How about a quartet? You could even form a basketball team!” These are the opening words of a new TV advert from the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong (FPAHK), which has drawn attention over the last month for the its light-hearted message towards family planning. “How many children should you have?” the advert’s voiceover concludes. “The choice is yours. Be sure to plan ahead and plan it well.” Spawning a basketball team’s worth of children is, understandably, the stuff of nightmares for most current or prospective parents living in a Hong Kong apartment. But Dr Susan Fan JP, executive director of the FPAHK, explains that there’s a deeper meaning. “Surveys show that the gap between ideal parity [the number of children you want] and actual parity [the number you have] has gone up, and that made us think that it was time to do something. The message is about planning.” Back in the 1970s, Hong Kong women had around three children each on average. In the 1980s that had fallen to around two children and by the early 1990s it had fallen below that. It has now sunk to 1.18.Hong Kong’s population is aging and it’s a big problem. We have the second fastest aging population in Asia, after Japan: on
The funding plan for a $145.5 billion ‘third runway project’ was confirmed last month. But this expensive piece of infrastructure is worrying environmental activists as well as city planners. Is growing a good idea? More than 60 million people travelled through it last year. It’s the world’s busiest cargo gateway and the 10th busiest passenger airport on the planet. And the government reckons that, by 2030, demand at Hong Kong International Airport will reach a staggering 102.3 million passengers each year. For years there has been intense debate over how the airport should handle our city’s status as a growing global business and travel hub. To expand or not to expand? Just last month the government announced a funding plan for the controversial three-runway system (‘3RS’, if that’s too much of a mouthful), which will be built by 2023. This huge project involves around 650 hectares of reclamation and is set to cost $145.5 billion. The new concourse, parking bays and the runway itself mean HKIA will be able to handle 30 million extra passengers per year, bringing capacity much closer to the expected demand. Of course, the process so far has been far from ‘plane’ sailing. The strength of feeling on the matter is high, particularly as almost every Hongkonger can expect to experience some of the runway’s wide spectrum of ramifications – from environmental to economic, with some commentators voicing fears that the bulk of new passengers would simply be transferring at the airpor
The beguiling State Theatre Building has stood on King’s Road in North Point for almost 64 years. But Hong Kong’s last grand post-war theatre structure is now facing its final curtain. Anna Cummins meets the people fighting to save it from developers. (Originally published December 2015)-It’s a bleary Monday morning and we’re checking our emails. Do we need PPI? No. Do we want a fat-busting pill? No, ta. The next message opens up. “The State Theatre is going to be demolished – they’ll flatten everything. Hong Kong needs to save it.” For the first time all morning, we pause. The State Theatre building – a looming, concrete composition, first opened as the glamorous Empire Theatre in 1952. Adverts from the time told of a 56ft-wide cinema screen, a spacious, air conditioned lobby, and a lift up to the dress circle. At first, movies in English and Mandarin were shown, although later on the venue also became popular for Cantonese opera and Mandarin vaudeville. It changed its name to State Theatre in 1959 and was in use until 1997, when it closed for good and was converted into a snooker hall and sauna. The site has lost its ritz in recent years, and is currently shrouded in scaffolding. The complex around the former main theatre still houses at least 200 residential flats, as well as a (decisively dingy) shopping arcade on the ground floor.The urgent alert about the building being under threat was sent out by local conservation enthusiast and co-founder of walking tour company Wal
It may be the industry that our city was founded upon – but the future of shipping in Hong Kong is looking uncertain after a dramatic slump in business. As the authorities take a new tack in an attempt to reverse the nosedive, Anna Cummins investigates what it would mean to lose this huge slice of our city’s identity. Photography by Calvin Sit Hundreds of ships drift in and out of Hong Kong every day. In fact, to be precise, 380,050 vessels traversed the city’s waters in 2014. These ranged from huge, hulking long-haul container ships right down to chugging river barges. And many of these boats transported a phenomenal amount of… well, stuff. And, in our fragrant harbour, they still do. More than 90 percent of all global trade is carried by sea and our city alone handles more than 22 million TEUs – a measurement roughly equivalent to one shipping container – of cargo every year. That includes everything from those novelty pyjamas your mum bought you last Christmas to less festive bulk cargo such as coal or gravel. Since Hong Kong is one of the world’s busiest maritime hubs, those high figures are far from surprising – but there’s more to the shipping industry than just numbers when it comes to our city. It’s a facet of our identity so ingrained that it’s easy to take for granted. “If there was no port, there’d have been no Hong Kong,” points out Dr Stephen Davies, a marine historian at the University of Hong Kong and the former director of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. It’s a
The Tourism Commission has just revealed that, by 2023, 100million people will visit our city every year – nearly double the current amount. Will all the pressure be too much for our infrastructure? Anna Cummins dissects this hot debate If you’ve ever grumbled as you waited for hours at Hong Kong immigration, tutted as you had your elbows knocked by crowds of bag-wielding tourists in Tsim Sha Tsui or rolled your eyes at all those illegally parked coaches lined up alongside our city’s luxury shops, then it might preserve your sanity best if you stop reading now. In mid-January, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Gregory So Kam-leung, delivered the results of a new Tourism Commission report. It made one thing very clear: Hong Kong should brace itself for a sharp increase in the number of tourists visiting annually. It’s projected that, by 2017, 70million visitors will enter the city every year and, by 2023, that number will be up to 100m. That compares to the relatively humble 54.3m visitors who entered last year. This huge hike in tourist numbers has, naturally, rattled many Hongkongers – and we’ve been speaking out in our droves since the release of the report. “It’s terrible!” exclaims Roy Tam Ho-pong from the Population Policy Concern Group. “I am very angry about this prediction. The government isn’t doing anything to relieve our discontent! Our shopping malls and our public transportation are nearly at maximum capacity, so you feel that everywhere is ver
The rate of rat infestation in Hong Kong has doubled in the past five years and the government is stepping up its control measures after a surge of complaints. But, as some have mooted, are we really suffering from a plague of ‘super rats’? Anna Cummins finds out "We were once called out to a commercial complex in Tsim Sha Tsui,” recalls Stuart Morton. “There was a huge rat in this restaurant that they couldn’t catch. They didn’t even want to go inside in case it fell on their heads. So, of course, I went in, all bravado...” Morton, technology and entomology manager at local pest control company Biocycle, with two decades’ worth of experience as an urban pest expert in Hong Kong, pauses and shakes his head. He is half grinning, half grimacing. “It was like a scene from Alien – that part where the tail disappears,” he laughs. “This rat the size of a large cat shot across the floor and up the piping which goes up to the ceiling. We all had to run and take cover!” Rats have a reputation. They’re dirty, they’re scary, they’re wily. And, while these rodents are part and parcel of living in pretty much any city, their presence is understandably not something most people choose to dwell on. It’s hardly an alluring facet of the modern bohemian-artisanal-urban lifestyle promised in luxury property ads, after all – and they do terribly on Instagram. But the fact that rats are nocturnal and are pretty well adapted to slinking around doesn’t mean they’re not there. “Of course there are
Last month, Time Out asked 14,854 city-dwellers around the world to tell us about their lives, relationships, jobs, pet peeves and everything in between. We reveal what you think of life in HK and how it compares to other global cities. By Anna Cummins and Guy Parsons