Cultural Hong Kong
There’s more to Hong Kong than skyscrapers and towering residential blocks. Hong Kong is brimming with culture and history, where old traditions mix harmoniously with the new. Following my most recent visit in January, I wrote about what I like about Hong Kong
A traditional place I always return to is the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road. Because it was the last day of 2017, I quietly asked the God of Literature for loads of writing inspiration for the new year. I hope he was listening.
Speaking of writing inspiration, I made first-time visits to two places associated with writers.
Foreign Correspondents Club
As a lover of history and anything associated with journalism, to be taken by a journalist friend to Hong Kong’s members-only Foreign Correspondent’s Club (FCC) was a treat. As any journo worth their salt knows, the FCC is a famous press club, whose members share news breaking stories to the world.
The FCC was founded in 1943 during WWII in Japanese occupied China. They moved the club from China to Hong Kong in 1949 and set up a new club in a two-storey house at 15 Kotewall Street. I passed the empty building on the way to one of my hikes on Victoria Peak.
A few years later in 1952, the FCC moved to a mansion at 41a Conduit Road. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the FCC was the meeting place for many correspondents covering the conflict. Can you imagine some of the conversations that would have taken place over drinks in this establishment?
The FCC moved a few times over the years, but from 1982 the FCC has maintained its clubhouse in an interesting looking brick and stucco building in Icehouse Street. The original site was a cold storage warehouse, built in 1913, in the days before refrigerators.
The interior of the current site is filled with memorabilia and poignant reminders of journalists and photographers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in their line of work. My friend has been remiss to leave it this long to invite me to this bastion of colonial and journalistic history. An amazing place.
The Peninsula Hotel
At the junction of Nathan and Salisbury Roads in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon stands another amazing historical Hong Kong gem is the Peninsula Hotel
Since its opening in 1928, the Peninsula or ‘Pen’ as it is known, has been a Hong Kong landmark and the social hub in Kowloon for the artistic and intellectual types. It’s a hotel with an interesting history. On Christmas Day in 1941, Hong Kong’s colonial governor, Sir Mark Aitchison Young walked into the Peninsula Hotel and surrendered to the Japanese, whose headquarters were on the third floor. For his efforts, the Governor was ‘imprisoned’ in one of the Hotel Suites before he was sent to prison in Shanghai. For the remainder of WWII, the Japanese occupiers used the Hotel as their headquarters re-naming it the Toa Hotel. When Japan was defeated and the colony of Hong Kong was restored to British rule, the Hotel’s name ‘The Peninsula’ was reinstated.
The hotel lobby is the perfect place for watching the Pen’s fleet of signature green Rolls-Royce Phantoms drop off guests. Apparently, if you’re staying at the Hotel, you can be picked up at the airport by one of these luxurious machines. Noted luminaries who’ve stayed at the Pen include English playwright Noel Coward, Roger Moore who resided in the hotel during the filming the 1974 James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun.’ And one of my favourite travel writers, Michael Palin stopped by when he filmed his BBC documentary, ‘Around the world in 80 days.’
Dubbed the ‘Grande Dame of the Far East,’ I agree with their website, classically grand and timeless elegance were words that came to mind passing through the hotel lobby as a curious on-looker. Oh, to have the chance to take more than a fleeting voyeuristic look.
Every visit to Hong Kong reveals another side to this place I can’t help but love. These two places piqued my interest in history and love of writing.
Have you been to either?
Tell me about them and any other Hong Kong discoveries, I’d love to hear more.