The first few albums here record some of my impressions when I arrived in Hong Kong in February 1978. The images are not great, because they were scanned from old 3R prints. They record a Kong Kong that has largely, though not entirely, vanished.
Today, you will not see chickens roaming the pavement, large areas of hillside occupied by squatters or floating kitchens.
Hong Kong was full of character then, but this was at a cost to many people who barely scratched a living.
In the late '70s and '80s, there was still some agricultural life in the New Territories, but it was clear that in the past there had been much more.
These images were scanned from old 3R prints, so they are not great.
In 1979, Hong Kong had two flying clubs based at the edge of the former Kai Tak International Airport. We used to take off and land behind Jumbos - allowing time for the wing vortices, which could flip a light aircraft over, to die down. The Flying Club and The HK Aviation Club merged while I was on the Flying Club Board. When commercial flight operations moved to the 'new' airport at Chek Lap Kok, the Club moved to the military landing strip at Shek Kong. After the handover, China's Peoples' Liberation Army took that over. As I write in 2022, I'm not sure what happens now but The HK Aviation club still has a website.
These were scanned from old 3R prints and kept out of historical interest.
In 1978, when I murmured appreciation of the junks in the harbour, the old hands would say `The harbour was full of junks at one time, but you don't see them so much now.` But I was quite satisfied with what I saw then. Fortunately, I took a few photos.
In the late 1970s, junks from mainland China would occasionally take a shortcut through Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour. The only junk you'll see in the Harbour today is one for short trips for tourists, and to act as a decoration for the harbour.
Scanning the 3R print, using the iPad app Unfade did a better job than I had a right to expect. This was long before DSLRs.
I was fortunate enough to be taken up to the roof of the Lok Ma Chau police station, right next to the border. The last three pictures show undoubtedly the greatest change in this border area since then: On the mainland China side (Shenzhen), these pictures trace a change from agricultural border area and a military outpost to a frantically bustling hyper-modern city. To be clear, the fish ponds and small fields are on the Hong Kong side. And it is a great deal more developed today than the last image shows.
Mostly scanned from old 3R prints and kept out of historical interest
In 1978, Hong Kong had many fewer container terminals than at the time of writing and the harbour often had ships moored, waiting for a slot in one of the terminals.
With only one tunnel – now there are three – car ferries were still in use. Some of these survive after conversion to floating night clubs to allow tourists to enjoy meals and dancing while taking a harbour tour.
These were the last days of the walla-walla, water taxis used to cross the harbour late at night when the Star Ferry and tunnel buses stopped running. The cross-harbour walla-wallas died off with the extension of the bus services and the introduction of the Mass Transit Railway (MTR).
Scanned from old 3R prints and kept out of historical interest
A long walk down a sometimes scruffy rural road leads to a dramatic headland with roaring and crashing waves ... and the fossilised skeleton (a cast, I guess) of an ichthyosaur.
High above are the many dishes of a satellite communication hub.
This station for the high-speed train into mainland China from Hong Kong was opened in 2018. It’s an interesting place to wander round, both internally and on its extensive roof garden and public area, with its views of Hong Kong Island.
Some of the architectural details are captivating, and stainless-steel fittings contrast well with attractive plants.
Inside there are graceful curves and all-seeing surveillance cameras.
Next door there is an apparently unconnected building site which is impressively well organised.
The Hong Kong Museum of Art underwent a major redesign and restructuring. There was long an art museum here, but this is now a new building.
There is plenty of interesting material there. We've covered one floor on our first visit. The pandemic held up activities for a while but we've now visited the remainder. There are regular special exhibitions.
The essence of Hong Kong streets is in the variety everywhere. The spectrum stretches from global brand names to the cobbler with a permanent place on the pavement, while old and new shops populate most of the range in between.
Although there has been much change since the seventies, some shops still operating today have not changed much since then.
While walking in Hong Kong’s Western District, we came across a shop that felt like a museum piece. It was full of items that would not have looked out of place in a shop in 1960s or 70s Hong Kong. Yet, mixed in among the old, were some modern items.
Individual photographs cannot convey the sense of a crowded cave of intriguing pieces from past times, though viewed on this album page you may get a sense of it.
The old parts of this district are fast disappearing, to be replaced by modern development as the last picture shows.
The Po Lin Monastery is near the top of a hill on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Its dominant feature is the “Big Buddha” that sits at the crest of the hill. The monastery can be reached by cable car (to Ngong Ping village), by bus, or on foot for the fit hill walker.
Tai O is a fishing village specialising in dried seafood and famous for its stilt-houses and making dried shrimp paste (your nose will prove this to you). There is a former police lookout – installed principally to keep watch for pirates at the beginning of the 20th century and now made into a delightful boutique hotel. There is still a watch tower and a canon, and a small funicular has been added to meet modern accessibility requirements, as it is perched on a hill.
This is a very special corner of Hong Kong.
These detailed and in many cases extraordinarily faithful models of Hong Kong shops and homes of the past are mostly 30 to 60cm high. Some such shops and buildings still exist, but these models have been made by enthusiasts trying to capture memories of the city of their youth.
All are very impressive, but some go to great lengths to capture realistic detail like rusty signs, dirty walls and tiny models of everyday objects that are still in use. On looking closely, you will see events that you might have missed at first - a fire rescue operation in progress, a man cleaning his teeth near a communal tap, a newspaper vendor with dozens of tiny magazines spread out for sale.
The photos were taken in a crowded exhibition in a shopping centre, with reflections from the glass cases, so while enjoying the brilliant model makers, forgive the rotten photographer.
Many years ago, I was General Manager of a factory making the DHL1000 word processor for DHL's subsidiary Rapiddata. Our manufacturing manager said that he had given copies of the drawings of the metal casing to a factory in Shanghai and asked if I would like to go to see two sample cases they had made with a view to lower cost manufacture.
I agreed and we flew up together at a time when China, though post-Mao, was still a poor country and still looked very traditionally communist, with blue Mao suits and bicycles everywhere.
Sometimes called the Venice of China. In 1980 it was very dusty, even the beautiful gardens, but full of character and people curious of the foreigner with a camera.
These images were scanned from old faded prints using the iOS app Unfade and further processed for colour correction with Luminar.
These buildings, of a style mostly limited to this area of Guangdong Province, were built mainly around the early 20th century, when Chinese people who had previously emigrated to the USA and prospered, returned with ideas from their travels or sent money back to relatives in their home towns. Some date from much earlier.
My second visit to Shanghai - with a thirty-year gap. Some elements like the Bund and this tea house are recognisable but completely refurbished, but the whole appearance elsewhere is totally different. A vibrant, thoroughly modern city with much to capture the interest.
The famous maglev train from the airport to the city reaches 430kph with minimal fuss, and as it's floating on magnetic repulsion, is quiet and smooth.
At one time, this building was used as a printing factory and Mao’s “Little Red Book” was printed here. Being used as a factory, it was not well preserved and was restored quite recently.
The life and humanity captured ‘in the moment’ in many of these is captivating.
The first group of life-size, bronze statues were in the streets of Shamian and a park there. One, the naughty boy lighting firecrackers, was on a Guangzhou street.
The small ceramic sculptures are 20 – 30cm high. They appeared in an exhibition in the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall and the final two statues were in the grounds of that Hall.
This is an elegant, relaxed and well-preserved district that is well worth a visit. It was once known as the ‘Thirteen Factories’ district or the ‘Canton factories’. Factories at the time referred to warehouses and offices of foreign ‘factors’ or traders’ representatives.
Until I arrived in Honk Kong, I thought these rounded karst mountains originated in the minds of painters of classical Chinese scenes.
I was shocked to see a photograph of them for the first time in an exhibition.
This is Huaqiangbei, Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong.
Although many consumer products are on sale here, the selling space is dominated by components sold in bulk and of every type: Resistors and capacitors on reels, LED lights of dazzling variety and complexity, CPUs, fans, computer cases, and on and on…
The whole area is externally, a gracious and modern city, and internally a medieval market place of activity where sellers of similar items clump together. Logistics operatives are everywhere, and the dominant sound is the ripping noise of packing tape as it’s pulled across box lids to seal them for dispatch.
Tulou are rammed-earth constructions that can hold an entire village. They are said to have originally been built for defensive purposes. The majority are round -- probably because this would have avoided easier-to-damage corners when under attack -- but a few are square or rectangular. Their survival seems assured, as they have become a major tourist attraction and inhabitants show no objection to visitors crowding in and taking photos. Amazingly there are said to be 15,000 of these in Fujian province. Wikipedia gives more details, of course.
Japan occupied Taiwan from 1895 to 1945. They saw the value of the mountain forests and established the infrastructure for logging. The logging is no longer carried out, leaving fine forests and the infrastructure supports excellent tourism.
There is a world-class wood sculpture gallery at Sanyi -- they call it a museum, perhaps suggesting old tools and craft work, but that undersells it. Unfortunately, they don't allow photography inside but there is some very creative sculpture from around the world, as well as traditional Taiwanese carving and modern Taiwanese sculpture.
Shengxing railway station was abandoned when part of the line was destroyed in an earthquake, and it has now become a tourist destination - with no trains.
This conversion of a former eye hospital has been made into an imaginative and interesting shopping area. On Saturday night it was jumping and an ice-cream shop had queuing arrangements outside like a night club. These pictures were taken the next day.
This is a tower in Jincheng Township, Kinmen, built in 1931 by Huang Hui-huang, a wealthy merchant from Shuitou. In the early 1900s, Shuitou Village was prosperous from the trading business. Being close to the sea, it was a relatively easy target for pirates. So the villagers decided they needed to ward them off. In 1931, a Fujianese architect was commissioned to build this distinctive defensive tower. (Source: Classic Kinmen Travel). There's plenty more information in the images below.
Kinmen and its adjacent island Lieyu are part of Taiwan, though nestled within Xiamen Bay, in the Chinese mainland.
These small islands were the locus of fighting between mainland China and Taiwan on several occasions in the 1950s, hence the extensive military fortifications and hardware. These have been passed back to the civil authorities, refurbished and opened up for tourism.
Lieyu is another formerly-militarised island, just 15 minutes ferry ride from Kinmen. A bridge connecting the two is under construction. More in Wikipedia
See also the next album about the military side of the island.
Chiang Mai old city has a beautifully-maintained moat that delineates the old city. It is square, and has four gates in the middle of each side. There are no actual gates now, but the parts of the wall on each side of a gate and on at least one corner, still exist.
This museum has an enormous collection including famous engines and rolling stock from the past, all kept in superb condition. It has a station with several tracks, a vast workshop and back-of-house collections that the you can wander through.
Everyone's favourite birds. Well, maybe not everyone’s, but certainly mine. Seen at Skipton Sheep Day, Yorkshire, 2017. Oh, and an alpaca, which was a revelation to me. I thought they were a child's toy, like rainbow coloured unicorns.