When many people thing of Hong Kong’s streetscape, a common word is ‘crowded’. The streets are narrow and bustling, and the neon signs which often overhang the streets mean that there is virtually no escape from the congestion.
This is especially the case in districts within proximity of the city centre, such as Wan Chai and Causeway Bay. In Causeway Bay’s case, the dominance of up-market shopping means that most of this congestion could be considered ‘visual pollution’. After all, Hong Kong is considered to be the city with the worst light pollution in the world, given the sheer density of its architecture.
But there is an irony to it, it all comes down to the mood you’re in. Crowds, naturally, mean energy. Signs mean colour. In Wan Chai, the overhang of signs on the street make it a place which bursts with colour 24/7 on every street corner, even if these buildings may be dirty, dark or dingy inside.
Take that building on the street corner, for example. No urban planning law in many Western nations would let any developer get away with colouring a seemingly mundane building in purple, blue and orange. But in Wan Chai, it’s the dullest thing in the picture.
Perhaps it’s the case that the narrow streets block out so much sunlight that Hong Kongers are made to compensate for it with the rainbow of signs at street level. And for many tourists, the signs are barely intelligible, allowing them to appreciate it without the consumerist labels attached. But, of course the signs all have meanings – and it’s worth popping your head into an institution or two for some taste of the local culture.
Which is exactly what I did – be sure to check the page out next time for a peek inside one of Wan Chai’s most historically significant institutions.
Locations: Wan Chai