Story: Da Thuong

Photos: Hoang Quang Thai, Lam An

Hong Kong has inspired dreamers for well over a century and continues to be a kaleidoscope of inspiring everyday moments

Arts in Hong Kong

From its emergence as a major port city in the mid-19th century, Hong Kong has attracted visitors, dreamers and schemers from around the world, each coming for a particular reason. Cinema lovers are fond of Hong Kong as a mecca of Asian film, stopping by Chungking Mansion and Lan Kwai Fong to admire the scenes featured in movies by legendary director Wong Kar-wai. Shopaholics swoon over gleaming malls filled with luxury goods that in Central District or Tsim Tsa Shui.

Art lovers are also overwhelmed with the city’s museums, galleries and leading auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Art Basel Hong Kong has also positioned itself as one of the top art events of Asia thanks to its whirlpool attraction of artists and special art projects from top fashion houses.

In addition, West Kowloon Cultural District was constructed with a grand ambition of being a top contemporary art center of the world, in the manner of the Georges-Pompidou Art Center in Paris. And yet, the Perfume Harbor has much more to offer its millions of denizens and tourists.

A life on terraces

Any visitor to Hong Kong will be immediately dazzled with the city’s forest of high-rises and towering skyscrapers. An iconic image captured by travel bloggers is  the overlapping painted apartment blocks in Kowloon, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. Details change overnight as shops open and close at a rapid pace, but these apartment blocks still nail down the history of encounters between local culture and breakneck urbanization. As a result, the shades of life on terraces are never short on inspiration and fascination.

There are many ways to capture a snapshot of these unique corners. You may opt to climb to Ozone at the 118th Floor of The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong Hotel or take a tram to The Peak for panoramic views. You can also wander the apartment blocks are constructed on hills and encircled by the sea, under a leafy canopy of perennial trees, and catch glimpses of colorful everyday life.

Between two worlds

Hong Kong remains a beguiling blend of East and West, traditional and hyper-modern. You can enter a gleaming full glass high-rise next to a makeshift market and shoebox homes of the working class. Life and all of its facets are put upfront in the Central District, as you glimpse both homeless lingering in McDonald’s and financial industry execs stepping into the most opulent bars of the city.

Down by the Gagosian Gallery is a shantytown that sells small items and fixes keys and shoes. The contradictions of the metropolis are both a stark example of extreme wealth inequality as well as a fuel for creativity and a drive for novelty among the city dwellers.

To dip into that whirlpool, you may opt for boutiques or grace a café in Hong Kong. Cramped spaces and startling rents have prompted young artists to come up with fascinating décor that fuses various styles without compromising individuality. Sheung Wan is one of the emerging hotspots for artists and young people to stop by and leave their mark on contemporary arts.

Fusion-style cafés are another plus of Hong Kong, many opened by young Hong Kongers looking for ways to express their personalities, ambitions and contributions to the community. Dickson Hon gave up his well-paid job in finance to run tiny Opera Coffee, a little corner near Tin Hau Temple that has just one table to accommodate a single guest but turns out to be crowded by takeaway clients all the time. Good coffee and an inspirational opera playlist are coupled with the knowledgeable, smiling host. Nearby, Preface Coffee is a haven for tech workers and enthusiasts. Designed as a mobile office with its walls being projection screens for constant info updates, Preface is a frequent host of various design and tech workshops as a way to stoke new encounters between venture investors and startups. Another lovely coffee stop is Halfway (sandwiched between antique shops at Upper Lascar Row) where you are treated to automated coffee in classical Hong Kong porcelain cups that have survived decades, or traditional tea products in modern cups. These unexpected fusions are daily evidence the vitality of a robust city that embraces life in all its contradictions.