Friday, 23 March 2012

Shopping in a Cruise Ship on Dry Land in HK

A Mirage in the Shopping District. A Shopping Dry Dock. The # City.

sunny 25°C

One day during a lazy weekend, I surfed idly on YouTube (Speaking of weird sight over China as seen from Google satellite maps, this one also takes the cake), and came across a video showing the top 10 strange sights as seen by Google satellite (serendipity is my favourite mate). While the other 9 are odd enough sights, but this one in particularly made me sit up and pursued it further. This is because it’s unlikely I’ll ever have the chance to see the other 9 oddities in real life. This one, however, quite probably.

Whampoa, Hung Hom, Hong Kong
Do you see what i see?

I didn’t expect the top 10 weird sights would include anything remotely in HK. They're so small, they don’t make into top 10 of anything. Ok, to be fair, 2 IFC buildings in HK is the 6th tallest building in the world when it was completed in 2003. Today, in 2012, it just made it into top 10 (this list get updated rather quickly as Greater China and the Middle East seems to be having a race towards the sky).

Looking at that photo above, there it was, staring me in the face. It was an aerial view of what looks like a cruise ship in the east of Kowloon mostly residential area Hung Hom, surrounded by residential high-rises with building plans in the shapes of  '#' sign (it would reflect HK's property values to be the highest in Asia better if their plans are shaped like '$' sign) . The ship spans 4 apartment blocks, measured about 100m, and is located a few kilometres from the water’s edge. Some questions sprung to to mind, "What's that damn ship doing stranded in the middle of town? Is the ship for sale? Is this what they called a dry dock? Is that Li Ka-Shing's private yacht?" (Li Ka-Shing is the HK property tycoon, and the richest man in HK).

My mind raced for answers. One possibility is that this cruise ship was used to be on a dry dock on the water’s edge, but land reclamation had extended the land outwards from there. Not possible?

Land reclamation maybe unfamiliar to folks who live in large country with relatively small population. For examples, USA or Australia. Land reclamation isn’t a term that’s bantered around in dinner conversation. But in HK, that’s a fact of life. In the neighbouring Macao (could be reached from HK in less than an hour by ferry), its land mass had more than doubled through this process of land filling. Sheldon Edelson was part of that. In fact, when the idea of land filling (not landfill) was proposed to him to solve the problem of putting his mammoth casino The Venetians onto this tiny island, he thought they were joking. He had never heard of such a thing. And like Donald Trump, he’s essentially a property developer!  In fact, reclamation was the only feasible solution for him. The Venetians now sits comfortably on artificial land. Indeed, reclamation is also part of Singapore property development landscape (pun intended) since the 1960s.

So you see that my idea about the original location of the cruise ship wasn’t really so outlandish (pun intended).

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to HK. I don't think there's many places of interests that I haven't laid my fingers on (ok, left my footprints on), at least, that I haven't heard of. And how could they hide something as big as a cruise ship in such a small place from the public? And I’m the public. And tourist. Would that be something they should tell a tourist? I’ve never seen anything in the tourist literature. And I accumulated a shoe box of it.

I dug a little deeper, the “cruise ship” turns out to be a shopping mall. This may explain that I had never seen it in travel literature because it's buried in the shopping section that I never look at, maybe. Well, the mystery was solved and gone. It may have killed my curiosity cat, but it didn’t kill my inner child.

I promised myself that if – no, when - I visit HK again, I’m going to have a street view of this shopping mall that resembles a landlocked cruise ship from the air. I resisted myself to have a sneak peak of the street view in Google map (since this isn't a middle of nowhere, but fairly close to downtown Kowloon, you can expect that the Google Car would be there taking street view photos). It wouldn't spoil the surprise when I see it face to face for the 1st time.

And voila, 3 months after viewing the YouTube, I was back in HK once again. Here I'm (if I don't keep my own promise, who will?).

I did some research on the net on how to get there, and the info I got was to catch a RBM bus 8A from Star Ferry Terminal. It takes about 20 mins, and the fares is HK $3.70.

I didn't follow that advice. Because we were happened to be very close by to the East Tsim-Sha-Tsui MTR station. We took the metro train and got off at Hung Hom Station to take the RBM bus 8A, and then got off at Whampoa Gardens stop. You won't have to worry that you'll get off at the wrong stop because it happens to be a terminus.

Hung Hom MTR station, Hong Kong
Hung Hom MTR station. (the building that pierces the setting sun is the nearly completed ICC building).

HK Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong
Nearby HK Polytechnic University buildings

There're enough signage posted at every corner. When in doubt just ask people where the Whampoa is. I'm sure they all know it.

So here we're, the "cruise ship" as viewed at the ground level and life size.

The Whampoa, Hung Hom, Hong Kong
It's a ship?   Is it a mirage?   It's a shopping mall !

The Whampoa, Hung Hom, Hong Kong

The Whampoa, Hung Hom, Hong Kong

The Whampoa, Hung Hom, Hong Kong The Whampoa, Hung Hom, Hong Kong

The Whampoa, Hung Hom, Hong Kong

This signpost at one of the street corner shows that the Whampoa Gardens are made up of several districts or areas. This wikipedia map shows the enlarged view of the map at the bottom of this signpost (it also include the location of the bus terminus).

Signpost, Whampoa Gardens, Hung Hom, Hong Kong
The signpost with map of area
(Click photo to enlarge)

Walked around the different areas within the Whampoa Gardens, slowly a picture was emerged. The different areas are specialised in different merchandise, and has different themes.

You could say that these are shopping theme parks. Why not? In the neighbouring gambling town of Macao, they build casinos with different themes. Like the Venetian theme for Adelson's casino. And visitors to Las Vegas casinos are no strangers to these casino theme parks.

Well, there's nothing more well known in HK than shopping, why not have shopping theme parks? Macao has casino theme parks, HK has its shopping theme parks (and Disneyland) as gambling is outlawed in HK.

Home World, Hung Hom, Hong Kong

The Whampoa would have looked 'magical' in the evening when it's lit up. Unfortunately, we didn't stay that long.

Why can't all shopping mall has such a fun shape!  All aboard!

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