Another fascinating book written in the 1950s, this writer must be a colour-lover.
At first the Hongkong islands blended with the mainland. The whole thing was vague and moist-looking, light green, with clouds and blue sky mingling indefinitely above it. It was usual summer weather. As we get closer I saw that the tops of Hongkong Island’s peaks were lost in a wet gray cloud, and I knew big houses up there, away from the city’s noise, would be blind and dripping clothes and books mildew there if neglected for a moment; the houses have dry-storage rooms with stoves kept lit.
We got into Hong Kong waters and passed Wanglan Light, which looks on the South China Sea from a rock and was one of the key restoration jobs after the war. A Hong Kong paper not long ago called the lighthouse the “most modern in the world”; anyway, it sparkled wonderfully in whitewash that morning. There were some junks round it in the blue water. We passed it and saw Sheko, a small preserve on Hong Kong Island’s east end for taipans, top European businessmen; their houses stood out oddly from the green landscape. Next to it we saw Big Wave Bay, with a ribbon of clean dun beach, and on the headland next to that – Cape Collinson – an army camp, with Nissen huts. We rounded that cape, taking it on our left, and confronted the bay called Sai Wan, had grown larger. The flimsy little weather-beaten huts there fascinated our navigator. “Extraordinary,” he said. “They look like crates.” They did. They looked like piano-boxes.
[…] And then we faced the city. A dark cloud-mass brooded on Victoria Peak, which rises right above it. The sides of the Peak were smoky gray-green in that light; the city struggled up them, chiefly apartments and taipans’ house on the higher levels, different off-whites in color.
A hole broke in the cloud, and a bit of Peak-flank showed bright emerald, with the houses glistening. Junk sails were moving to and fro in the foreground, and the water was flat and green (sometimes it is deep blue, sometimes gray).
Two Peak trams were in motion on their track from the city to the top – it looked vertical from our angle. One was going up, one coming down, at either end of their cable, like clock weights. That is the principle they work on, their answer to the steepness.
Big ships were in the harbor by the dozens. One, an American President liner, was tied up on the Kowloon side to the right. Others were anchored in midstream, and some had lightering junks clustered round them like nursing puppies. Ferries, launches, sampans, tugs, and other junks piled back and forth.
We moored to a buoy near Kellett Island, the site of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. […]
I went out later that morning to look at thigns and pay some calls… […] Chinese women especially are nice to look at here. The fashionable ones are nearly always slim; they wear bright silk slim dresses in Chinese style, with high collars, and slits in the skirt sides. Poor women wear deftly tailored trousers and jackets, and have thick gloosy black pigtails down their backs; the backs give a feeling of grace and spring, the effect partly, I believe, of jacket and pigtail, but also of the hard work Chinese women do, and the poise it gives them.
[…] Coolies wear Chinese pajama-suits; in hot weather they favor a shiny black material called fragrant cloud linen. They chant to keep time when they carry things, and this blends with the traffic noise, which otherwise is like that of any city.
[…] Reuters is a news agency, but in Hongkong it is also an unofficial club, a gathering place, for correspondents. Its facilities are gladly made free for all. The man ultimately behind this Christmas mood is a broad, gray-haired Irishman named Bill O’Neill, who has been in the Far East two or three decades, who once walked fifty miles in a day near the Lower Yangtze, and who is worshipped by everyone in Hong Kong fro among other things, his behavior when interned by the Japanese at Stanley Camp.
Reuters is a news agency, but in Hongkong it is also an unofficial club, a gathering place, for correspondents. Its facilities are gladly made free for all. The man ultimately behind this Christmas mood is a broad, gray-haired Irishman named Bill O’Neill, who has been in the Far East two or three decades, who once walked fifty miles in a day near the Lower Yangtze, and who is worshipped by everyone in Hong Kong for among other things, his behavior when interned by the Japanese at Stanley Camp.
We drank some tea and chatted in the quiet old high ceilinged office. Reuters is in one of Hongkong’s early downtown buildings, which run almost twenty feet between ceilings and floors, and which are sometimes paneled in hand-carved teak. In the war the office was used as a Japanese torture chamber, and the night desk-man still hears ghostly cries and moans.