A roar­ing bronze lion named Stephen with shrap­nel holes from WWII, a man who looks like Gol­lum and took his name, can­nons to fend off bad spir­its, here are 5 inter­est­ing­ly unique things in Hong Kong’s Cen­tral dis­trict that you might have oth­er­wise missed. And they’re all free to vis­it.

1. Stephen and Stitt, Prisoners of War:

Roaring Stephen protecting the HSBC Headquarters

Roar­ing Stephen pro­tect­ing the HSBC Head­quar­ters

Decem­ber 8th, 1941, just after 8 am, four hours after the attack on Pearl Har­bor, Japan­ese bombers roared over Hong Kong quick­ly destroy­ing the inad­e­quate air defense. Troops with­drew to Hong Kong Island but weren’t safe for long. One week lat­er, on the 15th of Decem­ber, Hong Kong Island was con­tin­u­ous­ly shelled. It was per­haps the dark­est time in Hong Kong’s mod­ern his­to­ry.

It was dur­ing this time that Stephen and Stitt, two bronze lions placed in front of the HSBC head­quar­ters in 1935 almost became casu­al­ties of war. Stephen, roar­ing to the East took the brunt of the attack when shrap­nel pierced his thick bronze hide. Holes that can still be seen to this day.

Stephen's shrapnel wounds

Stephen’s shrap­nel wounds

They were both tak­en by the Japan­ese invaders becom­ing pris­on­ers of war and might have been lost for­ev­er if it weren’t for a keen-eyed US Navy sailor who spot­ted them in Osa­ka in 1946. They were returned short­ly after and still bear the bat­tle scars.

See them and read their his­to­ry in front of the HSBC Head­quar­ters in Cen­tral, Hong Kong Island, where they’ve sat ever since guard­ing its entrance.

Get There:

On the Metro take Cen­tral Sta­tion Exit K and you’re right in front of it. The Lions are in front of the build­ing.

2. Hong Kong Gollum:

Hong Kong Gollum

Hong Kong Gol­lum

He stands in front of the 7–11 open­ing beer and light­ing cig­a­rettes for drunk yup­pies. “It’s Gol­lum!” a half-drunk young white guy exclaims. I think it’s a bit rude and tell him as much. “No! That’s his name! Google it!” Sure enough, he’s a bit of a celebri­ty here. He doesn’t real­ly speak Eng­lish but can always be found smil­ing and help­ing open bot­tles of beer. His sig­na­ture pos­es are wav­ing an index fin­ger or giv­ing a thumbs up. Take a pic­ture with him and give him a small tip for all he does in the com­mu­ni­ty of drunk­en rev­el­ers. Cher­ish this liv­ing trea­sure of Hong Kong.

Find Him:

Walk around Lan Kwai Fong (LKF) in Cen­tral and look in front of the con­ve­nience stores. I’ve seen him in front of the 7–11 next to Ebeneezer’s on Lan Kwai Fong street.

For a bit more infor­ma­tion on Hong Kong Gol­lum check out this arti­cle.

 

3. Knit-fitti and the Stone Slab Street:

Knit-fitti - Jack and Zero

Knit-fit­ti — Jack and Zero

A local artist cov­ers the met­al rail­ings on the Stone Slab Street with knit­ted art, hence the name “Knit-fit­ti”. When I vis­it­ed there was a Hal­loween theme includ­ing Jack from The Night­mare before Christ­mas, com­plete with his trusty ghost dog “Zero”.

The Stone Slab Street itself an inter­est­ing bit of pre­served his­to­ry. Add the “Knit-fit­ti” and it’s well worth a vis­it, though it’s not always there.

Get There:

Stone Slabs Street” or “Pot­tinger St” runs between Stan­ley St and Hol­ly­wood Rd. The street has stalls sell­ing trin­kets and the upper por­tion just below Hol­ly­wood Rd. is where you’ll find the “Knit-fit­ti”

 

4. Feng Shui Cannons:

When con­struc­tion was fin­ished on Hong Kong’s HSBC build­ing in 1985 at HK$5.2 bil­lion, (rough­ly US $668 mil­lion or 1.5 bil­lion USD today), it was the most expen­sive build­ing ever con­struct­ed in the world, owing in part to the Feng Shui prin­ci­ples it adhered to.

I.M Pei and Part­ners most­ly ignored the prin­ci­ples of Feng Shui when they designed the near­by Bank of Chi­na Tow­er with its dis­tinc­tive knife-like edges, the first major build­ing in Hong Kong not adher­ing to these prin­ci­ples of Chi. Its screw­driv­er like shape is believed by some to be “Drilling the wealth out of Hong Kong”. The build­ing has been blamed for a num­ber of tragedies includ­ing bank­rupt­cy and a bad fall by Mar­garet Thatch­er.

HSBC’s answer was the instal­la­tion of Feng Shui “Can­nons” on top of the build­ing. Two crane-like struc­tures direct­ed at the Bank of Chi­na Tow­er, deflect­ing the bad ener­gy.

HSBC Feng Shui cannons

HSBC Feng Shui can­nons


Get There:

The HSBC Build­ing stands promi­nent­ly on the sky­line of Hong Kong Island and is beau­ti­ful­ly light up at night.
On the Metro take Cen­tral Sta­tion Exit K and you’re right in front of it. For bet­ter views of the can­nons walk away from the build­ing as they’re hard to see when you’re right in front of it.

 

5. Longest Outdoor Escalator System in the World:

Kathy at the start of the escalator system

Kathy at the start of the esca­la­tor sys­tem

Span­ning over 800 meters (2,600 ft) with a height gain of over 135 meters (443 ft) the Cen­tral-Mid-Lev­els esca­la­tor sys­tem is the longest out­door esca­la­tor sys­tem in the world, shut­tling 78,000 com­muters and sight-seers up and down the steep hills of Hong Kong Island every day.

There are all kinds of shops and restau­rants you’ll pass on your free tour up the steep slopes of Cen­tral as you ride the esca­la­tors, but you should note this is a fair­ly expen­sive area even for the already pricey Hong Kong.

Get there:

Start at 100 Queens Road in Cen­tral. You can walk up the stairs to the cov­ered over­pass or go inside the build­ing and up the esca­la­tor to the offi­cial start of the sys­tem. If you’re rid­ing the Metro go to Cen­tral Sta­tion Exit D2, go to Queens Road and walk NW for about 5 min­utes to the inter­sec­tion of Queens Road and Cochrane St.

The esca­la­tors run down­hill from 6 am to 10 am bring­ing com­muters to work and uphill from 10 am to mid­night dai­ly and it takes about 25 min­utes to go up or down.

With 14 entrances and exits, you have many choic­es on where to get on and off.

 

6. Graham Street Wall Mural

Models posing in front of the Graham Street Wall Mural

Mod­els pos­ing in front of the Gra­ham Street Wall Mur­al

There is lots of good street art in Cen­tral and while murals, of course aren’t unique to this area I thought this par­tic­u­lar mur­al is beau­ti­ful and my favorite in Hong Kong, so this is a bonus to check out while you’re wan­der­ing around Cen­tral. To me it’s a beau­ti­ful depic­tion of the cramped hous­ing in Hong Kong. Some­thing like the Mon­ster Build­ing or the now torn down Kowloon Walled City. It cer­tain­ly makes for some good pic­tures.

Get There:

It’s right at the inter­sec­tion of Gra­ham St and Hol­ly­wood Rd. on the side of a build­ing. Look for the cam­era car­ry­ing tourists, there are sure to be some.

 

Sunset on Po Toi Island

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