Lights, cruise, ac­tion

Hong Kong’s sky­line puts on quite a show

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Asia - SIAN POW­ELL

SIT­TING on a gen­tly rolling junk with a glass of wine and a warm breeze blow­ing is a good way to watch the evening set­tle over Hong Kong.

The fan-shaped red sails, al­though not at all func­tional, are gen­tly dec­o­ra­tive and sug­ges­tive of an ear­lier and more ro­man­tic time, an era of sea-borne riches and dar­ing ocean raids. This misty mood of nos­tal­gia is short-lived, though, rapidly cast into the shade by a burst of neon from the far shore.

At 8pm al­most ev­ery evening, Hong Kong’s uber­mod­ern sky­line puts on its danc­ing shoes as the mu­sic starts and neon lights be­gin to throb. The Sym­phony of Lights — a dra­matic dis­play of blink­ing neon, search­lights and lasers — gets un­der way. Vis­i­tors can see it from van­tage points on ei­ther Hong Kong Is­land or Kowloon side, but out on the wa­ter we can see in both direc­tions, and the dis­play of puls­ing, mu­si­cally syn­chro­nised neon along the edges of Vic­to­ria Har­bour is enough to bring on a Satur­day night fever.

The junk is named Aqua Luna and this par­tic­u­lar voy­age is timed to take in the show (al­though there are op­tions for those hap­pier with day­light cruis­ing). We board from pub­lic pier No 1 at Tsim Sha Tsui on the har­bour’s Kowloon side (known to snobby res­i­dents of Hong Kong is­land as ‘‘the dark side’’, which is ridicu­lous — TST is about as dark as an arc light on steroids).

Af­ter a bit of deco­rous shuf­fling we are all seated; some are at ease on the up­per deck’s cush­ioned lounges and hardier souls on up­right chairs on the aft lower deck. We head down­stairs, pre­fer­ring to see the sky un­en­cum­bered by any over­head awning.

The junk pulls away from the pier, a waiter brings around com­pli­men­tary drinks (wine or beer) and we chug gen­tly into the mid­dle of the har­bour, which is shrink­ing year by year as land is re­claimed. From the junk, it seems as if we can al­most touch the shores of Hong Kong Is­land and Kowloon (per­haps the wine is help­ing).

Then 45 build­ings be­gin to light up and shimmy to the beat of simul­cast mu­sic, reach­ing a crescendo with search­lights and lasers. One might ex­pect a lit­tle ex­hi­bi­tion­ism from the Hong Kong Academy of Per­form­ing Arts, the beau­ti­fully blank and win­dow­less walls of the Hong Kong Cul­tural Cen­tre (which soon light up like a rain­bow) and from the Av­enue of Stars.

But those staid old fi­nan­cial marques, the in­ter­na­tional banks, have some pretty moves of their own. Stan­dard Char­tered does a fine line in turquoise and lime-green neon, HSBC’s head­quar­ters is picked out in glow­ing red and the Bank of China build­ing spins a great sil­very cob- web of lights. But the most dec­o­ra­tive of the lot, to my mind, is the tallest, the usu­ally pro­saic In­ter­na­tional Com­merce Cen­tre on the Kowloon side.

The lat­est ad­di­tion to the sym­phony, join­ing the cho­rus line in May, it shines with a dis­play of glit­ter­ing black and sil­ver tri­an­gles that seems to rus­tle like alu­minium foil in a breeze.

Per­haps the most sur­pris­ing flour­ish is from the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Forces Hong Kong Build­ing, where the light show is as artis­tic as the ed­i­fice’s name is clunky.

On our 28m wooden junk, built by a Chi­nese crafts­man, the 14-minute light and sound show elic­its oohs and aahs from the pas­sen­gers.

An Aus­tralian firm, Laservi­sion, de­vel­oped the spec­tac­u­lar and ap­par­ently the Guin­ness Book of Records has cred­ited Hong Kong with the largest per­ma­nent light and sound show in the world.

Af­ter 45 min­utes, the voy­age is over and our junk re­turns to Tsim Sha Tsui. The lights have dimmed to their or­di­nary blaze of colour and the mu­sic has stopped. But to­mor­row evening it will start all over again.

Aqua Luna in prime po­si­tion on Vic­to­ria Har­bour to watch the dis­play

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