This segment should be a lot longer and should have very few words plus maybe 20 minutes of breathtaking high-definition video to go with it, but such is the burden when you're pressed for time and running to keep up with a tour. This was one instance where I really missed working with broadcast-quality HD television cameras and my St. Louis video crew.
I'll start with an admission: Hong Kong has the best looking skyline in the world -- not necessarily the greatest, but certainly the greatest looking. These words are not easy for a Chicago kid, but I say them wholeheartedly. Tall building aficionados are fans of individual buildings, but in this realm, skylines are a group event.
When we discuss the greatest tall building team, the two finalists often come down to Chicago and Hong Kong. In the last ten years, Hong Kong has added two superstars to its lineup, KPF's International Commerce Center (1588 feet/484 meters tall) and Cesar Pelli's Two International Finance Center (1352 feet/412 meters tall). Like Chicago, the Hong Kong skyline is on a waterfront and has the additional distinction of having mountains behind it. Unlike just about anywhere else, Hong Kong is growing two skylines, both with supertall buildings: the original one on the Central side and a new one on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor.
What really puts Hong Kong over the top is the way its buildings are lit at night, brightly and colorfully with LEDs and laser light. Much of the lighting is animated and at 8pm ever night, weather permitting, more than 40 buildings along nearly 2.5 miles/4 km of shoreline burst into color together in the "Symphony of Lights". The music and narration are broadcast in three languages over local FM radio stations and can be accessed via cellphone. I really enjoyed the opening sequence, when each building was introduced by name and flashed its lights in acknowledgement.
We watched the show from a large yacht in Victoria Harbor courtesy of LEDARTIST (now the Teddy Lo Studio), a Hong Kong company dedicated to LED illumunation technology. Photography on the rocking boat was largely impossible (gee, I'll have to go back) but what an opportunity.
After dinner, I found a good seat back by the stern and wedged myself in. One of my Hong Kong colleagues and her friends were happily conversing away in Cantonese and I told her how much I enjoyed listening to them. "How does it make you feel," she asked? I replied, "Like I'm really somewhere else!" I was enjoying life on the other side of the earth, soaking in every little bit of the experience I could. This is the way Hong Kong was supposed to sound.
Our Saturday night cruise lasted about two hours. We were dropped off at a pier on the Central side, near the base of Two IFC. Now I had the opportunity to walk and photograph at my leisure. I was sorely tempted to stay out for a few hours to see the night lights, but I wanted to get back to my room and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we were going to Shenzhen to see one of the coolest supertall buildings anywhere -- the KK 100 -- and I didn't want to be groggy.