I’ve visited Hong Kong a dozen times in the past 50-years. Traditionally, a visit isn’t complete without a trek up to Victoria Peak. The view from the peak always gave me a sense of perspective and see the confluence of the world through the enchanting city. So during my recent visit, I made a point to photograph from the peak. 

A subway ride, followed by a tram up the steep concrete covered hill made it theoretically easy but the lines going and coming made it painful. In the years since my first visit, the peak has changed. Sadly, like most wonders of the world, the need to modernize and capitalize always squelch the cultural charm and turn it into state-of-the-art terminal shopping malls. Hong Kong has always been the gateway to emerging countries. One by one they’ve leap-frog over Hong Kong and overshadow what was once the crown of the Orient. 

Space being tight and opportunity even tighter, Victoria Peak was a prime target for developers. While I was there construction continues on bigger and better ways to supplement the stunning view. Sightseers arriving on the Peak Tram are dropped in the Peak Tower and immediately railroaded (via escalators) through 7 stories of dazzling restaurants, gift shops, and entertainment centers that include Ripley’s Believe it or Not! and a Madam Tussauds Wax Museum. Well, you can’t argue with success and there is no shortage of customers.  A steady stream of wide-eyed Chinese tourists pour in everyday and aggressively fight to get their selfie memory. 

“If a photo manifest here,” I thought as I defended my tripod turf against woman insisting on encroaching  with no apparent reason,  “This may be farewell to the Peak.”

It was a cloudy day and being the itinerant photographer, I had no intention of coming back day after day to find the perfect light. The paradox of my visual quest, the quests of chasing unseen moments, means freedom from expectations and freedom from my programing, taste and definitions. What we call experience, trend, style, may in time expose themselves as misguided. This sense of perfection often turns into predictable outcomes, the perfect lit-till-you-puke moments of unreality that matches your sense of reality. So what am I doing  here on this mountain looking down at a view everyone wants to capitalize? I don’t know? 

Well, maybe I do know and… oh!  I’ll hate myself for writing this, Maybe I’m trying to be the guy who makes lemonade when life gives him or her lemons. There, for what’s it’s worth, that was my mental state.

So I anticipated the conditions to be mediocre and brought along the portable tripod that I have never used. The fact that I bought one three years ago is a miracle and to have lugged it on my carry-on only baggage even more. My thought was to stay till dark and get the lights so it did serve its purpose but I’m just not that kind of photographer.

So back to the lemon. Part of the joy of being open to receiving lemons is that you really never know what you’ll get. Consequentially, on this day, the sun peeked out under the layer of clouds and radiated a golden moment worthy of sublime gratitude.



Don't miss John Chao's VISUAL BLOGS: Discovering the future while exploring the past
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