From towering skyscrapers to traditional junks, there's plenty to satisfy a movie buff in Hong Kong, says author Francesca Brill
The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan (2008)
Lara Croft Tomb Raider, The Cradle Of Life, Jan De Bont (2003)
This tower represents the modern face of buzzy Hong Kong and as such has often been used in Hollywood blockbusters. It was until recently the highest skyscraper here and both Batman and Lara Croft launched themselves over the city from it.
Definitely don’t try this for yourself though...
The World Of Suzie Wong, Richard Quine (1960)
Double Impact, Jean Claude Van Damme (1991)
...almost every film ever shot in HK
The Star Ferry stars in several scenes in The World Of Suzie Wong, a story of an artist and prostitute who fall in love. In the beginning of the film William Holden disembarks from a passenger ship and takes the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island. On the ferry he meets Suzie Wong, played by Nancy Kwan, who scorns his attentions.
The ferries themselves are still identical, and the layout of the pier in Kowloon is almost exactly the same albeit minus the giant shopping malls. It is one of the most readily available, romantic and affordable excursions that HK has to offer.
The World of Suzie Wong (1960) Richard Quine
Although set in Wanchai, Hong Kong’s red-light district, most of the film was actually shot on the corner where Ladder Street meets Square Street and Hollywood Road near Man Mo Temple.
Unusually the street itself hasn’t changed much, although to channel your inner Suzie Wong you’ll have to use your imagination a little and ignore the fact that the movie’s hotel has been replace by an antique shop. You can however imagine William Holden pursuing you up the steps, if it takes your fancy...
Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing, Henry King (1955)
Enter the Dragon, Robert Clouse (1973)
The Tai Pak floating restaurant has been in place since the 1950s. An anomaly in fast-changing Hong Kong it is pretty much the same as it was then. The decorated clouds and dragons on the main columns at the front entrance are untouched though the rest of the decor has changed.
Along with its more recent companions the Jumbo Floating Restaurant appears in many other movies most notably the God Of Cookery and Infernal Affairs 2. While you enjoy the eating experience bear in mind that the view itself is also a location: In Enter The Dragon Aberdeen Harbour is where the fighters board the junk to go to Han’s island.
Chungking Express, Wong Kar Wai (1994)
The main location in the seminal Chungking Express is one of the oldest and most iconic buildings in urban Kowloon. Brigitte Lin as The Woman In the Blonde Wig recruits the Indian drug smugglers here (again don’t try this yourself).
The first floor is a labyrinth of shops, some the size of phone booths. The floors above house hostels for fearless and broke tourists. The film really does capture the grungy, lyrical, trippy feel of the place. You’ve been warned...
PTU, Johnnie To (2003)
The China Cafe is one of the oldest tea shops in HK. It’s more than 40 years old and is still a utilitarian bing sutt, literally ‘ice room’. It’s popular with locals who go for the milky drinks and snacks. Note – it normally closes at 6pm.
In Johnnie To’s police noir, PTU, China Cafe is where the officers hang out and talk, while trying to track down a colleague's missing gun. Its aged, tiled decor is a perfect counterpoint to the modern world they are working in. This is the opposite of contemporary, corporate and cool and as such is an anachronism and all the more lovely for it. No wonder art directors love it.
In The Mood For Love, Wong Kar Wai (2000)
2046, Wong Kar Wai (2004)
The Goldfinch Restaurant, opened in 1962, is a time warp experience in stark contrast to the ostentation of next door's Lee Gardens Mall. Enter its unassuming doors and you'll come upon the booths, dim lighting and wood panelling, and you are immediately in the mood – as were Tony Leung’s Chiu-wai and Maggie Cheung’s Man-yuk. This is where they tightened their sexual tension... a few years later Tony Leung also wooed Zhang Ziyi here in 2046.
The Mission, Johnnie To (1999)
This is Kowloon City's oldest Chiu Chow restaurant and has been here since 1954. It covers three floors and if you want to imagine a gangsters’ gun battle as you eat head for the second floor where the climactic scene in The Mission was filmed. You can also admire the Taoist incense altar flanked by an ornate phoenix and dragon which featured in the scene.
The Man With The Golden Gun, Guy Hamilton(1974)
The glamour and romance of one of the world’s most renowned hotels can be yours for an hour or so, as it was Roger Moore’s in The Man With The Golden Gun. If you arrive at the hotel from the ferry port you are retracing James Bond’s own arrival as he followed Scaramanga’s girlfriend there. You don’t have to squint too much to see it as he did. The staff in their liveried uniforms and the ornamental lions guarding the entrance are the same as in the film. Once inside have a martini (whichever way you prefer it) and play out your own Bond scenario.
Enter The Dragon, Robert Clouse (1973)
This is one of the most beautiful temples in Hong Kong and was established about 1,500 years ago. Situated half way up Castle Peak it’s worth a visit as a contrast to the contemporary madness of HK island. Several scenes for the Bruce Lee classic were shot here including the talk with the Shaolin monk and it’s not difficult to imagine words of wisdom being imparted in this spectacular and serene place. You can even sit at the same concrete table as Bruce Lee did and and look down over the valley as you contemplate philosophical concepts or just admire the view.Francesca Brill is author of The Harbour (Bloomsbury; £7.99), a passionate, fierce story of wartime love in Hong Kong. Order your copy on Amazon now. Find out more about her here.
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