The first time I visited Hong Kong was in 2008. That was before I picked up location sketching. Back then, I had just bought a new camera and was eager to go to Hong Kong because my friend was working there and could offer me free accommodation.
While planning for this second trip, I realised I wasn't able to remember much from the earlier trip. I had visited a lot of places, took a lot of photos. When I came back, I didn't look at the photos anymore after the euphoria of the trip subsided. So this time, I wanted to use sketching to record the trip to get a more lasting and memorable experience. I know that I look at my travel sketchbooks occasionally to reminisce.
My trip was from 31 July to June 8. That's slightly more than a week, and I went to Macau as well. Actually I did not have any intention of visiting Hong Kong again but my girlfriend wanted to because she likes the culture and vibe, all from watching Hong Kong dramas and films. It was a good trip and I got to see Hong Kong more closely this time.
This post took me several weeks to write. Most of the 97 sketches were drawn in black and white. I spent three weeks at home after the trip to colour them all.
By the way, all these sketches will be compiled into a PDF e-book for sale. The e-book will have additional content relating to techniques use to create some of the sketches. You also can support me on Patreon to get the e-book when it's out.
Hong Kong is a very mountainous with limited flat land. While looking out the window from the plane, all the flat land I could see are occupied by high-rise buildings.
This sketch of the map was drawn at home prior to the trip. The colour choice is weird, I know. The landmass of Hong Kong looks like desert. Wrong choice of colours. I was trying out new watercolour pans from Blockx for the first time. I should probably have tested the colour mixtures first.
I brought a selection of Blockx pan watercolours that were sent to me for testing. By testing, I mean Blockx is going to release a new watercolour set and is looking for artist input on the colours that should be included.
I've roughly made my selection of 12 colours but I brought along more colours just in case. I've included five sets of primary colours, Burnt Sienna Light, Payne's Grey and Blockx Green.
These are my main drawing tools, from left to right:
- Da Vinci Maestro Pocket Brush
- Pentel and Kuretake waterbrushes
- Pelikan M200 Fine nib
- Pilot Custom 743 Falcon nib
- Duke 551 Confucius Art Pen
- Noodler's Black Ink
- Stillman & Birn Alpha 9 by 6 inch sketchbook
The Pilot Custom 743 with the Falcon nib is the pen I used most of the time.
The Duke 551 proved to be a hassle to use because the ink would take a long time to dry on paper. The ink flow from its broad nib is too generous.
The Pelikan M200 served as a good backup. I've used this for several other trips so I decided to use something different this time.
I had bought a new 124-page Stillman & Birn sketchbook for the trip. Although my intention is to fill all the pages, I knew that it's going to be difficult to achieve that after the first few sketches. More on that later.
The other watercolour palette I brought along had Mission Gold watercolours squeezed from the tubes. It's only during overseas trips like this that I have the time to test and review new watercolours.
Upon finishing my first coloured sketch in Hong Kong, I realised I would not have time to colour all the pieces. So I decided to draw everything in black and white to colour after the trip. In the end, I did not get to test out the two new watercolours I brought.
That's the Hong Kong currency. The lion's the same one sitting on the ground floor at the HSBC building in Hong Kong. Things in Hong Kong are more expensive than I expected.
My girlfriend and I arrived in Hong Kong around 3pm. The flight from Singapore took around 4 hours. From the airport, we took the public bus S1 and reached a shopping mall called Citygate Mall. The bus fare came up to only HK $3.5, many times cheaper than the Airport Express train. To get to the city, we had to connect to Tung Chung MTR after alighting. This is the transport mode I recommend to those on a budget, and you'll also get to see more of Hong Kong.
We had lunch at this food court inside Citygate mall. For some reason, I remembered a mango desert I had ordered years ago at this same food court. Memory works in strange ways.
After checking in at the hotel in the evening, we went to the night market area at Mong Kok. These are some street buskers performing on the road that has been closed to traffic.
Our hotel is in Mong Kok. This is the Ladies Street Night Market located at Tung Choi Street. They sell all sorts of accessories and clothing at what looks to me like makeshift stalls.
This is the view from our room at Le Prabelle Hotel (map) for the first three days. It's a nice hotel at a good location. The typical view of Hong Kong is one of tall buildings everywhere. It does get a bit monotonous after a while.
This was drawn inside the MTR train on the way to Tung Chung at Lantau Island. This line is for people who want to go to the airport, or to Ngong Ping Village to see the Big Buddha.
Public transport in Hong Kong is fantastic. The MTR trains are fast and have high frequency, buses are affordable and plentiful. During the week I was there, there's only one occasion where I actually feel like I have to wait for the train. On most occasions, the train was at the platform when I step off the escalator. Luck doesn't happen so many times. It's amazing.
To reach Ngong Ping Village, you have to take a cable car from Tung Chung. Ngong Ping Village is a rather artificial village with restaurants and modern shops build to target tourists. The highlight of the place is the giant sitting Buddha at the end of the village.
Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, is the highlight of Ngong Ping Village. It's a huge bronze statue of a Sakyamuni Buddha, completed in 1993. It sits at the top at the end of the long flight of stairs. It was a foggy day while we were there. On a clear day, you can see the Big Buddha from the village but on a foggy day you have to climb up the stairs to see it.
These are some of the smaller statues at the lower platform.
Under the Big Buddha is a circular room with some displays and exhibition on the story of the Buddha. The place also seems to be used as a columbarium although there really isn't much space to store any urns. There's this particular table that caught my attention because of the interesting religious figurines on it. Just behind those figurines are actually the photos of people who have passed away. No photography is allowed so I sketched.
At the bottom of the stairs is this huge gateway to Po Lin Monastery.
This was drawn at the gateway looking upwards. The sky cleared up for a while giving me enough time to see the Buddha statue.
That's the main temple at Po Lin Monastery.
There are three huge deities sitting behind the glass inside the main hall of the temple. Visitors would come in occasionally to pray.
That's the view from Ngong Ping village. I spent more than half a day at the village, visiting the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. If I was only taking photos, it would take me probably half a day to cover the area.
On the second day in Hong Kong, we went to Ocean Park which is one of the two major theme parks in Hong Kong. The other is Disneyland.
I'm not really a theme park guy. I'm not into rides and it didn't help that I was feeling sick that day. So I just sketched around the theme park on a hot sunny day, hiding under whatever shady spot I could find.
Colours are all over the place at the theme park. Many of the dolls are almost in florescent colours.
People here are watching the short dolphin performance. In the background is the ocean with gigantic container ships that would occasionally pass by.
This street is designed to mimic old Hong Kong streets. It's a bit of a mash-up.
On the left is a theme park employee wearing a chicken suit chatting with his friend from the store. I though it was humorous to capture it in a sketch. Just to complete the page, I sketched one of the character displays I found. I love the huge smile on the caricatured shark.
We ate a few times at this noodle stall that sells nice wanton noodles.
I enjoyed Macau much more than Hong Kong. After three days in Hong Kong, I found it to be quite monotonous. There are so many tall buildings in Hong Kong that they start to look the same after a while. At least Macau still has old buildings from Colonial period. It's difficult to find such buildings in Hong Kong.
There's more variety in the architecture style in Macau. There are still the old European style buildings from the days of Portuguese colony, the flashy casinos, and the old and new high-rise residential and commercial buildings. Macau feels slightly less hectic even though the place has lots of tourists.
This is the Macau General Post Office located at Senado Square, one of the places of interest. It was built in 1929.
This is the huge walkway from Senado Square that leads to the St Paul's Ruins which is the most famous landmark in Macau.
That's Santa Casa De Museum that's also at Senado Square. I love that there are so many beautiful buildings at this square.
This is a building behind Civic And Municipal Affairs Bureau, opposite the road in front of Senado Square. In case you're wondering why the building is so dirty, it's my failed attempt at rendering the shadow.
This is St Augustine's Square, a lovely shady place that reminds me of European squares. It's quiet and there aren't any tourists. It's located at Largo de Santo Agostinho, just beside St Augustine Church.
St Augustine Church is located just beside the square.
Rua De S Paulo is one of the streets that lead to St Paul's Ruins. I used too much water for some of the washes resulting in unsightly backruns.
As I stood in front of St Paul's Ruins, I was struggling to remember if I had visited the place before years ago. Now I'll never forget it.
This was drawn from a lovely garden by the right side of St Paul's Ruins. The small garden leads to Macau Museum located on top of the hill.
This is one of my favourite sketches for the trip. I like the thin and thick strokes I got out from the Falcon nib.
The cityscape view from the top of Macau Museum is beautiful.
Here's another view from the top.
One of the nice things about Macau is you can find little surprises as you explore the streets. You can go around a bend and find a beautiful church, or an European-style square or building.
I drew this while waiting for a particular restaurant to open for dinner.
Many years ago while I was in Macau, my friend brought me to a restaurant called the A Lorcha. It's a Portuguese restaurant that serves really good food, mainly seafood. The food is quite pricey and I can't imagine how I could have afforded it back then when I had just started working. Unfortunately this time, I had a bad sore throat and couldn't enjoy the food to my satisfaction. The service staff was excellent. When I said I had a sore throat, he told me that the pharmacy was just beside the restaurant. And the security guard outside told us which bus to take to go back to our hotel.
That's the Prosperity Tree performance at Wynn. The show starts every thirty minutes. And there's another show with the dragon that also runs at thirty minutes interval.
This is the open air roof top of Macau Museum. Looking back at this sketch, I wondered why I chose this particular view. It doesn't say anything.
You can get to see the Macau cityscape from the top of Macau Museum. That's the impressive looking and extravagant Grand Lisboa Hotel. The whole building almost glitters like gold.
This was drawn from the top of St Paul's Ruins.
I had a bit of a stiff neck after drawing this. Looking at some reference photo, it seems that I had failed to capture the intricate carvings on the wall.
I didn't see a lot of temples around which I found strange because most people here are Chinese. There seem to be more churches than Chinese temples.
St Anthony's Church has a small water fountain in front of it by the roadside.
In Macau, there are casinos at a lot of places, including the small ones at hotels. The two main areas where the casinos are would be at Sé and the Cotai. This sketch is of the casinos at Sé.
The Venetian Macao to me is the most beautiful casino in Macau. I love the architecture. I drew this sketch at night but used a daytime photo to paint in the colours.
The interior of Venentian is just as beautiful.
Eateries like this are not easy to find on the streets on Hong Kong. I think most of these eating places are hidden inside the tall buildings. Hong Kong has a population of more than 7 million people so it's quite strange that there aren't many visible eateries. Where do all the people eat? This restaurant is quite spacious. Most eateries I've been to are really just small shops without much room to move in. Sometimes you have to share your table with strangers. The feeling is almost like eating food on a budget airline seat.
That's the view of Hong Kong skyline from the Kowloon Public Pier at Tsim Sha Tsui, the southern part of Kowloon. There were some storm clouds but it didn't rain. We were quite lucky and it didn't rain during the week we were there but the weather was rather hot and humid.
Hong Kong Island's cityscape stretches from end to end. The space between each building is just for roads. It's quite impressive looking at the wall of commercial buildings that line the waterfront.
At Tsim Sha Tsui is this beautiful Clock Tower built in 1915 just beside Kowloon Public Pier. It's the only remnant the former Kowloon Station.
I drew this from Kowloon Public Pier. On the left is the Hong Kong Museum of Art housed in a building with uninspiring design. To the right is the Avenue of Stars, a promenade with plaques that celebrate famous actors from the Hong Kong film industry. It's modeled after Hollywood's Walk of Fame. The plaques feature hand prints and autographs of the stars set in cement. Celebrities who have passed away only have their names on it. There are also a few statues, such as one of Bruce Lee.
That's the Bruce Lee statue located on the Avenue of Stars.
I like taking public buses in Hong Kong. They are less crowded than the trains and you can always find a seat, maybe because I don't travel during office rush hour. Using Google Maps to figure out which bus to take is also surprisingly simple.
That's the Star Ferry. That's one of the modes of public transport in Hong Kong. It carries people between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. It's very affordable and all tourists should try it. The ferry can be taken at the Star Ferry Pier at Tsim Sha Tsui. It stops at the Central Ferry Pier and you can walk a few minutes to the bus stop to wait for the bus that gets you up to The Peak.
This is the bus stop near Central Pier. Take bus 15 to go all the way to the top of The Peak and 15A to go to the Peak Tram Station for the tram that goes to The Peak. For first timers, I suggest getting the ticket to go up so that you can experience the pull of gravity against the tram. Look out the tram windows to see all the tilted high-rise buildings. When you're coming down from The Peak, you can relax in the bus ride travelling on the windy roads of the hill, and also check out all the hillside high-rise residential buildings.
There are two big buildings on top of The Peak. This weirdly shaped building is called The Peak Tower. There's rooftop access but it's not free. The Peak Galleria which is just beside has a rooftop viewing gallery that's free. You can get a beautiful view of Hong Kong Island's cityscape from The Peak Galleria. The view at The Peak Tower is unobstructed but The Peak Galleria also offers a very nice view.
Some residential housing on Victoria Peak.
View of the South China Sea from The Peak Galleria.
That's the cityscape of Hong Kong Island from The Peak Galleria. In the background across the Victoria Harbour is Kowloon.
It was really crowded at the Peak Tram Station at the bottom of the hill.
Pottinger St is on a slope and there are many small shops here, with a few selling party ware.
Hong Kong is such a developed city that I don't really see a lot of road works. This is the only occasion where I see the sidewalk being dug up to lay cables.
These are trams on Hong Kong island. Traveling by tram is another fantastic way to see Hong Kong. And it's an affordable.
This is the interior of Man Mo temple dedicated to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo). There's heavy incense burning and I had to draw as fast as I can to get out for fresh air.
That's one of the many huge spiral incense burning away in the temple.
Man Mo temple is quite a small temple and the design is simple and not extravagant.
Western Market is a small shopping complex housed in an Edwardian-style building. The shops sell mainly fabric, arts and crafts. I love the design. It's quite a difficult building to draw because there's this arch blocking the view from the front.
Time Square in Hong Kong is not as bright as the one in Manhattan. But it's almost as crowded.
The Umbrella Revolution is still going on, although at a much smaller scale compared to the 2014 protests. Policemen were standing by the sides to keep everything under control.
There are Hong Kong police officers at the protest sites.
That's the pier for luxurious cruises at Tsim Sha Tsui.
On board the Star Ferry
Hong Kong taxis are not too expensive. Fares start at HK $22.
This is the weekend market at Central Ferry Pier.
Hong Kong street on a weekend.
Hundreds of Filipino maids can be seen outside of HSBC Building during the weekend. That's the lion on the dollar note.
From Central Pier, you can take the Big Bus to tour around Hong Kong Island. Or you can just take the public transport to save money.
This sketch actually connects to the sketch earlier. That's the Hong Kong Observation Wheel.
The skyline of Hong Kong Island that consist of mainly commercial buildings.
The Cenotaph is a war memorial that commemorates the dead from the two world wars.
This building is quite weird because of its tapered bottom.
Drawn from Tamar Park looking at Tsim Sha Tsui
Drawn from Tamar Park looking at a backlit building.
Tamar Park extends from under that office building to the edge of the water. It was a weekend and many Filipino maids were relaxing on the grass and chatting with their friends.
There aren't a lot of construction works in Hong Kong because every piece of land is quite well developed already.
This was drawn on the last night in Hong Kong where I discovered that there's another night market just minutes away from my hotel.
This was drawn on the way back to the airport on the MTR train.
Here's the link to my other sketch trips: