The rich history of Hong Kong’s role as an exotic destination has been laid out in a new exhibition, shedding light on what organizers say was the city’s most romantic period.
Early Hong Kong Travel (1880-1939) is currently being staged at the University Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Hong Kong and features more than 100 exhibits, from postcards and photographs to antique luggage and old travel guides.
These days, of course, Hong Kong is one of the planet’s busiest destinations, taking in around 36 million visitors each year who arrive to get a taste of the “Far East” or to tap into the city’s famous shopping districts.
But there was a time when the city had just began to establish itself as a port of call for things other than simply trade.
“After the Industrial Revolution, with more reliable and faster transportation, travel was no longer limited to [trade] purposes,” said a statement from the museum.
“Journeys for the sole purpose of pleasure and luxurious enjoyment became the norm. For those who could afford the luxury of sea travel in an unhurried age, ocean liners carried them to destinations that previously they could only dream of.”
The exhibition attempts to recreate the “experience” of visiting the city at the turn of the last century by ocean liner, recreating the interiors of colonial buildings long since demolished.
Exhibition curator Benjamin Yim said the period focused on was quite simply “romantic.”
“After this, commercial flights were more convenient and the concept of travel changed,” he told the South China Morning Post.
Early Hong Kong Travel (1880-1939) runs until November 27.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.