Vertical city: A bird’s eye view of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a unique city based on more than just its colorful history of Chinese and British occupation. This large territory is known for being one of the most crowded places on Earth, made possible through extensive upward development since the middle of the 20th century. Hong Kong—and the Central District in particular—is one of the most iconic urban landscapes on the planet.

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In Hong Kong, land is so scarce that only the ultra-rich can afford to live in a home below ground. It is a true skyscraper city, with a significant portion of the population living in apartment units well above the 5th floor. In a city like Hong Kong, with a booming economy and very little space to expand, there’s nowhere else to go but up. The scarcity of land is such that the city is well known for the pencil tower phenomenon. This refers to the eponymous buildings—tall, narrow high rises that are often apartment buildings, with cramped spaces that rival New York apartments.

Although far from unique to the region, it has taken on a life of its own in the Fragrant Harbor, an urban je ne sais quoi where nearly everything is vertical and narrow. From the ground, neon signs crowd your view of the sky and company is never more than a crowded street corner away.

Move to the windows of a skyscraper and that riotous frenzy of people disappears into a mass of straight vertical lines. In some places, you can barely see the spaces between the buildings themselves, the buildings behind them peeking through.

And despite the downright surreal geometric rigidity of the towers, the skyscrapers still retain that organic, lived in feel.

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World traveler and keen shutterbug Ashwin Khubchandani here. Catch my digitized travel monologues on Twitter.