Tseung Kwan O My!

March 26, 2015 / by / 0 Comment

Oh My, you might be surprised!

Look on a Hong Kong subway map, and Tseung Kwan O, or TKO as the locals call it, (“Where do you live?” “TKO.”) may seem a million miles away from Hong Kong University.  At about 40 minutes away, it is a marathon journey in Hong Kong but only another morning commute in London.  The seventh of twelve new towns in Hong Kong[1], TKO is not a backwater fishing village in some remote location of Hong Kong, but one of Hong Kong’s bustling new towns with modern high rise housing, a wide open environment, a few shopping centres and great transport links.  Here are some reasons why TKO is a great place:

Figure 1: Tseung Kwan O, 2014[2]

Fig 1 - TKO from the sky

Baby boom?

With a population of 386,000 people[3], the infantile TKO is roughly equal in size to the 10th largest city in the UK, Bristol[4], or the 50th largest city in the US, Arlington (Texas)[5].  This makes it, even more dramatically, over 240 times the size of the UK’s smallest city, St David’s in Wales.  The satellite settlement of the city state surpasses the century old settlement, with its surprising large sized stone structured cathedral, in size as seen from census statistics (seriously, just look on Google Maps).  However, the population of the city of St David’s is only 1,600[6].

In the 1960s, TKO was a fishing village with a ship building industrial area.  It was only in 1982 that the Executive Council approved the development of the area as a new town, and in 1988 that people started to move in[7].  That means that as a major town TKO is only 33 years old and it would be hard to find someone born there who is over 27.  For a baby town, this place has boomed and is well on its way to its target population size of 450,000 people.

Can you sea a good view?

Developed at an inlet and on reclaimed land, many of the flats in TKO have incredible sea views, and even if they don’t, they have easy access to a waterfront promenade with no major road obstructing the view.  If we’re discussing unpleasantly obstructed views from residential buildings I’m talking to anyone from Kennedy Town to Taikoo…so consider this: where, on the north side of Hong Kong Island can you have a large, open and peaceful view out into a quiet sea with no shipping or ferrying nearby?

Nowhere (well, maybe Chai Wan).

If you’re lucky enough to live in certain flats of Towers 1 to 3 of Ocean Shores you may even have a very tranquil, if sometimes quite misty, FSV – full sea view.  You could stand completely naked, gazing out your window at the amazing view, in full confidence that only people with exceptionally powerful telescopes in LOHAS Park may be able to catch glimpses of your dangly bits.  You might just be adding to the view too.

Lots of foreign girls?

According to the 2011 Census in Hong Kong (where a lot of this data comes from), the population in HK is 94% Chinese and 6% foreign[8].  This exactly reflects the ethnic makeup of TKO.  Of this 6%, 5.4% are female and 0.6% are male.  Although it may sound like a marvellous place to meet foreign girls, this statistic is explained (as anyone in Hong Kong will know) by the wide use of Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong, who actually make up nearly 60% of foreigners here in Hong Kong.

Sorry, did you say Popcorn?

You could go to Central and walk past the expensive shops in places like the IFC and Landmark, or, you could live a few short minutes away from more down-to-earth shopping areas where the more modestly capitalised of us won’t go into debt after a single shopping trip.  There is plenty to choose from too with shopping arcades spearheading the new developments.  Most notably the well styled “Popcorn” mall, which opened in 2012[9], can be found just outside the exits to Tseung Kwan O MTR station.  With its slinky streets and curvy style you can forget you are basically surrounded by tons of concrete and steel as you soak up the atmosphere in this contemporary urban jungle.  Want food?  Go to PopFood.  Want clothes?  Go to FashionCorn.

Because of TKO’s master urban development plan, if you live in many of the nearby developments, you will even forget Hong Kong’s painful summer heat and humidity, as you’ll access these shopping malls without stepping a foot outside.  “How depressing”…I hear you Hong Kong Islanders say, “to live all one’s life confined to the inside.”  Well, I say to you, you enjoy squeezing down your narrow streets while choking on exhaust fumes when you want to go… anywhere.  As for people in TKO, they can avoid the weather if they want, and if they so choose, they can go for a walk in their wide open spacious outdoor environment breathing in the relatively (for Hong Kong) fresh air, err-hem, apart from on those days when they can smell the city dump.

Figure 2: View of part of the Popcorn Shopping Mall, TKO, from the outside

Fig 2 - Popcorn Shopping Centre

Oh my!  What breezy open space surrounded by green belt!

Not only is TKO surrounded by green space, it is also designed such that despite having numerous high-rise buildings, the area also has natural breezes flowing through the main public areas.

Figure 3: The green belt and breezeways in TKO[10]

Fig 3 - Green development plan

Oh my!  What access to the MTR platform!

The MTR platforms in Tiu Keng Leng and Tseung Kwan O (not sure about the others) are only one or two escalators down from entrance level.  Compare this to the Jules Verne-esque centre-of-the-earth expedition one must do on parts of the Island Line. Not only do you save time, but by the time you’ve moved through the hot area of the MTR station to the cool area of the MTR train, you’re not sweating like a pig.  Well, I’m a walk-on-the-left of the escalator foreign guy, so after my walking through the smoggy, busy and skinny streets, followed by my descent through the MTR equivalent of hell, I am much relieved to get onto a train.

Consider North Point MTR as an example, you enter from the street level and walk down a flight of steps followed by two flights of escalator, you “dood”-in, you go down another 2 escalators and finally you’re on the platform.

Don’t get me wrong, Hong Kong’s MTR is amazing.  It’s just that if you really want to enjoy it – move to TKO!

Figure 4: A happy MTR traveller[11]

Fig 4 - Happy mtr traveller

Oh my!  What sustainability!

Generally, as a region’s GDP increases, the energy per capita of the region increases.  However, compared to other similar regions in the world Hong Kong has a remarkably low energy per capita use[12].  It’s about 70% that of the UK, or 30% that of the USA.  This is great.  Well-designed new towns, like TKO, actually contribute to this sustainable ethic because they are designed to be efficient.  The shopping centres and major public transport hubs are within a short walking distance.  There is local industry so some people can live very near to where they work.

Tseung Kwan, O My, you really should check it out!

Living in blocks of flats is essentially unavoidable in Hong Kong, but ploughing your way through crowded streets, descending through a veritable warren of MTR tunnels and not having access to open spaces or sunlight certainly is.  Don’t listen to the naysayers who say “nay, the only place to stay, is one of Hong Kong Island’s bays”.  Don’t fear the distance you appear to traverse as you look at the MTR map.

Carpe O – seize the bay!

(P.S. I’m going to explain this joke.  There is a common phrase “carpe diem” which is Latin and often translated as “seize the day”, meaning something like Nike’s slogan “just do it”.  “Tseung Kwan” in Cantonese means “army general” and “O” means “bay”.)

By Martin Archer

[2] “Tseung Kwan O Overview 201406″ by Wing1990hk – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tseung_Kwan_O_Overview_201406.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Tseung_Kwan_O_Overview_201406.jpg

[3] http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/docs/towns%26urban_developments.pdf

[4] http://www.ukcities.co.uk/populations/

[5] http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/a0763098.html

[6] http://www.showmewales.co.uk/destination/st-davids.aspx

[7] http://www.cedd.gov.hk/eng/achievements/regional/regi_tko.html

[8] http://www.had.gov.hk/rru/english/info/info_dem.html

[9] http://www.nextstophongkong.com/popcorn/

[10] http://www.pland.gov.hk/pland_en/press/publication/nt_pamphlet02/tko_html/concept.html

[11] http://www.geobaby.com/family/life-in-hong-kong/item/geoinisder-free-mtr-travel-for-kids-this-summer

[12] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.PCAP.KG.OE/countries