Bird's-eye view shows a city on the up and up

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2012, 12:00am


Central and Western on June 21, 1997 (left), and on May 30, 2012. The obvious intruder is the Two IFC tower that looms over the harbour. To its left are the Four Seasons hotel and serviced apartments. And then of course there is the shrinking harbour, being eaten up by reclamation seen to the right of TWO IFC.

Tai O fishing village on Lantau has been through hell and high water since the handover. First was a fire in July 2000 that left 300 homeless and destroyed many of the village?s famous stilt houses. Then Typhoon Hagupit bruised in, in September 2008, stirring up a storm surge and turning the village into a swamp. The thinned-out settlement is bouncing back.

Aberdeen Harbour (right) has become somewhat more of a concrete valley than the shot on the left, with tower blocks springing up on both sides of the colourful fishermen?s haven and blocking out more of the green backdrop. The trend is likely to continue, with many upmarket projects on the drawing board along the Ap Lei Chau waterfront.

Time does seem to have passed Mai Po by since the handover, stretched out in relative solitude along the Sham Chun River. The same definitely cannot be said for the other side of the waterway, where Shenzhen continues to race ahead at a dizzying pace, spreading upwards and outwards as it drags ever more people and industry into its vortex.

The racetrack still dominates the heart of Happy Valley but the ?wall effect? that is the eight high rises of the Leighton Hill developed in 2002 makes itself known top (centre), in the shot taken on May 30. Other additions to the neighbourhood are Highcliff and The Summit (bottom right), which together make up the surreal so-called The Chopsticks.

Spot the difference. It's not hard to see what's been added to the horizon of Kwai chung since 1997 - the soaring Stonecutters Bridge. The cable-stayed bridge across Rambler Channel connects Tsing Yi Island and Stonecutters Island. It is the second longest cable-stayed span in the world and opened to traffic on December 20, 2009.

Tsim Sha Tsui then (left), and now (above), is rising to take advantage of the eased height restrictions that applied until the closure of Kai Tak Airport in 2008. The biggest new arrival of course is the 484-metre ICC tower just out of the photo.

The domino-like neighbourhood that was Sai Wan Ho (left) before the handover is now a concrete sprawl stretching out along the souther side of Hong Kong Harbour. It is dominated by the five-tower Grand Promenade, built in 2005.