Using the Melbourne lifestyle to sell Hong Kong property

On my 2013 visit to Hong Kong I was sitting in front of the TV at my 姑媽 (aunt’s) house,trying to make sense of shows that I didn’t understand, where a commercial for a Hong Kong property development appeared during the ad break, with some sights that were very familiar to me.

The advert was for a development in Tseung Kwan O called The Papillons (海翩滙).

Where “scenic waterfront bicycle paths and jogging trails” feature.

But this isn’t Hong Kong – but Southbank Promenade in Melbourne, Australia!

This cafe looks inviting, but isn’t in Hong Kong either – World Restaurant & Bar at Riverside Quay, again in Melbourne.

A “vibrant central piazza” is another feature – but it’s actually QV Melbourne.

“Streetscape of boutique and style”.

Embiggen Books of Melbourne.

The people of Hong Kong aren’t big on coffee, but you can buy one at this new development.

Or you can at Cargo Restaurant in Melbourne.

There is a “grand tower lobby and drop-off area” – or there is at Crown Towers Melbourne.

Time for a drive – through the CityLink Sound Tube.

Then over the Bolte Bridge.

It’s also “close to Tseung Kwan O MTR station” – but they’re riding a Melbourne train.

This can’t be a Hong Kong park – you’re allowed to walk on the grass!

That’s because it’s Fawkner Park in Melbourne, with Eureka Tower in the background.

And goal posts for Australian rules football hiding in the background.

So how do property developers they get away with such deceptive advertisements?

A big fat disclaimer.

Footage has been edited and processed with computerised imaging techniques and was not taken at or from the Development or its vicinity

Some hidden localisation

For some reason the film crew used some footage from a road tunnel that isn’t in Melbourne – I assume it’s somewhere in Hong Kong.

But they did bother to put a Hong Kong registration plate on the car.

The registration plates of Victoria look quite different.

So why Melbourne?

So why does imagery of Melbourne feature so often? A check of their sales brochure finds more examples.

As well as a “Experiencing the Yarra River lifestyle” tag line.

So why do the developers think life in Melbourne is something to aspire to?

享受澳洲墨爾本Yarra River式寫意河畔生活 優悠購物休憩之樂。
THE PAPILLONS海顧涯基座為河畔生活品味大道,連接行人購物街。街上遍植林木, 各式時尚商店、品味餐廳°,一直向河畔海濱延伸。其寫意氛圍令人如置身澳洲墨爾本 Yarra River

Which translates to:

THE PAPILLONS is a riverside lifestyle avenue that connects pedestrian shopping streets. The streets are full of trees, fashion shops, and tasteful restaurants that extend to the riverside. Its freehand atmosphere is like being in Melbourne, Australia

But some culture shock

The developers claim The Papillons is a “low-density development with spectacular views”.

In Melbourne, “low density” looks like this – houses sprawling over the countryside.

New houses taking shape at the Meridian estate on Thompson Road in Clyde

But the Hong Kong version is a cluster of “only” six apartment towers, ranging in height 12 to 18 storeys.

Everything is relative!

Looking over Tolo Harbour towards Ma On Shan New Town

A footnote on helmets

Australia is one of the few countries in the world where bicycle helmets are required by law, so spotting a Melbourne cyclist without one is a rare sight – except in the video, where they left it out.

Compare this to a 2016 advertising campaign by global airline Emirates, who had to photoshop a bike helmet onto the head of a cyclist, so that the advertisement would comply with Australia’s advertising laws.

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Building the Shatin to Central Link tunnels at Shek O

On my 2016 trip to Hong Kong I headed to Shek O and found something odd along the way – a sign for the MTR’s new Shatin to Central Link railway project, despite the nearest piece of track being on the opposite side of Hong Kong Island. So what was the deal?

Entry to the MTR immersed tube tunnel casting basin at Shek O

Shek O is better known for the beach.

Concrete lifeguard towers on the beach at Shek O

But the sign I saw referenced MTR contract #1121, which relates to the Cross Harbour Tunnels that will carry trains between Hung Hom and Causeway Bay, passing beneath Victoria Harbour.

Pleasure boats moored in the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter

But investigating MTR contract #1121 finally gave me the reason for the Shatin to Central Link sign appearing in such an odd location.

Shatin to Central Link (SCL) Contract 1121 is the cross harbour tunnel to extend the East Rail Line (EAL) from the North Ventilation Building at Hung Hom Landfall to the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter (CBTS). As Immersed Tunnel (IMT) was selected as the construction method, a suitable casting basin is a pre-requisite for commencement of the immersed tube prefabrication work.

The ex-Shek O Quarry is the unique location in Hong Kong that is suitable for such large scale precasting work. It is located on the south-eastern part of Hong Kong Island, on the western side of D’Aguilar Peninsula and next to Shek O Country Park. Its favourable conditions for prefabrication of immersed tube tunnel sections includes its large and deep basin, which is capable for pre-casting of the whole immersed tunnel in one go.

The immersed tube tunnel sections are spaced out in the casting basin. (the original plan was for only 10 segments)

Environmental Impact Assessment for the Shatin to Central Link, diagram NEX2213/C/331/ENS/M50/026

They also describe the casting process:

Three major items are needed to be set up in Shek O site to facilitate the pre-casting of the units. The first one is the temporary dock gates that were used to dam the two existing openings at the basin to allow the pumping away of contained seawater. A dock gate was formed as a gravity-type retaining wall made of seawall blocks with a sheet pile wall in front to seal in the water.

The second item is the barging point to facilitate the delivery of major construction materials by sea and relieve the traffic loading on Shek O Road.

The last item to be set up is the on-site concrete batching plant. It is the most critical facility for the reinforced concrete tunnel box pre-casting since the supply of concrete will directly affect the progress of work.

Once the casting basin was dewatered, formation work was carried out and concrete paving placed for precast unit construction.

The 1.66km long pre-cast immersed tunnel is divided into 11 elements with typical length of 156m. Each element will be further divided into nine bays for on-site construction. The typical construction sequence of an immersed tunnel is described as below.

1. Install steel plates at bottom and both sides (approx. 1.7m high) of tunnel external walls as waterproofing membrane.
2. Construct the tunnel base slab with wall kicker.
3. Construct the tunnel wall and roof slab.
4. Pre-stressing (post-tensioning) work and apply waterproofing to external wall and roof.
5. Install ballast tanks inside tunnel and steel bulkheads to seal up the tunnel openings at both ends.

By July 2016 work on the immersed tube tunnel sections was well underway.

Photo by Tim Leung / Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, Hong Kong branch

Many organisations visited the site, including the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers.

Photo by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers

And by March 2017 a milestone was reached – the completion of the final immersed tube tunnel section.

Photo via Tunnelling Journal

Two months later the casting basin had been completely flooded.

Photo via Mapei Far East

And in June 2017 the first tunnel section exited the basin, bound for Victoria Harbour.

Photo by MTR Corporation

Where it will be prepared for the next stage of the tunnel construction process.

The IMT units will be towed one by one to a holding area near Tseung Kwan O for installation of two 30-metre surveying towers equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS).

They will then be attached to floating pontoons equipped with mooring wires and other immersion equipment. These systems and equipment will guide the complex yet highly controlled submersion process for each unit to ensure correct horizontal and longitudinal movements for precise positioning on the seabed.

This first, fully equipped IMT unit will then continue its journey to Victoria Harbour in mid June 2017 for immersion and installation in the vicinity of the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter.

And by 2018 the casting basin was looking rather empty.

Google Maps satellite imagery

The final immersed tube tunnel segment was installed in April 2018.

Photo by MTR Corporation

And by July 2018 reinstatement works for the Shek O casting yard had been completed.


“Adventure under Victoria Harbour” – a video by the MTR Corporation.

Further reading

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A nostalgic return for Hong Kong’s cross harbour car ferries

In such a fast paced city, finding pieces of ‘Old Hong Kong’ is difficult. But back in 2016 the Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry company launched something interesting – a return of Hong Kong’s cross harbour car ferries, to celebrate the 83rd anniversary of the service being launched.

Photo via EJ Insight

EJ Insight has more details of the event.

Nostalgic Hongkongers have a chance to relive a time when ferries were the only means to get a car across the harbor.

Hong Kong Ferry (Holdings) Co. Ltd. will offer sailings on May 14 and 22 to celebrate the 83rd anniversary of the service, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing a Facebook post.

Harbour Cruise — Bauhinia will operate six ferries on those days, four between North Point and Kwun Tong.

People born in 1933 or March 6 can board free of charge or pay HK$80 for their car.

Adults will be charged HK$100 each and children HK$60. Snacks will be served on board.

Hong Kong Ferry said tickets for vehicle slots are sold out, adding it is planning more sailings to meet demand, pending approval from marine authorities.

Until the opening of the Cross Harbour Tunnel in 1972 the only way for vehicles to cross Victoria Harbour was by ferry. Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry launched their vehicular ferry service back in 1933 to cater for the new mode of transport, with the service continuing until 1998, when competition from road tunnels led it becoming uneconomic.

The bulk of the car ferries have been retired, with one ending up in Australia, but some have been converted into party boats used on the Harbour Cruise Bauhinia.

Man On on a harbour cruise, originally built as a double deck car ferry

While others are still in service, conveying dangerous goods vehicles between North Point on Hong Kong Island, Kwun Tong in Kowloon, and Mui Wo on Lantau Island.

Double deck vehicular ferry at the Shell oil depot on Tsing Yi

Which made reintroducing the service easy to do, given the car ferries were still in service.

Photo by Edmond Tang, China Daily


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Travelling the ‘wrong’ way down the East Rail Line

Given the British influence on Hong Kong road and rail have one thing in common – traffic runs to the left. However for trains this isn’t always so, as this video shows.

Filmed at University Station, we see a southbound train using the platform normally used by northbound trains, due to a failed train sitting in the other platform.

These movements are made possible by the provision of lineside signals on both tracks in both directions.

Signals for the bidirectionally signalled East Rail line

As well as crossovers to allow trains to pass between the two sets of tracks.

Noise suppression walls surround the tracks

On the MTR East Rail line crossovers are provided at:

  • Hung Hom, scissors crossover at north end of station
  • Ho Man Tin, scissors crossover
  • Mong Kok East, scissors crossover at south end, facing crossover at north end
  • Kowloon Tong, scissors crossover at north end
  • Tai Wai, scissors crossover between station and Beacon Hill Tunnel
  • Sha Tin, facing crossover at south end, facing crossover at north end
  • Fo Tan, triple track station
  • Racecouse Junction, trailing crossover
  • University, scissors crossover near Tai Po Kau
  • Tai Wo, triple track station
  • old Tai Po Market, trailing crossover
  • Tai Wo – Fanling, scissors crossover midway between stations
  • Sheung Shui, scissors crossover at south end, facing crossover at north end
  • Lok Ma Chau, scissors crossover in tunnel, scissors crossover at station
  • Lo Wu, scissors crossover at south end of station

However running trains on the ‘wrong’ line to get around a broken down train isn’t an instant fix for service issues – forcing trains onto a single track causes long delays.

Here we see an East Rail train running on the ‘wrong’ line between Tai Po Market and University Stations, with a 16 minute wait until the line ahead was clear.

While this example shows single track working to avoid works at Ho Man Tin, resulting in the service between Hung Hom and Sha Tin stations being cut to one train every 10 minutes.


Despite the motorists of China driving on the right hand side of the road, the main line railways run on the left – an artefact of China’s first railway that was built by British interests.

Further reading

Left- and right-hand traffic at Wikipedia.

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An Australian ship in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has been the home of the busiest container port in the world for many years, seeing vessels from many countries. Here we see the Australian National Line’s “Australian Enterprise” underway on Victoria Harbour, with a 1970s Hong Kong skyline in the background.

From the Australian National Line 1978 Annual Report


Some statistics on “Australian Enterprise” from the Miramar Ship Index.

Owners: Australian Shipping Commission
Port Registry: AUS Melbourne
Year: 1969
Flag: AUS
Date of completion: 27.8.69
Tons: 9330
Link: 1437
DWT: 14308
Yard No: 1127
Length overall: 181.7
LPP: 168.0
Country of build: JPN
Beam: 25.1
Builder: Kawasaki
Location of yard: Kobe
End: 1986
Disposal Data:
BU Kaohsiung 23.1.86, work began 1.2.86 [Gwo Feng Steel Enterprise Co]

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