From the familiar voice of the announcer on the MTR, to the koel calls in summer, these are some of our favourite sounds in Hong Kong.
If I ask you to think about Hong Kong, what goes through your mind?
Like most people, I have memories of the city imprinted in the form of images: views from The Peak; the blinding rays of the sun reflecting off the windows of towering skyscrapers; rows and rows of shining brake lights as automobiles inch through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.
I also remember some parts of Hong Kong as a smell or taste: a whiff of the Victoria Harbour; the stench (but also the deliciousness) of stinky tofu; the butteriness of my grandpa’s favourite egg tarts; the alluring but delicate scents from the Flower Market.
But, beneath the landscape and constant visual stimuli lies an important part of our urban experience: Hong Kong sounds.
Just as every place has its unique visual landscape, it also has its own soundscape. And Hong Kong is, of course, no exception. This dynamic and competitive city is filled with constant motion, emotions, ambitions, and grievances. Yet, I’ve recently learnt to practise mindfulness by listening to my surroundings in order to find solace and at least a brief moment of calm. Whether it’s birds chirping, or even taxi horns blaring, I feel comforted by the fact that the world is still turning. The beauty in the mundane is that life goes on, even if I may have messed something up, or have been feeling overwhelmed.
Hopefully, by sharing some of my favourite Hong Kong sounds, you’ll not only see, but also hear, the beauty of Hong Kong.
Listening to the sounds of Hong Kong
1. The calls by the Asian koel
The Asian koel’s mating calls can be disturbing in the morning; in fact, I grew up annoyed by this bird. But hey, its presence signals the coming of summer, and when it’s not cooing at 5am and waking me up, I think it’s actually pretty adorable.
2. The MTR announcements by Dr Cheri Chan Yu-yan
I bet most of us who’ve lived in Hong Kong have tried to imitate Dr Chan’s voice at least once. Being an essential part of our daily commute, her voice has not only become one of the trademarks of the MTR, but also a collective memory for most Hong Kong citizens.
3. The roaring wind and rain on a typhoon day
Recorded by AK in KK, one of the few experts in Hong Kong’s natural soundscape, this clip has been the perfect sleep aid for me. I feel blessed and relaxed knowing that I’m safe in my duvet, away from the typhoon.
If you’d like to explore more sounds from nature, I’d recommend checking out AK in KK’s Hong Kong sound map. Sound maps mark the location(s) of where certain sounds were recorded. So, instead of identifying places by what they look like, we can identify places by what they sound like.
4. The waves lapping the shores of beaches in Hong Kong
5. The constant chatter in Hong Kong markets and the occasional ding-ding trams
Nothing beats a nice wander through the city – without actually having to sweat or wrestle through the crowds, hah. Traverse the North Point Market together with Wanderer Ambience and listen out for the kind aunties, curious children, and the occasional ding-ding sounds when the tram passes through.