GBA Lifestyle News
City Living Section
By Andrea Lo | June 18th, 2019

Want fun facts about Hong Kong to throw at your friends? No, we’re not just talking about stuff like the Central–Mid-levels Escalators being the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. Find out why the $10 bill looks so different to other banknotes, the real meaning behind place names, and where a supervolcano used to stand in Hong Kong!

A Revolutionary Hero 

There are two commemorative plaques in Hong Kong honoring Philippine revolutionary Jose Rizal (1861-1896). 

A respected hero in his homeland, Rizal played a key role in the political reforms in the Philippines during the end of its Spanish colonial period. During a period in the 1880s, he sought refuge in Hong Kong, running a practice on D’Aguilar Street from 1891 to 1892. One of the plaques is erected on the exterior walls next to Century Square in LKF to commemorate this, while another sits on Rednaxela Terrace in Mid-levels (pictured), where he lived. 

The Real Origins of ‘Happy’ Valley

Happy Valley Racecourse by Minghong/Wiki Commons
Insider tip: Bet on the horse with the coolest name. Photo: Minghong/Wiki Commons

The leafy Happy Valley neighborhood is probably most famous for the Hong Kong Jockey Club racecourse, and uber-fancy apartments.

Despite its cheerful moniker, “Happy Valley” was so named because of another major site there — the Hong Kong Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in the city, which dates back to 1845.

The story goes that when a British naval commander officer died in Hong Kong and became the first to be interred at the cemetery, his doctor had made a record that the deceased was buried in “happy valley,” a euphemism for graveyards.

Hong Kong’s Curious Roman Bath

Roman baths in Hong Kong
Roman baths in Hong Kong. Photo: Film Services Office website

On the island of Shek Kwu Chau, nestled off Lantau and Cheung Chau, sits a mock Roman bath. It’s located inside a rehab facility, pretty much the only structure on the island — and the bath was built by patients there.

The bath is surrounded by grand colonnades and vaulted-roof corridors. Meanwhile, other structures also built by patients inside the center are inspired by Chinese mythology. The entire island is closed to the public, although film production companies can apply to shoot there. We’ll just have to admire this curious piece of architecture from photos and videos alone.

The $10 Bill Anomaly

The Hong Kong dollar’s banknotes come in $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000 denominations, although only the $10 bill is printed by the Hong Kong government. The rest are issued by HSBC, Standard Chartered and the Bank of China.

Ten dollar note
Government-issued ten dollar note. Photo: HKMA

Although $10 notes had long been printed by banks, in response to the increased need of an alternative to $10 coins, the government began issuing a brand new, jazzed-up design of the bill in 2002. It took on an entirely different look and feel to the old $10 note — and other bills — issued by banks, boasting florescent and reflective features, and a transparent window. Old-school green-colored $10 bills remain in circulation, but are no longer printed.

A Weirdly Warm February

While many parts of the world battle major chills through winter, here in Hong Kong we always seem to always enjoy at least one weirdly hot day every February.

Take 1959 — that was the year Hong Kong had its hottest Valentine’s Day (February 14) on record, with the thermostat reaching 27.3 degrees Celsius. That’s not to say the city doesn’t also suffer from cold spells: back in 1905, February 14 was just 6.2 degrees Celsius, the coldest Valentine’s Day on record.

A Street Devoted to Broadcasters

Broadcast Drive in Kowloon Tong is home to Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and Commercial Radio Hong Kong (CRHK). At one point in the 1970s, though, all five of Hong Kong’s broadcasting outlets were based here — the others were Television Broadcast (TVB), which moved to Clearwater Bay in the 1980s, as well as the now-defunct Asia Television (ATV) and Commercial Television.

During this period, Broadcast Drive was colloquially known in Cantonese as Ng Toi Shan,” or “five-station hill”.

Our Own Supervolcano

High Island Sai Kung
High Island Sai Kung. Photo: AFCD
high island
High Island Sai Kung. Photo: AFCD

Hong Kong enjoys few natural disasters, save for a few typhoons during monsoon season. That wasn’t the case 140 million years ago, though. High Island — which is no longer an island and now connected to the Sai Kung peninsula — used to be a supervolcano.

It’s what gave the area beautiful rock formations, and the site is also a UNESCO Global Geopark. There you can visit the Volcano Discovery Centre.