During this past visit home, I played tourist for a little bit. The Duddell Street Steps and the gas lamps is one of those places I've actually never been to even though it's right in my own backyard!
Scandalous past of the duddells
Duddell Street was named after the brothers George and Frederick Duddell. George emigrated from Macau to Colonial Hong Kong in 1841. His scandalous story began when he became the owner of the first opium monopoly in Hong Kong. He secured a beneficial friendship with an important law enforcement authority, which essentially allowed him to make loads of money from buying lands for cheap. At one point, he was the third largest land owner in the British Colony and his properties included many of the plots around Duddell Street. Why a street would be named after what we would considered today as a criminal is beyond me, but I suppose Mr. Duddell was an influential figure during his time in Colonial Hong Kong, having ties with the high society.
The Last Four Gas Lamps Standing
The Duddell Street Steps and Gas Lamps collectively play an important role in preserving Hong Kong's British Colonial past. While the granite Duddell Street Steps were built between 1875 and 1889, there is no official record of when the four gas lamps located on each end of the Steps were installed. The only information we have today is that these lamp belonged to the "two-light Rochester" models produced in 1922 by Suggs & Co.. What's also unique about the lamps is that these are the only 4 remaining gas lamps in Hong Kong as all other gas lamps in the city were replaced by electric lamps after WWII.
The Duddell Street Steps and gas lamps have been declared as a monument by the Hong Kong Antiquities and Monuments Office. According to its website, once a place has been declared as a monument, the Office has the power to protect the monument, which includes prevention of unauthorized alterations. Happy to know that this piece of Hong Kong history will be preserved for generations to see.
Guarding a Piece of Hong Kong's History
The two pairs of gas lamps each located on one end of the Steps. It's as if they are fiercely protecting this piece of British colonial history of Hong Kong. This part of town used to be less-populated, but it has since been taken over by high-rise office buildings and now becoming a popular tourist destination thanks to the "Bing Sutt" Starbucks located off the middle level of the Steps (it's one of the specially-designed Starbucks around the world that reflects part of the local history. Will share this in another story).
Witness To Many Made-For-TV dramatic scenes
I remember, as a child growing up in Hong Kong, I watched many local TV drama shot on these steps. The usual storyline is either two lovers quarreled, with one person running away and onto the steps, and then made up in the rain (a must for dramatic effect) or a young man who has been through hardship sitting on the steps with his head down (and possibly beer in his hand) and then getting a much-needed prep talk or a big "wake up" face-slap from a friend or an elder.
Here's an example - Rain. Lovers' quarrel. What did I tell you?
some travel tips
MTR vs Taxi I highly recommend taking the MTR (Hong Kong's subway system). Everything is written and announced in English and Chinese, so it's very easy for non-Chinese-speaking visitors to use as well. It's also the cleanest & most modern subway system you'd ever see. While taxi's are convenient, many taxi drivers do not know the English names of Hong Kong's streets, so it may become an unpleasant experience.
Direction From MTR, get off at the Central station. Two lines stop at this station - Island Line (Blue) and Tsuen Wan Line (Red). See here for a map of the MTR system. Look for bilingual exit signage that indicates the exit towards "Landmark", which is a shopping mall. Once inside Landmark Mall, locate the Gucci store on the ground level. Exit the mall at the ground-level doors near Gucci. Duddell Street is a tiny street perpendicular to the street you're on and entrance to the street is on the other side of the road from where you stand. Once on Duddell Street, walk to the end of the road and you'll see the Steps.
hong kong's unique history
I hope you'll spend a few moments to visit Duddell Street if you are ever in Hong Kong. It's definitely a special part of Hong Kong's British colonial history and another example of the city's unique "east meets west" melting pot culture.
Thanks for letting me share this special spot in my hometown with you! What are some of your favorite hidden gems in your hometown?
FROM THE ADVENTURE SERIES