Legislative Council Building, Central
Yes, I know, another one that isn’t really off the beaten track, in fact it is slap bang in the middle of everything and is fairly unavoidable. But, like Govt House a couple of months ago, this one every so often has an open day for the public, and the past Saturday (29th Nov 2008) was just such a day.
Most visitors to the territory, who have stepped foot on Hong Kong Island, will be familiar with the dome roof of the Legislative Council Building, however, it has only been known as such since 1985 when the LegCo moved there. Prior to its current use, the building housed the HK Supreme Court, and this former use explains in some way why the roof houses a statue of Themis, who also stands on top of the Old Bailey in London. Actually, Wikipedia has a good summary of the buildings history here. Suffice to say it was opened in 1912 and thus is one of the few buildings of pre-war heritage (in fact, according to Mr Tony Banham, there are still visible signs of shrapnel/shell damage around the building, and in other parts of Statue Square, from when the Japanese invaded in Dec 1941).
Rather than queue for hours we opted for the fast ticket system which meant you asked and were given priority tickets for a set time, all you do is turn up at your allotted time and joining the thousands of others who have selected the same time as you and a bunch of people who had chosen a different time but still couldn’t be bothered to wait (come on, this is HK, no one queues if they don’t feel like it).
As expected, I was the only baby-eating foreigner (according the Rough Guide writer, David Leffman, this rumour was started a long time ago to keep the masses from intermingling with the foreign devils) and so had to try my luck and catch snippets of Cantonese information as it was announced over the PA system. Having said that, even the missus couldn’t hear what was being said due to the constant low-level chatter and the non-stop camera shutter noises.
Every spot inside the building was a photo opportunity for my fellow tourists and it was hard to get any snaps of anything other than other peoples heads and fingers held in a v-sign (if you live in Asia, you will know EXACTLY what I mean). So it was here that I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to make the most of it, hang back and simply wait for people to move on.
Anyway, the short 45 minute or so tour takes you up on to the second floor via an elegant winding staircase and up into the functional rooms of the legislature, used by the various standing committees and such like. You get to glimpse into the LegCo President’s room – with the blue bound ordinances arranged in a nice row in his bookshelf behind his desk, through some more doors and into a lounge. Then up some more short stairs onto the third floor where you can see the wooden beams that support the various parts of the roof, into the large dining hall and then back down into the main legislative council room – what was the supreme court – and then onto various other rooms including the press room complete with its lockers allocated to various newspapers of the world – The Times, The Sun etc. You know when the tour is over because you head down the opposite staircase and out onto Statue Square.
Even if you don’t have any interest in HK politics then the open day is worth going to just to get a glimpse inside the building. Unfortunately the open day wasn’t announced on the official Leg Co website, but rather announced via the main Govt site instead. Links below for those interested in coming along for another event.