2A Canton Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Photo by Karl F. Schöfman / age fotostock
1818 Heritage BuildingThis Victorian-era building complex was the headquarters of the Hong Kong Marine Police from the 1880s until 1996 (except for a few years during WWII) and was where pirates and smugglers were once imprisoned. Today, the restored complex is a combination of high-end shopping arcade, hotel, and exhibition hall, and more important, it’s a treasure chest of historic relics and a wonderful place for a stroll. The complex was vital to making Hong Kong a modern port in the days before technology. The ball at the top of its beautifully preserved Time Ball Tower, in use from 1885 to 1906, was manually raised each day and then dropped precisely at 1 p.m. to let ships recalibrate their chronometers (marine timepieces) before setting sail. Ship captains and others also checked the typhoon mast for signal flags indicating warning of severe storms. The coops along the walls of the building’s courtyard once held carrier pigeons that carried messages to and from ships in the harbor. Free guided tours are available by calling +852 2926 8000.