Sunday Morning Drive - How Hong Kong Does the Car Scene
It’s been close to a month since I officially moved back to Hong Kong from Oahu, Hawaii. Amidst what mid-2020 is putting the world through right now, I was lucky enough to make it back home safe and sound. Given the recent news that student-visa holders in the States would now have to figure out if they could stay in the country on top of everything, I knew I could not stay in Hawaii any longer as I had.
While I managed to get a flight back to Hong Kong, I first had to go through a mandatory 14-day quarantine process to ensure I was not infected. But as soon as my 14 days were up and I could cut off my mandated wristband, I was eager to get back behind the wheel and the camera for some car stuff.
As you might have read in the news, Hong Kong is currently in an interesting position. With the National Security Law now in place, combined with an epidemic in the city’s hands, every day has been a source of unpredictability no doubt. This means the odd escape or two, regardless of what you believe in or how you feel towards the current state of politics, is sought after.
Luckily for us, there is one source for that. Every Sunday Morning, to be precise.
Because Hong Kong does not necessarily have the available space to host something as consistent as a Cars and Coffee event as you might see in the States, an ‘informal’ gathering is what most enthusiasts are accustomed to enjoy their cars and meet fellow enthusiasts. ‘Sunday Morning Drives’ [SMD] as they are called, have enthusiasts wake up early in the morning and drive to certain parts of the city to drive, meet up with car groups, and generally have a breather away from the stress and worries the workweek brings.
Having been a year since my last SMD, I was excited to get back to some local car action. I met up with a small group of fellow enthusiasts, whom we all met via social media on previous morning drives, and have been in contact with ever since. It’s pretty much the dynamic of SMD in Hong Kong: you meet people you wouldn’t necessarily meet through regular means, and if it all works out, you end up being regular acquaintances in future Sundays.
Meet up points can vary: in this case for my group, we met up in front of the North Point Fire Station. Being that early on a weekend, it was ideal: everyone could park up without getting hassled by traffic or traffic cops, and it was generally not too busy, so no one would give us a problem.
One of the few good people I’ve met through these Sunday meetups, Heimond, was waiting there when I arrived. He had brought his newest acquisition: a Toyota Vitz (Yaris) RS.
Slowly a few more showed up. Today’s theme seemed to be mini, Japanese city cars.
A fellow van owner and driver friend of mine, Jenkin, and his 1st gen Toyota Previa. A mid-engined minivan if you didn’t know that.
Our other acquaintance, Tony (and who told me about when to be there), ended up sleeping past his alarm, and drove as fast as he could to the meetup spot. Like, driving as if he was on fire fast.
Once we all were good to go, we convoyed to the main spot for our drive. Hong Kong has only so many roads that are ideal for driving without the crazy traffic or speed cameras getting in the way, so much of these morning drives take place in only a few central locations: Big Wave Bay, Luk Keng, and Bride Pool’s Road, Tai Mo Shan (aka HK’s Nurburgring), and Sai Kung. All are largely country roads that lead to seaside or beach towns.
As it turned out, Tony being late was a blessing in disguise. Around the time we planned to head into Big Wave Bay, someone in a BMW 4 Series ended up crashing his car in the first few curves, stopping traffic both ways. We managed to miss most of the traffic by being an hour late.
Another thing to worry about, considering the cleanup of an accident just happened along the road, was the traffic police. HKPD isn’t exactly modified car-friendly, and many Morning Drives have been cut short due to the police crashing the party early on, setting up inspection checkpoints along the road to pull over cars they feel are not ‘roadworthy’. Even subtly-modified cars with a slight offset from their wheels, or stock FD2 Type Rs with OEM rear spoilers, have been known to be impounded, under the assumption they have been ‘modified with an intent to race’, even if the driver has a clean record. I know, such a logical argument?
But thankfully no traffic cops, eager to pull over even the slightest of modified cars were nowhere to be seen as we entered the area.
The road into Big Wave Bay is not long (at best a 5 to 10-minute drive), but much like the Angeles Crest Highway, it is full of twists and turns that allow you to fully use your car, rather than be stuck in Hong Kong’s bumper to bumper traffic.
Provided you don’t run into a. Cyclists out for a Sunday Morning ride b. Speed traps or c. buses dropping off hikers or beach-goers.
We originally planned to park up and grab breakfast as soon as we got there, but when we arrived at the parking area, there were no spaces available. We decided to chance it with double parking anyway (and if you’re a regular, most people don’t mind, as they’ll usually be busy having breakfast too.)
Until we caught sight of a police van dropping off some traffic cops, ready to hand out parking tickets or citations for ‘illegal modifications’. We decided to wait out for parking and do some runs around Big Wave Bay until parking freed up.
It’s no secret these days that what draws many people to SMD is the photographers posted up that morning. Similar to what goes on at Tail of the Dragon or Angeles Crest, there are a dedicated few who aim to get photographs of what happens to be driving by that week. Considering we had some time to kill, we decided to get in as many shots as we could in between laps.
Eventually, traffic cleared up and we could find ‘spaces’ to park in and grab some much-needed breakfast from a cafe near the beach. These stores sell simple fares such as noodles with luncheon meat and eggs (saimin as readers in Hawaii know them as), toast, breakfast sets, and coffee/tea; typical HK grab and go bites. But on a Sunday morning with nothing else available, they do the job just fine.
This perfectly highlights what is unique about SMD in Hong Kong: anything can turn up that morning. Whether it be a slightly modified Honda with Mugen parts or a clean, OEM-spec E46 M3, you get an idea of how diverse our small but passionate scene is here. Especially during Holidays, where you might see some rare supercars out for a drive, like a Pagani Zonda or Ferrari F40 perhaps? JDM fanatics might even get to see some of the cleanest, well-maintained models out for a Sunday drive too.
In some ways, the sheer randomness and spontaneity of SMD every week is what keeps enthusiasts coming every week. You never know what might come out, unless you are there yourself. Apart from the routine of supporting a local family business, catching up with friends, and enjoying your car that morning; seeing what you might not usually encounter out in the city is a treat.
Hopefully, some of those very cars will find their way onto future features on this blog.
- Adrian Ma Photography (@therandomjdmfan97)
- FF13 Photography (@ff13_sonic)
- Black Cygnus Photography (@black.cygnus)