Man Mo Temple Hong Kong: Sometimes you get lucky with the light

Prayers at the Man Mo Temple
Prayers at the Man Mo Temple

It was hot. Really hot. Like melt you into a puddle of liquid hot. Fry an egg on the sidewalk hot. That’s Hong Kong in the summer: Humidity so bad you need a machete to cut through the water in the smoggy air.

I was working a trade show at the convention center, staying at Chungking Mansion – home to Hong Kong’s illegal immigrants, back-packers, low-cost hookers and drug dealers and I had pneumonia: My mood was less than pleasant.

But, I was meeting with Michael from Expatriate Games, a long time internet friend, a photographer who’s work I admire and respect. We planned on hitting Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road. The century-old temple is famous with tour groups, policemen and gangsters.

Did I say it was hot? Up the escalator to the mid-level, a hike down Hollywood Road and we arrived at the place of worship. I had been there before – several times. When I am at a loss as to what to do while in Central I make a beeline for Man Mo. Other local photographers were shooting inside the dark, smokey room. The No Photography signs are usually not enforced by the temple staff as hordes of tourists pour through the building each day.

After shooting some run-of-the-mill images we were treated to something spectacular – the reason the local photographers were on station. The ceiling of the temple is a collection of circular hanging incense. The smoke from these offerings offers visitors sweet suffocation. The roof of the main chamber is open in areas to allow the smoke to escape – taking prayers and appeasement to the deities being honored.  These open areas also allow the sunlight direct access to the inside of the cavern-like temple.

Incense at the Man Mo Temple
Incense at the Man Mo Temple

Rays of light cut through the smoke. It was something magical to see – and catnip to shutterbugs. We snapped away until the temple staff intervened and a near-physical altercation occurred between them and the local photogs.

If you’re in Hong Kong on a sunny afternoon head over to the Man Mo Temple – between 2 and 4 pm should give you the same opportunity. Play it cool let The Man raise his hand.

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