Hong Kong Photographer and Writer Uses Her Dream to Encourage Hong Kongers: Never Give Up

Hong Konger Celia Cheng Kwok-yan is a photographer and writer who has left her mark on the three poles of the world (the North Pole, the South Pole and the summit of Everest) and on the seven continents. After a two-year hiatus due to the never-ending pandemic, Cheng finally picked up her backpack in April and fled for six months.

She planned to travel from south to north, starting from the base camp of Mount Everest in Nepal, to Scotland, Iceland and the northernmost part of the world, Greenland.

Having experienced waves of coronavirus outbreaks, Hong Kongers and friends leaving town, Cheng sounded sentimental: “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

When traveling has become a luxury in all circumstances, Cheng cherishes every opportunity she has to narrate her travels, using her camera, video, pen and paper; she documents every last bit of her experiences, hoping to encourage other Hong Kongers to stay strong even in adversity.

Celia capturing the magnificent animal migration in East Africa. (Courtesy of Celia)

Cheng describes his profession as a photographer. Nicknamed “the poet”, Cheng integrates photography and writing to document her travels. Cheng has already published 18 travel journals (at the time of writing). In recent years, she has begun to plan, organize and lead out-of-town photography tours. Cheng said it was “killing two birds with one stone”: achieving your dreams while helping others.

In all the photos that have been taken, Cheng is always behind the camera, covered in sweat and passion.

One of her most iconic photos is a shot of her standing inside a Jeep while taking pictures of the Great Animal Migration in East Africa.

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While enjoying the scenic views, Celia was grateful for what life had to offer her. (Courtesy of Celia)

She loves the process of photography. For her, it’s not just about pushing a button, it’s about the stories behind the scenes.

Perseverance and respect are essential on the road.

Growing up, Cheng never had the opportunity to leave Hong Kong: “My parents never traveled, let alone take me on a trip. I always read about destinations and new places. So I don’t dream of traveling but I never had the opportunity when I was young.

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A bird’s eye view of the Canon PhotoMarathon participants. (Courtesy of Celia)

From her parents, the photographer learned to be persevering and respectful of others. These qualities have influenced her deeply to this day, for which she is eternally grateful.

“My parents taught me to be a good person, to have manners, to have respect for others, as well as for myself.” Cheng affirmed.

Seeing her parents work hard all the time, Cheng also became a hard worker when she was in high school. She would get part-time jobs to earn pocket money. At one point, she had four tutoring jobs. Cheng describes herself as a workaholic, who cannot survive without work.

Cheng studied marketing in school, which became her model of knowledge on how to manage time, customers, resources, and herself for her business.

Originally, traveling was just a concoction for Cheng’s free time.

She worked hard and traveled fast like everyone else in Hong Kong. She would take a little trip to recharge her batteries and shop for souvenirs.

But one day, she realized that she loved sharing with her friends the stories behind every memory she brought home. Cheng decided to become his own boss by opening a small craft shop, Colorful Life, in Causeway Bay. In her shop, she sold all kinds of unique pieces that she collected during her travels. His business has become a hot spot for his network and media attention.

It also allowed him to build bridges around the world with other craft shops.

She didn’t know that the universe had sent her an answer to her prayer. Cheng received an invitation to write a travel blog for a magazine.

Cheng said yes, wasting no time. From there, the rest is history. Cheng wrote his very first travel journal Sunshine of Iceland.

“I realize there’s a lot of substance to combining words and photos,” Cheng said. His life now had new meaning.

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A Nepalese porter lifting heavy luggage as he walks up the hill with his customers. (Courtesy of Celia)

“I am an easy-going person. my curiosity, adaptability and communication skills have become an advantage when it comes to talking to strangers,” Celia explained.

“Even though we speak a different language and grow up in different cultures, our smiles and body language are universal and can show people if you’re friendly or respectful to them.”

Cheng recently snapped a photo of a Nepalese porter, who carried customers’ tongues up the hill on rough paths. Looking at the photo, we would see the authentic side of the doorman. However, behind the lens there was a lot of effort to make the shot happen. Cheng pointed out that trust is an important part of talking to strangers. “Only if the porters trust you will they then allow you to take their pictures.”

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A couple of penguins in love filmed at the South Pole. (Courtesy of Celia)
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A large group of penguins gathering and resting at the South Pole. (Courtesy of Celia)

In December 2021, Cheng discovered that his good friend, mountaineering enthusiast John Tsang Chi-shing and his son Bob Tsang Long-kit were about to climb the biggest mountain. Unfortunately, they have experienced immense challenges and changes due to the ongoing pandemic. Their perseverance encouraged Cheng to start planning his route.

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Celia makes her way from her first stop at Hong Kong International Airport to the other side of the world. (Courtesy of Celia)

After some serious and careful consideration, Cheng had planned his routes to begin his 173-day round-the-world adventure.

Cheng wanted to make the trip culturally and humanly colorful. she began at her first stopover in Nepal, where she followed and documented the journey with the Tsangs, father and son as a duo to Everest Base Camp. Whether it was reaching the top of the mountain or coming back down without losing a hair, it was a rewarding experience for Cheng.

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Celia interviewed the Tsangs, father and son who are passionate about climbing in Nepal. (Courtesy of Celia)

During her journey with her friends, she personally encountered many obstacles. Cheng twisted his ankle in April just before they left for Nepal. She had to use crutches for the next six months. When they arrived, the freezing weather in the mountain gave Cheng a bad cold, and the only water available was icy natural spring water.

When she first went through the footage, she wanted to cut out any parts that showed she was sick or weak at the time, but then decided to keep them for authenticity. Cheng explained, “It was me. The authentic me. That’s what I want to write. I don’t want to pretend. There is enough pretension in this world.

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Celia soaks up the sun at Everest Base Camp. (Courtesy of Celia)

His trip to Nepal ended in May 2022. Cheng started traveling north. During the month of June, she visited her friend on Canadian Prince Edward Island, where she caught lobsters, before heading to Scotland.

Cheng also set out his next direction. “In addition to photography and writing, I will also shoot videos on the road and show everything that happens with the public. On my last trip, I felt completely different from the previous ones. I felt a mission and a responsibility, to appreciate time, I must capture, touch and feel.

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Celia takes photos at the snowy Everest Base Camp. (Courtesy of Celia)
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On a flight, Celia writes about her trip. (Courtesy of Celia)
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Celia taking a photo with her friend in Prince Edward Island, Canada. (Courtesy of Celia)