ultramarinus – beyond the sea

SUN, MOON & STAR, Wanchai (灣仔), Hong Kong

6pm, December 1st 1890. On a hill close to Wan Chai historical waterfront, two British steam turbines began to generate power in Hong Kong’s first power plant, lighting up a group of electric street lamps in Central. Back then, no one could imagine that the small group of street lamps would one day turned into a world famous night view. As the demand for electricity surged, the power plant was relocated to a bigger facility in North Point, then a bigger one in Ap Lei Chau, and lastly to the current one on Lamma Island. On the slope where the city’s first power plant once stood, a bronze plaque in a shaded parkette is all that is left. In the past, electricity meant light, and light meant the sun, moon and stars. Centred around the parkette, three tiny streets, namely Sun Street (日街), Moon Street (月街) and Star Street (星街), and a network of small streets and alleys form what we now call the Starstreet Precinct (星街小區). Cosy cafes, lovely restaurants, galleries, boutiques, and design shops draw visitors every weekend and Friday night to explore the precinct. Tucked away on a slope with less than 100m from the busy Queen’s Road East and just a stone throw away from the financial district, the pedestrian friendly Starstreet Precinct is the best kept secret of Wan Chai, offering a relaxing and otherworldly ambience that some have described as “European”. What does it mean by “European” is subject for debate, the tranquil neighborhood nonetheless serves well as an urban oasis. In 1988, Swire Properties, the owner of the adjacent Pacific Place, began to purchase properties in the precinct and gradually revitalize the area into a vibrant and multicultural quarter. Their effort apparently paid off. Among with Melbourne’s Smith Street, London’s South Bank, Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard, and Tokyo’s Cat Street, Wan Chai’s Starstreet Precinct was named one of 30 coolest streets in the world by Timeout in 2021.

Today, a bronze plaque in a parkette is all that is left for Hong Kong’s first power plant. [Photo: Kwong Ming Street Children’s Playground, 2022]
Through Sik On Street (適安街) from Queen’s Road East, one can enter a network of hidden alleys on the slope of Victoria Peak. [Photo: Sik On Street and Queen’s Road East, 2020]
The stepped Sik On Street leads up to the network of hidden alleys away from the busy commercial roads of Wan Chai. [Photo:Sik On Street, 2020]
Some of the tenement buildings at Sik On Street have been renovated for rental. [Photo: Sik On Street, 2022]
A turn at Sik On Street leads to another alley called Sau Wa Fong (秀華坊), where the unique character of Starstreet Precinct begins to appear, with small cafes and shops occupying the ground floor of low rise residential buildings. [Photo: Sau Wa Fong, 2022]
Offering all sort of pottery and household items designed by local and Japanese artists, Co Ninety is one of main draw of Sau Wa Fong. [Photo: Sau Wa Fong, 2022]
Famed barber shop Hair House by Adam Chan also chooses Sau Wa Fong as its home. [Photo: Sau Wa Fong, 2022]
Ethos, Jouer and Bogu are some of the cafes and cake shops frequented by the younger generation at Sau Wa Fong. [Photo: Sau Wa Fong, 2022]
The sleepy Sau Wa Fong terminates at St Francis Street (聖佛蘭士街), a sloped street with sleek restaurants and boutique where the Starstreet Precinct officially begins. [Photo: St Francis Street, 2022]
Having its flagship store at St Francis Street, local trainer brand Lane Eight is getting its name known in both Hong Kong and the US in recent years. [Photo: St Francis Street, 2022]
Turning into the deadend of St Francis Yard (進教圍), tailor shop Sarto Lab focuses on making Italian style suit jackets. [Photo: St Francis Yard, 2020]
Founded by Frenchman Arnault Castel in 2006, Kapok is one of the most popular new boutiques in Hong Kong selling a wide range of causal European and Japanese fashion. [Photo: St Francis Yard, 2022]
With a 60+ years of history, Tak Yu Hong Kong Style Cafe (德如茶餐廳) is selected by CNN as one of the four best Hong Kong milk tea in the city. [Photo: St Francis Yard, 2020]
Hong Kong is one of the base offices of Monocle Magazine around the world. A Monocle Shop gives a global ambience to the Starstreet Precinct. [Photo: St Francis Yard, 2020]
The pedestrian friendly Sun Street (日街) is home to a range of boutiques, including White Do (白做研究所). First opened in Tainan, White Do sells a range of Japanese and Finnish knitwear, items and works from local and Japanese designers. [Photo: Sun Street, 2022]
White Do also sells the leather products by Cappello & Martello, a Sicilian leather workshop based in Hong Kong. [Photo: Sun Street, 2020]
A Personal Tailor (APT) has been a popular cafe in the Starstreet Precinct in the last two years. [Photo: Moon Street, 2020]
Occupying an old tenement building, Greek Taverna Artemis Apollo offers a taste of the Mediterranean to visitors of the Starstreet Precinct. [Photo: Moon Street, 2020]
Pici is a casual pasta bar with semi outdoor seating at St Francis Yard. [Photo: St Francis Yard, 2020]
California coffee roaster Blue Bottle has been a popular player of third wave coffee shops since its introduction into Hong Kong. [Photo: St Francis Yard, 2022]

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