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.
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