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Posts tagged “disco

REVERIE OF CHUNGKING EXPRESS: LAN KWAI FONG (蘭桂坊), Central (中環), Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), a “L” shaped lane and its surrounding area is one of the designated places in Hong Kong for clubbing, partying and celebrating major festivals such as the New Year’s countdown. [Staff setting up festival decorations in LKF, late December, 2004]
For many decades Lan Kwai Fong was seen as the backwaters of Central, the main business district in Hong Kong. The opening of the first disco on LKF in 1978 has completely changed the fate of the sloped alleyway. [Near junction of LKF and D’Aguilar Street, 2004]

Midnight Express, a former snack bar in one of Hong Kong’s most vibrant and eccentric nightlife area Lan Kwai Fong (蘭桂坊), was one of the primary filming locations of Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express (重慶森林). In the film, Faye (Faye Wong) works at the snack bar while policeman 633 (Tony Leung) regularly comes to order takeout for his girlfriend. Behind the snack bar counter, Faye often dreams about the American West Coast, dances in the deafening music of California Dreamin’, and watches the revelry of Lan Kwai Fong’s party crowds. Standing behind the street-facing snack counter, Faye might have seen the partying individuals as empty and lonely, drinking, dancing and spending money as if there is no tomorrow. Chungking Express is just one of many films and TV dramas that picks Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), Hong Kong designated hub for partying, drinking and clubbing, to tell their urban tales. These stories have contributed to the myth making of LKF’s wild parties and charismatic lifestyle of the city’s high earners, expatriates and socialites. Since opening the first disco in 1978, the cool partying retreat was soon developed into a popular entertainment hub, and then becoming the city’s prime tourist attraction, the evolution of LKF reflects Hong Kong’s fast changing subcultures and economic circumstances in the past four decades.

Yet, LKF is not always about the glitter and glamour. A hundred years ago, LKF was home to brothels, marriage arrangers, and hawkers, and continued to be a back alley in the shadow of Central until the late 1970’s. It all began in 1978, when Gordon Huthart, son of the director of Lane Crawford luxury department store, collaborated with Andrew Bull, the legendary DJ who came to the city in 1974, brought the culture of Saturday Night Fever to Hong Kong by opening Disco Disco in LKF. Before Disco Disco, most nightlife in the city were associated with five star hotels. Disco Disco was the avant-garde venue that opened up a new era of subculture that welcomed all cool people in the city, be it queer or straight, rich or poor, to present their stylish outfits, glamorous persona and real character on the dance floor. Disco Disco was the pioneer in Hong Kong to break the social norms, and soon became one of the most phenomenal disco in Asia. International celebrities like Andy Warhol, Madonna, Sex Pistol, Rod Steward, Sean Penn, Sylvestor Stallone, etc. who happened to be a visitor of Hong Kong, would come for a drink and rubbed shoulders with the local socialites and celebrities. Despite shutting its doors permanently in 1986, Disco Disco has undoubtedly established the mythical foundation of LKF.

In 1983, the former Club 97 and Allan Zeman’s California Restaurant opened in LKF, and soon developed LKF into a prime nightlife destination, and a special venue for wild parties and celebrations for the New Year, Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s Day. The sloped lane of LKF and the adjacent D’Aguilar Street (德己立街) were proved too small for the overwhelming crowds in 1993’s New Year’s Day, when a stampede accident killing 21 and injuring 62 shocked the whole city. Since then, stringent crowd control measures have been introduced by the police in LKF at every major festivals. Despite the tragic incident, nightlife continue to flourish in LKF and remain popular among expatriates, high earners, and tourists. Under the business vision of Allan Zeman, the biggest landlord in the area, LWF has become a unique business model that can be exported to other cities in China and Thailand. Today, a little more than a year since the first case of Covid 19 appeared in Hong Kong, LKF is facing its biggest challenge since 1978. Long periods of compulsory closure have shattered the entertainment businesses. From the coolest clubbing venue to a business formula that can be appropriated elsewhere in Asia, and from the designated party floor to one of the biggest business victims in times of the pandemic, LWF has seen its ups and downs. How may the partying ground adjust to the new order of post-pandemic Hong Kong is yet to be seen.

After 27 years, Midnight Express, the snack bar appeared in Chungking Express, has been converted into a 7/11 convenient store. [Lan Kwai Fong, 2021]
In times of the pandemic, the florists on LKF are relatively less affected by the government’s restrictions. [Junction of LKF and D’Aguilar Street, 2021]
Jewish Canadian businessman Allan Zeman has replaced his legendary California Restaurant (also a filming location of Chungking Express) with the mixed use California Tower [Junction of LKF and D’Aguilar Street, 2021]
According to their website, the 26 storey California Tower is home to some of the city’s finest restaurants, bars, clubs, lifestyle, fitness and creative commerce. [Junction of LKF and D’Aguilar Street, 2021]
In times of the pandemic, the legendary nightlife lane of LKF has become a shadow of its past. [LKF, 2021]
Whether the shuttered nightclubs and bars would reopen their doors after the government restrictions have been lifted is yet to be seen. [D’Aguilar Street, 2021]
LKF tried their best to convince the government that they would ensure their customers to keep social distancing and mask wearing, but that didn’t prevent the government to temporarily shutter all the bars and clubs. [D’Aguilar Street, 2021]
Branches off from D’Aguilar Street, the deserted Wing Wah Lane (榮華里) was once a cozy lane filled with dining tables on Friday night. [Wing Wah Lane, 2021]
Today in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic, Wing Wah Lane is pretty much vacant. [Wing Wah Lane, 2021]
Serving lunch and takeouts to office workers in Central, restaurants at Wo On Lane (和安里) are perhaps some of the least affected business in LKF during the pandemic. [Junction of Wo On Lane and D’Aguilar Street, 2021]
A small deity shrine dedicated to the patron saint of the area marks the end of Wo On Lane. [Wo On Lane, 2021]
Beyond the deity shrine is Lan Kwai Fong Amphitheatre. [LKF Amphitheatre, 2021]
Lan Kwai Fong Amphitheatre has been a popular venue for parties, live performances and community events such Christmas Carols and outdoor movie screenings. Today, as all gyms and sporting venues are closed due to the Covid 19 pandemic, LKF Amphitheatre has become an outdoor exercise area for the community. [LKF Amphitheatre, 2021]
From boxing to weight lifting, LKF Amphitheatre has become a hot spot for exercising during the pandemic. [LKF Amphitheatre, 2021]
Built in 1892, the brick and stucco building was a cold storage depot for Dairy Farm, Hong Kong’s first local dairy company. The NGO arts organization Fringe Club (藝穗會) is housed in the South Block of the listed old Dairy Farm Depot, offering venues for art exhibitions, theatre performances, restaurant, and roof garden to support emerging artists in the city. [Junction of Wyndham Street, D’Aguilar Street and Lower Albert Road, 2020]
The North Block of the old Dairy Farm Depot is occupied by Foreign Correspondent’s Club (FCC), where foreign journalists and local media workers mingle after work. [Junction of Ice House Street and Lower Albert Road, 2020]
The FCC has occupied the North Block of the old Dairy Farm Depot since 1982. [Junction of Ice House Street and Lower Albert Road, 2020]
In 2020, the year when the whole world was overshadowed by the Covid 19 pandemic, most public festival celebrations in Hong Jong had been called off. 2020’s Halloween fell between Hong Kong’s third and fourth wave of Covid 19, offering a moment of relaxation for some minor celebrations to happen. [Looking towards D’Aguilar Street from Theatre Lane in Central, 2020]
On Halloween night, neighbourhoods in Central were filled of festive joy near Soho and LKF. [Pottinger Street in Central, Halloween night 2020]
Despite lack of large scale celebration due to the pandemic, the joyful crowds still dressed up in costumes and gathered around LKF for the annual Halloween celebrations. [Pottinger Street in Central, Halloween night 2020]
The street get more crowded as we approached LKF. [Wellington Street in Central, Halloween night 2020]
The police crowd control measures didn’t defer the crowds from entering D’Aguilar Street towards LKF. [D’Aguilar Street, Central, Halloween night 2020]
For many, it was time to party in LKF after many months of social distancing. [D’Aguilar Street, Central, Halloween night 2020]
Many ended up waiting in queues to enter the clubs and bars. In less than a month’s time after the Halloween, bars and clubs were shut down once again due to the fourth wave of Covid 19 in Hong Kong. [LKF, Halloween night 2020]
For those who couldn’t get into the clubs and bars, just dressing up in Halloween costumes, greeting pedestrians in laughter, and chilling out on the party street would easily put the night as one of the most memorable moments in the year of lockdowns and social distancing. [LKF, Halloween night 2020]