Linking a number of tourist attractions like Tai Kwun, PMQ and Man Mo Temple, Hollywood Road is always popular for tourists in Hong Kong. While tourists come for the historical attractions, many locals, on the other hand, come to Hollywood Road for food and drinks. South of Hollywood Road, the narrow Staunton Street (士丹頓街) was once home to wet market vendors, trading offices, family-run stores and small Buddhist convents (庵堂). In fact, Staunton Street was once nicknamed the Street of Buddhist Nuns (師姑街). After the Central – Mid Levels Escalators opened to the public in 1993 and brought an influx of pedestrians from the business district downhill, Staunton Street and the adjacent Elgin Street(伊利近街) have quietly undergone a dramatic transformation. Expatriates started to move into the area. Old shops and Buddhist convents were gradually replaced by bars, pubs, restaurants, comedy clubs, cafes, and wine shops. In 1996, Thomas Goetz, a restaurant owner from Elgin Street, came up with the acronym “SoHo” (蘇豪) for this new entertainment and dining area of Central, referring to the location “South of Hollywood Road”. From then on, the Staunton Street that I used to go as a child to get fresh grocery and pay ritualistic respect to my grandfather at a small Buddhist convent has silently disappeared. Today, SoHo would remain sleepy most of the day, and then bursts into life after sunset. The yell of market vendors and pungent incense smoke have been replaced by causal giggles and laughter, and the smell of beer.
Further away from the Central – Mid Levels Escalators and less than 150m northwest of the buzzing SoHo, Gough Street (歌賦街), Kau U Fong (九如坊) and Aberdeen Street (鴨巴甸街) offer a much more laid-back and tranquil ambience. Once home to family run shops and small printing presses, these sleepy back streets have become a hipper cousin of the nearby SoHo. Known as NoHo for “North of Hollywood Road”, this area is particular attractive to locals who come for the foodie scene: Chinese cuisine, dai pai dong dishes, beef brisket noodles, Japanese ramen, sushi, Western fine dining, unadon, Vietnamese pho, hand-drip cafes, bubble tea, chocolate, etc. Despite its abundance of dining options, the shops here remain small and peaceful. Compared to its noisier neighbour, NoHo is much more low key, as if deliberately staying away from the public limelight. Here visitors would enjoy a sense of discovery and intimacy that is hard to find anywhere else in Central.
Traveling to Lhasa is not complete without paying a visit to some of the city’s many tea houses and Tibetan restaurants. After returning to Lhasa from Ganden Monastery, we spent the rest of the afternoon at Guangming Gangqiong Sweet Tea House (光明港瓊甜茶館), one of Lhasa’s most well known sweet tea houses in Lhasa. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg defined “third place” as the place other than “home” and “workplace” where people spend most of their time hanging around to socializing. As a home away from home, a Tibetan sweet tea house is the venue where locals gather everyday for community news, causal chats, and a sip of traditional sweet tea. Located at Danjielin Road (丹傑林路) just a stone throw away from Jokhang Monastery (大昭寺), Guangming Gangqiong Sweet Tea House (光明港瓊甜茶館) is a popular mingling place for locals and foreign tourists. Once we stepped in the door, we were immediately overwhelmed by the animated atmosphere. It took us a while to find three empty seats at a communal table in the largest tea hall. From a shelf at the far corner we picked up three empty glasses. On the table, we each put a one yuan bill under the empty glass. Soon, a staff came by our table, took the money and filled our glasses with Tibetan sweet tea. From the serving counter at the back of the tea house, we ordered three bowls of beef noodles. As we chatted about the upcoming travel itinerary, sipped our tea and devoured our belated lunch, our eyes were rolling from left to right taking in scenes of lively interactions of local customers.
The vibrant Danjielin Road has many souvenir shops and restaurants, including Guangming Gangqiong Sweet Tea House (光明港瓊甜茶館).
We passed by a smaller tea hall where the ceiling was decorated with synthetic plants.
Other than Tibetan sweet tea, we also ordered beef noodles from the serving counter at the far side of the room.
Other than drinks and food, tea house is a popular venue for gossips and card games.
There were a few staff constantly walking around the tea house to refill for customers.
Also on Danjielin Road, the Tibetan Family Kitchen (更潘藏家廚房) is a pleasant place to get a taste of Tibetan family cuisine. Located on the second level of a residential block, it wasn’t easy to find the entrance to Tibetan Family Kitchen. From Danjielin Road, we found our way through a retail arcade into a tranquil skywell where a flight of staircase led up to the upper level. Stepping into the Tibetan Family Kitchen felt like walking into some local’s home. Beyond the entrance, the first thing we saw was the busy kitchen. We sat down at the communal table in one of the two dining rooms. On the communal table, two kids were doing homework at one side, while we sat at the other side going through the dinner menu. We chatted with the friendly hostess of the family restaurant, and ordered two dishes, a bowl of soup and rice. The food was excellent, and so as the interior decorations of Tibetan Family Restaurant. Surrounded by the walls of comments by visitors from around the globe, every single details of the interior design expressed a strong sense of Tibetan culture.
The Tibetan Family Kitchen is located on the second level of a mixed use building.
We followed a flight of stair up to the second level to reach Tibetan Family Kitchen.
Entering the family restaurant was like going into somebody’s home.
There are two dining rooms in Tibetan Family Kitchen.
Many walls in Tibetan Family Kitchen were filled with visitor comments.
All furniture and decorations in the family restaurant express a strong sense of Tibetan culture…
…including this traditional lantern.
We shared the table with two kids of the owner’s family.
Having dinner at Tibetan Family Kitchen really felt like being a guest in a local Tibetan home. Even the food was quite homey with nothing fancy but delicious and comforting.
* * *
More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet