ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Hong Kong

SECOND LIFE OF AN INDUSTRIAL TOWN, Kwun Tong (觀塘), Kowloon, Hong Kong

We weren’t that familiar with Kwun Tong (觀塘), a major industrial district and former satellite town in East Kowloon, until recent years when work brought me to the district a couple of times. Witnessing the dramatic makeover of Kowloon East into the Hong Kong’s newest business district was like watching a time-lapse video of factory blocks being torn down and replaced by glassy towers.  Work has also gave me the opportunity to learn about the new master plan of Kowloon East, which encompasses the former industrial districts of Kwun Tong, Kowloon Bay, and Kai Tak, including the land strip point out into Victoria Harbour that once served as the runway of Kai Tak Airport. Referred as CBD 2.0 (Central Business District 2) by Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO), the government has high hopes in reshaping Kowloon East and its waterfront into a vibrant and highly livable neighborhood that serves as an alternative to Central, Wan Chai and Quarry Bay. Inaugurated in 2012, EKEO is the government body that oversees urban revitalization of Kowloon East with the new master plan and various different pedestrian enhancement projects. One of the first major projects by EKEO is Kwun Tong Promenade (觀塘海濱花園), a narrow strip of land between the elevated Kwun Tong Bypass and the waterfront along Kwun Tong Typhoon Shelter (觀塘避風塘). Formerly a cargo working area, the promenade was completed and opened in two stages, first in 2010 and then 2015, and has soon become the most popular public space in Kwun Tong.

Further inland from Kwun Tong Promenade lies the industrial area. From government salt ponds centuries ago to a designed landfill in 1925 and later oil depot of Shell Company, Kwun Tong was considered a back-of-house area until 1954, when massive land reclamation took place to construct the city’s first industrial estates, whereas hilly areas further inland were designated for residential developments. Centered around the commercial complex Yue Man Square (裕民坊), Kwun Tong soon became one of the two first satellite towns and industrial hubs in Hong Kong along with Tsuen Wan (荃灣) in Kowloon West. Since then, Kwun Tong flourished along with the boom of manufacturing industries, including textiles, clothing, toys, watches, plastics, etc. As costs of labour and rents grew exponentially in 1980’s and 1990’s, many factories were relocated to other parts of Asia and China. With the decline of industries, Kwun Tong was in need to reinvent itself with a new vision and identity. In recent two decades, urban revitalization has come in various forms, from replacing old factories with new commercial buildings, to retrofitting the old industrial blocks into mixed use complexes, offering affordable spaces for all sorts of small businesses, from restaurants to offices, gyms to recreational venues, retail to workshops. Despite the major makeover, traces and memories of its industrial past remain as a crucial component for the identity of Kwun Tong.

The elevated MTR metro line bisects Kwun Tong into two halves: the residential area on the hills to the north and the industrial and commercial area to the south. As the former town centre of Kwun Tong, known as the Yue Man Square (裕民坊) area, began demolition in the past decade, Hong Kong’s largest urban redevelopment officially began. [2022]
Kwun Tong MTR Station serves as the main transportation hub of the district. Kwun Tong Station was the terminus of the original Kwun Tong Line which began operations in 1979. [2022]
In central Kwun Tong, decades old industrial blocks still make up a large part of the district’s skyline. [2021]
Before emergence of the MTR in 1979, bus loads of workers arrived in Kwun Tong every morning to work at the factories. [2021]
Many industrial blocks in Kwun Tong have been converted into other uses. The multi-block Camel Paint Building (駱駝漆大廈) has become a huge outlet shopping centre. [2021]
It is impossible to tell from outside that the Camel Paint Building is a popular shopping destination for discounted cosmetics, clothing, wine, crafted beer, restaurants, etc. [2021]
Hidden on the 11th floor of an industrial building, Twenty One From Eight (廿一由八) is one of many hidden gems in Kwun Tong. The shop is a custom wood furniture maker. [2021]
Apart from custom wood furniture, Twenty One From Eight (廿一由八) also doubles as a popular cafe. [2021]
Down on street level, street art was brought into the alleys between industrial blocks. Once crowded with factory workers, these lanes are now popular with young people taking selfies. [2021]
Alley street art in Kwun Tong. [2021]
At Kwun Tong waterfront, the ferry pier was once an important transportation hub along Victoria Harbour. Beyond the pier, the apartment blocks of Laguna City (麗港城) occupied the former oil depot of the Shell Company. [2015]
While the pier receives ferry passengers from Hong Kong Island, the elevated highway Kwun Tong Bypass serves as the major vehicular route in Kowloon East. [2020]
Just like other piers along Victoria Harbour, Kwun Tong Pier also offers a sense of peace for the city dwellers. [2020]
From Kwun Tong Pier, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal (啟德郵輪碼頭) at the tip of former Kai Tak Airport runway is just a stone’s throw away. [2020]
Occupying the former cargo loading waterfront, the promenade along Kwun Tong Typhoon Shelter is teem with life. [2019]
The elevated Kwun Tong Bypass provides shelter for a portion of the promenade space below. [2020]
Running is probably the most popular activity at Kwun Tong Promenade. [2020]
People love to chill out by the Kwun Tong Typhoon Shelter at sunset. [2019]
From skateboard parks to outdoor eateries and cafes, how to utilize the space below an elevated highway is a common challenge for many cities around the world. [2020]
Kowloon Flour Mills (九龍麵粉廠) is probably the most iconic building along Kwun Tong waterfront. [2020]
Opened in 1966 and still in operations today, Kowloon Flour Mills is the last surviving flour mill in Hong Kong. [2020]
The vertical signage written in Chinese calligraphy was a work by Au Kin Kung 區建公 (1887 – 1971), a renowned calligrapher who pioneered the use of Beiwei Calligraphy Style (北魏體) for Chinese signage around the city. [2020]
As more commercial buildings emerged in Kwun Tong’s skyline, preserving the iconic Kowloon Flour Mills is an essential gesture to maintain connections with the collective memories of the neighborhood. [2015]

EASTERN GATEWAY OF VICTORIA HARBOUR, Shau Kei Wan (筲箕灣), Hong Kong

As the tram turns into Shau Kei Wan Main Street East (筲箕灣東大街), all passengers are getting ready to hop off at Shau Kei Wan Tram Terminus, the easternmost tram stop in Hong Kong. Winding through Shau Kei Wan Main Street East where the original coastline used to be was like walking into an outdoor feast, with restaurants and eateries of all sorts lining on both sides. For some reasons, On Lee Noodle Soup (安利魚蛋粉麵) across the street from Tin Hau Temple (天后廟) is often the busiest. With so many options, it is often hard to pick a restaurant here. On the hill between Tin Hau Temple and Lei Yue Mun Park, thirteen blocks of 60-year social housing estate Ming Wah Dai Ha (明華大廈) awaits for their turn to be demolished and replaced by new highrise apartments. To the north, the foodie paradise Shau Kei Wan Main Street East abruptly ends as it reaches the overpass of Island Eastern Corridor. Beyond the elevated expressway, the view finally opens up to Victoria Harbour, where the reclaimed Aldrich Bay opens to Shau Kei Wan Typhoon Shelter (筲箕灣避風塘), one of the several last remaining typhoon shelters in Hong Kong. Outside the causeway, Victoria Harbour enters a narrow channel to the east, with a width at times no more than 500m. Known as Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門), the sea channel signifies the eastern end of Victoria Harbour.

Despite fishery is no longer a dominant industry, the typhoon shelter is nonetheless full of boats. Right by the typhoon shelter, a historical temple known as Tam Kung Temple (譚公廟) reminds visitors that Shau Kei Wan was once a prosperous fishing village under the protection of sea deities such as Tam Kung (譚公) and Tin Hau (天后). That was exactly what the British found at Shau Kei Wan in 1841: storm shelter, fishing village, shrines of sea gods, and lots of fishing boats. Continuing east on Tam Kung Temple Road, a dozen or so small shipyards stand in between the sea and the road. These shops now serve mainly yachts for wealthy customers. Next to the row of shipyards, a monumental concrete shuttle lift tower appears out of nowhere against a lush green hill. The once essential fortification hill overlooking the harbour where guns were mounted and soldiers were stationed has been transformed into Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defense (香港海防博物館). Preserving military structures dated back to 1887, the museum is perhaps the most ideal place in the city to learn about the defense of colonial Hong Kong and Victoria Harbour. At both Kowloon and Hong Kong side of Lei Yue Mun Channel, numerous defensive structures were erected at places including Devil’s Peak (魔鬼山) at Lei Yue Mun in Kowloon, the hilltop Lyemun Barracks (now Lei Yue Mun Park) overlooking Shau Kei Wan, and the former hill fortifications at Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defense signified the crucial roles Lei Yue Mun played to protect Victoria Harbour. Out of all the military sites, perhaps the most interesting one is the former Torpedo Station (舊魚雷發射站). It was quite a shock to see an old torpedo on display in a vaulted cave right by the sea.

Aldrich Bay and Shau Kei Wan sit right below Lyemun Barracks on the hill overlooking Lei Yue Mun Channel. Across the channel, Devil’s Peak offers another strategic defensive point at the eastern gateway of Victoria Harbour. [Photo taken by G. Warren Swire in 1927, Courtesy of G. Warren Swire Collections. University of Bristol (www.hpcbristol.net), (CC BY_NC_ND 4.0)]
Between 65 – 67 storey high, the five residential towers of Grand Promenade (嘉亨灣) are the tallest structures in Shau Kei Wan. [2017]
From a sleepy fishing village to a densely populated neighborhood, Shau Kei Wan has gone through drastic transformations in the past century. [2022]
The former Lyemun Barracks (now Lei Yue Mun Park) was once a strategic station to guard the eastern gateway of Victoria Harbour. [2022]
After WWII, flocks of refugees from Mainland China came to Hong Kong. A large group settled in slums on the hills of Shau Kei Wan. In the 1950’s, the government decided to erect a range of public housing to resolve the issue, leading to the construction of social housing Ming Wah Dai Ha (明華大廈). Today, the original thirteen blocks of Ming Wah Dai Ha are scheduled for demolition and redevelopment. [2022]
The original Ming Wah Dai Ha from the 1960’s was relatively low dense. [2019]
Below Ming Wah Dai Ha, the vibrant Kam Wa Street Market is one of the last several remaining street markets in Hong Kong Island. [2019]
After a long journey from the west side of the island, the tram enters the terminus of Shau Kei Wan. [2019]
From street vendors to noodles and Japanese restaurants, Shau Kei Wan Main Street East (筲箕灣東大街) is one of the famous foodie destinations in Hong Kong Island. [2022]
Despite the decline of fishery, Shau Kei Wan Typhoon Shelter is still fully packed with boats of all sorts. [2020]
Many neighbourhoods on Hong Kong Island lie in close proximity to the harbourfront. At Shau Kei Wan, the waterfront promenade extends all the way to Sai Wan Ho and Quarry Bay to the west. [2020]
Adjacent to the typhoon shelter, Tam Kung Temple stands as a silent reminder of the local history as a fishing village. [2020]
Since 1905, Tam Kung Sin Shing Temple (譚公仙聖廟) has been reconstructed a few times. [2020]
Today, the temple remains popular for the local neighbourhood. [2020]
The numbers of incense and lanterns reveal how popular the temple remains. [2020]
A miniature display of dragon boat in the temple. [2020]
Near Tam Kung Temple, a row of small shipyards have been around for decades. [2020]
Dozen or so of small shipyards at Tam Kung Temple Road. [2020]
Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defense (香港海防博物館) is a surprising interest museum that covers the military history of Victoria Harbour during the colonial period. [2020]
Below the museum, a trail leads to the waterfront where Victoria Harbour enters the narrow Lei Yue Mun Channel. [2016]
Across the channel, Devil’s Peak and the neighborhood of Lei Yue Mun is only a few hundred meters away. [2016]
Behind the pleasant harbour scenery, the preserved former Torpedo Station (舊魚雷發射站) is an interesting surprise that we didn’t know of before the museum visit. [2016]
From the museum hill, we could have a close encounter with the causeway of Shau Kei Wan Typhoon Shelter. [2016]
Looking east to Shau Kei Wan Typhoon Shelter. [2016]
The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defense and its hill as seen from the harbour. [2017]
Beyond the hill of Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defense lies Heng Fa Villa (杏花園), another modern housing estate right by the eastern exit of Lei Yue Mun Channel. [2020]
Overlooking the exit of Lei Yue Mun Channel, Heng Fa Villa enjoys open sea views. Due to its close proximity to the open sea, the estate is prone to weather impacts during the typhoon season. [2020]
From Heng Fa Villa, East Kowloon, Lion Rock and Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest mountain, can be seen in a clear day. [2020]
Leaving Victoria Harbour and Lei Yue Mun Channel behind, boats heading east would enter Junk Bay and the open waters of South China Sea beyond. [2021]

From the Sai Wan Swimming Shed in Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan, we have loosely follow Victoria Harbour along the north shore of Hong Kong Island in the last few months. Next we will cross the harbour to the Kowloon side.


FROM SUGAR REFINERY & DOCKYARDS TO RESIDENTIAL & BUSINESS HUB, Quarry Bay (鰂魚涌), Hong Kong

In 1974, the master plan to redevelop 96 acres of Swire’s land in Quarry Bay was approved by the Hong Kong government. The proposal included converting Taikoo Sugar Refinery into the city’s second business hub that is now known as Taikoo Place (太古坊), and transforming 53 acres of former Taikoo Dockyards into Taikoo Shing (太古城). Literally translated as “Swire’s City”, Taikoo Shing contains 61 residential towers (12,698 apartment flats) and one of the island’s largest shopping and commercial complex known as Cityplaza (太古城中心). The development of Taikoo Shing led the dramatic transformation of Swire from an industrial giant into a real estate developer and business conglomerate.

After inheriting the family trading business Swire Group from his father in 1847, British businessman John Samuel Swire took the company overseas to expand his cotton and sugar trade in China. In Shanghai, he established Taikoo Sugar Refinery and later the shipping business China Navigation Company, laying the foundation for the modern Swire Group (太古集團). In 1881, John Samuel Swire selected a site at Quarry Bay (鰂魚涌) in Hong Kong, below lush green Mount Parker (柏架山) to establish his sugar refinery factory. The factory expanded rapidly to become the world’s largest sugar refinery in 1925. After John Samuel Swire died, the company further developed the adjacent land into a massive dockyard that serviced, repaired, and built vessels for their shipping business China Navigation Company. Completed in 1907, Taikoo Dockyard (太古船塢) constructed some of the world’s largest ships in early 20th century, along with its Kowloon counterpart Whampoa Dockyard (黃埔船塢). With the sugar refinery and dockyards, Quarry Bay emerged as the largest industrial district in Hong Kong before WWII. After the sugar refinery ceased production and the dockyard moved to Tsing Yi Island in early 1970’s, Swire Group looked to reinvent itself for the contemporary era, and to transform Quarry Bay into a new residential and business hub. The 1974 master plan opened up a whole new world for Swire, diversify the company’s profile with real estate, retail services, and hospitality.

Four decades have passed since Taikoo Dockyard was turned into Taikoo Shing, and Taikoo Sugar Refinery into Taikoo Place. After work, we would sometimes walk from our office to Taikoo Shing for grocery. The 20-minute walk along Quarry Bay Promenade Pet Garden (鰂魚涌寵物公園) is one of the most pleasant harbourfront walks in Eastern Hong Kong Island. Constructed in late 2012, the pet garden offers a great venue for pet dogs and people to mingle, and lookouts to enjoy the spectacular view of Victoria Harbour and East Kowloon. As the waterfront walk reaches Taikoo Shing, the decommissioned Fireboat Alexander Grantham, Hong Kong’s flagship fireboat that served the city between 1953 to 2002, was on display at the promenade. Built in early 1950’s by Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd., the fireboat is a splendid reminder of the city’s shipbuilding history, the once thriving industry at the Victoria Harbour when Hong Kong has yet become a financial and business hub.

Perhaps the most famous building in Quarry Bay is the “Monster Building”, a mixed use development built in 1960s that is known for its high density and photogenic qualities. The Monster Building was made famous as a filming spot for movies such as Transformers: Age of Extinction and Ghost in the Shell. [2022]
Around 10,000 residents currently live in the five connected blocks of the Monster Building, namely Fook Cheong Building, Montane Mansion, Oceanic Mansion, Yick Cheong Building and Yick Fat Building. [2022]
Taikoo Sugar Refinery in Quarry Bay at around 1897. [Image courtesy of National Archives, Kew, University of Bristol Library Historical Photographs of China reference number: NA20-43 (www.hpcbristol.net).]
Taikoo Sugar Refinery at around 1911-1912. [Photograph by Swire, G. Warren. Image courtesy of John Swire & Sons Ltd., University of Bristol Library Historical Photographs of China reference number: Sw07-120 (www.hpcbristol.net).]
In 1891, Swire installed a 2.3km aerial ropeway system to connect Taikoo Sugar Refinery to Taikoo Sanatorium on Sanatorium Gap to serve its staff and their families. [Photograph by Swire, G. Warren, 1911-1912. Image courtesy of John Swire & Sons Ltd., University of Bristol Library Historical Photographs of China reference number: Sw07-120 (www.hpcbristol.net).]
In 1970s, the former Taikoo Sugar Refinery was replaced by the office towers of Taikoo Place, while the apartment blocks of Taikoo Shing (left of the skyscrapers of Taikoo Place) took over the former Taikoo Dockyards. [2021]
The Quarry Bay Promenade Pet Garden offers magnificent views of Victoria Harbour, Kowloon Peak, and the skyline of East Kowloon. [2020]
Even without pets, Quarry Bay Promenade Pet Garden is worth the trip for the harbour views. [2020]
Dog lovers have much bigger reasons to come check out the Quarry Bay Promenade Pet Garden. [2021]
In the evening, Quarry Bay Promenade is popular with runners all year rounds. [2021]
Further east, the skyline of Kowloon extends to Yau Tong (油塘) near Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門), the eastern gateway of Victoria Harbour. [2021]
Decorations for the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong Handover at Quarry Bay Promenade. [2017]
The slanted parapet and metal railing welcome users to sit and relax in front of Victoria Harbour. [2017]
Compared to other waterfront promenade on Hong Kong Island, Quarry Bay Promenade is much more catered for the local community. [2020]
Raised lookouts also double as sunshade for promenade users. [2020]
A circular ramp from Quarry Bay Promenade lead walkers up to a bridge that spans over Island Eastern Corridor expressway towards Taikoo Shing. [2020]
Fireboat Alexander Grantham on display at Quarry Bay Promenade, where Taikoo Dockyard used to be situated. [2021]
Launch of SS Tencho Marua at Taikoo Dockyard in 1911. [Photograph by Swire, G. Warren. Image courtesy of John Swire & Sons Ltd., University of Bristol Library Historical Photographs of China reference number: Sw07-151 (www.hpcbristol.net).]
Taikoo Dockyard at around 1911-1912, with Victoria Harbour and Kowloon Peak beyond. [Photograph by Swire, G. Warren. Image courtesy of John Swire & Sons Ltd., University of Bristol Library Historical Photographs of China reference number: Sw07-134 (www.hpcbristol.net).]
Taikoo Dockyard at around 1919-1920. [Photograph by Swire, G. Warren. Image courtesy of John Swire & Sons Ltd., University of Bristol Library Historical Photographs of China reference number: Sw04-036 (www.hpcbristol.net).]
Approaching Taikoo Shing on Hoi Yu Street. [2021]
Despite its 40+ years age, property prices at Taikoo Shing is still going strong. [2020]
Walking within Taikoo Shing feels like walking in a city within a city. [2020]
Built in early 1980s, Cityplaza (太古城中心) at Taikoo Shing was one of the largest shopping malls in Hong Kong. [2021]
The skating rink is probably the most well known feature in Cityplaza. [2021]

NORTH POINT PIER (北角碼頭), North Point (北角), Hong Kong

For several occasions a year, usually in summer, fiery red skies would blanket Victoria Harbour. People at both sides of the harbour would flock to the waterfront after work to take photos of the beautiful skies. For me, the closest harbourfront lookout is North Point Pier, a public ferry pier situated below the expressway Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) at the northernmost point of Hong Kong Island. Built in 1963, North Point Pier connects Hong Kong Island with Kowloon City, Hung Hom, and Kwun Tong in Kowloon. Together with the adjacent bus terminal and MTR station, the pier has established North Point as a transportation hub in eastern Hong Kong Island. But for many, North Point Pier is much more than just a transport interchange. It is also a community node where neighbours mingle, a dog park, a fishing spot for retirees, a dining destination, a seafood market, a venue for the controversial fish release ceremonies for Buddhist believers, and most recently, a hotspot for real estate investors. For us, North Point Pier is where we would hop on and off bus 23 to and from work, and have Japanese omurice or Vietnamese pho for lunch at the new Harbour North Shopping Centre (北角匯) below the luxury apartments of “Victoria Harbour” (海璇). Awkwardly, “Victoria Harbour” here is used as the name of the real estate development, the project that pushed up the record square foot rate of North Point to HK$65,846 (US$ 8,400) in 2018.

But North Point Pier was not always about money and luxurious living. Back in my childhood, North Point Pier was also home to North Point Estate (北角邨), a public housing estate comprised of seven 11-storey blocks with a total of 1,956 flats. Completed in 1957, the famous social housing complex was designed by architect Eric Cumine. With its convenient location at city centre, North Point Estate was a highly popular social housing estate back at its heyday. In late 1980’s, I often come to take lessons with Mr. Ip, a dedicated art teacher and traditional Chinese painter. I still remember walking in the open corridors and stairs of the housing complex where sea breeze would come all the way to the unit doors. Many residents would keep their doors open behind the metal gates so that sea breeze could reach their living spaces. Through the gate, I would count on seeing Mr. Ip’s paintings, images of Virgin Mary and photos of Mrs. Ip’s visit to the Vatican on the wall to ensure that I had arrived at the right flat for my art lessons. North Point Estate was cleared in 2002 and demolished in 2003. The land was subsequently sold to a local real estate developer and became what we now know as “Victoria Harbour”.

Several days ago, the vivid skies over Victoria Harbour had attracted many arrive at North Point Pier. [2022]
From North Point Pier, the skyline of East Kowloon was blanketed under the burning skies. [2022]
North Point Estate in 1989 [Photo by Benjwong at Wikipedia, public domain]
The skyline of North Point Ferry Pier after North Point Estate was demolished. [2014]
The skyline of North Point Ferry Pier after the luxury apartments of “Victoria Harbour” was erected. [2021]
North Point Pier includes a number of ferry docks extending out to the sea below the expressway Island Eastern Corridor. [2022]
Some of the old vehicular ferries have been converted into cruise ferry for tourists. [2021]
Since 1960’s, North Point Pier offer ferry services to Kwun Tong. [2022]
Another wing of the pier offer ferry services to Hung Hom and Kowloon City. [2022]
The pier is flanked by two rows of fishmongers and seafood shops. [2021]
Not much has been changed inside the pier in the past few decades. [2018]
It is a pleasant way to end the day by taking the ferry in Victoria Harbour. [2022]
North Point Pier is a great place to enjoy the scenery of Victoria Harbour and East Kowloon. [2021]
Kowloon Peak and the skyline of Kowloon Bay is the perfect backdrop for a ferry journey across Victoria Harbour. [2021]
Looking back to North Point Pier from a ferry journey. [2021]
Luxury apartments of “Victoria Harbour” replace the social housing estate North Point Estate in 2018. [2022]
The new North Point Promenade (北角海濱花園), residential and hotel development replace the former North Point Estate. [2021]
North Point Promenade (北角海濱花園) is a pleasant venue for an evening stroll. [2020]
Across Victoria Harbour from North Point, Lion Rock (獅子山) is the most iconic feature at Kowloon side. [2022]
View of Lion Rock from an art installation at North Point Promenade. [2021]
Lion Rock beyond North Point Pier. [2022]
Lion Rock beyond North Point Pier. [2021]
Adjacent to the pier, Java Road Market offers a popular dining destination for the North Point community. [2020]
Tung Po Kitchen (東寶小館), the most popular eatery at Java Road Market, offers beer by traditional Chinese bowls. [2020]

THE LOST LITTLE SHANGHAI, North Point (北角), Hong Kong

North Point (北角) has long been referred to as Little Fujian (小福建) and Little Shanghai (小上海) since waves of immigrants from Mainland China flocked to settle in the area during the turbulent first half of 20th century. Among the refugees came a group of cultural elites and merchants from Shanghai. Many of them chose to reside in the quiet streets at the foothill of Braemar Hill (寶馬山) in North Point, just a block or two up from bustling King’s Road. This neighborhood was once dominated by multi-storey tenement apartments, with fine terrazzo portal, Art Deco motifs and Streamline Moderne building profiles that echoed the architectural trend of old Shanghai. Today, despite most tenement buildings have been replaced by highrise apartments, these sloped streets remain tranquil most of the day, except when students get out of Kiangsu & Chekiang Primary School (蘇浙小學), Hong Kong’s first school that offer all lessons in Mandarin, at the end of school day.

In 2019, Yonfan (楊凡)’s animation No.7 Cherry Lane (繼園臺七號) won the Best Screenplay Award at the Venice International Film Festival. In the film, the stepped lane where the protagonists walk down to North Point, and the tenement apartment on Cherry Lane where Shanghaiese and Taiwanese immigrants reside, is actually based on the sloped street of Kai Yuen Street (繼園街). During the pandemic, the peaceful Kai Yuen Street has gone through drastic transformation as many old tenement buildings were locked down for new luxury apartments. The neighbourhood where renowned Shanghaiese writer Eileen Chang (張愛玲) often came to visit the family of Stephen Soong (宋淇), a famous writer and literary critic who came to Hong Kong in escape of the Chinese Civil War, is all but gone. A few blocks west of Kai Yuen Street lies another sloped street Ming Yuen Western Street (明園西街). Ming Yuen Western Street is probably one of the last spots in “Little Shanghai” where there are a few original tenement blocks still standing today. Ming Yuen Western Street and the adjacent Metropole Department Store form part of the site of the former Ming Yuen (名園) amusement park. Opened in 1918, the design of Ming Yuen was based on another amusement park in Shanghai. After the amusement went out of business, the area was soon turned into a residential neighbourhood. At nearby Ching Wah Street (清華街), a five-storey apartment with curved balconies and Art Deco motifs stands as a lone reminder of what Little Shanghai might have look like in the bygone era.

Opened in 1953 to serve the local Chinese immigrant community, Kiangsu & Chekiang Primary School (蘇浙小學) is the first school in Hong Kong to give most lessons in all Mandarin. [2022]
Built in 1949, No.2 Ching Wah Street (清華街) stands as one of the last survivor from the era of Little Shanghai. [2022]
Mak Kee offers many traditional Shanghai snacks, such as streamed dumplings and hot and sour soup. [2022]

Kai Yuen Street (繼園街)

One of the most recognizable set in Youfan’s No.7 Cherry Lane is the stepped pedestrian pavement of Kai Yuen Street (繼園街). [2020]
The retaining wall and stepped sidewalk of Kai Yuen Street is quite a photogenic backdrop. [2020]
Just 150m from bustling King’s Road, the peaceful community up Kai Yuen Street seems like another world. [2020]
DSC_6686
From 1957 to 2021, the Streamline Moderne tenement apartment designed by architect “Yam Koon Seng” (任冠生) was a fantastic landmark of the Kai Yuen Street neighborhood. [2017]
Before demolition, the ground floor of the tenement apartments were occupied by car mechanic, hardware and construction shops. [2020]
In 2020, I made a brief visit to Kai Yuen Street. Back then, I didn’t realize that the entire block would soon be demolished. [2020]
Architect “Yam Koon Seng” (任冠生) loves the Kai Yuen Street project and even moved into the apartment with his family. [2020]
Today, the entire block of Kai Yuen Street has become a large construction site. [2020]

Ming Yuen Western Street (明園西街)

A few blocks west of Kai Yuen Street lies Ming Yuen Western Street (明園西街), another sloped street where several tenement buildings dated back to the Little Shanghai era are still standing today. [2022]
With a deadend at its top, Ming Yuen Western Street is a fairly quiet street away from all the actions of North Point. [2022]
Architectural details from a bygone era can still be found at Ming Yuen Western Street. [2022]
Many loves the quiet ambience of the sloped street. [2022]
Of course for most of the tenement buildings in Hong Kong, the absence of elevators or lifts is one of the biggest drawback for these old apartments. [2022]
Date back to 1954, the tenement apartment at 34 Ming Yuen Western Street is the most distinctive architecture on the street. [2022]
Like other tenement apartments from the same era, beautiful Italian terrazzo was used at the entrance portal. [2022]
Situated high on a steep street and without an elevator, living in these old tenement apartments may not fit everyone’s preference. [2022]
The glass blocks and operable windows at the stairwell facade form a remarkable feature that emphasizes on architectural verticality. [2022]

LANDMARKS FOR THE LOCALS, North Point (北角), Hong Kong

What does “fort”, “oil”, “electric”, “power”, and “wharf” have in common? They are all street names in North Point that reveals the neighborhood’s strategic location and utilitarian past. The “fort” or battery hill is long gone, leaving behind a parkette up on Fortress Hill Road that even local residents may not know about its existence, and the name “Fortress Hill” that defines the westernmost area of North Point District. The former oil depot, powerplant and wharf facilities that gave us the street names “oil”, “electric”, “power”, and “wharf” have all been replaced by high density residential developments. In the 20th century, North Point has gone through series of transformations, from just a defensive battery at the northernmost point of Hong Kong Island and a cluster of infrastructure facilities that supported the adjacent Victoria City, to an area teeming with domestic life where amusement park, theatres, swim sheds, department stores, and red-light businesses sprang up and then mostly faded away. Due to a large influx of mainland immigrants in mid 20th century, especially the Hokkien Fujianese and Shanghaiese, North Point has become the most densely populated place on earth in late 1960’s, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Today, the urban density of North Point may no longer ranked top of the world, but a stroll on King’s Road, the district’s main thoroughfare where blocks after blocks of concrete apartments encroaching in all directions, can still be disorienting for many.

Published by Hong Kong Art Centre as part of “Via North Point” art programme in 2020, a local magazine did a poll with a group of local residents about their favorite landmarks in North Point. Unlike the monumental and glamorous urban icons in Central or Tsim Sha Tsui, their top five selected landmarks include two theatres, a pier, a market and even a street intersection. For them, these daily scenery have defined the collective identity and a sense of belonging for the community. For us who have been working in the adjacent Quarry Bay for the past eight years, North Point is also an area we would pass by almost everyday. We share some of their sentiments and also find beauty from these what may seem like ordinary street scenery by first glance. Here are their top five favorite landmarks in North Point:

NO. 5: King’s Road (英皇道) and the North Point Road (北角道) Intersection (4.3%)

Being the most important thoroughfare in North Point, King’s Road is probably the street that most residents in the neighborhood would visit on a daily basis. [2014]
Densely packed concrete buildings abutting each other is a common scene in King’s Road. [2014]
Taking the tram is probably the best way to experience King’s Road. [2017]
With a concrete footbridge, an apartment block painted with eyecatching red outlines, and a rail junction where the tram turns into Chun Yeung Street Market, the intersection of King’s Road and North Point Road is a well recognized intersection in North Point. [2021]
Against the backdrop of eye-catching Coronet Court (皇冠大廈), even a simple footbridge can be photogenic. [2022]
Coronet Court (皇冠大廈) dominates visually at the street intersection even if one is not facing the building. [2022]
From the footbridge at North Point Road, scenery of King’s Road can be neatly framed. [2022]
Somehow, openings of the footbridge match perfectlynfine with the round corner of the adjacent building. [2021]
At North Point Road, some trams would divert from King’s Road and make a detour into Chun Yeung Street Market. [2022]

NO. 4: State Theatre (皇都戲院) 8.7%

Now under scaffolding, the listed former cinema awaits for its turn of rejuvenation. Opened in 1952, the unique concrete structural arches on the roof have make the former cinema a one-of-a-kind building in the city. [2021]

NO.3 : North Point Pier (北角碼頭) 10.9%

Offering the most prominent harbourfront promenade in the area, North Point Pier has been a local’s favourite for years. [2020]

NO. 2: Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) 17.4%

Founded by Shanghainese emigrants in the 1950’s, Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) is the most important theatre in Hong Kong to showcase Cantonese opera. [2020]
Neon sign of Sunbeam Theatre has been a prominent feature in North Point for decades. [2022]
Sunbeam Theatre features Cantonese opera all year round. [2022]

NO.1: Chun Yeung Street Market (春秧街街市) 21.7%

Appeared on foreign travel shows and guidebooks, Chun Yeung Street Market is no doubt the most well known attraction of North Point. Named after a wealthy sugar tycoon Koeh Chhun-iong (郭春秧) who bought a huge lot of North Point in 1921, Chun Yeung Street Market has been a busy commercial street for a century. [2017]
Bisected by the tram railroad right in the middle, Chun Yeung Street Market is renowned as the only railroad market in Hong Kong. [2022]
Known as Little Fujian, Chun Yeung Street Market is a great place to find traditional Fujianese and Chiuchow food. [2022]
Double Happiness Noodle has been a fixture at the street market for half a century. [2015]
Many come to Chun Yeung Street Market for seafood at bargain prices in the evening. [2014]
While Chun Yeung Street Market is famous for produce, meat and seafood, the adjacent Marble Road Market is filled with stalls selling all kinds of dried goods. [2015]
To many, Chun Yeung Street is a great spot for urban photography. [2022]
Handcrafted souvenir mahjong tiles depict the landmarks of North Point, including Chun Yeung Street Market in the far left, then Sunbeam Theatre (second from left), and North Point Pier (third from left).

LANDMARKS IN FORTRESS HILL:

Situated between Causeway Bay and the heart of North Point, Fortress Hill (炮台山) has long been under the radar. In recent months, East Coast Park Precinct in Fortress Hill has emerged as one of the hottest new attractions in Hong Kong. Apart from the harbourfront lookout, the following two spots in Fortress Hill are also gaining popularity on Instagram as well.

Oi! Art Space (油街實現), Former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club

Oi! Street Art Space is housed in the former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club headquarters and clubhouse. [2022]
Serving as the former Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club headquarters and clubhouse between 1908 and 1939, the masonry building is now a Grade II historic building and a popular landmark in the neighborhood. [2022]
Oi! Street Art Space is an inviting community art centre. [2017]
Small art exhibitions would sometimes be held at Oi! Street Art Space. [2017]
Open to both Electric Road and Oil Street, Oi! Street Art Space is a highly welcoming node for the community. [2017]

Staircase at Fortress Hill MTR Station

Thanks to IG and blogs, perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Fortress Hill is the checkered staircase right by Fortress Hill MTR Station. [2017]

BREAKING THE BARRIER, Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊), Hong Kong

In Canada, there has long been a debate of tearing down the elevated Gardiner Expressway in Toronto waterfront. Maintaining the deteriorating and somewhat underused infrastructure has become a burden for the city. As the trend of urban sprawl reversed in recent two decades, land in downtown Toronto, especially along the waterfront of Lake Ontario, has become precious asset for the city. Since 1960’s, the Gardiner has been a prominent barrier that cut off the city from its waterfront. The uninviting wasteland underneath the expressway has prevented most pedestrians walking to the waterfront especially at night. Since 1990’s, studies have been made for replacing the expressway, such as turning it into a tunnel or an urban park like the Highline in New York. Despite all the studies and debates, most of the Gardiner Expressway still remains in Toronto waterfront today. On confronting an aging waterfront expressway that hinders urban development and pedestrian connection, Toronto wasn’t alone. Negative aspects of these waterfront expressway are quite universal: poor waterfront access, wasteland below the structure, discontinued harbourfront, undesirable air ventilation, unattractive streetscape, high maintenance cost, etc. Since 1990’s, a wave of waterfront revitalization projects and demolition of elevated expressways have sprung up across the globe. Double decker Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco was torn down in 1991, and so did Rio de Janerio’s Perimetral Elevated Highway in 2014, and Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct in 2019.

In Hong Kong, sections of elevated expressways flank the Victoria Harbour in Western Kowloon and Eastern Hong Kong Island. The idea of building an expressway in Eastern Hong Kong Island was brought out in 1968 to tackle the traffic problems of King’s Road. It wasn’t until 1980’s that an elevated expressway, namely Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊), was erected between Causeway Bay at the centre of Hong Kong Island and Chai Wan (柴灣) at the eastern end. The expressway includes a viaduct along the harbour between Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣) and Quarry Bay (鰂魚涌), passing by North Point (北角) along the way. East of Quarry Bay, the expressway shifts slightly inland from the coast, leaving a strip of waterfront promenade between Quarry Bay and Shau Kei Wan (筲箕灣). Designating the waterfront for public enjoyment was never the top priority in the 1980’s. From Causeway Bay to Quarry Bay, there are only a few boat landings and viaduct pillar supports where the public can walk out to have a peek of the harbour. In 2008, the authority proposed to construct a waterfront promenade between Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter and Shau Kei Wan. In the past decade, stretches of waterfront promenades have been built to connect the harbourfront from Central to Causeway Bay, up to East Coast Park Precinct. East of Causeway Bay however, the waterfront promenades remain fragmented. After years of speculations, boardwalk constructions under the expressway have finally commenced in North Point. If the works can really deliver a continuous walkway below Island Eastern Corridor, then sooner or later we can walk along the north coast of Hong Kong Island all the way from Central Pier to Aldrich Bay Promenade (愛秩序灣海濱花園) in Shau Kei Wan, via a 9.5km pedestrian path. Then the barrier that separates the harbour from Eastern Hong Kong Island would finally be broken.

Today, about 6.8km of Gardiner Expressway in Toronto is still elevated from the ground. [2013]
The wasteland beneath Gardiner Expressway remains as a barrier between downtown Toronto and the waterfront. [2013]
In Hong Kong, the Island Eastern Corridor begins from Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter at its western end. [2020]
Together with Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Connaught Road West Flyover, Island Eastern Corridor serves as the main artery road on Hong Kong Island known as Route 4. [2020]
From Causeway Bay to Quarry Bay, Island Eastern Corridor is mainly a viaduct that runs along the waterfront of Victoria Harbour. From East Coast Park Precinct to City Garden (城市花園), construction work of a waterfront promenade is still ongoing. [2022]
The majority of Island Eastern Corridor in North Point was built over the water. [2021]
Built in 1984, the monolithic Provident Centre (和富中心) is a spectacle when driving on Island Eastern Corridor. Back then, the building code has little restrictions on the facade length. The continuous facade of Provident Centre has led to a negative impact on ventilation of the local neighborhood. [2014]
In North Point, people can still enjoy the harbour view below the elevated expressway. [2021]
At the end of Tong Shui Road (糖水道), North Point Public Pier has become a public harbourfront lookout for the neighborhood. [2020]
Only a handful of boats would use the pier. For most of the day, the wharf serves as a gathering node for the local community. [2020]
The public pier is particular popular at sunset. [2021]
Many would come to the pier to enjoy the sunset after work. [2021]
Liking it or not, Island Eastern Corridor is part of the waterfront scenery of Eastern Hong Kong. [2021]
At a bend of Hoi Yu Street, an unofficial lookout beneath Island Eastern Corridor is frequented by people who come for recreational fishing. [2020]
The local community even set up their own “footbridge” to reach the outermost pillar support of the expressway. [2021]
The lookout is popular throughout the day. [2016]
While most come for fishing, some would come to the lookout just to chill out by Victoria Harbour. [2020]
The lookout offer fine views of Kowloon East, including the famous Lion Rock (獅子山). [2020]
Kowloon Peak (飛鵝山) is the most dominated feature in Kowloon East. [2021]
The causal lookout has come to an end in recent months, as the space has been boarded off as a construction site for future’s boardwalk project. [2016]
Since the closure of the lookout, people have shifted to other waterfront parks to fish, where proper railing and fixed benches are provided. While the level of safety has improved, the sense of freedom is inevitable compromised in the new setting. [2017]