ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “market

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depot, powerplant and wharf facilities that gave us the street names “oil”, “electric”, “power”, and “wharf” have all been replaced by high density residential developments.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]

MARKET BY THE NULLAH, Wanchai (灣仔), Hong Kong

North of Queen’s Road East (皇后大道東), Stone Nullah Lane (石水渠街) continues to head north until it hits Johnston Road (莊士敦道), one of the main road in Wan Chai where the tram passes back and forth. This section of Stone Nullah Lane forms the main north-south artery of the outdoor market network that extends to Cross Street (交加街) and Tai Yuen Street (太原街) to the west, and to Wanchai Road (灣仔道) and the historical Streamline Moderne Wan Chai Market Block to the east. In 1990’s, a section of Stone Nullah Lane was erased from the map of Wan Chai in 1990’s. Part of where the outdoor market of Stone Nullah Lane once stood has been roofed over and transformed into an indoor market, above which erected the Zenith (尚翹峰), three 40+ storey residential towers that signified the arrival of a new Wan Chai, an affluent neighbourhood catered for expats and young professionals. Soon after, the 1930’s Streamline Moderne historical market was also taken back by the government and became another real estate development known as One Wanchai. Despite the dramatic changes to the area and occasional threats from the government’s Urban Renewal Authority (URA) and real estate developers, the outdoor market at Tai Yuen Street and Cross Street somehow manage to survive, while the wet market of Wanchai Road continues to go strong. Years have passed. This 90 year old market network has become a unique feature of Wan Chai, attracting both tourists and the local community to enjoy a part of the old Wan Chai.

A decade or so ago, a community interest group did a survey of the outdoor market of Tai Yuen Street and Cross Street. Back then, they found that the average age of the market stalls was 35 years old: 1 stall even has a 70 year old history, 2 with 60 years, 9 with 50 years, 7 with 40 years, 10 with 30 years, 9 with 20 years. It is obvious that many stall owners have been in business for over a generation after the war. These stores and their owners are essentially living memories of the community. When Tai Yuen Street is mentioned, many Hongkongers would immediately associate with toy stores. Still regarded as the official street of toy stores on Hong Kong Island, the remaining toy merchants at Tai Yuen Street remind visitors of the 1970’s and 1980’s, when Hong Kong was the largest toy manufacturer and exporter in the world. Instead of toys, we often come to the wet market at Wan Chai Road and Cross Street for local produces, chicken from New Territories, shellfishes, hand sliced beef, and dried herbs for Chinese soup. We love the vibrancy and diversity of Wan Chai Market, as well as its convenient location from Downtown Hong Kong.

Marked the intersection of Queen’s Road East and Wan Chai Road, the historical Streamline Moderne Old Wan Chai Market building stands soullessly as the entrance of a luxury residential apartment. [2022]
The 1959 Wanchai House (灣仔大樓) stands as a eyecatching backdrop to wet market of Wan Chai Road. [2022]
View of the 78 storey Central Plaza (中環廣場) reminds visitors that the business district is never far away from the outdoor market. [2022]
Beyond the tranquil Stone Nullah Lane at the Blue House and Pak Tai Temple, the northern section of Stone Nullah Lane extends right from the heart of a bustling wet market. [2022]
Walking down the northern section of Stone Nullah Lane feels like going back to the Hong Kong in my childhood. [2022]
Residential blocks of the redeveloped Lee Tung Avenue tower over the skyline from the outdoor market of Cross Street. [2022]
From produces to spices, or clothing to toys, we can find most of what we need in our daily needs at Cross Street. [2022]
Some old vendors still offer traditional items like salted fish, despite demand has been greatly diminished in recent years. [2022]
Despite being the district with the second highest income in Hong Kong, the outdoor market of Cross Street reflects street scenes of Wan Chai’s humble past. [2022]
The outdoor market in Wan Chai appears like a miniature version of its counterparts in Kowloon. [2022]
Adequate lighting allow customers to choose the products after sunset. [2022]
From traditional sauces, Canton noodles to Indonesian snacks, shops at the market have evolved according to the gradual change of demography and culture. [2022]
At the intesection of Cross Street and Tai Yuen Street, a down to earth eatery is a popular venue for the community, especially during breakfast time. [2022]
There are also shops that keep on changing their merchandises according to the time of year. [2022]
Tai Yuen Street was once the official “Toy Street” on Hong Kong Island. [2022]
Many toy shops at Tai Yuen Street are remnants from the era when tiny Hong Kong was the biggest toy manufacturer in the world. [2022]
Hong Kong is still home to many toy manufacturing company headquarters, just that their factories have been relocated elsewhere in the past three decades. [2022]
Neighbourhood shops offer another option for customers other than the chains in shopping malls and department stores. [2022]
In old Hong Kong, pawn shops represented an integral part of the market street. Some still survive to the present day. [2022]
From Johnston Road, the lights and crowd in Triangle Street reveal the vibrant market scene of Wan Chai Road within. [2022]
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The intersection of Wan Chai Road and Johnston marks the entrance of the wet market from the business district to the north. [2022]
From Johnston Road, the business centre of Wan Chai and shopping district of Causeway Bay are just a stone throw away. [2022]

STORY OF WAN CHAI (灣仔) IN 13 BUILDINGS, Hong Kong

East of Central and Admiralty lies another old neighborhood of Hong Kong Island – Wan Chai (灣仔). Throughout the past two centuries, Wan Chai has developed from a fishing community around a shrine called Hung Shing Temple (洪聖古廟) to a prominent extension of the city’s central business district where commercial buildings race to the sky. Yet, in the shadows of skyscrapers, Wan Chai is a highly walkable neighborhood dotted with small alleys and interesting buildings from different eras. From modern skyscrapers near the Harbour to the hundred-year-old temples at the foothill of Victoria Peak, and all the renovated tenement buildings in between, half an hour walk in the area offers quite a variety of urban scenery. If buildings can tell stories, visiting a handful of buildings in the neighborhood would reveal a general overview of how Wan Chai has evolved and continued reinventing itself. Apart from Fenwick Pier, the arrival point of foreign sailors that gave us the world of Suzie Wong and the exotic Wan Chai where the neon signs and bar music once ruled, there is actually a whole lot more buildings telling a completely different story. Along with the city’s changing fortunes, this story of Wan Chai has never ceased to evolve, shifting from founding a residential community, to developing a business centre, and to reinventing itself from its historical past.

1847: Hung Shing Temple (洪聖古廟)

Probably erected in 1847, Wan Chai’s Hung Shing Temple is one of 42 temples in Hong Kong dedicated to Hung Shing, the God of Southern Seas. Believed to protect people from natural disasters, Hung Shing was widely worshiped by fishing communities in Southern China. Situated 800m away from the harbourfront, Hung Shing Temple was once standing right by the shore before series of land reclamation that completely transformed Wan Chai in the next 170 years. The area around Hung Shing Temple was home to the earliest settlements in Wan Chai, a fishing community predated the arrival of the British. 170 years ago, the temple was probably the most prominent structure in Wan Chai. Now, it is dwarfed by highrise concrete buildings in all directions.

Today, Hung Shing Temple is dwarfed by the surrounding concrete buildings along Queen’s Road East. [Photo taken from Queen’s Road East, 2020]
Hung Shing Temple was home to the original seaside shrine erected on a piles of boulders. [2020]
Despite Wan Chai is no longer a fishing community, Hung Shing Temple is still popular among local worshipers. [2020]

1915: Old Wan Chai Post Office (舊灣仔郵政局)

From 1860’s on, Wan Chai was predominately occupied by Chinese residents, and soon became one of the most populated areas in the city. Less than 300m down Queen’s Road East from Hung Shing Temple stands one of the earliest surviving post office buildings in Hong Kong. Opened in 1915, the post office served the community of Wan Chai for 77 years. The small post office had witnessed Wan Chai’s dramatic transformations throughout much of the 20th century. With Chinese tiled roof and Western moulding, arched windows and gable ends, the building reflects a fusion architectural approach that was not uncommon in the colonial days.

Being the oldest surviving post office building in Hong Kong, the Old Wan Chai Post Office is a declared monument of Hong Kong. [Photo taken from Queen’s Road East, 2020]
In response to the pandemic, the environmental conservation interpretation centre at the Old Wan Chai Post Office is currently closed to public and windows got screened off. [Photo taken from Queen’s Road East, 2022]

1929: Southorn Playground (修頓遊樂場)

Leaving an urban void like Central Park of New York City is a common strategy in many cities around the world. While Southorn Playground is not exactly a building, it has however played an essential role in the urban context of Wan Chai for many generations. After reclaiming land from Victoria Harbour (Praya East Reclamation Scheme in 1920’s), Colonial Secretary Thomas Southorn suggested preserving the land between Johnson Road and Hennessy Road for use of children recreation. The layout and uses of the playground have changed several times throughout history. The last time of major transformation for Southorn Playground occurred in 1980’s, when the Island Line of the MTR metro passed beneath Wan Chai. Part of the playground was demolished to make way for Wan Chai MTR Station, along with the erection of Southorn Stadium, Southorn Centre and Southorn Garden (residential tower) above the station. Today, Southorn Playground remains as the main recreational venue and social gathering place for Wan Chai residents, providing a football pitch, four basketball courts and a children’s playground.

In the old days, Southorn Playground would usually be occupied by different ball games from day to night. At night, the seating would be filled by cheering spectators, who were mostly residents from the neighbourhood. Today, all social and sporting activities have temporary suspended. The playground is currently a designated Covid testing station. [2022]

1937: Old Wanchai Market (灣仔街市)

From 1937 to 2007, Wan Chai Market was at the heart of the Wan Chai community. Constructed in Streamline Moderne style, the market was at the forefront of design trends of 1930’s. During Japanese occupation between 1941 to 1945, basement of the market building was used as a makeshift mortuary for corpses. In 2009, half of the building was demolished to make way for a 35-storey residential development. The front half of the old market were preserved and converted into a retail facility below the new residential tower.

Today, part of the old Wan Chai Market has become the podium of a highrise residence, one of the many joint venture projects that involve the Urban Renewal Authority and a private developer. [Photo taken from Queen’s Road East, 2022]
The curvy and elaborated shadings dominate the facades of the old Wan Chai Market. [Photo taken from Queen’s Road East, 2022]

1980: Hopewell Centre (合和中心)

1980’s was often regarded as the golden age of Hong Kong. The decade also saw the rise of Wan Chai as a commercial district between the Cross Harbour Tunnel and the financial district of Central. Completed in 1980, the 64-storey skyscraper Hopewell Centre was the tallest building in the city for nine years. Situated at the foothill of Victoria Peak, Hopewell Centre can be accessed at ground floor from Queen’s Road East and at 17th floor from Kennedy Road. The building was designed by Gordon Wu, the founder and chairman of Hopewell Holdings Ltd. Wu’s tower expresses the confidence of the his era by doing something that no body else has done in the city: building a 222m cylindrical tower, cladded with vertical fins and topped with a revolving restaurant and a rooftop pool (mainly for fengshui purpose). After four decades, the building no longer holds the title of the city’s tallest building (no. 28 nowadays), but continues to stand as an urban icon of Wan Chai.

Standing against the residential towers of Lee Tung Street, the cylindrical Hopewell Centre immediately stand out from the surrounding urban context. [Photo taken from Podium Garden of Lee Tung Street, 2022]
Highlighted by yellow rings, the revolving restaurant forms the crown of Hopewell Centre. [Photo taken from Queen’s Road East, 2022]
Many locals would take the lifts in Hopewell Centre to go between Queen’s Road East (ground floor) and Kennedy Road (17th floor). [2022]

1992: Central Plaza (中環廣場)

For ten years between 1992 and 2003, the 374m (78 storeys) Central Plaza was the tallest building in Hong Kong, and one of the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world. Designed by local firm Dennis Lau & Ng Chun Man Architects, a triangular plan was adopted for the design to maximize office area with sea views. While steel structure is much more common for buildings at such height, a concrete system was selected to save construction cost. Sky City Church, the world’s highest church, is a tenant of Central Plaza, and so as offices of a number of international businesses. The creation of Central Plaza almost coincided with the completion of the adjacent Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. These projects further established Wan Chai as the extension of Central, the main business district of Hong Kong.

The mast at the tip of Central Plaza is more than 100m in height. [2020]
Central Plaza is surrounded by other Grade A office towers and Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). [2022]

1997: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (香港會議展覽中心)

1997 marked a historical moment for Hong Kong when the former British colony was handed back to China. While Hong Kong was briefly at the center-stage of international news, Wan Chai was under spotlight as the main venue of the handover ceremony. In front of Central Plaza and the old wing of Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), a new event hall was erected on a newly reclaimed island. Designed by Chicago firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in gesture of a flying bird, and completed in four years from land reclamation to construction, the new wing of HKCEC served well as the main stage for Jiang Zemin of China and Prince Charles of Britain to define a new era for Hong Kong. After 1997, the hall continues to serve as an exhibition venue for events such as Art Basel and Hong Kong Book Fair, etc.

In front of Central Plaza, the new wing of Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre [2020]
To meet the deadline of 1997’s handover ceremony, the construction of HKCEC’s new wing took only 48 months from land reclamation to completion. [2022]
From the new wing, the skyline of the financial district is just less than 1km away. [2015]

1998: Chinese Methodist Church (循道衛理聯合教會香港堂)

The red bricks facades, rooftop Chinese pavilion, green glazed roof tiles and triangular building shape, the iconic Chinese Methodist Church has guarded the western entry of Wan Chai for six decades. In 1990’s, the church decided to partner with a developer on a redevelopment project, demolishing the historical church building and replacing it with a 22 storey commercial building. The building was completed in 1998, with floors dedicated for church functions and also office rentals (levels above 10th floor). This religious institution and developer partnership is a luring business for both sides: developer can lay hands on a prestige site while the religious institution can expand its floor area for free. The project was somewhat controversial and opened up a debate on the appropriacy of a commercial deal between a religious institution and a private developer.

The 1998 Chinese Methodist Building still enjoys its prominent site at the intersection of Hennessy Road and Johnson Road. [2021]
Between 1936 – 1994, the red brick Chinese Methodist Church stood at the mouth of Wan Chai for sixty years. [Photo: Ted Tharme, probably taken at around 1936. Commando Veterans Archive: Views and life in S.E Asia as seen through the lens of No5Commando, http://gallery.commandoveterans.org/cdoGallery/main.php, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0]

2003: Foo Tak Building (富德樓)

In 2003, the landlady decided to find tenants for her refurbished 14-storey Foo Tak Building on Hennessy Road. At a public talk, she learnt from speaker May Fung (馮美華), a prominent promoter of visual arts in Hong Kong, that the artist community was having hard times finding affording studio spaces in Hong Kong. After the talk, the landlady approached May Fung and offered to rent out her flats in Foo Tak Building at affordable prices for artists, and invited May Fung to manage what would become the city’s longest surviving artist village. At first, 18 units are rented out to selected artists, bookshops and cultural organizations. After some time, the entire building was donated out to serve as the vertical artist village. In comparison to government run establishments, tenants at Foo Tak Building enjoy much more freedom and less management control. While the 1968 concrete building may not look attractive from outside, Foo Tak Building has silently become one of the most unique cultural oases at the heart of Hong Kong.

Standing right beside the construction site of 369 Hennessy Road, Foo Tak Building appears no different than any other concrete buildings erected in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Hong Kong. [2022]
Today, the vertical artist village is frequented by anyone who is interested in art. Small exhibitions are occasionally held, as well as cultural talks and small social gatherings. Bookstores on art and philosophy are also the main draw for visitors. Many visitors would take the elevators up to the top floor and walk down level by level to check out if anything interesting is opened to the public. [2021]
A small art exhibition was on show at Foo Tak Building. [2021]

2007: Woo Cheong Pawn (和昌大押)

Conservation of heritage buildings and urban revitalization have been recent hot topics in Hong Kong, particularly in old districts such as Sheung Wan and Wan Chai. In 2007, Urban Renewal Authority (URA) engaged with a private developer to erect a highrise residential tower at Johnston Road. The fate of the historical Woo Cheong Pawn building was also included in the project. Built in 1888 and 1900 on land reclaimed in 1887, the four tenement buildings (tong lau) have been a prominent fixture at Johnston Road for over a hundred years. The buildings were constructed with timber structures, brick walls, wood floors, verandas and high ceilings. Such design was common for commercial buildings in that era. At the end, the buildings were designated for a thorough restoration, and have since been converted into a destination of highend restaurants.

Today, the building group of Woo Cheong Pawn has become a landmark of Wan Chai. [Photographed at Johnston Road, 2022]
Before revitalization, the building was at risk of demolition after a century of deterioration. [Photographed at Johnston Road, 2004]
Throughout much of the 20th century, 66 Johnston Road was always occupied by Woo Cheong Pawn, while its neighboring businesses have changed hands a number of times. [Photo taken in 1960’s, wikimedia commons, public domain]

2013: 7 Mallory Street (茂蘿街7號), formerly Comix Home Base (動漫基地)

In 2013, the opening of another URA revitalization project in Wan Chai has captured public attention. Known as the Green House in the past, a cluster of ten prewar tenement buildings was under spotlight for conservation. While facades of the 1922 buildings are preserved, much of the interior spaces have been transformed to suit contemporary purposes: shops, restaurants, multi function rooms, exhibition spaces, and public outdoor nodes. For the first five years, the restored building was occupied by Comix Home Base, a NGO that promotes the art of comics. After the NGO moved out, the upper levels of the restored building have become venues for public hire.

The 1922 facade of 7 Mallory Street is largely preserved. [2020]
Consisted of tenement buildings facing two parallel streets, interior spaces of half the historical buildings have been removed to create a public courtyard in the middle. [2020]
Temporary exhibitions would be held inside 7 Mallory Street. [2020]
Wall mural depicting an old street shop in Wan Chai offers visitors at 7 Mallory Street a glimpse of the former street life in the neighborhood. [2020]

2015: Tung Tak Pawn (同德押)

Not all prewar heritage buildings share the same fate like the preserved Woo Cheong Pawn. At 369 Hennessy Road, another famous historical building Tung Tak Pawn had sadly met its end in 2015. With a prominent round corner, the 1930’s tenement building was the last of its kind on Hong Kong Island. During the heat debate of heritage conservation and a possible reassessment of historical building classification for the structure, Tung Tak Pawn was brutally torn down overnight before the debate could reach a final conclusion. Today, Tung Tak Pawn represents a significant loss for heritage preservation in Hong Kong, and a vivid reminder of the impotency of the city’s conservation policies.

Scaffolding were suddenly put up at Tung Tak Pawn in 2015, prompting a heat debate of heritage conservation in the first half of 2015. [2015]
The two neon signs of Tung Tak Pawn on Hennessy Road from the mid 20th century are also important urban artifacts for Wan Chai. [2015]

2015: Lee Tung Street (利東街), formerly Wedding Card Street (喜帖街)

Some see the recent redevelopment of Lee Tung Street, formerly known as Wedding Card Street due to its concentration of wedding card printing shops, as another big loss of heritage conservation. While printing businesses have long been established in the area, it was not until 1970’s that Lee Tung Street has made its name by becoming the unofficial “Wedding Card Printing Street” in Hong Kong. In 1998, the URA announced the revitalization project of Lee Tung Street and McGregor Street. After years of compensatory negotiations and conservation outcries, Lee Tung Street was eventually wiped out from the map in 2007, and reopened in 2015 as a highend residential and commercial development managed by the URA and private developers. No matter if one agrees or not on the “demolition and redevelopment model”, the consequences for such large scale urban redevelopment is inevitable leaning towards in favour of the big developers and government. Not only does the unique character of the neighborhood was eliminated, but the existing flat and shop owners were also forced to leave their own home. The URA offered flat owners on Lee Tung Street a compensatory scheme of HK$4000 per square feet (USD 510), but at the end the new apartment flats were sold for at least HK$23,000 (US$2,930) in 2013. Since 2015, the new Lee Tung Street has become a popular dining destination in Wan Chai. At big festivals, large scale decorations would be put up to draw the crowds.

With most wedding card shops moved out, the new Lee Tung Street has nothing to do with the wedding business anymore, except some statues to remind visitors the not so distant memories. [2022]
Beneath the expensive residential towers lies the pedestrian shopping street of Lee Tung Street. With nothing to do with the original Lee Tung Street or the context of Wan Chai, the intentional creation of a neoclassical atmosphere for the new Lee Tung Street makes one feels like walking into a tacky movie set. [2022]
During Christmas or Chinese New Year, visitors would come to the new Lee Tung Street to take selfies with the dazzling decorations. [2020]

MORE THAN JUST A DOCK: Central Piers (中環碼頭), Central (中環) Hong Kong

At midnight 12th of November 2006, Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier (also known as Star Ferry Pier 天星碼頭) Clock Tower played its last chimes of its 48-years service, before being decommissioned and demolished along with the third generation Star Ferry Pier. Manufactured by Dent (London clock maker who was responsible for the clock of the Big Ben), the clock had told the time and chimed every 15 minutes since 1958. Although the timepiece mechanism was eventually preserved, the clock tower was discreetly toppled in early morning on 16th December 2006 amid public outcries and activist protests. Then four months later, just a stone throw from the toppled clock tower, Queen’s Pier (皇后碼頭) became the next harbourfront icon to fall victim for the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project. Named after Queen Victoria, Queen’s Pier was the main arrival and departure point for all colonial governors since 1925, and the landing spot for British royal visits (Queen Elizabeth II in 1975, and Prince and Princess of Wales in 1989). After their failed attempt to save the Star Ferry Pier, local conservationists reunited at Queen’s Pier to held rallies, hunger strikes and candlelight vigils to fight against the demolition. While winning support from the public and even some celebrities, the activists once again failed to convince the government to consider preservation the colonial pier. Despite their fruitless attempts, the incidents of Star Ferry Pier and Queen’s Pier have significantly raised public awareness on heritage preservation in Hong Kong, and triggered widespread support for later conservation projects such as Central Market, Police Married Quarter (PMQ) and Tai Kwun Police Headquarters.

As a port city, pier structures have always been essentials to Hong Kong. Based on an university study of photos from 1863, there were once 56 piers and jetties between Western District and Causeway Bay in mid 19th century. Excluding the restricted zones, that works out to be 56 piers in 5.5km of shoreline, or roughly a pier every 98m. As port facilities were moved away from the heart of Victoria Harbour and the opening of Cross Harbour Tunnel in 1970’s, pier activities along the north coast of Hong Kong Island have significantly declined, except for the pleasant Star Ferry and the other boat services to the outlying islands. I still remember the excitement as a kid in 1980’s when arriving at the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier (港外線碼頭) boarding a boat for day trips to Lantau or Yamma Island, or rubbing shoulders with foreign tourists taking photos of traditional rickshaws at Star Ferry Pier (天星碼頭), or watching couples taking wedding photos at Queen’s Pier (皇后碼頭) after tying the knot at the adjacent City Hall. Each pier had its own ambience and scenery. Each pier has become a unique piece of memory. Since the completion of Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project, the old Central piers are all but gone. About 300m north of the former piers, a cluster of ten new piers were established between 1990’s and 2000’s as the new Central Piers. Assigned with Pier No. 7 and 8, the current Star Ferry Pier was erected in Edwardian style mimicking its second generation predecessor from 1910’s. The “fake antique” and “theme park” approach of the architecture have drawn heavy criticism from the public. Between Pier No. 9 and 10, Hong Kong Observation Wheel, a 60m Ferris wheel, was erected in 2014 as a new tourist attraction. Despite being skeptical about the necessity of a new attraction, many do see the Ferris wheel as a delightful focus for the harbourfront, and a welcoming feature upon arriving at the Central Piers by ferry.

In colonial times, certain piers were designated to play ceremonial roles for the city. A Triumphal arch was erected at Pedder’s Wharf for the visit of Duke of Edinburgh in 1869. [Photograph by John Thomson, 1869, Wellcome Library no. 18643i, public domain]
Landing of The Duke of Edinburgh at Pedder’s Wharf in 1869. [Image courtesy of National Archives, Kew, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
Located at the junction of Pedder Street and Chater Road, the Second Generation Star Ferry Pier was constructed in 1910 in front of the former Queen’s Building. [Photograph by Eleanor Mitchell, 1912-1917. Image courtesy of E.G. France, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
In 1925, Cecil Clementi became the first colonial governor to land and sworn in at Queen’s Pier. [public domain]
Similar to modern taxis, rickshaws drivers line up outside Blake Pier and Star Ferry Pier in 1930. [Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
Blake Pier (middle left) and Star Ferry Terminal (right) had served the Central community for decades before being torn down for the Central and Wan Chai Reclamation project. [Photograph by Martin Funnell, 1955. Image courtesy of Martin Funnell, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net)]
The Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier or Star Ferry Pier, its clock tower and car park structure belong to be a single building complex. Today, only the carpark remains. [Photo of Edinburgh Place, 1957, public domain]
At midnight 12th of November 2006, the Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier Clock Tower played the last chimes. [Photography by WING, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -WING, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
Taken from the 10th Floor of City Hall High Block in October 2005, the former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier (Star Ferry Pier) can be seen on the left, former Queen’s Pier on the right, and the current Central Piers under construction at upper left. [Photography by Carismith, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Carismith, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
After failing to stop the demolition of Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, local conservationists shifted their focus to the adjacent Queen’s Pier. [Photography by CX257 in September 2007. Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -CX257, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons]
Local celebrity Chow Yun Fat signed the petition at Queen’s Pier in April 2007. [Photography by Leo Cheung, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Leockh, CC-BY-SA-3., Wikimedia Commons]
Locals gathered for the last night of Queen’s Pier on 31 July 2007. [Photography by Wing1990hk, Image courtesy of Wikipedia user -Wpcpey, CC-BY-SA-3., Wikimedia Commons]

***

A series of pier structures lined across Central Harbourfront as the current Central Piers. [Photo taken from Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2020]
The former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier has become Lung Wo Road and the Central Harbourfront Event Space. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road outside the City Hall, 2020]
As part of the former Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier, the Star Ferry Car Park remains as a prominent modernist structure in Central. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road outside the City Hall, 2020]
A footbridge links the Central Piers with the main financial district further inland. Each time a land reclamation projects is completed, the time it takes to reach the piers f would increase. [Photo taken from Lung Wo Road, 2020]
With reference to Edwardian architectural features, the fourth generation Star Ferry Pier has been criticized for failing to represent the contemporary spirit. [Central Pier No. 8, 2020]
For many, the new Edwardian clock tower of the current Star Ferry Pier in Central appears like a theme park backdrop. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
The real antique at the Star Ferry Pier is the ferry boats themselves, such as the 58-year old Day Star (晨星號). [Central Pier No. 7, 2022]
At the upper deck of Star Ferry Pier, a farmer’s market selling local organic produces is held every Sunday. [Central Pier No. 7, 2019]
Across the harbour, the 1957 Streamline Moderne pier structure of the Star Ferry Pier (天星碼頭) in Tsim Sha Tsui offers a glimpse of what its counterpart in Central, the now demolished Edinburgh Place Ferry Pier used to be like. [Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui, 2021]
In June 2020, regular ferry service between Central and Hung Hom has resumed after a 9-year service suspension. [Central Pier No. 8, 2020]
The easternmost Pier No. 9 and 10 offer fine views of Victoria Harbour. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
It is pleasant to linger at Pier No. 9 and 10 at dusk. [Central Pier No. 9, 2020]
The public Pier No. 9 and 10 are occasionally used by private boats. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
Pier No. 9 and 10 have become a popular place to hang out after work. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
As casual public spaces, Pier No. 9 and 10 are often shared by different groups of people. [Central Pier No. 10, 2020]
Between Pier 7 and 8, a Ferris wheel known as Hong Kong Observation Wheel has become a new focal point in Central Harbourfront since 2014. [Central Pier No.8, 2022]
Sitting up to five people, all gondolas of the Ferris wheel are equipped with air conditioning [Central Pier No.8, 2020]
The pandemic has prevented outside visitors coming to Hong Kong in the past two years. Most tourist related businesses, including the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, have suffered a considerable time. [Central Pier No.8, 2020]

TRIANGULAR PIER (三角碼頭): The Lost Port of Victoria Harbour, Sheung Wan (上環), Hong Kong

Tucked in a small street less than 20m off the busy Des Vouex Road West (德輔道西), Coffee & Laundry, a hybrid cafe/ self laundry shop is hardly noticeable from the main street. At the shop, we specifically picked up a bottle of cold brew coffee with a label designed by local artist Don Mak (麥東記). On the label, the artist illustrates the nearby street intersection of Des Voeux Road West and Wing Lok Street (永樂街), with a tram making a right turn towards Connaught Road West (干諾道西) before reaching the highway overpass. What really interesting about the label was its hidden backside, visible only when the bottle was emptied. The hidden picture depicts the same street intersection based on a 1925 photo, long before the overpass construction and land reclamation that erased the historical waterfront. Beyond the road bend stands a pier structure with a sign that says “Hong Kong, Canton and Macao Steamboat Company”, a British shipping company that has long dissolved. This was Wing Lok Pier (永樂碼頭), or more commonly known as the Triangular Pier (三角碼頭). Among the dozen or so cargo piers lining along the waterfront between Sheung Wan (上環) and Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), Triangular Pier was one of the largest.

Almost as soon as the British set foot on Hong Kong Island back in 1841, this relatively unknown island was declared a free port, a hub of the British Empire for international trading at the Far East. Their aim was to turn this scarcely populated fishing island into a port city and gateway into China. For the next hundred years or so, Triangular Pier and its adjacent piers had played crucial roles in establishing Hong Kong as an entrepôt between the West and East, and setting the basic economic and logistic infrastructure for the later development of manufacturing, servicing and finance sectors. In the 19th century, Hong Kong was a trading hub for tea, silk, and most important of all, opium. Between 1845-49, just a few years since the founding of the city, Victoria Harbour was already handling three quarters of opium from British India to China. Next came the export of Chinese laborers to Western countries, especially during the gold rushes in United States and Australia. From the Triangular Pier and its adjacent docks, 320,349 Chinese workers departed for their oversea destinations between 1851 and 1872 alone. In the next few decades, more Chinese went through the piers, either as temporary workers with 3-year contracts, or as immigrants who would eventually settle in the West. In the end, over one million Chinese had left their homeland from the piers of Sheung Wan. Triangular Pier also served as the entrepôt between the five global trading networks: China, Southeast Asia, India, Britain/ Europe, and the Americas. In 1899, more than 40% of China’s trade was handled in Hong Kong. Because of the piers’ success, many local and overseas (Chinese and Western) merchants chose to set up their offices in Hong Kong, establishing all kinds of trade related businesses, from the obvious shipping and trading companies, to banks, insurance offices, hotels, retail, ship builders, and the Nam Pak Hongs (南北行), trading companies that served as middle person between China and the outside world, namely United States, Australia and Southeast Asia. Entering the 20th century, Hong Kong was promoted as a tourist destination. Apart from cargo shipping, the Sheung Wan piers also emerged as a popular terminal for passenger steamships serving regional coastal cities, and as a stopover port for ocean liners between Asia and the West. In 1930 alone, 1,509,557 passengers traveled by ship between Hong Kong and the outside world. As air travel gained popularity after WWII, the opening of the Kwai Chung container port in 1972, and further land reclamation works along the north shore of Hong Kong Island, the story of Triangular Pier had officially come to the end.

Despite their vital roles for the city’s development, memories of Triangular Pier and other Sheung Wan/ Sai Ying Pun piers are fading fast in Hong Kong. After series of land reclamations, pedestrians would find no traces of the former piers. The only major pier remains is the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal (港澳碼頭), providing regular turbojets to Macau and ferries to Zhuhai and Shenzhen in China. While ferry services between Macau and Hong Kong has been departing from Sheung Wan since early colonial times, the current terminal at Shun Tak Centre (信德中心) was completed in 1985, beside the former Sheung Wan Gala Point (上環大笪地), the biggest night bazaar in the city before its closure in 1992. Highly popular with locals, Gala Point offered a variety of affordable entertainments and services, including outdoor eateries, street performances, storytelling, fortune telling, puppet shows, kungfu display, etc. Across the street from Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, the majestic North Block of Western Market proudly occupies an entire city block since 1906. Known as the oldest market building in Hong Kong, the four-storey Edwardian-style building is perhaps the only remnant left from the times of Triangular Pier at Sheung Wan waterfront today.

A bottle label by artist Don Mak (麥東記) depicts the current scenery of where the former Triangular Pier was located. [2020]
The back of the label depicts the Triangular Pier in early 20th century. [2020]
Taken in 1920, the aerial view shows the business district of Central on the left, and the densely built up areas of Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun to the right. The Triangular Pier and other piers of Sheung Wan are located at the right hand side in the photo. While Central was the main business districts dominated by Western companies, Sheung Wan was the main hub for trading firms established by Chinese merchants. [public domain]
Busy cargo piers at the waterfront area near the Western Market. [Photograph by Underwood & Underwood, 1900’s. Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/98507421/%5D
Workers unloading cargo from a freight boat in 1910’s. [Photograph by Eleanor Mitchell, est. 1912-17. Image courtesy of E.G. France Historical Photographs of China Mi01-066, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net), (CC BY_NC_ND 4.0)]
On 20th October 1906, Paddle Steamer Hankow at Canton Steamer Wharf in Sheung Wan after a fire that claimed 130 lives. [Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain]
Around one million of Chinese emigrants and labourers departed from the piers in Sheung Wan for destinations such as the Straits Settlements (Penang, Singapore, Malacca, and Dinding), North America and Australia. Many would transfer money back to their home in China through banks in Hong Kong. [Chinese miners in the Colorado School of Mines’ Edgar Experimental Mine near Idaho Springs, Colorado, US. Photograph by James Underhill, Public Domain.]
Today, the skyline of Sheung Wan is as dense as ever, with the red and blue twin towers of Shun Tak Centre and Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal standing out at the waterfront. [2020]
The former Triangular Pier was located at the intersection of Des Voeux Road West, Wing Lok Street and Connaught Road West, while the original waterfront is now occupied by a vehicular overpass. [2020]
The area of the former Triangular Pier is still occupied with nam pak hongs, the trading companies specialized in food merchandises from China. [Intersection of Queen Street and Connaught Road West, 2020]
Triangular Pier was also named Wing Lok Pier. From the site of the former Triangular Pier, Wing Lok Street stretches from the western end of Sheung Wan towards the business district in Central. [Intersection of Wing Lok Street and Des Voeux Road West, 2021]
In 1932, Wing Lok Street (永樂街) was home to a number of small banks, including Tianxiang bank (天祥銀號) on the left, and Five continents bank (五州銀號) on the right. [Photograph by Hagger F. Image courtesy of Historical Photographs of China FH01-150, University of Bristol Library (www.hpcbristol.net), (CC BY_NC_ND 4.0)]
Today, the small banks of Wing Lok Street might be gone, but the old nam pak hongs trading companies remain. [Wing Lok Street, 2021]
The famous Dried Seafood Street and Tonic Food Street actually refers to a group of streets: Des Voeux Road West, Wing Lok Street and Bonham Strand West, where nam pak hongs offer both wholesale and retail of dried seafood, herbs, and Chinese medicine. [Wing Lok Street, 2021]
Near the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, the former waterfront during the time of Triangular Pier is now occupied by the overpass of Connaught Road West. [2020]
Located at the waterfront of Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park (中山紀念公園) sits on reclaimed land outside the former Triangular Pier. [2021]
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park commemorates Sun Yatsen, father of Modern China, who had spent time as a student in the Central and Western District in Hong Kong. [2022]
A large lawn at the heart of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park provides decent open space for the public. [2021]
200m east of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park stands the twin towers of Shun Tak Centre and Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal. [2020]
During the Covid pandemic, turbojet journeys to Macau are largely cancelled. [2020]
The Macau Ferry Bus Terminus is where the former Sheung Wan Gala Point (上環大笪地) night bazaar was situated. It was closed down in 1992 for the new waterfront redevelopment master plan. [2020]
Beyond Macau Ferry Bus Terminus, the waterfront promenade a pleasant spot for runners. [2020]
Across the street from Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, the historical North Block of Western Market is the oldest remaining market building in Hong Kong. [2020]
After renovation, the former Western Market has become a rather quiet shopping complex. [2020]

THE COMMUNITY SOUL, Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), Hong Kong

Nowadays, there is a common development model in Hong Kong: erecting a series of residential towers atop a multi-storey shopping mall, and a transport interchange underneath for buses, minibuses, and the MTR metro. Everything from supermarkets, retail chains, food and beverage franchises, healthcare services, beauty and personal care, entertainment venues, community services, etc. would all be housed within the mall. Without much site specific character and community connections, a typical mall environment with the same group of shops that can be found everywhere in the city, essentially replaces the high street in a neighbourhood. Knocking down low rise buildings, erasing small alleys, and replacing with huge malls and high rise residential estates is luring business for developers, and is happening in many neighbourhoods across the city. So far, the majority of Sai Ying Pun has been spared from this large scale redevelopment force. Its century old urban fabric remains largely intact despite rapid gentrification in recent years. Within its grid street system, quite a number of shops have been serving the community for more than a generation. According to a university study, about 50% of Sai Ying Pun’s 35,960 population actually works in the same district. Residents have a high chance to interact with their neighbours while visiting the 700+ shops on street level. The recent arrival of foreign expats, along with new lifestyle shops, fine dining restaurants, pubs and cafes seem to harmoniously coexist with the traditional businesses of the community, reshaping the soul of a century-old neighbourhood in an interesting way.


Living in close proximity since 2019, we have become regular visitors to Sai Ying Pun. Every week we would walk over to drop off our household recyclables there, pick up grocery from our favourite tofu shop, vegetable stall, local sauce store and fishmonger, get restaurant takeouts, enjoy a traditional dim-sum breakfast or a Chinese dessert, and occasionally get haircut at an one-man salon. Sai Ying Pun has essentially become a part of our lives. Seeing the recent changes of Sai Ying Pun and the aging shopkeepers make us wonder how many of its unique old shops would remain in a decade’s time. Before all is lost, we felt it would be nice to document the urban scenery of this traditional neighbourhood as of today. With the humanistic scale and close knitted relationship within the community, this is essentially the soul of Sai Ying Pun that no shopping mall can ever replace.

Established in 1855, Yuen Kee Dessert (源記甜品專家) on Centre Street is the City’s oldest dessert restaurant. Traditional Chinese dessert is usually served hot. We sometimes drop by Yuen Kee after grocery shopping, especially during winter when we crave for something warm and sweet. [2022]
Nothing inside Yuen Kee seems to be over a hundred years old, as the dessert shop has moved three times during the course of history. [2022]
Yuen Kee is well known for a number of traditional Chinese dessert, especially the sweet herbal tea with lotus seeds and egg (in photo right to the bowl), and the steamed egg cake. We usually ordered one of the more common ones such as almond soup, black sesame soup or walnut soup. [2022]
On Western Street, Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer (德昌森記蒸籠) has become a tourist attraction in recent years, thanks to handicraft fairs, blogs, magazines, and social media, and the fact that it is one of the last handmade bamboo workshops in Hong Kong. [2022]
Not every product is handmade by the shop. For the ones that are, they will be reflected in the price tag. [2022]
The shop sells all kinds of bamboo steamers from large to mini. Some foreign tourists would get the small ones as souvenirs. We got a medium size handmade one for steaming dishes at home. [2022]
Snake King Hoi or She Wong Hoi (蛇王海) has been serving the Sai Ying Pun community for over thirty years. In the evening during winter months, there are usually two lines queuing in front of the shop, one for sit in dining and the other for takeout. [2022]
Snake soup, mutton stew, smoked chicken and glutinous rice are the signature dishes. [2021]
Cha chaan teng (茶餐廳) or Hong Kong style cafe is a type of local restaurants emerged after WWII, providing fusion dishes in economical prices for locals who couldn’t afford Western fine dining. Signature dishes of cha chaan teng include Hong Kong style milk tea, yuenyeung or coffee with tea, egg tart and pineapple bun. Every neighbourhood in the city has its collection of cha chaan teng. 60-year Luen Wah Cafe (聯華茶餐廳) on Centre Street is probably most well known one for Sai Ying Pun. [2022]
With a row of banquette seating and a mezzanine over the main dining area, Luen Wah Cafe maintains a typical cha chaan teng layout from mid 20th century. [2020]
Out of all the shops in Sai Ying Pun, Kwan Hing Kee (關興記) on Third Street is probably the one that we have visited the most. Opened in 1928, Kwan Hing Kee is specialized in tofu, soy products and a range of local ingredients. We often come for tofu, tofu dessert, tofu skin, beansprouts, fish balls, beef balls, etc. [2020]
Being one of the 20 old shops participating in Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation‘s Hong Kong Urban Canvas project, the shutter of Kwan Hing Kee has been painted with the image of the owner and her cat. The NGO aims to promote traditional shops in Sai Wan, Central and Wanchai with art and tours. [2020]
Forgot since when, there would always be a bottle of Yu Kwen Yik (余均益) chilly sauce in our fridge. Recently we just found out that Yu Kwen Yik is going to celebrate their 100th anniversary this year in 2022. Starting from a market hawker, this famous shop on Third Street has become a Hong Kong classic, serving the community of Sai Ying Pun and beyond for generations. [2022]
Recommended by Michelin Guide, Ying Kee (英記) on High Street is a well known noodle in Sai Ying Pun famous for beef flank noodles, BBQ pork noodles and deep fried wanton. We sometimes come here for late lunch or afternoon light meals. [2022]
As a “southern goods” store (南貨店), Ming Kee (銘記) on Third Street sells all sort of traditional condiments and food products that are originated from south of Yangtze River. We used to get our sauces and cooking wine here. Sadly, like many small shops in Hong Kong, Ming Kee Sai Ying Pun is closed down for good during the pandemic. [2021]
It is sad to know that we won’t be able to see the big cat of Ming Kee again. [2021]
As a traditional rice shop, Sing Tak Lung (成德隆) on First Street has become a rarity in Hong Kong, as most people would get package rice from supermarkets nowadays. Nonetheless, this old shop is still serving restaurant clients and elderly residents in Sai Ying Pun, who come for their “house blend” mix of rice. [2020]
Hing Kee Wine Shop (興記酒莊) on High Street is a traditional convenient syore selling everything from Chinese and Western alcohol to snacks and soft drinks. [2020]
Between 1973-85, Hong Kong was the biggest garment manufacturer in the world. At its peak, the industry employed between 250,000 and 300,000 skilled workers. As factories began to move elsewhere where wages were lower, some former garment workers have switched to become garment alteration specialist. Occupying the space below the stair of an old tenement apartment, Gum Sha Garment Alteration (金莎) on Queen’s Road West has been around for quite some time. [2020]
Compare to the adjacent cafes and restaurant on High Street, the shopfront of Lei Kuen Plumbing and Construction (利權) presents another kind of chaotic beauty that is down to earth and causal. [2020]
Established in 1960’s as a street vendor, Tropical Fish Aquarium (熱帶魚水族) on Second Street is the last remaining aquarium shop in Sai Ying Pun. Aquarium shops have seen better days when keeping fish and turtles at home was a popular hobby, and there were more than ten aquarium shops in Sai Wan alone. [2022]
At night, the violet lights of Tropical Fish Aquarium adds a dreamy feeling to the tranquil street. [2022]
Access from a side alley off Queen’s Road West, Wong’s Hair Salon (亞黃理髮), a traditional hair salon attracts pedestrian’s attention with delightful colours and friendly prices. [2022]
At the corner of Western Street and Second Street, the no-frills barber shop Wing Kee (榮記) offers affordable haircuts to the community, HK$40 (about US$5) for haircut only. [2022]
Apart from Wing Kee, there are quite a number of small hair salons in the area, including MW Hair Design on Second Street, an one-man salon richly decorated with objects that the owner gathered from flea markets in different countries. [2022]
Traditional Chinese medicine is quite popular among the elderly. Opened since 1977, Fung Wun Gam (馮煥錦) Chinese bonesetter and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner on Second Street has been serving the community for over forty years. [2022]
Lau Ying Leung (劉英亮) bonesetter on Queen’s Road West is another traditional medical consultant in Sai Ying Pun. [2021]
But perhaps the most well known traditional bonesetter should be Chiu Sing Nam (趙醒楠) on Queen’s Road West. [2022]
Established for half a century, Chiu Sing Nam is famous for its massage oil to treat minor bone injuries. [2022]
Other traditional shops in an old neighbourhood includes zhizha (紙紮鋪) or Taoist ritual paper shop. These shops sell everything related to traditional Chinese religious rituals (combination of Taoist and Buddhist). First established in 1933, Wing Sing Ho (永盛號) has been at its Pokfulam Road location since 1973. [2022]
Jun Sing Hong (俊城行) on Queen’s Road West is probably one of the biggest zhizha (紙紮鋪) in Hong Kong. Traditionally, people would burn paper products (usually paper miniature of objects from the real world) in funerals as gifts for the deceased, believing that the products burnt would be received in the afterworld. [2021]
While there is still demand for this tradition, over 90% of paper products are now imported from China. Zhizha craftsmen in Hong Kong have almost disappeared in recent years. Even as big as Jun Sing Hong, only one craftsman remains in the shop. Imported paper products for the deceased have been evolving over the years. Today, for a few hundred HK Dollars, customers can get paper miniature of a Lamborghini, or a house with a pretty housekeeper, or a 5G Iphone. [2021]
Adjacent to Jun Sing Hong, Bo Tai Hong (寶泰行) also sells zhizag paper products. Their craftsman master Mak has been making custom paper products from Toy Story figures, grand buildings to even football stadium. These zhizha stores also sell traditional decorations for Chinese New Year and Mid Autumn Festival. [2021]

OLD NEIGHBOURHOOD CHARM, Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), Hong Kong

East of Shek Tong Tsui, between the foothill of Victoria Peak and Victoria Harbour lies Sai Ying Pun (西營盤), one of the oldest neighborhoods in Hong Kong. Sai Ying Pun is well known for several things: very steep streets, a well mix of old and new shops, Dried Seafood Street, and perhaps the most famous of all, High Street Haunted House (高街鬼屋). In 1841, the British first set up a military camp in the area, and hence the Chinese named the area “Sai Ying Pun”, which literally means “West Camp Site”. Between 1855 and 1861, the colonial government expanded the City of Victory by establishing Sai Ying Pun adjacent to the old Chinese quarter of Tai Ping Shan. Different from Tai Ping Shan’s labyrinth of ladder streets (stepped alleys) and winding roads, the government adopted a grid street system in Sai Ying Pun, attempting to create a healthier living environment. The grid of Sai Ying Pung centered at Centre Street (正街), a steep thoroughfare that runs straight up the hill from the waterfront. On the slope, Centre Street bisects a number of horizontal streets, from First Street (第一街) near the bottom, Second Street (第二街) and Third Street (第三街) in the middle, to High Street (高街) near the top. These horizontal streets are bounded by Eastern Street (東邊街) in the east direction, and Western Street (西邊街) in the opposite. Applying this urban layout to the sloped site had created some really steep streets. Centre Street, with the steepest part at 1:4 slope, is one of the steepest streets in Hong Kong. With parts at 1:5 slope, Eastern Street is not too far behind.

With its 160+ years of history, steep streets, mix of locals and expats, and a rich variety of street shops, Sai Ying Pun presents a diverse urban scenery that is hard to find elsewhere in Hong Kong. After the MTR metro system extended to Sai Ying Pun in 2015, the area has become an instant hit for photographers and tourists, or anyone who looks for a cafe to chill out. In between the curtain wall apartments from recent years, and the postwar tenement buildings whose ground shops generate most of the area’s vibrant street life, there lies a much tranquil side of Sai Ying Pun, another half of the jigsaw which contributes to the unique identity of the neighbourhood. Behind bustling market and dining scenes, there is a range of colonial buildings standing like silent backdrops. Without notice, they have become the cornerstones of collective memory for the community. These remnants from the colonial past scatter across the entire neighbourhood. Masonry buildings of former hospitals, anonymous century-old retaining walls, stone wall trees, iron railing, historical gardens, churches, school complexes, courthouse, police station, all aged structures that have somehow managed to survive waves of urban redevelopment up to this point. On a quiet morning before the bustling day begins, wandering in Sai Ying Pun offers a poetic experience as if walking back in time, that is, for anyone who don’t mind climbing up and down some of the steepest streets in Hong Kong.

View of Sai Ying Pun in 1873. [Photograph by William Pryor Floyd. Credit: Wellcome Library, London, public domain]
Looking down to the Harbour along Eastern Street in 1890 [Photographer unknown, public domain]
From Des Voeux Road West, the steepness of Eastern Street reminds some Americans of San Francisco. [2022]
Similar to Peel Street in nearby SoHo, Centre Street is one of the steepest street in Hong Kong. Like SoHo, a set of escalators has been installed at the upper part of the street to enhance pedestrian circulation. [2022]
Shops along Centre Street are accessible from stair landings. [2021]
Cascading down Centre Street, the multi storey Sai Ying Pun Market can be entered from different levels. [2021]
The steepness of Centre Street may cause nuisances for pedestrians in the area, but nonetheless these sloped streets are part of the unique characteristics of Sai Ying Pun. [2021]
Sai Ying Pun Market is also connected by bridge to the Centre Street Market further down the street. Instead of supermarkets that are dominating the grocery business in many new neighbourhoods in the city, the vibrant scenes of the indoor markets and the adjacent meat shops and fishmongers suggest Sai Ying Pun is in fact an old neighbourhood established long time ago. [2022]
Targeted at the local community, a plumber at Queen’s Road West covers their shopfront with all kinds of signs describing their multiple capacities. [2022]
The emergence of cafes and bars adjacent to traditional restaurants and shops indicate gentrification has already arrived in Sai Ying Pun. Adjacent to a dried seafood shop and a roasted meat restaurant on Queen’s Road West, the cute coffee shop TIL (Today is Long) attempts to introduce the coffee scene of Melbourne to the community. [2021]
As the population of expats increases, cafes like TIL have mushroomed across the neighbourhood in recent years. [2021]
Looking eastward from Third Street, the view of the International Financial Centre (IFC) reminds everyone that the financial district is just 2km away. Given its close proximity to the downtown, Sai Ying Pun has become popular with expats. [2022]
Referring itself as a French Wine Library specialised in Rhone Valley and Burgendy wines, the establishment of Premier Cru on High Street reflects a significant population of expats living in Sai Ying Pun. [2022]
A diverse drinking and dining scene has emerged since the opening of Sai Ying Pun MTR Station in 2015. Since 2016, Bali hospitality group Potato Head opened its delightful restaurant in the neighbourhood. Potato Head Hong Kong consists of an Indonesian restaurant, cocktail bar and audiophile listening room. [2021]
Some cafes or bars intend to incorporate the aged characteristics of the neighbourhood with their shop design, 2015, including this lovely cafe Sol High at the corner of High Street and Centre Street. [2021]
Between century old colonial buildings and contemporary residential towers, there are still a large amount of postwar tenement apartments in Sai Ying Pun. Compared to other areas in Hong Kong, buildings in Sai Ying Pun are relatively old. A 2017 study indicates that the average building age in the neighbourhood is 43.4 years. 94 buildings are over 50 years old. Such scenario is indeed very attractive for real estate developers for redevelopment projects. [2022]
The metal railing at the middle section of Hospital Road is believed to be over a hundred years old, according to some history enthusiasts who managed to dig up old photographs of the area. [2022]
Following the death of King George in 1936, a memorial park was built on the site where the former garden of the Government Civic Hospital stood. Across the street stands the new Tsan Yuk Hospital, which has been serving the community at this location since 1955. [2022]
The retaining walls, stone steps, and majestic old trees of King George V Memorial Park are some of the most iconic features of Sai Ying Pun. [2020]
Sai Ying Pun was once a hub of medical services for the City of Victoria, including Government Civic Hospital, Western Public Dispensary, Tsan Yuk Hospital, Lock Hospital, Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital, etc. [2022]
The western boundary of King George V Memorial Park is Eastern Street, one of the steep streets of Sai Ying Pun. [2022]
Near the top of Eastern Street stands the preserved facade of the former Nursing and Staff Quarters and Lunatic Asylum. [2021]
Due to its use as a mental hospital and rumored to be an execution ground during the Japanese occupation in 1940’s, accounts of ghost sightings began to emerge after the building was abandoned in 1970’s. Two decades later, the government decided to replace the vacant building with a new community complex, but preserving the old facade on High Street. [2022]
Despite its new use, the former Nursing and Staff Quarters and Lunatic Asylum (舊精神病院) is probably still the most famous haunted house in Hong Kong. [2022]
Nursing and Staff Quarters and Lunatic Asylum in the colonial time. [National Archives UK, public domain]
Founded in 1922, the old Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital (贊育醫院) offered Western labour and delivery services for Chinese women. [2022]
The service proved to be very popular because of its lower mortality rate compared to traditional Chinese delivery methods. This led to long queues outside the hospital. After WWII, Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital was moved to a larger establishment on Hospital Road. The old hospital building has been converted into a community centre ever since. [2021]
Behind the Old Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital stands the Old Western Public Dispensary, a former clinic to treat patients affected by the bubonic plague at the end of the 19th century. [2022]
The former plague clinic is now home to The Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage (長春社文化古蹟資源中心, an NGO that advocates heritage conservation in the city. [2022]
At the intersection of Western Street and Bonham Road (般咸道), the iconic entrance vestibule of King’s College (英皇書院) has been around since 1926. [2021]
The grey granite columns, red bricks, arched colonnade and sunken garden of King’s College have become the collective memory of local residents for several generation. [2021]
The school building was damaged and used as a military mule and horse stable during the Japanese Occupation in 1940’s. [2022]
Visually hidden from street pedestrians, several 1930’s tenement houses on Yu Lok Lane were preserved while all other buildings on the lane were demolished for a luxurious residential development. [2021]
The preserved houses offer a glimpse of the living conditions of Sai Ying Pun residents ninety years ago. [2021]
Kau Yan Church (救恩堂) originates from the German speaking Basel Mission led by Theodore Hamberg and Rudolf Lechler. They had successfully established a Hakka Christian community in Sai Ying Pun in the 1860’s. [2022]
At the intersection of Pokfulam Road and Queen’s Road West, the yellow sign of “Chiu Sing Nam” (趙醒楠) traditional bone setter marks the boundary between Shek Tong Shui and Sai Ying Pun. [2022]
Across the street from Chiu Sing Nam, the Western magistracy building elegantly guards the western gateway of Sai Ying Pun since 1965. [2022]
On the other side of Chiu Sing Nam, the white walls of the third generation of Police Station no. 7 is also another prominent fixture in the neighbourhood since 1952. [2022]