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.
March 6, 2022 | Categories: Central, Sheung Wan & Sai Wan, HK Island, Hong Kong | Tags: Bo Tai Hong, bonesetter, Centre Street, cha chaan teng, Chiu Sing Nam, community, 熱帶魚水族, 第三街, 紙紮鋪, dessert, 聯華茶餐廳, 金莎, 興記酒莊, 英記, 茶餐廳, 關興記, 蛇王海, 西營盤, 馮煥錦, 趙醒楠, First Street, Fung Wun Gam, grocery, High Street, Hing Kee, Jun Shing Hong, Kwan Hing Kee, Lau Ying Leung, Lei Kuen, Luen Wah Cafe, market, Ming Kee, MW Hair Design, neighbourhood, Pokfulam, Sai Wan, Sai Ying Pun, Second Street, She Wong Hoi, shopping, Sing Tak Lung, Third Street, Tropical Fish Aquarium, Wing Kee, Wing Shing Ho, Ying Kee, Yu Kwen Yik, Yuen Kee, zhizha, 利權, 劉英亮, 寶泰行, 德昌森記, 成德隆, 榮記, 正街, 永盛號, 源記甜品, 亞黃理髮, 余均益, 俊城行 | Leave a comment
A few years ago, Dutch photographer Marcel Heijnen published a beautiful photo book Hong Kong Shop Cats. The book was an instant hit and captured the heart of people both in Hong Kong and abroad. Lovely images of cats and shop owners with backdrops of traditional shops in Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun manifest a certain universal charm even for non cat lovers. It is the affection between shop cats and their owners that truly touch people, revealing a kind of human-animal bonding enrooted in the old shopping streets of Hong Kong. In the old neighborhoods, shop cats that linger at shopfront often become magnets that draw people from close and afar. Thanks to the social media, some celebrated shop cats (and owners) are even appear in foreign magazines or websites. While the need of mouse catching fades, the role of shop cats have shifted to sunbathing at shopfront, napping on cashier counter, patrolling the back alleys, and serving as social ambassadors to promote the business.
Other than old dried seafood or herbal medicine shops, cats also fit in well with all sort of businesses in the younger generation. Recent TV shows “Cat Shopkeepers” reveal that shops cats have become quite a phenomenon spreading to many businesses: bookstores, cafes, gyms, music schools, nail polishers, design shops, dance studios, musical instrument workshops, you name it. The cool yet lovely character of cats somehow become a perfect compliment to the warm-hearted and neighbourhood friendly identity of local small business. For returning customers or chance pedestrians, surprised encounters of shop cats may feel like discovering some sort of momentary antidotes to their otherwise stressful and monotonous daily life.
May 20, 2021 | Categories: Central, Sheung Wan & Sai Wan, HK Island, Hong Kong, North Point, Quarry Bay, Taikoo Shing, Shau Kei Wan & Chai Wan, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Tai Hang & Happy Valley | Tags: bookstore, Caine, cat, 炮台山, 皇后大道西, 第三街, Dai Lee Hong, Dried Seafood Street, 聯華茶餐廳, 銘記南貨店, 英皇道, 西營盤, 馬寶道, 駱克道, 高陞街, 貓, 貓店長, 輝煌快餐店, feline, Fortress Hill, Glorious Fast Food, Guang Chong Hong, Hong Kong, King's Road, Ko Shing Street, Ladder Street, Lockhart, Luen Wah Cafe, Marble Road, Ming Kee Southern Goods, North Point, Po Hing Fong, Queen's Road West, Sai Ying Pun, Sam Kee Bookstore, Sheung Wan, Sutherland, Third Street, Tin Yin Coconut, Wing Shun Lei, 堅道, 大利行, 天然椰子號, 廣昌行, 普慶坊, 森記圖書, 樓梯街, 正街, 永順利, 海味街, 上環, 修打蘭街 | Leave a comment