Western Hong Kong
A lot gets written these days about Sheung Wan, particularly by real estate speculators and entrepreneurial types like yours truly, and the designation almost always refers to the cluster of streets and businesses along the western half of Hollywood Road and its environs to confer a sense of authenticity and tradition on this newly chic part of town. Far less ink is spilled about the cluster of streets – Bonham Strand, Jervois Street and Wing Lok Street, and the warren of side streets and alleyways radiating out from the Sheung Wan MTR station down the hill. This is the commercial heart of Sheung Wan- in my mind, the closest Hong Kong gets to a downtown vibe- often referred to in guidebooks as Western District, and in the popular imagination at least, primarily a market for dried seafood and other traditional Chinese products. While the peddlers of bird’s nest, ginseng and assorted funguses have certainly laid claim to the lion’s share of the district’s shops, there’s a lot happening in the shadows of its grimy mid-rises, lots of cool shops both old and new and a very vibrant street life. I spend quite a lot of time here en route to Western Market, Hong Kong’s oldest surviving market building, a fabulous Edwardian fantasy, where we purchase silk linings for our suits and coats. Lying near the western terminus of the Wing Lok street, it’s a good place to place to embark on a wander about the neighborhood.
The Siu Woo Trading Company, located at 94 Bonham Strand East, adjacent to Western Market sells all manner of inexpensive bamboo, rattan and straw housewares- they’ve even got a rattan dog carrier- in multiple sizes! Established in 1958, the elderly clerk still counts out change on an abacus. Featured in our j.a.daye Guide to Hong Kong, this is one of my favorite shops in Sheung Wan, and I never leave without making a purchase.
Monsieur Chatte, directly across the road, is a decidedly 21st century kind of shop in Hong Kong, now the world’s biggest wine market. They have an excellent selection of cheese and prepared foods, even for vegetarians – at least the sort that like to take all their protein from cheese, milk and eggs…
Until recently Tim’s Kitchen was much talked about hole in the wall well known among foodie types for having some of the best Cantonese cooking in Hong Kong. Then came the Michelin stars and a swishy new dining room.
Tim’s is in good company- the freshly completed Blink building across the road is undoubtedly the future of the neighborhood; the charming little shophouse leaning against its left, sadly, its past.
Still, the purveyors of traditional Chinese products seem to be going no where- every second shop spills some manner of dried seafood or root or fungus onto the sidewalks, including the vile sharks fins for which the area has recently become rather infamous.
Equally vile, though considerably more interesting, is She Wong Lam on Hillier Street, where those with the spleen for it go for their snake soup once the mercury dips below 15.
Happily not all the old shops are so ethically compromising: Hung Yuen sells both fresh squeezed juices and spirits- anyone fancy a screwdriver?
This fabulous little shop is the stockist for Cicada Brand Knitwear: cardigans, henleys, woolen socks and slippers- everything one needs to keep warm during this unusually nippy winter. You can even skip the snake soup.
Another Chinese “heritage brand”, and a bit of an oddball for Hong Kong island. Such a good logo!
Friends have told me about Shiu Shing Hong before, but I’ve always managed to walk by it without noticing it. A good lesson for walking around the neighborhood- keep your eyes peeled.
Another one I’ve heard loads about but still can never manage to find, this little coffeehouse manages what seems a difficult feat for new Hong Kong shops- looking good. I can’t figure it out: with all these cool looking old shops and logos why so many of the new places (not including any of the ones I’ve written about here, which are sadly, the exception to the rule) look so cheap and generic.
Maybe all the ones with good eyes are too busy drawing on the walls…