On Hollywood Road

The Guardian looks at Hong Kong

Posted in Uncategorized by Alex Daye on June 30, 2012

Alex was asked by The Guardian to write an article about his favourite Hong Kong shops that really reflect the city that continue to be successful despite rapid development of the neigbourhoods that they are found in.The article is below and you can visit the link here. It runs in the paper on Tuesday when The Guardian releases its Hong Kong City Guide which we can’t wait to see what else they have found.

Series: Top 10 city guides

Top 10 shops in Hong Kong

As well as plenty of malls, Hong Kong has its share of quirky, unusual shops. Alex Daye of Hong Kong tailor Moustache knows where to go for spices, fabrics or even kung fu shoes

As featured in our Hong Kong city guide which launches on Tuesday, 3 July

Man Luen Choon, Hong Kong

The write stuff … Man Luen Choon, Hong Kong. Photograph: Alex Day /Moustache

Man Luen Choon

Given that it is situated on the second floor of a nondescript office building down a busy lane filled with market stalls between Des Voeux and Connaught Roads in Central, Man Luen Choon is not the sort of place you’ll just stumble across. A 50-year-old, family-run emporium dedicated to the art of Chinese scroll painting, this large, airy space is stacked with handmade paper, giant calligraphy brushes and ceramic ink pots, and exudes the quiet sophistication of Chinese culture which is not always so evident in workaday, street-level Hong Kong. It also stocks a fantastic selection of art and architecture books, as well as instructional books and videos.
2F Harvest Building, 29-35 Wing Kut Street, Central, +852 2544 6965, manluenchoon.com. Open Mon-Fri 10am-6.30pm, Sat 10am-5.30pm, Sun and public holidays by appointment

Yuan Heng Spice Co

Yuan Heng Spice CompanyPhotograph: Alex Daye/MoustacheThe Yuan Heng Spice Co is one of many odd little shops and stalls in the alleyways between the antique shops of Hollywood Road and the tourist tat of Cat Street. Most of these businesses exist to service the trade in antiquities – of both the high and low variety – for which the area is famous. Iron welders repair hardware, noodle stalls feed workers and shoppers, and junk collectors scavenge for old photographs – often of the x-rated variety – to sell in the alleyways and sidestreets. Not so Yuan Heng – this emporium deals in whole spices: giant sticks of cinnamon, ancient orange peel, whole Sichuan peppercorns anΩd all sorts of other exotic spices in neatly marked hessian sacks spill on to the streets. If in doubt, follow your nose: it’s an olfactory oasis in a not always sweet-smelling part of town, especially come summer when diesel fumes and wet market odours drift up the hill on the morning fog.
19 Tung Street, Sheung Wan, +852 2542 0275, yp.com.hk/yuanhengspice. Open Mon-Sat 9am-6pm

Kung Fu Shoe Kiosk

Kung Fu Shoe KioskPhotograph: Harry TemplePerhaps an even less likely survivor on the new Hollywood Road, cheek by jowl with British designer Ilse Crawford’s residential development at 226 (prices of which rival those on the Peak) is another small green kiosk. These tiny stalls, doled out by the British to curb the rampant roadside marketeering after the population explosion of the mid-20th century, still dot the city, and this one deals in made-to-measure Chinese kung fu shoes. It is located, again, on an old stone staircase, and one suspects the brisker trade these days is in repairing the Manolo Blahniks and Christian Louboutins – battered by the vertiginous streets of Hong Kong – belonging to the neighbourhood’s posh new residents, This is somewhat sad given that this is the last establishment in the city specialising in handmade Chinese shoes.
Hollywood Road, just before Pound Lane and next to bFelix furniture, Sheung Wan

Hip Wo Housewares

Hip Wo HousewaresPhotograph: Alex Daye/MoustacheHip Wo Housewares, another hold-out among the cafes and art galleries of western Hollywood Road, is a fabulously quintessential Hong Kong shop selling a little bit of everything you need but never knew you did. Crates of astonishingly low-priced canvas plimsolls and brightly coloured rain boots spill on to the pavement. Inside, the shopkeeper and his wife behind the counter are dwarfed by glass display cases neatly overflowing with printed pyjamas and underwear left over from the 1970s. The shop’s aisles are stocked with all the necessities of urban Chinese living: big thermoses, rice cookers, soup bowls, woks and the like. A real, honest-to -God “Mom and Pop Shop”.
180A Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, +852 2546 3671

Western Market

Western Market, Hong KongPhotograph: Scott S. Warren/National Geographic Society/CorbisHong Kong’s oldest surviving market building, Western Market, a lone Edwardian fantasy surrounded by the brutalist office buildings the city is more famous for, is home to a handful of cafes, florists and souvenir shops on the ground floor and a giant dim sum palace that doubles as a ballroom on the top. The real draw, though, is the fabulous fabric market on the mezzanine level, filled with deadstock worsted suiting and vintage printed silks, cotton poplin shirting and canvas upholstery fabrics, in addition to Chinese brocades and Thai silk. Though it is pricier, and certainly much smaller, than markets in Sham Shui Po, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, the quality of the selection is, on the whole, much better.
323 Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan, +852 6029 2675, westernmarket.com.hk/eng

Hair Cut Shop

Hair Cut ShopPhotograph: Alex Daye/MoustacheIt’s hard to imagine a less likely place for this tin-shed barber’s shop than in the shadow of the CentreStage tower, home to two of Hong Kong’s trendiest eateries, The Press Room and Classified. And it’s even harder to imagine how the little green kiosk could possibly have survived the construction of its mammoth neighbour. Located at the foot of one of Hong Kong’s surviving ladder streets – crumbling stone stairways leading up to the Mid-Levels, built by the British in pre-escalator days – and filled with delightful old implements of the trade, this one-chair shop is open infrequently and attracts a diminishing crowd of mainly local men as old as the stairs themselves.
Shing Wong Street and Hollywood Road (behind CentreStage, 108 Hollywood Road), Sheung Wan

Siu Woo Trading Co

Siu Woo Trading CompanyPhotograph: Alex Daye/MoustacheThe Siu Woo Trading Company, adjacent to Western Market in Sheung Wan, sells all manner of inexpensive bamboo, rattan and straw housewares: rugs and rubbish bins, placemats and picnic hampers. It’s even got rattan dog carriers – in multiple sizes! Siu Woo also stocks a full range of kitchen utensils, crockery and hardware, all tidily arranged on the small shop’s shelves, though the basketry is the main draw. It was established in 1958, and the elderly assistant still counts out change on an abacus.
94 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, +852 2544 2049

Lee Kung Man Knitting Factory

Lee Kung Man Knitting FactoryPhotograph: Alex Daye/MoustacheFounded in Guangzhou in 1928, the Lee Kung Man Knitting Factory is one of the oldest private clothing companies in China, with four outlets in Hong Kong, selling men’s and women’s underwear with the Cicada brand name. Their no-nonsense cardigans and T-shirts, neatly stacked in glass display cases, are often made from a coarse and bafflingly heavy – given the climate – greige cotton, so their success here is something of a mystery, but will certainly please hipsters from more northerly latitudes. They do, however, have possibly the best logo in all of China and are excellent candidates for a heritage brand revival, once the Chinese market begins to demand one.
111 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan, +852 2543 8579, leekungman.com

Woo Ping Optical Co

Woo Ping Optical CompanyPhotograph: Alex Daye/MoustacheFurther afield in North Point, Woo Ping Optical Company, established in 1974, stocks a wonderfully eclectic mix of stock from the 1960s and 1970s, vintage and new Japanese frames, generally of the big, plastic and nerdy variety, and usually for a song. It is probably the primary reason every other young guy you see on the street here looks like Elvis Costello. Just look for the sign with a giant pair of coke-bottle glasses. The couple who run Woo Ping couldn’t be nicer; though their English might be a bit rusty, do be sure to ask them to see the stock not on display, as there are many hidden treasures. Woo Ping might seem obscure, but they do count plenty of local celebrities among their customers, like the unforgettable happy lady Shum Din-ha, tycoon Li Ka-shing and singer Eason Chan.
278 King’s Road, North Point, +852 2571 7810

Linva Tailor

Founded in 1965, Linva Tailor is Hong Kong’s most famous purveyor of Cheongsams – the high collared, traditional Chinese dresses still worn by Chinese women, alebeit rarely. Located on a busy pedestrian street underneath the Mid-Levels escalator, and headed by 68-year old master tailor Sifu Ching-Wah Leung, Linva is a shrine to this vanishing craft, with old wooden closets stuffed with fine, often flamboyantly patterned silk dresses. The shop window is crammed with finished and almost finished garments encrusted with beads and sequins, embroidered dragons and vibrant coloured cut velvets. When local film star Maggie Cheung needs a new Cheongsam, this is where she comes.
• 38 Cochrane Street, Central, +852 2544 2456

Alex Daye is the co-owner of tailor Moustache and writes the travel blog jadaye.wordpress.com


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