Jan 10, 2008|
Of course you know your Central Police Station from your Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower. But inside our concrete jungle you’ll find many more historical gems, most off the beaten track and each with its own old-time character. Unfortunately, our current legislation makes it impossible to protect every building we hope to preserve and these guys may get knocked down fast. Here are the ones you don’t want to miss.
1081 Canton Rd., Mongkok, 2392-7825
This old-style cha chang teng is one of the last ones left. Immortalized in myriad local films, including Johnnie To’s “PTU,” China Café is a traditional Hong Kong diner – wooden tables, blue tiles, bakery out front and a wooden staircase winding up to the second floor. Go see for yourself.
113 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, 2543-1670
A 77-year-old teashop with everything from the colorful tiles and golden billboard to the wooden door and window frames still intact. Even better, the fourth-generation owner of this family business, Mr Lee, says he has no intention of refurbishing the place.
38D Kweilin St., Sham Shui Po, 2386-6097
Leung Choi-shun, a famous 102-year-old bone-setting establishment, has been on the same lot for more than 40 years. Today, the decor remains the same – dim lighting, benches on the two sides for patients, old-style bottles of bone-setting ointment lining the walls and the bone-setter Mr Leung at the center of it all.
55 Ship St., Wan Chai
You may know this as the most haunted spot in Hong Kong. But 200-square-meter Nam Koo Terrace is also one of the more hidden classical Chinese mansions. It was built 90 years ago but subsequently abandoned. Tycoon Gordon Wu’s Hopewell Holdings has held ownership since 1988 but has yet to do anything about it.
Ghoulies-wise, the rumor goes that the Japanese army used the mansion as quarters for “comfort women.” Ghostly proof was had several years ago, when a young girl came out of the house, supposedly possessed, and attacked the police officers who came by. We’re not telling you how to get in as it’s illegal, but just follow the signs.
15 Wan Tau Kok Lane, Tai Po.
Still standing strong after 100 years, this classical European building in Tai Po was the earliest office of civil administration of the then newly leased New Territories. Now it’s an office for the Scout Association, as well as a hush-hush hotspot among amateur photographers.
24 Nga Tsin Long Rd., Kowloon City
One of the few existing old-style Chinese pharmacies, Tai To Tong is located in a pre-war building, an archetype of the style. It has been in business for 60 years and everything is as it was - the dark-wood herb drawers, the mirrored billboards, calligraphic prescription and Chinese abacus.
50 Mount Parker Rd., Quarry Bay
This colonial building was built in 1904 as staff quarters for the Swire Group; it became government facilities in 1976. Luckily, Housing Authority plans to redevelop the building in 1998 were halted when the Conservancy Association requested a Grade II rating for the place. It’s now an office for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, and throughout all this, its wooden interior has remained intact.
22 Ha Wo Che, Sha Tin, 2691-1594
This former hotel is now a restaurant famed for its pigeons, serving the deep-fried little buggers for about 50 years now. Director Pang Ho-cheung used the 40-year-old décor as a backdrop for the hysterical closing scene of his debut film, “You Shoot, I Shoot.” Needless to say, live pigeons were involved.
460 Shau Kei Wan Rd., Shau Kei Wan
Ever since St. Mark’s school moved to a new campus in 2001, the 48-year-old compound has lived a slightly more ignoble life as an unauthorized war games practice facility, graffiti canvas, and occasional backdrop for fashion shoots. Why the government hasn’t torn it down despite district councillors’ outcries remains a mystery. But check it out while you can – and bring your paintgun.
30-31 San Chun St., Tai Hang
Sandwiched between two big buildings in Tai Hang are two 100-year-old houses (still occupied!) that look like they’ve been frozen in time. Check out the clay tile roof and wooden pillars and doors. And no, the address is not 31 and a half San Chun Street...
4 Second Lane, Tai Hang / 28 Tai Hang Rd., Tai Hang
Grade: None for both
You don’t need to go to Shanghai to get a taste of the old school “Lust, Caution” vibe. We found at least two buildings in Tai Hang with Art Deco features similar to the apartments on beautiful display in Ang Lee’s film. Check out the dark-wood window frames and wall carvings on the three-storey Second Lane building.
137 Yee Kuk St., Sham Shui Po
This methadone clinic in Sham Shui Po is another great example of Art Deco built in 1937 with the help of tycoon Wong Yiu-tung.
45 Heung Yip Rd., Aberdeen
This depot used to belong to the now-defunct China Motor Bus Company, and still serves New World First Buses today. Though it’s all about practicality, the building has a wicked design and unusual pale blue color scheme. With property developers already eyeing the spot for redevelopment along with the coming MTR South Island Line, better get an eyeful while you can.
San Lau St., Sha Tau Kok
Because Sha Tau Kok is in the closed border zone, it barely has any economic development. This has had the fortunate side effect of preserving the 22 blocks on San Lau Street in the same early 20th century style. Built in 1923, these buildings are similar to the Grade-I buildings on Shanghai Street in Mongkok. The only difference is the ones here have somehow eluded classification in the historical register.