A North Point walk

27 02 2012

North Point is the bustling residential neighborhood between Fortress Hill and Quarry Bay. It fills a narrow strip of land between the hillside and the sea just a few blocks wide. The neighbourhood follows Kings Road, with its trams and crowds, and also takes in a ferry terminal, a few local shopping centres and some interesting little sidestreets with crowded footpath markets. Its one of the few areas of Hong Kong Island that has not yet been gentrified. Although annoyingly crowded at times, it still has a gritty “for-the-people” vibe quite unlike the rarified (and boring) streets of Central.

It also has a few little spots of particular interest.

The walk from Quarry Bay to Causeway bay (the way I usually walk) hits North Point right outside at the blue and white art deco Hong Kong Funeral Home. This building – one of the most elegant  in Hong Kong, in my opinion – stands amid its  clutch of  florists specialising in white lily wreathes.


Soon after appears the Sunbeam theatre, not far from the ferry stop. This is the last place on Hong Kong island to see Cantonese traditional opera. Its 70s style  globe-lamp-lit foyer is always crowded with pensioners on their way to the matinee, huge garlands of flowers and garish cardboard cutouts of the actors on show. The theatre hit the headlines this week with its impending closure – the Opera company could no longer pay the rent and it seemed as if the landmark was destined to close. Hong Kong was going to lose another little bit of its soul, which has so steadily been chipped away bit by bit. But on the very day it was supposed to close, in a cinematic last minute gasp a donor came through with the cash. The future of the theatre, though shaky, was granted a reprieve.


Further along down Kings Road on the corner is this bizarre hulk of a building – a former theatre or market perhaps? What is the purpose of the concrete spans over its roof? I had been past in a tram a few times and tried to figure out what it was, to no avail. This time I ventured in on foot. The outside of the building, complete with eroded grimy frieze over the door, was covered in bamboo scaffolding. Inside a rabbits warren of dim corridors revealed shuttered shops and then odd businesses – a brothel and an elderly persons’ home. Is the building being demolished? And what was it?

After this puzzle I was stopped in my tracks by a discovery even more exciting. In a little sidestreet near Fortress Hill subway station, underneath a dingy freeway flyover is a branch of one of my favourite old Tokyo shops. I had no idea “Village Vanguard” had a branch in Hong Kong! Yet venturing down the stairs I found a large store full of the cute novelty items, funky books and homewares that make the store so popular in Kichijioji, Shimokitazawa and Jiyugaoka. I walked out with a faux-snow leopard rug, a VIP members card and this hilariously awful coin wallet:


I will be back soon (and often!).



6 responses

29 02 2012

That unknown building is the former State Theatre. Check out this blog post:

2 03 2012

Felt like a virtual flâneur reading this post. It’s cool that you discovered a Village Vangard in HK, I used to love going to the one in Machida.
Oh and nice leopard 🙂

3 03 2012

I know, right? Daisuke didn’t approve 😉
Thanks Emilie, mystery solved!

25 03 2012
Trip to Village Vanguard « ilbonito blog 2007

[…] stop at my new favourite Hong Kong store with Daisuke and […]

25 08 2012
Lobby of the Cantonese Opera « ilbonito blog 2007

[…] of recently-saved (just!) Sunbeam Theatre in North Point. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

10 09 2014
Hong Kong’s 25 most underrated sights | ilbonito blog 2007

[…] deco elegance at the Quarry Bay Funeral Home, often surrounded by vendors of white lilies and paper effigies for the dead. White cloaked […]

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