Causeway Bay surprise

6 11 2012

This weekend I made a thrilling discovery – a whole new neighbourhood tucked away at the back of Causeway Bay. Five minutes walk from the gleaming stores and incessant crowds of the Lee Gardens Centre sits another, much older slice of Hong Kong life. Here a lazy torpor falls over dead-end streets and laundry flutters on poles in dingy arcades. It is an enclave ignored by the rest of the city but with a that rarest of commodities on Hong Kong island – character.

  

Hidden away from rushing passers-by, this different Causeway Bay lurks, one I had never suspected. It is a neighbourhood of old tailor shops cooled by whirling fans, chipped tiles and rat-infested alleyways. But then, when you least expect it, there are signs of stealth gentrification. There are hip, charming stores in locations that seem designed to confound any customers, and great places to eat. It all adds up to a real sense of discovery.

Visiting for the first time, I felt like I had just stumbled on to the city’s best-kept secret.

The small but perfectly formed stretch centres around an inconspicuous, dead-end cul de sac called Haven Street, which comes to an end with an amusing mural of a country road. Although at first sight it seems like a sleepy little backwater, tucked out of the way from the nearby retail frenzy, closer inspection reveals a wealth of interesting little bars and restaurants, with arcades snaking off into nearby buildings.

I stopped by a hot dog shop here (Wonderdog) to try the Kimchi variation of its signature dish. It blew my mind. This was possible the best hotdog I have ever had – worth a taxi-ride across town on its own.

Inside the shabby, dim arcades there were grafittied walls and clusters of brightly-scarved Indonesian women sitting on the floors. But there was also a bizarre cluster of upscale tailors, a tattoo and art gallery, and an amazing shop called Bunkaya Zakkaten. Like something out of Tokyo’s Koenji or Kichijioji districts, it sells kitschy-cute Japanese pop culture detritus – erasers emblazoned with 80s Pop stars, cutesy purses and sunglasses, fold-up stools in the shape of animals and vintage clothes and shoes.

Around the corner was an even more un-Hong Kong shop, InBetween, which sells colourful socks, camera-straps and cute little pieces of jewellery. I loved it.

Then before you know it, you have emerged next to a dusty-looking mens hairstylists, a bakery that has barely changed since the 1960s or an old-skool fruit shop, onto the busy trffic and heaving crowds of Leighton Road – back into the “other” Causeway Bay again.

For more on this fascinating area, read this aritcle from the Wanderlister HK design blog The author, who refers to the area as Caroline Hill, shares my enthusiasm for its character and visited most of the stores listed above, even taking many of the same pictures!

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17 11 2012
Causeway Bay coral reef « ilbonito blog 2007

[…] Amazing window of an aquarium shop in my new favourite neighbourhood […]

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