The blue people of Kwun Tong

21 05 2017

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Kwun Tong represents a bygone era for Hong Kong. Its a big, unpretty industrial and business centre in the Eastern part of Kowloon, and in many ways feels like a city apart from the rest of the city, a city in itself (or on the mainland).

It was here that Hong Kong’s last porno theatre operated, here that Communist sympathisers blew up a cinema in the 1970s and here that gunmen hit a street of gold stores in the 1980s in broad daylight. It is hard to imagine any of these things happening in Hong Kong now.

The streets of Kwun Tong are crowded and pressed, squeezed claustrophobically by ten-storey concrete industrial buildings. It is gritty and grimy and people push and shove. There are flyers and posters everywhere for cheap-looking restaurants and whenever I go there, it always seems to be hot.

But like Wong Chuk Hang (and Chai wan) it is this very industrial heritage which makes Kwun Tong an attractive place for local hipsters to set up slightly left-of-centre businesses in big and relatively cheap lofts. It is home to urban bee farms, roof-top farms and (until recently at least) underground rock clubs. I paid a visit over the weekend to see what else was brewing.

My first few destinations were a bit of a bust – the vegetarian restaurant I had been recommended turned out to be a tasty food stall in a mall. It was nice, but not worth crossing town for. The independent bookstore I had caught wind of, Bleakhouse Books, turned out to be open by appointment only. But I hit the jackpot with my third destination, the How cafe (below) as well as these pieces of street art in the area’s otherwise grim alleyways, before heading to the quiet ferry terminal with its lapping waves and peeling paint, to wait a full hour before the next ferry came to take me back to the island.

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A night on Le Than Thon

21 05 2017

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An article titled A nocturnal crawl through Saigon’s Japanese ghetto on the fun district of Le Thanh Ton, previously reported on the blog here.





Localized

7 05 2017

Saturday was pleasant for what I did, and remarkable for what I did not do. I saw a great art exhibition. I ate vegetarian Japanese food in a hipsterish cafe. I lounged at home, cleaned up a bit, bought a plant at a lush arcade-like little plant shop tucked into an alleyway. Got a foot massage, ate seafood pizza and swam in the clear water of the local swimming pool under the bright moon.

And I didn’t leave my neighbourhood. I was in Wong Chuk Hang all day. After three years in the neighbourhood something has well and truly clicked in the last few weeks. I have started to feel that this is my little village.

Wong Chuk Hang is certainly not the most immediate of neighbourhoods, not an outward charmer. To most other Hong Kongers – even on the island – its a single, traffic fume-choked road lined with grimy industrial buildings. For some time this is how I saw it too.

But there is so much more to WCH than meets the eye, as I have grown to appreciate. Listing its merits mentally over dinner, after my fulfilling day in the area, I was a bit stunned.

  • A secret waterfall
  • Ancient rock art
  • Beautiful hikes
  • A profusion of art galleries hidden in old industrial blocks
  • Cafes like 3 3rds
  • The Jumbo floating restaurant
  • My busy local shrine, heaped with offerings and lit with candles at night, flanked by a long-time-present local herbalist
  • A village, with Hong Kong’s oldest house and even a few farms
  • A theme park
  • A sports ground
  • The best swimming pool in Hong Kong (with a view of the Jumbo restaurant)
  • Street art murals (see above)
  • Access to a beautiful beach at Deep Water Bay
  • A canal, along which I walk to work every day, nodding good morning to the local heron
  • A cooked food hawker centre
  • The beautifully lit tower which streams LED lights at night
  • Wild boars
  • A glamorous high fashion outpost (in the Lane Crawford headquarters)
  • Until recently, but sadly no more, a super-cool club.

Impressed, I resolved to spend more time in the ‘hood.





Sunday afternoon on Sau Wa Fong

7 05 2017

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One of Hong Kong’s quiet corners.

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Dark side, and the living is easy: Prince Edward

3 04 2017

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After the revelation of Mum’s Not Here, last week, we decided to head back to Kowloon this weekend for some more hipster-hunting, at “Feed your Nerves” near Prince Edward Station, where locals lunched with their adorable shiba inu and artwork was exhibited in the upstairs shop/gallery space, at White Noise records tucked inside a tenement building on Shanghai street and finally shopping for oolong ice cream and succulents at the flower market.

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Wong Chuk Hang walls

3 04 2017

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Two days in Sham Shui Po

6 03 2017

 

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I spent the weekend in Sham Shui Po, eating delicious bread at the Xinjiang Muslim restaurant and shopping for toys and vinyl at Paul’s Records.
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Along the way I stumbled upon a local recreation of the Sistine Chapel, worshippers making offerings of fatty pork to the White Tiger Spirit at a local shrine, a pawn store, herbalists selling dried snakes and turtles, a woman sitting on the subway with acupuncture needles stuck in her head, street vendors selling floppy discs and 80s porn outside the Dragon Centre and a bizarre rundown mall in neighbouring Mongkok selling only coins and stamps.

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But the highlight was undoubtedly the musty and cramped Paul’s Records, where local icon and former street market seller Paul presides over his precious stash of “musical orphans.” We spent an hour or two in the cramped one-room store listening to Paul’s thoughts on Wong Kar Wai and Hong Kong’s historic resistance to Latin music, his memories of a Jackson 5 cover band being killed in the Vietnam War and his complaints about mainland money inflating the value of Teresa Teng records. Amazing stuff.