Happy Valley, tucked away from the MTR and cut off by the vast swathe of the main Hong Kong racecourse, is an insular, upscale and rather self-satisfied little neighbourhood, rarely visited by those who don’t live there. Before today, I had only been there once or twice. But after coming down the mountain from yesterday’s Aberdeen to Causeway Bay hike I had passed through, and decided to go back and take a look around. It was a grey and gloomy day, but the area, it turned out, had a few places of interest.
It was, for example, home to Hong Kong’s first ever 7-11 which opened here in April 3, 1981. Perhaps it was this one? Despite some internet sleuthing I could not find the exact location. I did find this however – a “cafe” tucked away on a second floor away from prying eyes which I strongly suspect to be an undercover gay bar…I’ll have to go back another time to find out.
But an even greater find was a store I saw advertised on the mains street on a banner: “Chameleon Happy Palace.” The store – complete with colour changing electric signs – sells exactly what you would expect: chameleons. Starting at about 2000 HKD, they range up to 20,000 for a “Parsons Yellow Giant” speciment, complete with little Triceratops horns, zapping tongues (I saw one in action) and swivelling eyes.I was pretty tempted to pick one up (I have always had a soft spot for the creatures) but had hesitations on two fronts: one, my boyfriend who hates reptiles had said he would never come to my place again. And two – many of the species here come from Madagascar which has banned their export, so I would need some reassurance that they had been ethically sourced.
In addition to the chameleons there were iguanas (like the one pictured) and some much bigger, a full-size water monitor lizard and a clump of what looked like juvenile Aldabra tortoises in a heatlamp-lit pen.
Just a few blocks up from here (Happy Valley is compact after all) I found the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Temple, a Buddhist complex built in 1935 in “Chinese Renaissance style” (see below) with a Buddhist primary school attached.
Finally, I stopped into the Sheung Hing coffee house. Here since 1951 but recently renovated, the coffee house thankfully retains the features of a postwar cha cha teng – tiled walls and booths, ceiling fans, a menu of butter pineapple buns and yuangyang (milk tea mixed with coffee) and a sign saying “No Spitting.”