Neighbourhood Guide: Tai Ping Shan, An Old Soul With a Trendy Heart

When the British first landed in Hong Kong in 1841, it was on a craggy point of land they called Possession Point in today’s Sheung Wan district. Just a few decades later, that spot had become Hong Kong’s most densely-packed neighbourhood, a seedy, often squalid slum known as Tai Ping Shan, the Mountain of Peace – an ironic name considering its proliferation of opium dens and illicit gambling halls. In 1894, the area was ground zero for Hong Kong’s worst-ever plague epidemic, which eventually spread around the world, claiming 12.5 million lives.

In order to eradicate the disease, Tai Ping Shan was razed to the ground and rebuilt as an orderly neighbourhood with Hong Kong’s first public park, Blake Garden, named after Hong Kong’s then-governor, Henry Blake, who insisted on creating open space to promote sanitation.

Now, more than a hundred years later, the district finally lives up to its name. After years as a sleepy working-class enclave, it has become a place where trends and traditions meet. Old shops seem fixed in time, while newer art galleries and cool eateries bring diverse cultures together. Overlooking it all is the Medical Museum, which commemorates the history of the traumatic plague. 

You can tell when you are approaching Tai Ping Shan when you begin to smell Chinese incense. Some of Hong Kong’s oldest and most historically significant temples are located in this area, which was the destination for many Chinese migrants who came to Hong Kong from nearby mainland counties in the late 19th century. Some of the first structures to be built were temples, which were—and for many people, still are—centres of community life.

“Unlike SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong, this area is relaxing and lively,” says Maud Paulin, the owner of Brand Emotive, who first set foot in the area 14 years ago. She likes how it has retained many of its older low-rise buildings, and how it has a tight-knit sense of community. “I really enjoy chatting with the old people on benches in the quiet mornings,” she says. “There are a lot more trendy shops nowadays, but you still get a sense of the old neighbourhood. It’s an enclave of diversity and cultures, which is what I love about Tai Ping Shan.”

 

Temples

1/ Kwun Yum Temple

34 Tai Ping Shan Street. Open every day, 7:30-17:30. Tel. +852 2547 1164.

The original Kwun Yum Temple was built at the intersection of Hollywood Road and Pound Lane. Over the years, it grew dilapidated and was torn down for residential development, leaving it split into three separate sections in three different locations although all nearby.

The current Kwun Yum Temple honours the ever-popular Chinese Goddess of Mercy. At its entrance is a choi mun (coi2 mun4 彩門) – a boat-shaped carving that is a portent of luck and wealth. Inside, there is an altar with a statue of Kwun Yum herself.

 

2/ Shui Yuet (Kwun Yum Tong) Temple

7 Tai Ping Shan Street

Opposite, Shui Yuet (Kwun Yum Tong) Temple is dedicated to Kwun Yum in her pre-Goddess state as a bodhisattva with 1,000 hands. Shui (seoi2 水), which means water, and Yuet (jyut6 月), meaning moon, are metaphors for spiritual tranquillity and transcendence from the mundane and materialistic world. The two elements are a reference to the elegant image of Kwun Yum meditating and studying on a lotus blossom. According to legend, Kwun Yum once swore to lead the populace from suffering by prayer and listening to the pleas of victims with a compassionate heart. Believers would pray to Kwun Yum and chant the sacred words whenever they’re in need of help. Today, a pinwheel is set up near the entrance to the temple for spinning for good luck.

 

3/ Tai Shui Temple

9 Tai Ping Shan Street

Tai Shui Temple is dedicated to the 60 heavenly generals—gods of time and age—who are in charge of the vicissitudes and fortunes of the mundane world. They take turn and the cycle repeats after the last one is in charge. As they are the most powerful group of gods in the Taoist category of earth deities, they are most revered by Taoist believers, who, if their birth years clash with the god of a particular zodiac, worship the gods in order to make peace and pray for good fortune that year.

The temple is closed to the public but phone reservations (96260372) can be made for a private worship at $100 per person.

 

4/ Kwong Fook I Tsz or Pak Sing

40 Tai Ping Shan Street. Open every day, 8:00-17:00. Tel. +852 2546 8277.

Down the steps is Kwong Fook I Tsz or Pak Sing, whose names mean “the charitable temple of blessing for a wide area” and “the temple for a hundred surnames.” Constructed in 1856, it pays homage to the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, the King of the Dead, and houses tablets of deceased Chinese migrants. Some died homeless without relatives to arrange a proper funeral and burial and thus were at risk of becoming hungry ghosts whose souls wander the earth. Pak Sing offered them a solution by storing their commemorative tablets which were meant to be eventually collected by relatives who would carry them back to the mainland. Later, coffins containing the dead were stored in the temple, waiting for repatriation.

Today, stepping inside Pak Sing, you can still sense a slightly eerie atmosphere as you gaze up at dozens of incense coils hanging overhead thousands of ancestral tablets inside – tablets that were never reclaimed.

 

Photo by Elisa Rolle via Wikimedia

5/ Man Mo Temple

Hollywood Road at Square Street

Man (man4 ) stands for the God of Literature, while Mo (mou5 ) refers to the God of War. Built in 1847 and now a Grade I historic building since 2009, this temple, the largest of all other Man Mo temples in the city, has been frequented by parents, students and scholars who worship the gods for their children or themselves to succeed in academia. This practice dates back to imperial China when civil service examinations determined candidates’ ranks as they applied to become administrative officials in the state.

Today, you can still watch as incense coils burn as they hang from the ceiling of the main hall. Next door is Lit Shing Kung, a hall created for the worship of all heavenly gods, and to the west is Kung Sor, an assembly hall where community affairs and disputes are discussed and resolved.

 

Historical Buildings

6/ Tung Wah Hospital

12 Po Yan Street. Tel. +852 2859 7500.

In the 19th century, some terminally ill neighbourhood residents who had been turned out of their homes found refuge in nearby temples. These appalling conditions—dead and dying laying together—prompted a public outcry. It led Hong Kong’s then-governor, Richard McDonnell, to finally agree to a longstanding request from a group of Chinese community leaders to raise funds and cede land for a public hospital. Founded in 1872, Tung Wah Hospital provided free Chinese medicine for those who were suspicious of novel Western medicine. The hospital is also known for its relief work during disasters in both Hong Kong and China, as well as its local community services, initiated by re-burying the remains founded during the construction of the hospital buildings in the area. In 1880, the hospital group started its first free school at the Chung Wah College adjacent to Man Mo Temple with the donation income of the temple used to provide free education to the poor. It still occupies a prominent part of the neighbourhood today.

 

Possession Point at the beginning of the 20th century – Photo courtesy Hong Kong Public Library

7/ Possession Point

What is now Possession Street was once a stream that ran from the Peak to Victoria Harbour, which explains the former name of this part of Sheung Wan, Tai Hang Hau (“Big Puddle”). This is where British soldiers landed on Hong Kong Island to stake a claim for the territory in 1841. They named it Possession Point, which is still reflected in the English name of the street. But an alternative history survives: the Chinese name is Shui Hang Hau Street – “Puddle Street.”

 

Photos by Zolima CityMag

8/ Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences

2 Caine Lane, Mid-Levels, Sheung Wan. Open Tuesday to Friday, 9:30-11:30, 12:30-16:00; Saturday 9:30-11:00, 12:30-16:00; Sunday and public holidays, 13:00-17:00; Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve, closed at 15:00; closed on Monday, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and the first three days of the Chinese New Year. Tel. +852 2549 5123.

Tai Ping Shan was the neighbourhood most severely impacted by the bubonic plague in 1894, which led to the establishment of the Bacteriological Institute in Hong Kong in 1906. In June of that year, young Franco-Swiss scientist Alexandre Yersin came to Hong Kong and managed to identified the bacillus that causes the plague; this subsequently laid the groundwork for curing the disease and the development of a vaccine. The bacillus was later named in his honour: Yersinia pestis. The institute was relocated to a new site in 1972. The remaining Edwardian red brick style building, declared an historic monument in 1990, has been housing the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences since 1995. One can find out more about the plague, its impact on the medical history of Hong Kong as well as the exhibits comparing Chinese and Western medical approaches.

 

Photo by Sophie Chalumeau

9/ Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, Bridges Street Centre 

1/F, 51 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan. Tel. +852 2540 0526.

The Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong Central Building was built in 1918 and used as Hong Kong’s Chinese YMCA headquarters until 1966. During the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941, it served as a refugee centre, then as a community education centre during the Japanese occupation, which lasted until the end of the war in 1945. It is currently used as a workshop space for the mentally handicapped and a community centre for youths and families. This six-storey redbrick building is an early example of Chinese Revivalist architecture, which was popular in the 1920s.

 

10/ Liang Yi Museum

181-199 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00-18:00, HK$200 includes a guided tour, by appointment only; Wednesdays are open free of charge to full-time students with prior arrangement. Tel. +852 2806 8280.

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Sheung Wan is a treasure trove of Chinese antiques, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, when antique hunters could easily purchase a mid-Qing kang table made of the finest huanghuali (fragrant rosewood) or zitan (red sandalwood), or a Ming Dynasty official’s chair along Hollywood Road. The Liang Yi Museum taps into this heritage as one of the world’s largest private museums of design, craftsmanship and heritage, with a collection of almost 400 pieces of Chinese antique furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Apart from the Chinese collection, the museum is also home to a premier collection of nearly 700 pieces of bejewelled clutches, compacts, powder boxes and many more necessaires and minaudieres crafted in the finest European design houses such as Cartier, Boucheron and Van Cleef & Arpels from the late 1880s through to the 1960s, making it a comprehensive and extensive museum which exhibits have been lent out to the Palace Museum in Beijing and Goldsmiths Hall in London. Its exhibitions are rotated every six months.

2019 will also see the museum unveil its recent Japanese acquisitions with two exhibitions devoted to comparative studies primarily between the Chinese and Japanese traditions of decorative art.

 

11/ Hong Kong News-Expo

2 Bridges Street, Tai Ping Shan, Sheung Wan. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00-19:00. Tel. +852 2205 2233.

This educational space dedicated to the local news media is located in the former Bridges Street Market, a heritage building that was among the first batch of public markets established after the end of World War II. Opened in 1953, it sits partly on the former site of the American Congregational Mission Preaching Hall where Sun Yat-sen was baptised in the 1880s. The Bauhaus-style market was a surviving historical testimony to the mid-20th-century architectural design of functionality: an asymmetrical front arcade and horizontal windows with concrete sunshades around the building to enable natural lighting inside the market without having excessive exposure to the sunlight.

In 2013, the Journalism Education Foundation Hong Kong Limited was granted the right to revitalise the property into an education facility with news as the main theme. Opened in December 2018, it chronicles the evolution of the local news media as well as the transforming political, economic and social landscape documented in contemporary news reports.

 

Art Galleries

12/ Blue Lotus Gallery

28 Pound Lane, Sheung Wan. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 11:00-19:00. Tel. + 852 9019 8640.

Founded in 2007 and recently relocated from Chai Wan, the gallery offers a broad selection of books, limited edition and vintage prints on old and new Hong Kong by both emerging and established photographers and artists, including the late award-winning German photographer Michael Wolf who captured impressive large format images of dense architectural landscapes in metropolises like Hong Kong. It also represented the late Fan Ho, a celebrated Chinese photographer, director and actor, and is the sole agent of prolific Hong Kong-based film director Wing Shya.

 

13/ The Gallery by SOIL

G/F, 52, Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 12:00-19:00; and Monday and Tuesday, by appointment. Tel. +852 2975 4410.

SOIL started off in 2012 as a pop-up shop dedicated to traditional crafts. Now it has set up its own gallery dedicated to lacquered art from across Asia. Along with exhibitions, SOIL offers workshops on various kinds of traditional art, including embroidery, bamboo mat weaving, restoration and repair workshops, as well as appreciation seminars.

 

14/ Asia Art Archive

11/F Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan. Open Monday-Saturday, 10:00-18:00. Tel. +852 2844 1112.

Working behind this free library of exhibition catalogues, reference books, periodicals, monographs and rare ephemeral materials is a team led by Claire Hsu, who founded the Asia Art Archive with gallerist Johnson Chang in 2000. Its mission is to document the recent histories of art in Asia. Notable areas of the collection include sites where art history has been written, the parallels of traditional and contemporary expressions, the imbalanced representation of women, gaps in art history as well as performance art.

Apart from making the vast range of resources accessible online and through the library to the public, the non-profit organisation also holds talks, workshops, conferences and symposia to foster dialogues about art in the community.

 

15/ Soluna Fine Art

G/F, 52 Sai Street, Sheung Wan. Open Monday to Saturday, 10:00-18:00. Tel. +852 2955 5166.

This gallery serves as a bridge between the South Korean art scene and Hong Kong, with shows by artists like Park Yoon-Kyung, who reconsiders conventional concepts of space as the artist literally paints out of the box (or in this case, frame). Upstairs is a parlour that curates a collection of highly-crafted homeware such as vases with delicate patterns and teapots in uniquely sculpted shapes. “Our gallery is not only about fine art,” says Cusson Cheng, who works at Soluna. “Art is very much tied to our daily lives and enhances our quality of life.”

 

16/ Vhils mural on Sai Street

36 Sai Street, Sheung Wan.

A historic prewar building is the site of a mural by Hong Kong-based Portuguese graffiti artist Vhils, who chipped away at the façade to create a distinctive work of art – the face of Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara looking at the sky.

 

Café Life

17/ Teakha

Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan. Open Monday, Wednesday-Friday, 9:00-18:00; and Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, 8:30-19:00. Tel. +852 2858 9185.

You won’t find any coffee at this adorable zakka tea shop. Specialising in tea beverages, the signature drink here is the masala chai, a spiced, tummy-warming beverage that Teakha’s owner, food writer Nana Chan, spent years perfecting. Freshly baked pastries like pineapple honeycomb scones or inventive treats such as keemun red date cheesecakes are ideal accompaniments to a mid-day tea break. “I decided to open Teakha in Tai Ping Shan Street because of its laid-back, relaxed neighbourhood vibe,” says Chan. “It’s funny because this neighbourhood feels so un-Hong Kong, and yet so uniquely Hong Kong at the same time.”

 

18/ Yuan Yuan Tang Teahouse

4 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan. Open Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 11:00-19:00; Thursday, 11:00-18:00; and Saturday and Sunday, 11:00-20:00. Tel: +852 2525 7168.

Step into Yuan Yuan Tang and the fragrance of tea will wash over you. Look around and it seems almost like a Chinese ink landscape painting, thanks to wooden arm chairs and beautifully arranged plants and pottery. Visitors can enjoy quality pu’er, silver needle and various seasonal types of tea imported from Taiwan, Yunnan and Japan. Tailored tea appreciation workshops for tea fanatics with different interests and levels of expertise are available through advanced bookings.

 

19/ Halfway Coffee

G/F, 12 Tung Street, Sheung Wan. Open every day, 8:00-19:00. Tel. +852 9511 7197.

Halfway down the narrow lane is this cosy café serving a classic selection of coffee and tea and special blends such as the longan honey latte. What is extraordinary about the place is the hundred plus vintage Hong Kong porcelain cups and takeaway paper cups printed with the elaborate “immortality” (maan6 sau6 mou4 goeng1 萬壽無殭) Chinese characters and patterns typically found on porcelain cups and bowls used in teahouses in the 1970s and 80s.

Owner Tommy Chui explains that the cups, mostly collected from a Jordan hawker stall owned by a woman who had passed away, is meant to transport customers back in time. To add to the vibe, he has also mounted photos of old Hong Kong, vintage posters and historic maps on the walls. There’s also an anthology of old Hong Kong toys published by his neighbour Ah Fai, a famed local toy collector.

To Chui, “halfway” refers to the confluence point where East (Chinese porcelain cups) meets West (coffee and tea), as well as the moment when passers-by stop by midway through their journeys for a cuppa.

 

Eateries

20/ Tate Dining Room and Bar

210 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan. Open Monday-Saturday, 7:00-23:00. Tel. +852 2555 2172.

When it comes to the dining experience, Vicky Lau, chef and owner of this avant-garde Chinese-French restaurant, believes that food is more than about taste. She finds inspiration in fine art and natural scenery to come up with beautifully presented dishes that surprise both taste buds and visual senses. 

In Lau’s previous project, Edible Stories, she challenged diners’ pre-conditioned perceptions and understanding of food through delicious art inspired by surrealism. She continues to takes diners on gustatory adventures. Her latest signature dessert, “Ode to Red Fruit”, captures the sublime image of red fruits and autumn leaves, as well as the season’s exquisite flavours sourced from imaginative ingredient combinations: sour plum and hawthorn soup accompanied with crispy yogurt meringue, osmanthus white chocolate mousse and ginger sable.

 

21/ For Kee Restaurant

200 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan. Open Monday-Friday, 7:00-16:30; Saturday 7:00-15:30. Tel. +852 2546 8947.

For something a little more casual and old-style Hong Kong, this low-key cha chaan teng around the corner from Pound Lane still retains the working-class atmosphere it has had for more than 50 years. Stools, plastic cups, boxes and cans of evaporated milk are stacked up in the corners, while big menus decorate the walls and the windows. Milk tea, yuenyeung (half tea, half coffee) and the signature pork chop are what to order.

 

22/ Frantzén’s Kitchen

11 Upper Station Street, Sheung Wan. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 17:45pm-late, and Saturday, 12:00-14:00. Tel. +852 2559 8508.

Nordic dishes with an Asian twist are the focus here, such as “Swedish sushi,” made with crispy lichens, roe deer, cep mayonnaise and frozen bird’s liver, and the grilled Swedish beef tenderloin, which is topped with smoked shiitake, sauce Périgueux, chanterelle aioli, enoki and dried wood garlic. The setting is casual and relaxed, with a mix of tables and counter seating. Jim Löfdahl designed the menu with three-Michelin-star chef Björn Frantzén, whose passion for innovative and quality cooking was ignited by the memory of being served a perfect steak with French fries and béarnaise sauce. Frantzén carries this enthusiasm to the restaurant’s dishware, which he designed himself.

 

23/ Blue Supreme

G/F, 21 Tung Street, Sheung Wan. Open Tuesday-Friday, 15:00-23:00; and Saturday-Sunday, 11:30-23:00. Tel. +852 5988 3088.

For those looking for a relaxed way of winding down the day, this modern American fine dining restaurant and bar is a reliable stop for an after work drink. Long sharing tables open onto the street, while the restaurant’s bar offers a fine selection of craft beers ranging from lambic, wild sours and farmhouse ales from Belgium, to hop-forward local IPAs. A rotating menu focuses on new American cuisine that goes well beyond stereotypical dishes like hamburgers and hot dogs. 

 

24/ Lo Yau Kee (老友記)

17 Wa In Fong East, Central, Soho. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30-20:00. Tel. +852 9029 3943.

With a name that means “old friends,” this street stall was founded by Gigi Lau, whose mission is to serve classic Hong Kong street food in a district where that is increasingly hard to come by. “Back in my good old school days, I grew up enjoying snacks like pork skin with radishes, old tangerine peel-spiced fishballs, siu mai, vermicelli chicken soup and steamed vermicelli rolls,” she says. The place is also a mini-museum of old Hong Kong homeware and trinkets such as plastic water jugs and the last existing piece of name card of Wing Cheong Sing Piece Goods, a fabric shop set up in 1962 which used to sell the moutan peony-patterned fabric typically used to make bed sheets among local families before the turn of the century.

 

25/ Dandy’s Organic Café

32 Upper Lascar Row, Sheung Wan. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30-22:00. Tel. +852 2838 6166.

This 30-seater café offers dishes that are free of gluten, hormones and GMOs. Founder and chef Vivi Cheung isn’t just catering to vegans – she aims to satisfy anyone looking for a low-fat, low-GI or nut-free meal, inspired by her own experience of living with irritable bowel syndrome. Having studied nutrition at university, Cheung has always been enthusiastic about high-quality ingredients and healthy eating. She uses unprocessed produce from farms in Australia, Greece and New Zealand, turning it into vegan dishes, superfood powders, fresh salads and body care products.

 

Secret Shopping

26/ Three Suns Grocery Store 三陽百貨

19 Tai Ping Shan Street. Tel. +852 2548 9146.

As Hong Kong was being roiled by the 1967 riots, 16-year-old Yuen Kai-tai began selling sundries from the ground floor of an old tenement building. He is still at it more than half a century later, with vintage products like straight-edge razors, Asiatic apple powder (a makeup foundation popular in the 50s), Liushen and Butterfly Plus Florida Water (vintage brands of perfume), hair cream, tools for facial epilation (a traditional skill) and over a hundred types of other products. Much of what Yuen sells is unknown to younger generations, which makes his grocery store a kind of living museum.

 

Photo by Zolima CityMag

27/ Shou Shan Stone Collection Centre 

Shop B, Kee On Building, 200 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan.

This gem store sells handmade ceramic pottery made in Jingdezhen, a town in northeast Jiangxi known as the porcelain capital of the world. Jingdezhen is also an art district that is home to thousands of artists and designers from all over the world, producing ceramic works of different styles and shapes. “The artists whose works we carry have studied ceramics for years,” says shop owner Chan Tsz-ho. “Some of them focus on blue and white porcelain, some focus on wood firing ceramics, some focus on porcelain painting, some focus on porcelain sculpture. They all have styles that are incredibly distinct.”

The items here are special for their vibrant colours, earthy textures and contemporary Chinese aesthetics. Some of the most intriguing pieces are by Ba Lin, a Harbin-born, professional ceramic artist who co-owns the shop with Chan. Lin, who now splits her time between Jingdezhen and Beijing, creates gorgeous blue and white porcelain tea sets with delicate motifs of feathers and clean, angular forms that make them appear both modern and ancient at the same time.

 

Photo by Michele Koh Morollo for Zolima CityMag28/ 2 Magpies

22-24A Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan. Tel. +852 6628 3003.

Architect and interior designer Judith Li is passionate about well-crafted fashion that isn’t mass manufactured and sold off the rack at department stores. She is a big fan of unusual women and children’s Japanese apparel brands like Si-ho Sup and Wafflish Waffles. “The cutting of Si-ho Sup clothes is very good, each item is constructed to fit and compliment a woman’s figure beautifully,” she says. “The designer for Wafflish Waffles uses her very own illustrated fabrics and hand sews interesting lace, beads and trimmings onto her creations, so each piece is truly unique.”

At her store, you can also order a personalised Kyko the Dog in Disguise crochet doll. “Kyko is supposed to be a pregnant dog disguised as a human,” she says. “These dolls are handmade by Tokyo-based doll maker and crochet artist Eva Matszushita.” Give Li a photo of yourself in your favourite outfit and she will send the photo to Matszushita, who will make a Kyko doll wearing a similar outfit to the one you have on in the photo. Other unusual items at 2 Magpies include custom made leather baby shoes by Tokyo designer Aiko Nagai, that allow you to have your infant’s name, date of birth or a special message embroidered on the insole.

 

29/ Mount Zero

Shop C, 6 Tai Ping Shan, Sheung Wan. Open Monday-Sunday, 10:00-18:00. Tel. +852 9838 3735.

As the number of bookshops continues to dwindle, Sharon Chan has created her own oasis of literature. Mount Zero’s name is derived from a metaphor in the Buddhist classics: “When looking at a mountain after experiencing much in life, one will be able to return to his or her original perception that a mountain is after all a mountain” (見山還是山). The shop’s collection consists largely of literature related to film and the arts, and its homey two-storey space is stocked with wooden chairs and window seats where readers can enjoy a beverage while unwinding with a good read.

 

Tai Ping shan

Photo courtesy In Between

30/ InBetween

Shop B, 6 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan. Open Monday-Sunday, 12:00-19:00. Tel. +852 9751 3644.

If you’re gift hunting, but have no idea what you ought to get, InBetween will certainly rouse your imagination. This eclectic curios shop offers trinkets and rare treasures from the US and UK collected by graphic designer and avid traveller Ken Wong. His discoveries include rare designer briefcases, old movie posters, vintage Fire King mugs, ornamental glass jewellery from local designers and many more surprising items. You can find anything from postcards at HK$15 each to a HK$24,000 Louis Vuitton watch here. 

“This wine bottle is so rare and beautiful that we can’t bear to part with it,” says shop manager Desman Tang, cradling a life-like owl wine bottle. “And so we invited an illustrator to paint images of it and created a collection of postcards just so we can keep it in our shop. Like all items, it’ll very likely be gone the next second.” Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a nice little treasure trove to explore.

 

31/ Yuan Heng Spice Company

19 Tung Street, Sheung Wan. Open Monday-Saturday, 9:00-18:00. Tel. +852 2542 0275.

This is one of the oldest spice companies in Hong Kong and its strong aroma is not only an olfactory adventure, it’s a journey back in time. Founded in 1912, Yuan Heng has been providing an eclectic assortment of Western, Chinese and Southeast Asian spices and colouring ingredients for both households and restaurant kitchen. You’ll find red Sichuan peppercorns, dried tangerine peels, star anise, cloves, curry powder and more. The spices are still preserved and packed the traditional way, in jars labelled with red sheets marked by Chinese writing brushes, along with huge hemp bags stacked together for display. And when you pay, the clerk will calculate what you owe on a well-worn abacus.

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Tai Ping Shan Neighbourhood guide – 2nd edition

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