Hong Kong Asia's World City

Central & Western

Central and Western

The Hong Kong appeal

“It’s got so many places to explore, it’s really artistic. We’ve got many cafés and they’re all full, but the cha chaan tengs are also just as full,” says Desman Tang of InBetween.

Central and Western is a show-stopper of a district: from its sky-scraping financial monoliths to the bright lights of its luxury stores, to its streets crammed with teeny trams and streams of shoppers, you’ll be a little giddy from all the motion and commotion. Yet there is much more to the beating heart of Hong Kong Island than this: to understand the city’s East-meets-West character—to feel its charm—you have to dart down every cobbled backstreet into its little pockets of history.

The well-trodden Hollywood Road connects a large portion of the district, from east to west. The British landed at its western end in 1841 and promptly named it Possession Point. Today land reclamation means the spot is far from the harbor, but it is marked still on the corner of Hollywood Road and Possession Street by Hollywood Road Park, a peaceful Chinese-styled enclave that’s dotted with turtle-filled ponds, pagodas and walkways. The British were the precursors to a wave of Chinese immigrants, who spilled up into nearby Tai Ping Shan—meaning “Peaceful Hill” in Chinese. Some of the old tightly packed tenement buildings that lined the slope’s narrow and uneven streets can be seen today, although gentrification of the area is well and truly underway.

Interviewee Desmond

In among the old car workshops and rickety cha chaan tengs (tea restaurants), independent boutiques, galleries and cafés are quickly moving in and rebranding the area. Tai Ping Commons is the trendy name the locals give to include the community around Tai Ping Shan Street and Po Hing Fong (PoHo). Despite attracting an adventurous crowd of designers, a slow pace of life still exists in this peaceful neighborhood. For Desman Tang, who runs quirky vintage shop InBetween, there’s an artistic buzz about the neighborhood now: “This area is a space that not many people know about in Hong Kong, with many unique and small shops,” he said. “It’s got so many places to explore, it’s really artistic. We’ve got many cafés and they’re all full, but the cha chaan tengs are also just as full. The area just keeps changing—there are so many shops and restaurants opening. That’s why this place is so unique—not everything is the same.” Mr. Tang loves the friendly spirit that pervades the streets: “It’s really relaxing for customers who can spend the day around here. When people come to shop, they like to treasure hunt, they like to find things. The area is about the people. It doesn’t really feel like Hong Kong: there’s this slow pace of life and it’s quiet here.”

Liang Yi Museum

Liang Yi Museum is one of the neighborhood’s new artistic imports and blends Eastern and Western art into its concept. The private four-story museum showcases some of the best antiques from the Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as an outstanding collection of accessories from international design powerhouses such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Moving eastwards along Hollywood Road, the blend of Western and Eastern influences continues as you enter the restaurant district. Representing the city’s large French community is the bijou bistro La Cabane: the all-wooden joint is a converted tong lau and former rice factory. Now it specializes in homely southern French cuisine and organic wines. Right next door you’ll find its antithesis—the Chinese herbal tea parlor Kung Lee, which has been in existence since 1948. Founded by sugar cane farmer Lam Fong-nam, it’s now run by his sons who have preserved the traditional shop culture of Hong Kong, keeping the old hand-painted posters, tiled walls and floors so it feels as if you’re stepping back in time. On nearby Wellington Street, Loyal Dining is serving up “soy sauce Western” cuisine: a concept that mixes colonial-era western-style dishes with Chinese ingredients, such as soy-sauce braised chicken wings or pigeon simmered in sweet soy.

Running down from Hollywood Road are the photo-worthy cobbled steps of Pottinger Street. Dating from the 1850s, this is one of the district’s oldest streets and is named after Hong Kong’s first governor, Sir Henry Eldred Curwen Pottinger. A walk here today will take you through the area’s famed fancy dress market, where you can pick up any type of outfit imaginable. For a more sensible ensemble, head across the way to the showroom of local brand Yi-ming, where Hong Kong designer Grace Choi has reinvented the classic Chinese qipao dress: think western aesthetics combined with ancient handcrafting techniques for the very modern city woman.

You’ll soon find that whichever road you dart down in Central, you’ll be able to spot influences of the city’s complex past and how these myriad cultures have merged to create an appeal that is unique to Hong Kong. Head off the beaten path and you’ll really uncover this district’s appeal.

 

Do-it-Yourself

Morning
  • Hollywood Road Park
    Spot the turtles
    Hollywood Road Park
    Spend a peaceful morning in Hollywood Road Park: on the corner of Hollywood Road and Possession Street, this Chinese-styled garden actually commemorates Possession Point, the spot where the British landed in 1841. Today this peaceful enclave is dotted with turtle-filled ponds, pagodas and walkways, and is a perfect spot for a spot of quiet contemplation away from the bustle of the main street.
    Address:
    Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
    How to Get There:
    MTR Sheung Wan, Exit A2. Turn right and walk along Wing Lok Street and make a left on Morrison Street. Turn right on Queen’s Road Central and left up Possession Street. Turn right on Hollywood Road. It’s about a 10-minute walk.
  • Liang Yi Museum
    Delve into the art world
    Liang Yi Museum
    The Liang Yi Museum is one of the neighborhood’s new imports and blends Eastern and Western art into its concept. Run by tycoon and famous art collector Peter Fung and his daughter Lynn, the private four-story museum showcases Chinese art and features some of the best antiques from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Europhiles can also find an outstanding collection of accessories from international design powerhouses such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Access is $200 by appointment only and includes a guided tour.
    Address:
    181-199 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2806 8280
    How to Get There:
    MTR Sheung Wan, Exit A2. Turn right and walk along Wing Lok Street and make a left on Morrison Street. Cross Queen’s Road Central and walk up the stairs of Tung Street until you meet Hollywood Road. Turn left. It’s about a 10-minute walk.
  • InBetween
    Browse for vintage gifts
    InBetween
    Duck into the blue-fronted store InBetween, a treasure trove of one-off vintage items that have been personally sourced by the team from all over the world: think Europe, America, Brazil and Japan. Rummage among the assortment of quirky home-décor items and accessories—here’s the place to come if you’re after a trendy guitar strap or an original vintage movie poster. You’ll also find unique new products from local designers.
    Address:
    6B Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 6097 1817
    How to Get There:
    MTR Sheung Wan, Exit A2. Turn right and walk along Wing Lok Street and make a left on Morrison Street. Cross Queen’s Road Central and walk up the stairs of Tung Street, over Hollywood Road and continue up until you meet Tai Ping Shan Street. Turn left. It’s about a 12-minute walk.
Afternoon
  • Pottinger Street
    Photograph old stone steps
    Pottinger Street
    Running down from Hollywood Road is the photo-worthy Pottinger Street, whose cobbled stone steps drop sharply to Queen’s Road Central, where the waterfront used to be. Dating from the 1850s, this is one of the district’s oldest streets and is named after Hong Kong’s first governor, Sir Henry Eldred Curwen Pottinger. A walk along the street now will take you through the area’s famed fancy dress market, where you can pick up any type of outfit imaginable. Address: Pottinger Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
    Address:
    Pottinger Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
    How to Get There:
    MTR Central Station, Exit D2 onto Theatre Lane. Turn right on Queen’s Road Central and walk for about five minutes. Turn left onto the pedestrianised portion of Pottinger Street.
  • Kung Lee
    Stop for sugar cane juice
    Kung Lee
    Don’t miss hole-in-the-wall Chinese herbal tea parlor Kung Lee. Founded by sugar cane farmer Lam Fong-nam in 1948 it’s now run by his sons, who have preserved the traditional shop culture of Hong Kong by keeping the old hand-painted posters, tiled walls and floors so it feels as if you’re stepping back in time. The sugar cane is steamed and pressed into juice each day and you can get it hot or cold along with flower teas and herbal jellies.
    Address:
    60 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2544 3571
    How to Get There:
    MTR Central Station, Exit D1. Exit via Theatre Lane on to Queen’s Road Central and turn right. Head up the Central—Mid-Levels Escalator and get off at Hollywood Road. Turn right and walk for 2 minutes. It’s about a 10-minute journey.
  • Yi-ming
    Reinvent your wardrobe
    Yi-ming
    For a thoroughly modern spin on classic Chinese fashion, pop in to the showroom of local brand Yi-ming. Hong Kong designer Grace Choi has reinvented the tailored Oriental qipao dress with western aesthetics for the city woman: think bold, colorful patterns, chic materials, modern cuts and different styles combined with Chinese handcrafting techniques that still encompass the iconic qipao collar and knot buckles, as well as Chinese flower patterns and ink paintings.
    Address:
    Flat A, 8/F, Kimley Commercial Building, 142 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 3111 2268
    Website:
    How to Get There:
    MTR Central Station, Exit D2 onto Theatre Lane. Turn right on Queen’s Road Central and walk for about 8 minutes.
Evening
  • La Cabane
    Dine à la Française
    La Cabane
    Representing the city’s large French community is the bijou bistro La Cabane. This all-wooden joint is a converted tong lau building that was once used as a rice factory. Now it specializes in homely French cuisine from the south—think platters of cured meats and cheeses, raclette, pâté and the like. On the wall you’ll find an explanation of the bistro’s organic wine ethos, so you can read up on your tipple while perching on the delightfully twee swing-bench.
    Address:
    62 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2776 6070
    Website:
    How to Get There:
    MTR Central Station, Exit D1. Exit via Theatre Lane on to Queen’s Road Central and turn right. Head up the Central—Mid-Levels Escalator and get off at Hollywood Road. Turn right and walk for 2 minutes. It’s about a 10-minute journey.

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This guide was produced by HK Magazine Media Group from 2014-2015.

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