Hong Kong Asia's World City

Eastern District

Eastern District

Coastal communities past and present

“I dare say, if Hong Kong had never developed its fishing industry, the city would never have been so prosperous,” said retired fisherman Lai Ah Gun.

Spanning the length of Hong Kong Island’s easterly coastal reaches, the Eastern District played a significant role in the development of the city’s coastal defenses. From the very early years of Chinese settlement when the area was known by fishermen as Sai Wan, to its time as a strategic outpost for southern China, and as a military battlefield during World War II, the district’s maritime heritage still resonates today.

Tin Hau Temple in Causeway Bay is one of the earliest indicators of the area’s fishing village heritage. Built by the Hakka Tai family from Guangdong in the early 18th century, the shrine to the Goddess of the Sea once stood near the water’s edge, in an area then known as East Point. The story goes that the Tai family happened upon a statue of Tin Hau in the rocks on the shore one day while scavenging for grass and later erected a temple to protect it. It remains very much in its old form today and is still under the management of the Tai family, even though land reclamation has repositioned it much further inland.

Ruamja Thai Restaurant

One of the best places to get an overview of the Eastern District’s maritime importance through the centuries is at the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence. Formerly known as the Lei Yue Mun Fort, it was built by the British in 1841 and went on to be a pivotal force during the 1941 Battle of Hong Kong. Now it contains the 600-year history of the city’s coastal defenses with a series of artefacts and exhibitions. The structure remains, complete with 18 casemates which were originally used as barrack rooms and weaponry storerooms.

For a peaceful place to go and reflect on the city’s past, head to the tranquil Sai Wan War Cemetery in Chai Wan, a monument honoring Hong Kong’s war effort. It contains the graves of those who died protecting the territory from the Japanese invasion of 1941. More than 1,500 soldiers (mostly from the Commonwealth; many unnamed) are buried here, halfway up the verdant Mount Collinson. An open air memorial hall commemorates the victims.

For an insight into the city’s marine rescue work, step aboard the fireboat Alexander Grantham, which went into service in 1953 as the flagship of the Hong Kong Fire Services Department. Before it was decommissioned in 2002, it responded to fire alarms and conducted rescue operations in Hong Kong’s waters and along the shoreline. The Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery now contains unique firefighting artefacts and information, plus you can explore the various refitted decks and rooms.

Ruamja Thai Restaurant

The district’s ties to the water live on through its fishing community and its food. Retired fisherman Lai Ah Gun used to live on his boat in Shau Kei Wan: “I really love being with the sea,” he explained. “It gave me the freedom to raise a family and make a living. When we lived on a boat, our entertainment was all about the sea: we would just jump into the sea to swim or fish near the boat. All of my family members were living on the boat—they studied, cooked, ate, washed, slept and even worshipped the Tin Hau festival there. In the ‘90s, the fishing industry was really popular—more and more boats were packed together in this typhoon shelter. I dare say, if Hong Kong had never developed its fishing industry, the city would never have been so prosperous.”

Ruamja Thai Restaurant

To taste some fresh seafood, head to Wong Lam Kee Chiu Chow Fish Ball Noodles, where the owners still buy their fish each morning from the Shau Kei Wan Typhoon Shelter. Locals flock from all over the city to this joint, in particular for a bowl of spring onion fish balls with soupy noodles. Tung Po Seafood in North Point is another gem, delivering such fresh, tasty produce that it came to the attention of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain during a televised visit in 2007. Try the deep-fried shrimp, which is sold by the catty and flavored with handfuls of garlic crisps. You’ll also find a collection of locally grown, delicious snacks at the Island East Markets. This weekly market provides great shopping options—everything from fresh fruit to yoga equipment and pet accessories—as well as family-friendly entertainment, all in the open air.

Do-it-Yourself

Morning
  • Tin Hau Temple at Causeway Bay
    Tour a temple
    Tin Hau Temple at Causeway Bay
    The Tin Hau Temple in Causeway Bay is one of the earliest indicators of the area's fishing village heritage. It was erected by the Hakka Tai family from Guangdong in the early 18th century, on the water's edge. Today it's still managed by the Tai family and much of the existing architecture remains, however you'll now find it farther inland after land reclamation pushed the Causeway Bay coastline forwards into the harbor.
    Address:
    10 Tin Hau Temple Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2208 4400
    Website:
    How to Get There:
    MTR Tin Hau Station, Exit A1. Cross King’s Road and turn left on Tin Hau Temple Road. It’s about a 4-minute walk.
  • Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery
    All aboard!
    Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery
    For an insight into the city's marine rescue work, step aboard the fireboat Alexander Grantham, which went into service in 1953 as the flagship of the Hong Kong Fire Services Department's team on the water. You can explore the various refitted decks and rooms aboard the Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery, which contains unique firefighting artefacts and information.
    Address:
    Quarry Bay Park, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2367 7821
    How to Get There:
    • Tai Koo MTR Station, Exit E. Walk through City Plaza and then cross the footbridge into Quarry Bay Park. The entire walk takes approximately 10 minutes.
    • Sai Wan Ho MTR Station, Exit A. Walk around 10 minutes via the Hong Kong Film Archive to Quarry Bay Park.
Afternoon
  • Wong Lam Kee Chiu Chow Fish Ball Noodles
    Tuck into fine fish
    Wong Lam Kee Chiu Chow Fish Ball Noodles
    The signature dish of Wong Lam Kee Chiu Chow Fish Ball Noodles is given away in the name: its fish ball noodles. All the fish balls are handmade with spring onion for a natural, dainty taste and soft texture. For the best noodle pairing, pick the flat rice noodles and for more fun, we recommend you try it with crispy fried fish skin atop a bowl of hot soup.
    Address:
    Shop A, 10 Shau Kei Wan Main Street East, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2886 0068
    How to Get There:
    MTR Shau Kei Wan Station, Exit B2. Turn left onto Shau Kei Wan Main Street East and walk for 2 minutes.
  • Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence
    Take a history lesson
    Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence
    Formerly known as the Lei Yue Mun Fort, the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence was built by the British in 1841 and went on to be a pivotal battlefield during the 1941 Battle of Hong Kong against the Japanese. Now it contains the 600-year history of the city's coastal defenses with a series of artefacts and exhibitions. The structure remains, with 18 casemates with interconnecting passageways that were originally used as barrack rooms and weaponry storerooms.
    Address:
    175 Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2569 1500
    How to Get There:
    MTR Shau Kei Wan Station, Exit B2. Then walk for around 15 minutes.
  • Sai Wan War Cemetery
    Pay your respects
    Sai Wan War Cemetery
    Reflect on Hong Kong's military past in the Sai Wan War Cemetery. It contains the graves of those who died protecting the territory from Japanese siege during the Battle of Hong Kong, in December 1941. Here you'll find the headstones of more than 1,500 soldiers (mostly from the Commonwealth, many unnamed) but the open air memorial hall at the entrance commemorates some 2,000 victims.
    Address:
    Cape Collinson Road, Chai Wan, Hong Kong Island
    Website:
    How to Get There:
    MTR Chai Wan Station, Exit E. Head over the walkway and across the road. Continue up Ling Shing Road and turn right onto Cape Collinson Road. After about a 20-minute walk you should see the cemetery on the right-hand side. Or take minibus 16 from the MTR station—it stops right outside the cemetery on request.
Evening
  • Tung Po Seafood
    Seafood, eat food
    Tung Po Seafood
    That's enough learning about the sea – now tuck into some of its produce at Tung Po Seafood. This popular restaurant is a collection of plastic tables and chairs in a cooked food center, where beer is served out of chilled rice bowls and the seafood is super fresh. Plump for the squid ink spaghetti, which is rich and thick with black sauce, or the deep-fried shrimp covered in handfuls of garlic crisps.
    Address:
    2/F, Java Road Municipal Services Building, 99 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2880 5224
    How to Get There:
    MTR North Point Station, Exit A1. Walk west along Java Road for 2 minutes.
Others
  • Island East Markets
    Buy market goods
    Island East Markets
    Island East Markets is a relatively new concept for the Eastern District and one that's become immensely popular with locals and visitors alike. The idea is to bring fresh produce, locally made goods and family entertainment to the Eastern District every Sunday. Suppliers change regularly, but you can expect to find everything from open-air yoga sessions, to fresh fruit and pressed juices, to pet accessories.
    Address:
    Tong Chong Street, TaiKoo Place, Island East, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong Island
    Tel:
    +852 2851 3220
    How to Get There:
    MTR Quarry Bay Station, Exit A. Walk across King’s Road and turn left onto Tong Chong Street. It’s about a 3-minute walk.

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

The Hong Kong Tourism Board disclaims any liability as to the quality or fitness for purpose of third party products and services; and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, adequacy or reliability of any information contained herein.

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