5 places we loved in the buzzing streets of Wan Chai
Today, we went on a trip around Wan Chai. Our iDiscover travel guide described the neighbourhood as: ‘The city’s ultimate melting pot with old trades, cheap eats, red lights, tall buildings, quiet temples and hip galleries all living side by side.’ Sounded pretty cool to us, and it was! Anya has just moved here, and this was a fabulous introduction to this amazing city. Even I who lived here more than 10 years, today I saw parts of Hong Kong that I have never really seen before. Here are five of the places that we enjoyed the most.
By Anya Williams & Veerliene Uiterwaal
1. Tai Yuen Street . 太原街 . a maze of colour and culture
Easy to find and a feast for the eyes and the nose!
Our first stop was Tai Yung Street, also known as ‘Toy Street’, a market filled with tons of different things. You can find toys, clothes, gizmos, flowers and these fishy snacks that you should definitely try. You can take our word for it. Our tip is not to get too trigger-happy because you need to bargain hard here. The best bit was a tiny shop in the middle of the market where they sell snake soup and other serpent brews. We found it really weird, but this is definitely for you if you are feeling adventurous and ready to try something unusual. The snake soup looked surprisingly OK with lemongrass and crispy wontons sprinkled on top, but we when we read it’s a winter dish we found the perfect excuse not to try… we’ll come back in January…
The toy street 太原街 kicks off daily from 10AM – 6PM. You can find the ‘Snake King’ Se Wong Sun 蛇王燊 at G/F, Fortune Mansion 富榮閣, Cross Street 交加街
Snake soup sounds scary but looks surprisingly OK. How it tasted? We don’t know..
“Snake soup is definitely for you if you are feeling adventurous and ready to try something unusual.
2. Yeung Chun Lei . 楊春雷 . traditional herbal tea
Mr. Yeung- The master brewer, waiting for you to come around
The second place we went to was a herbal tea place that has been in Wan Chai for about 90 years. In Hong Kong that’s quite long. The person that runs the shop, or the ‘master brewer‘, is Mr. Yueng. He has been making this tea since he was a child with his family it is supposed to have a medicinal effect. They say it helps when you’re sick or ill. Sadly, the shop is not a very big hit with the younger locals anymore. But we felt courageous and thought it’d be a good idea to support him. This is something really traditional that has been going on for such a long time it’s really part of the culture of Wan Chai. It would be a shame for it to be lost, so we tried the tea. It maybe wasn’t our favourite cup of tea ever -if you like bitter you’ll love it -, but it felt like the right thing to do. While we were there, some locals dropped by and they just gulped it down, must be something good in there!
Yeung Chun Lei 楊春雷 is at 29 Spring Garden Lane 春園街 . The tea shop is open to customers daily from 11.30AM – 11PM
3. Kam Fung . 金鳳茶餐廳 . pineapple buns & much more!
Dig into a fluffy bun at Kam Fung Cafe!
Our third stop, which wasn’t far from the tea place, was Kam Fung Cafe. One of these places that we would normally have just walked past, but our friend the app told us they’re famous for their soy milk and pineapple buns, so we tried. First, we were a bit confused because we couldn’t really taste the pineapple, but now we understood that there is no fruit in the bun, the crusty top just looks like a pineapple! They serve it with a piece of butter stuffed into the middle of the bun and the best bit is the butter melting within the soft and fluffy bread. Definitely worth trying. The people there are also really nice, approachable and happy to answer any questions you may have.
Kam Fung Cafe 金鳳茶餐廳 is at 41 Spring Garden Lane 春園街 and opens daily for customers at 6AM – 7PM.
4. Blue House . 藍屋 . live like in old Hong Kong
The Blue house is so bright and beautiful, you can’t miss it!
With our bellies full we headed over to the Blue House, you can’t miss it, it’s really blue. It’s very pretty with the original shutters and balconies and a mix of Chinese and Western architecture. This house is dedicated to an old folk hero ‘Master Wong’ with memorabilia and traditional woods. It also has a fabulous collection of kung fu films, including one with Bruce Lee! There is a beautiful souvenir shop located on the ground floor and all the money goes to support the locals. Go there to feel like you’re in old Hong Kong and enjoy the lovely smell of the fresh wood scent that lingers through the house.
The Blue House 藍屋 is at 72 – 74A Stone Nullah Lane 石水渠街 and open daily for visitors from 11AM – 5PM.
The downstairs shop where all the money goes to support the locals
“Tucked away from the main hustle and bustle, this temple is easily one of the most interesting places we visited on our trip through Wan Chai.”
5. Pak Tai Temple . 北帝廟 . mystical place
Behold the hidden beauty of a tucked away temple
We were now starting to get into it! We wanted to see more of Hong Kong’s beautiful culture. Checking our map we only had to walk to the top of the street before discovering an auspicious ‘Pak Tai Temple’. Tucked away from the main hustle and bustle, this temple is easily one of the most interesting places we visited on our trip through Wan Chai. This is definitely a place to visit for any traveller looking to find the real spirit of Hong Kong’s history and culture. The strong smell of the burning incense draws you in immediately and the colours brightly glowing from the gorgeous statues that tower above you. We were amazed by the amount of detail on the deities in the temple. Eager to find out the story and meaning behind the statues, the app told us to look up. We saw some amazing coloured pottery on the roof which tells the tale of a famous Cantonese opera. Coming from a very different country recently I really enjoyed tapping into the local culture, It’s a must visit!
The Pak Tai Temple 北帝廟 is at 2 Lung On Street 隆安街 open daily for visitors from 8AM – 5PM.
The iDiscover app helped us get around and communicate with the locals
“Today we found some little pieces of the past in Hong Kong. It’s amazing that in-between these new and modern buildings these spots are still holding on.”
These were our top five favourites, but the app showed us many more interesting places to go, like a ghost house and a secret voodoo place under a bridge… Every single spot was a little surprise and quite unique in their own way. What we enjoyed most was that the people were so kind. Some did not speak English, and we did not speak Cantonese, but the app helped us get around and communicate. Today we found some little pieces of the past in Hong Kong. It’s amazing that in-between these new and modern buildings these spots are still holding on. If you ever come to Hong Kong, or you already live here, Wan Chai is a place to explore, you won’t regret it.
Ps. We walked for about three hours and on a spring or summer day, you’re gonna sweat! We definitely suggest wearing short sleeves and shorts (but not too short shorts, ya know), sunscreen and bring drinking water (in reusable plastic bottles to reduce waste!).
Buy this map as part of the Hong Kong Neighbourhood Guide in the iDiscover shop.
Anya is an English secondary student that moved to Hong Kong in the recent months. She has a passion for art and photography and is inspired by the urban streets of Hong Kong. She has only been in town for a short few months but is quickly making Hong Kong her new home.
Veerliene is a secondary school student passionate about media, art and photography. Moving from the Netherlands at a young age, Veerliene has made Hong Kong her loving home where she values the different atmosphere and cultures.