Same Place, Different Century: A Creative Look at Hill Road

Same Place, Different Century: A Creative Look at Hill Road

Few people know that in the early 1900s, Shek Tong Tsui was an entertainment hotspot. Restaurants, theatres, and brothels were dotted around Hill Road and Queens Road West. After WWII, when the government banned prostitution, the area has taken a 180-degree turn. The closure of brothels completely transformed the area. In what is now a peaceful residential neighbourhood, I went looking for traces of its vivacious past .

A famous brothel on Hill Road in the early 1900s, and what the same location looks like today

My knowledge of Shek Tong Tsui used to be very limited, in fact, I had never visited the area before. Exploring the neighbourhood through my camera lens, I wanted to have a better understanding of how people feel about the place. I interviewed some long-time locals at  the market and Cooked Food Centre. They all lived in the neighbourhood for most of their lives. Yet, none of them experienced what it was like to live here when it was still a red light district. Also the once famous restaurants, popular theatres and busting night markets all closed in the 1960’s and 70’s.

The locals mostly characterise their neighbourhood as peaceful. Yet, in recent years, with the many newcomers to the area, they did see it transform from a quiet pocket to a more popular destination. As the bakery owner puts it, “the old scenes of bright lights and debauchery have faded and, over time, slowly transformed into the close-knit, slow-paced neighbourhood it is today.”


Words & Illustrations by


Adelle is born and raised in Hong Kong and is currently a student who is studying abroad at Loyola Marymount University. She eats, dances, and sings a lot, loves to snowboard and do fun outdoorsy stuff.



iDiscover Neighbourhood Mapping & Storytelling Internship Project

iDiscover Internship

This story is part of a 2-week iDiscover Internship Project. Under our mentorship, a group of recent high school graduates and undergraduate students unveiled the historical layers in three old Hong Kong neighbourhoods: Kennedy Town, Shek Tong Tsui and Sai Ying Pun. They learnt the stories of old streets, long-time residents and popular shopkeepers, and dived deep into the local culture and living heritage. Zooming in to neighbourhood level, the student interns set out to discover and analyse what makes this city unique, and published their observations in the form of blogs, vlogs, an app route, and a place identity report.


Want to do this at your school, university, or in your community?

You can with iDiscover Academy! We now offer tailored toolkits for school teachers, university educators, community leaders, planners and place-makers. We want to enable you to map what matters in your neighbourhood together with your students/community members, and help you share it on our digital publishing platform. Consolidating what we have learnt mapping over 50 neighbourhoods across Asia in the past six years, we have designed a streamlined 6-step methodology that is inclusive, fast and fun, with easy-to-use templates, a clean interface and instructional videos. Our hope is to share our experiences and learnings, empower like-minded organisations and individuals to #keepheritagealive. Head to the iDiscover Academy website to have a look at the different packages available and check out case studies across Asia. 

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