15 Jun Same Place, Different Century: A Creative Look at Hill Road in Shek Tong Tsui
In the early 1900s, Shek Tong Tsui was known for its entertainment. Restaurants, theatres, and brothels were built mainly on Hill Road and Queens Road West. Although it was a place of endless activities and fun, it wasn’t always a peaceful neighbourhood filled with small, local stores and elderly centres. After WWII, Shek Tong Tsui has taken a 180-degree turn after the government banned prostitution. The closure of brothels has completely transformed the area and created one of the most authentic and peaceful places in Hong Kong.
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. However, I’ve recently taken my first steps into the neighbourhood, and honestly, I was awed by how much it has progressed from what Shek Tong Tsui was described to be. New buildings, restaurants, and MTR stations were built throughout the neighbourhood, attracting newcomers and making it more accessible to the public. What struck my attention the most was the long flyover that lies above Hill Road. It was built during the 1970s for transportation purposes. However, it serves not only its purpose, but it has also become a defining characteristic of the neighbourhood. The lack of sunlight reflects a subtle hue of purple and grey, creating a vintage and authentic vibe.
Apart from exploring the neighbourhood through my camera lens, I wanted to have a better understanding of how locals from Shek Tong Tsui feel about the place. Therefore, I’ve interviewed a butcher from the Shek Tong Tsui Market, a shop owner from the Cooked Food Centre and a bakery owner from the Life Bakery. They have all lived in the neighbourhood for most of their lives. Although they were all born after WWII and haven’t experienced what it was like to live in Shek Tong Tsui when it was still a so-called entertainment zone, they do agree that urbanisation and the immense change in the area have made Shek Tong Tsui a more popular place to visit. They also pointed out that these changes have been financially beneficial to shop owners as well. However, despite Shek Tong Tsui’s growth and success, it continues to retain its peaceful environment. 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
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.
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