19 Jun Hong Kong’s first crowdfunded travel guide in Sai Ying Pun
I’ve fallen in love big time. I arrived in Hong Kong just two months ago and needed a cheap place to stay. I ended up in Sai Ying Pun, one of these typical old neighbourhoods along the tramline. I don’t speak a word of Chinese, but I like to wander and there is something about this place that got me hooked. The small shops, the steep streets, the strange smells… I like to wander, to get lost… On one of my first days I picked up a neighbourhood map that had some good tips. It gave me that extra bit of courage to try out a few local places and that’s when the fun started. I had dim sum for breakfast and grilled pork noodles for lunch. I sat on plastic chairs with hot tea or a cold beer and found out where to buy the best chilli sauce and why a pineapple bun is called a pineapple bun. Soon the hesitant smiles turned into big grins. I felt like I’d known the SYP shopkeepers for ages. I almost felt like a local.
Time for a chat with Tiffany Tang, part of the team that created the Hong Kong Guide for Sai Ying Pun.
Hi Tiffany, great to meet you. I loved roaming around the streets of Sai Ying Pun, especially liked the dim sum place and the dried fish stalls. What makes Sai Ying Pun Hong Kong so unique for you?
It’s a special place, quite different from its neighbours Sheung Wan and Central. It’s a neighbourhood where you can still find old craftmanship around every street corner. It’s a tight-knit community, everybody knows each other.
Can you tell us more about the iDiscover neighbourhood guides?
iDiscover is about the spirit of place. We work with locals who show us their favourite places and tell us their stories. We put them in a handy map and savvy app to create honest and authentic neighbourhood guides in Asia’s most historic cities. We have curated 30 guides in HK, Bali, Java, Macau, Yangon, Manila and more… We hope that our tips help you spend your money locally, support local businesses and keep heritage alive.
“Sai Ying Pun is a neighbourhood where you can still find old craftmanship around every street corner”
On the Sai Ying Pun guide it says “created by locals, designed by locals and powered by locals…” what does that mean?
At iDiscover it’s not just about creating a new travel product. It’s a community guide to a neighbourhood, for travellers to find the spirit of place and for locals to feel proud of their heritage, culture, and identity.
In SYP we co-curated the guides together with some amazing local collaborators:
- Local curators – We put residents in the role of curators. All credits go to our local partners Caritas Mok Cheung Sui Kun Community Centre and Magic Lanes Community Design Studio and their neighbours and friends. It’s their favourite places that make this map what it is, a true tribute to the spirit of place. Also a massive word of thanks to the students of CUHK School of Continuing and Professional Studies (CUSCS) who helped recording the stories, we could not have done without them!
- Local designers – The Sai Ying Pun map is hand drawn by local illustrator Carmen Ng. She loves paper, watercolour and ink and her style has really brought the unique craft culture of Sai Ying Pun to life.
- Local sponsors – This neighbourhood guide is crowdfunded! We’re very excited, as this was a first for us. It was great to see locals chipping in a bit of money to get their neighbourhood a place on the map…. Literally!
Watch how we created Hong Kong’s first crowdfunded and community-curated neighbourhood guide
Crowdfunding a travel guide? How did that work?
We wanted to create a guide that really belongs to the community. Crowdfunding was a logical step. We looked for a platform that we liked and found SparkRaise a socially conscious crowdfunding site based in Hong Kong that really embraces Asia’s creative community. A great fit. The campaign kicked off in June 2017 and within two months we reached the goal of HK$25,000! It was enough for us to pay designers, translators, copywriters and printers to contribute to a fabulous product. When the campaign ended in August 2017, the ticker was at 107%, beyond our expectations!
Mission accomplished! The first iDiscover crowdfunding campaign on SparkRaise platform
Sai Ying Pun Hong Kong neighbourhood guide kick-off event at Warehouses on West block party
Local residents and students share their favourite places in the neighbourhood
What ‘s not to love about Sai Ying Pun
“IDISCOVER IS NOT JUST ANOTHER TRAVEL GUIDE. OUR GUIDES ARE CO-CURATED TOGETHER WITH THE LOCAL COMMUNITY TO MAKE THEM FEEL PROUD OF THEIR HERITAGE, CULTURE AND IDENTITY”
How do you guys find all these small shops and how do you decide what makes it into the guide?
The answer is, we don’t. It’s the local residents and friends in the neighbourhood who suggest their long-time favourite places, we just facilitate the process. Let me share how:
- July 2017 – Kick-off Event @ Block Party organised by our friends from District 15 and Warehouses on West, a boutique developer with a strong sense of place and a solid presence in SYP. A great opportunity to get some good local insights from the party crowd and passers-by.
- Oct 2017 – Curative Workshop. After the crowdfunding campaign had ended we were ready to start. We got a group of local residents and students together, some new to the hood and some who had lived there for over 50 years. We talked about identity, landmarks and what it means to be a “Sai Ying Punner…”. We hit the streets carrying around a big print of a SYP map. With the help of 20 students from CUSCS, we knocked on doors of every local shop to have a chat. Everywhere we asked the most important question: “What makes SYP so special and what are your favourite places?“. We walked away with a list of over 60 shops, restaurants, and other unique spots, from Old Tsan Yuk Hospital to Lee Zam Kee, a popular local clothes repair shop.
- Nov 17 – Feb 18 – Content Creation. In the following months, together with our friends from Magic Lanes, we fine-tuned the list to 44 places that best represent the spirit of SYP. We went back to the places we liked to do some more in-depth interviews, took hundreds of photos and thousands of steps. We hired Carmen and worked with her to draw a map that highlights the craftsmanship in the area.
- March 2018 – Community Event. A big moment! We launched the neighbourhood guide at the opening event of Magic Lanes Community Design Studio at the charming Sheung Fung Lane. It was the perfect place to celebrate the Sai Ying Pun spirit and present the new guide to those who had been part of the process. It was great to see young and old finding their places on the map and sharing stories.
What were the highlights for you?
I still remember the first curative workshop, we spent nearly two hours discussing the boundaries of Sai Ying Pun! Not only was it different from what Google said, the locals also had very different perceptions. The older generation defined the boundaries based on childhood memories when they had to buy food from markets while the younger generation just went by MTR exits…
20 City-U students hit the streets carrying around a big print of a SYP map
Finding the spirit of place in a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood
Hong Kong changes all the time, how do keep your guides up to date?
We can only try. We routinely do a recce every quarter to update the information in the app and reprint the maps annually. But things change so quickly here, it’s hard to keep up. Also, in Sai Ying Pun we were caught by surprise how quickly things disappear! Since the MTR arrived in 2015, rental prices skyrocketed. Many shops can no longer afford to be here. Two old SYP businesses closed down in the process of creating this guide: the 30-year old Hamburg bakery on Centre Street and the popular Sun Hap Kee Chiu Chow restaurant on Water Street that had been going for 60 years.! Both perennial local favourites and important neighbourhood landmarks.
It made us realise how important window it is to document and promote the traditional shops and livelihood. We hope that creating this guide helps to bring foot flow to those places and keep the collective memory of Sai Ying Pun alive.
“WE WERE CAUGHT BY SURPRISE HOW QUICKLY THINGS DISAPPEAR IN SAI YING PUN! TWO TYPICAL LOCAL SHOPS CLOSED DOWN IN THE PROCESS OF CREATING THIS GUIDE”
I still remember the first workshop, we spent nearly two hours discussing the boundaries of Sai Ying Pun!
Stephanie and Tiffany with the local curators at the launch party of the Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood guide
So what’s next?
We got so much positive energy out of this project. It’s easy to think Hong Kong people don’t care about their city or their heritage, but this project shows how much people do care. The simple fact that we visited these places and listened to their stories made people feel proud. It also made us realise that there is a future for these crafts. Many of the craftsmen are natural creators and constantly adapt their recipes and products to their clientele.
We got so much encouragement from the community, that we dug even deeper and went back to source more stories. We talked to craftsmen about their tools and to chefs about their recipes and dreams. In July we’ll share them at a pop-up neighbourhood museum to celebrate the spirit of craftsmanship. We hope the old stories can be a source of inspiration for a new generation of Hongkongers.
Finally, what are your favourite places in Sai Ying Pun?
That’s a difficult one… I also love the dim sum place, Saam Hui Yaat, a no-nonsense dim sum joint and where the locals go for breakfast! Yu Kwen Yick chili sauce for its true home-made product, from fresh local ingredients with no preservatives or additives each bottle. Kwan Hing Kee is also a great local treat, where you can have a cold glass of soy milk or a bowl of silky tofu pudding.
The Hong Kong Guide for Sai Ying Pun, your local friend in the hood
Download the free iDiscover app to find old craftsmen in SYP
Do you want to explore Sai Ying Pun like a local?
Download our free digital guide packed with insider secrets, background stories and a GPS-based map for easy navigation, so you can get lost without getting lost! We also have a beautifully illustrated ‘Kennedy Town | Sai Wan Neighbourhood Map’ available for free, which you can download here.
Our guides are created by locals, designed by locals and powered by locals… with a little help from iDiscover. Hear their stories, share their passion and learn what they love! Choose app or map. It’s your go-to guide for hidden gems, popular local hotspots, and surprising sites in the neighbourhood, all hand-picked by locals, so that you can shop locally and travel responsibly.
Jaap is a young city explorer with a passion for anything edible. Originally from Amsterdam he’s made Hong Kong his home for six months. This is his first time to Asia and he is living it to the max!
About Tiffany – community manager iDiscover
Hong Kong born free-spirited and adventurous urban traveller Tiffany Tang has a passion for culture and cities. She has recently fallen in love with Northern Thailand for its friendliness and relaxing creative environment.