I love spending time in the Taipingshan area of Hong Kong and walking with my friends through the area: this has become one of my most favourite places to spend time in, and certainly one of the most wonderful neighbourhoods to fill a Saturday afternoon. It is where thoughtful changes are happening, a neighbourhood where a fascinating mix of the old and the new remains (though we do not know for how long …).
In fact, I’d say it is currently just at the point where it still feels charmingly like old Hong Kong but with new things and new places dusted in between. Slightly sleepy and cosy, but definitely aware of the outside world, so to speak! (Shopkeepers in the district have banded together and called themselves the “Tai Ping Commons”!). Wandering in the area is a must.
And tucked away in one (quietly hidden) corner is one of the most delightful places in Hong Kong – Teakha (see “A Saturday afternoon of music at the tea museum … and tea vs coffee vs matcha”). The very definition of small, cosy and perfectly formed, Teakha is simply one of those places where you can feel a soul. Find a table outside and watch the world go by!
Wander a little and you can find some very unique and intriguing things. There is in the Papinee Gallery on Tung Street (“east” street … which runs parallel to Sai Street or “west” street, and to its east of course) a “monkey cushion” made with embroidery. Most Chinese people who know a little of the classic literature would be able to read more into this: the “monkey that comes out of the rock” references the famous character in Journey to the West, one of the four Great Classical Novels and which is about the pilgrimage of a monk who travelled to the “Western regions”, that is, India, and which tells the tale of the adventure.
In the small street just to the east of Teakha are two wonderful places that share a similar ethic and vibe: Tallensia, a florist with a passion for flowers who runs regular “flower jamming” sessions, and InBetween, a cosy vintage shop with some of the most beautiful and unusual things such as retro movie posters and antique clocks, jewelery and lamp-shades. Definitely worth a visit.
Wander a little further east and those in the know would be able to find Mrs Pound, a small bar-restaurant that is hidden behind a facade of a traditional jade stamp shop while inside gives off the spirit of Wong Kar Wai’s evocative movie, In the Mood for Love. Discreetly perched on a sloping residential corner in the hip Sheung Wan neighbourhood in HK, it is impossible to find if you didn’t already know it. Inside, the food is a modern and playful spin on Asian fusion, and the décor is a cozy vibrant pink filled with vintage photos and kitsch memorabilia.
The Taipingshan area is bordered probably by Man Mo Temple on the west and the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences on the north (see “Museum of Medical Sciences and the Sun Yat-sen Museum“). These two buildings are both very much worth visiting: both represent much of the city’s history and heritage.
If you continue walking west, you’ll be in Saiyingpun – which with the opening of the new MTR station has seen an increased people flow. Home to streets called “First Street”, “Second Street”, “Third Street” and “High Street’, and bounded by the “Eastern Street”, “Centre Street”, and “Western Streets” greased in the last few years due to the anticipated arrival (and now opening) of the MTR station.
One of my more favourite things to do when in the area is to pop into the second-hand bookshop called Books & Co on Park Road. This may technically be called Mid Levels rather than Saiyingpun, but is just 20 steps up from the Bonham Road end of Park Road.
Walk further up Park Road on an autumn day and one can find bauhinia trees with their distinctive purple flowers and the even more distinctive leaves that look like hearts. The flowering season for the purplish flowers is the autumn and winter. This flower became the emblem of Hong Kong and you can find these flowers throughout Hong Kong – a perfect way to enjoy them and with views of both the harbor and the Central district buildings is to take a walk along Bowen Road in the autumn.
There are parts of Saiyingpun where I am simply happy to get lost in and lose my sense of time. A cosy little spot is Fuk Sau Lane – you just didn’t think such corners exist in Hong Kong anymore, but they do, and if you can grab one of the small number of tables at the laid back organic cafe there, and you can relax away, dream away, or simply while away a few hours talking with a friend, reading a map of the area and trying to understand the history of it, or just drinking coffee.
A side-note about “pop ups”: while in the Taipingshan area, try to pop into Little Square at 21 Square Street, a 500 square foot former printing shop that now boasts clean all-white interiors in a fun and hip neighbourhood. There will often be some unexpected pop-up events going on … I loved the tout à coup X幾米Art Exhibition they had on in November 2014 – there was a a “tree” put up inside the exhibition space with a few seats underneath the shade. 幾米of course is the famous Taiwanese illustrator-writer who hand-draws beautifully imaginative illustrations to texts that he writes himself, targeted at school-age children. Or check out: http://www.littlesquarehk.com/events/ and this is the link to 幾米’s website: http://www.jimmyspa.com/