Wan Chai Heritage Walk – Oldest Living Part of Hong Kong

26
Story of Wan Chai - Hong Kong
Story of Wan Chai – Hong Kong

Wan Chai Heritage Walk is one of the most charming walking trails of Hong Kong Island. I had originally planned to stay at Wan Chai but since my trip got postponed, I ended up staying in Causeway Bay. I was, however, determined not to miss walking around in this heritage district of Hong Kong.

As most of you know, I love walking around in areas that have long been inhabited. There is a kind of energy from across the eras there. Wan Chai is one of the oldest living urban areas of Hong Kong. This is where the stories of Hong Kong literally live.

History of Wan Chai

Houses of Wan Chai - Hong Kong
Houses of Wan Chai – Hong Kong

History of Wan Chai is full of all kinds of events that you can think of. It has seen world wars or rather faced them along with invasions. It has faced nature’s fury both in form of droughts and floods. During the Japanese occupation, it faced bombardments. And it has even witnessed shipbuilding activity in its early days. With all this in lap, Wan Chai is still rooted in tradition while embracing all forms of modernity.

To begin with, Wan Chai was a fishing village centered around the Chinese God of Sea – Hung Shing Ye. Its destiny would change in 1840 when the British established themselves in the neighboring Victoria area now called Central. Wan Chai quickly became the Chinese dominant locality and started its urban journey. Urban features like the power plant, cinema hall started occupying its landscape. Now it is home to some of the tallest buildings in Hong Kong and a state of the art convention center.

Wan Chai Heritage Walk

Wan Chai Heritage Walk - Signboard
Wan Chai Heritage Walk – Signboard

I started my walk from the Admiralty MTR Station. As soon as I exited the station near the three pacific place, I could see this nice signboard – telling the story of Wan Chai. A mix of map, caricature and a timeline takes you through the history of Wan Chai. I could not have asked for a better start to my Wan Chai Heritage walk. So, let me take you through the Wan Chai I saw:

Gresson Street Open Market

Gresson Open Market - Wan Chai
Gresson Open Market – Wan Chai

I started walking on the Queen’s Road East and on my left I saw this street full of street vendors. The street sign told me this is the Gresson Street Open Market. I saw the small stalls selling plants, eggs, fruits and other everyday items. Residents of Wan Chai walked, stopped, bargained and shopped. I sat down and looked at this small street market operational since 1950. It is a great example of necessity being the mother of invention.

Read More – 10 Happening Street Markets of Hong Kong

Hung Shing Temple

Hung Shing Temple - Wan Chai - Hong Kong
Hung Shing Temple – Wan Chai – Hong Kong

The Hung Shing Temple is the oldest living structure in Wan Chai. The original temple was built on a rock surface that is jetting out from the hill. Later, a temple was built on this rock. To see the incline, you need to take a narrow flight of steps behind the temple. I saw a huge tree clutching the rock as the temple rested on it. On the first floor of the temple, there are lovely ritual items. Photography is not allowed but the priest allowed me one image of the main temple.

The importance of this temple is that it used to be at the shore – all the area that you see now in front is a reclaimed area – pushing the temple inwards.

Old Wan Chai Post Office

Wan Chai - Old Post Office
Wan Chai – Old Post Office

I came out of the temple and started walking on the narrow road with tall skyscrapers in all possible colors towering on both sides of the street. On the right-hand side was a small building in white with the green door on a raised platform. It now belongs to Environment protection department. It used to be the Wan Chai Post Office. I saw the red post boxes of Hong Kong at Hong Kong Museum of History. They look beautiful.

The presence of a post office communicates the evolution of a city when it communicates with the world through written word or through parcels.

Pak Tai Temple

Pak Tai Temple - Wan Chai - Hong Kong
Pak Tai Temple – Wan Chai – Hong Kong

The Pak Tai Temple in Wan Chai is a 150+-year-old temple with the main statue more than 400 years old.

I reached this temple as it was closing down for the day, so just had a quick glance and could take pictures from outside only. However, I observed many locals visiting the temple and saying a quick prayer before moving on.

I would always remember Pak Tai Temple for a different reason. As I was walking with Google Maps as my guide, I was lost on which turn to take to reach the Pak Tai Temple. I asked two elderly gentlemen sitting outside a shop. I showed them pictures and tried speaking Pak Tai Temple in all possible accents. After a while, they understood what I was asking for and they laughed and laughed. I laughed along and then they showed me the temple that was just around the corner. That laughter had a language that only those who do not share a language among them can understand.

Read More – Kowloon City Heritage Walk 

The Blue House – Highlight of Wan Chai Heritage Walk

The famous Blue House of Wan Chai
The famous Blue House of Wan Chai

Blue House is a bright blue building in the corner of a street called Stone Nullah Street. It is now a cultural center. It is blue not by choice but by the fact that when it was constructed in early 20th CE only blue color was available. Now the color has become its identity.

Blue House at Wan Chai displays the Lingnan style of architecture with balconies that are hanging out of the main building.

A hall in the blue houses now houses the Hong Kong Stories in terms of models and old objects to take you back in time. I saw old typewriters, miniature TVs, sketches of Hong Kong Houses. The dense chaotic and symmetric

Yellow House or the House of Stories

The board game at Yellow House - Wan Chai - Hong Kong
The board game at Yellow House – Wan Chai – Hong Kong

When I read about House of Stories, I was excited to visit it. Well, it was a small shop like the community center that displays the community articles of Wan Chai. It is more of a community center where community activities are promoted. You can see the board games and community products in this center, though they do not really sell them.

I saw an interesting game that is played using a Dice but the board looks like a huge Hong Kong building instead of snakes and ladders.

Yellow house has a tinge of yellow in its façade with green windows and doors. It demonstrates the ShopHouse style of architecture. The ground floor of the building houses shops while the upper stories had homes. Facade of this building is western in appearance and the balconies are missing as the narrow street could not accommodate them.

Wan Chai Market

Now, I was looking for a traditional market & here this was a modern store standing in its place. For some time I was confused, but then someone explained to me that there used to be a traditional market here. It has been replaced with this new building. This was my bewilderment moment on Wan Chai Heritage Walk.

Wan Chai Park

Wan Chai Park - Hong Kong Island
Wan Chai Park – Hong Kong Island

Walking ahead I saw this small park where children were playing. However, to get into the park you have to go down a few levels. I just said an aerial Hi to the park and moved ahead. I passed by a hospital that is a marquee building of old Wan Chai. Later I learned that it was donated by a Parsee gentleman Jehangir Hormusjee Ruttonjee in memory of his daughter who died of Tuberculosis.

Comix Home Base

Wan Chai is the home of Comic Culture in Hong Kong. Comix Home Base showcases the local animation and comics. There is a library of comics and books related to comics. A must see for comic enthusiasts. Building that houses this is also known as Green House – you guessed it for the color of the building.

Wan Chai is home to many cultural spaces of Hong Kong like – Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, Hong Kong Arts Centre and its crown Jewel Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. I could not explore the food trail in Wan Chai or the nightlife. Lover’s rock would also wait till I visit Hong Kong again. Guess, You have to leave something for the next time.

Travel Tips for Wan Chai Heritage Walk

Blue House - Wan Chai - Hong Kong
Blue House – Wan Chai – Hong Kong
  • This walk took me 3 hours or so to complete. If you do not stop too much or take too many pictures, you can do this walk in about 2 hours or so.
  • The literature on the Internet would tell you many more spots that you can see in Wan Chai. I used the Hong Kong Extras website for this walk.
  • Carry water with you although it is available at all points on this walk. It can be very humid walking in Hong Kong.

Read More – First Impressions of Hong Kong

26 COMMENTS

  1. I really enjoyed visiting Hong Kong back in 2011 but I didn’t check out Wan Chai. It looks like an amazing area to explore and to just get ‘lost’ in. I love history, architecture and photography, so I now have another reason to get back to Hong Kong! Cheers!

    • Arienne – I usually end up going to the oldest living parts of the town and that is how I landed in Wan Chai. I had originally planned to stay there but due to a typhoon had to postpone the trip and stayed at Causeway Bay. I loved the juxtaposition of old and new at Wan Chai.

  2. I am definitely going to give this trail a go when I head back to HK next year. Last time I visited I was so ill I barely saw anything and certainly did not get to enjoy much. Looking forward to returning and seeing a different side to the city

  3. Hey! I lived in Hong Kong for five years – six months of that time I lived in an apartment in Wan Chai and worked there too. You have a very different perspective of the place! For me, Wan Chai is gritty and seedy, but it has the best bars, live music, great restaurants. I guess it’s different living somewhere rather than visiting. You definitely need to see the nightlife to get the real essence of Wan Chai!

    • Amy, I am not a nightlife person at all. I was told about the food and nightlife scene of Hong Kong but being a vegetarian and a teetotaller these things hardly interest me. I was also traveling solo, and in my head nightlife can be best enjoyed in a group.

  4. There is nothing like exploring a place on foot! Isn’t it, ma’am?
    Completely enjoyed the virtual walk with you and loved the post office 🙂
    Another walk to the long list of Walks of yours!

    • Meenakshi, when I walk in a neighborhood, I become a part of it. I am both an insider and an observer at the same time. Yes, walking is my favorite way of travelling. If I could, I would walk my way around the world.

  5. I’m in love with the Blue House of Wan Chai! And the fact that they only had blue colour at hand makes it even more precious. 2-3 hours sounds perfect for a walk, although how can you not stop and take pictures of this beautiful neighbourhood? That priest that allowed you to take a picture of the temple was a very friendly guy.

    • Thomas, you can easily take pictures in this 2-3 hours walk. I feel the old inhabited places have an energy that is incomparable. It is like the place has an essence of everyone who ever lived here.

  6. These images of Hong Kong look very different to what I am used to seeing of this city! I wouldn’t have guessed it was Hong Kong to be honest and it’s great to see it has different facets. It’s unlucky that they’ve replaced the traditional market. I really like seeing them when I explore somewhere new. Thanks for sharing this walk!!

  7. I wish that I had known about this when I was in Hong Kong. It looks like a stunning walk. The story behind the Blue House is really interesting. Can you imagine a road filled with blue houses?

    I have bookmarked this for my next visit!

    • Janine – In Goa, India there is a similar story with Yellow color. I guess the economies worked differently a century back or so. It is a lovely walk to do – hope you get to do it soon enough.

  8. Wan Chai sounds pretty cool! I love walking around old neighborhoods as well – exploring old landmarks and temples like the Pak Tai and Hung Shing Temples (you’re lucky the priest let you take a photo in there!)

    I bright the colors of the buildings are beautiful, and I like that they just name them after the colors themselves (keep it simple!). I have never been to Hong Kong but this looks like a great little stroll though history. Would love to check it out one day!

  9. I agree and feel the exact same way, I love walking around in areas that have long been inhabited. I definately feel the energy and often try to visualize what it was like. Thanks for taking me along the walk with you. I really love the colour of the Blue House and the Comix House woulds also interest me.

  10. Wan Chai would definitely be a must-see for me. I love old towns. I can see why the Blue House is a highlight. It definitely stands out. I also love the houses that you showed in the first photo. I would definitely take this Heritage Walk when I visit Hong Kong.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here