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
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
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
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
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
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 the 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
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 with them can understand.
Read More – Kowloon City Heritage Walk
The Blue House – Highlight of Wan Chai Heritage Walk
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
When I read about the 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.
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
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 here or the nightlife. Lover’s rock would also wait until I visit Hong Kong again. Guess, You have to leave something for the next time.
Travel Tips for Wan Chai Heritage Walk
- 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