1 - Hennessy Road
According to traditional Hong Kong beliefs, if your daily life is consumed by stress, this could mean that there are little ghosts attached to your body. Why not get rid of them the local way before starting your four-hour journey around the city?
An ancient practice originating from Guangdong, “petty person beating” is a ceremony to drive away said ghosts. Under the bridge at the intersection of Hennessy Road and Canal Road, you will find old ladies perching on small stools. Sit down, tell them your difficulties, and then these “professional beaters” will light candles, put a person-shaped paper cut-out on a brick and chant a curse while hitting the “person” with a shoe. Next, she will pour pig grease oil on a white paper tiger, burn it and scatter with raw rice to drive the ghosts away. It costs around HK$50 (US$6.5) to rid yourselves of the evil spirits (although you will need a grasp of Cantonese). Alternatively observe the spectacle from a safe curse-free distance.
2 - Tai Yuen Street
From the bridge, hop on a westbound tram for about five minutes (HK$2.3/US$0.3) and alight once you see Wan Chai MTR station at O’Brien Road. On your left you’ll see the bustling Tai Yuen Street (Toy Street). This toy-lined thoroughfare attracts people from all over the world looking for collectible items and out-of-production treasures no longer available in stores. There are various categories, from movie-themed models to Japanese capsule toys. While it is called Toy Street, you can also find other products such as watches, slippers, clothes and antiques here.
3 - Kam Fung Cafe
If you’re feeling tired after shopping, why not pull up a chair at Kam Fung Cha Chaan Teng. This traditional cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style restaurant) is located on Spring Garden Lane, next to Toy Street, and has been serving Cantonese café classics since 1956 – an eclectic mix of Hong Kong-style western food. While decor and service is basic, fusion favourites such as the chicken pie (HK$10/US$1.3), beef and egg sandwich (HK$18/US$2.3) and cold milk tea without ice (HK$19/US$2.5) are comforting and delicious.
Open daily 6am to 7pm; 41 Spring Garden Lane, Wanchai; tel +852 2572 0526.
4 - Blue House
After some food, it’s time for a historic walk. Head east along Queen’s Road East and turn right at Stone Nullah Lane where you will see a blue building affectionately known as the Blue House. The four-storey Grade I historic building was originally built in the 1920s – ancient by Hong Kong standards.
In its time, this rare tong lau (tenement building) has housed a kung fu studio run by Lam Sai Wing, who studied under kung fu master Wong Fei Hung, a Chinese clinic and a free school. Now, it’s home to the Wan Chai Livelihood Museum, and a handful of long-term residents, some of whom give tours and share their anecdotes about living in this distinctive property.
Open from 11am to 6pm except Wednesday and holidays; 72 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai; tel +852 2835 4376.
5 - Hung Shing Temple
Back on Queen’s Road East, head west for around five minutes to reach the Hung Shing Temple. According to legend, Hung Shing was an important Tang Dynasty official who promoted astronomy and geography and became a champion of fisherman and sea traders in particular. After his death, his reputation remained and temples were built to honour the God of the Southern Sea.
The Grade I historic temple was built in 1847 and once stood on the bay of Wan Chai, overlooking the ocean. However, following extensive land reclamation, it’s now buried behind a sea of skyscrapers.
Open daily from 8.30am to 5.30pm; 129 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai; tel +852 2527 0804.
6 - Pawn restaurant
Go south from the temple until you reach Johnston Road, and you will see a grand four-storey Chinese tenement building built in 1888 that originally housed the Wo Cheong Pawn Shop.
In 2007, the government renovated the building and transformed it into a traditional food store/luxury product shop. The Pawn restaurant and bar, helmed by respected British chef Tom Aikens, is also located inside the building and is the perfect place to end your historical journey with a cocktail or two while people watching on the balcony. The Pawn uses herbs from the restaurant’s rooftop garden to add a unique twist to its tipples.
Restaurant open from noon to 2.30pm and 6.30pm to 10pm daily; Bar open from 5pm to 1am daily; 62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai; tel +852 2866 3444; thepawn.com.hk