A bit of history

A bit of history

Parts of Sham Shui Po date back 100 years and are well worth a visit

May 26, 2011
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Sham Shui Po's treasures include Nam Cheong Pawn Shop, beads and pig's liver noodle
Sham Shui Po's treasures include Nam Cheong Pawn Shop, beads and pig's liver noodle
Photos: Martin Chan, Edmond So
It may be one of the financially poorest districts in Hong Kong, but Sham Shui Po is culturally rich: home to interesting street markets, old shops and historic architecture, it's a great place to explore.

Historical lane

Hop off the MTR at Sham Shui Po station and head out of exit A2. You'll find yourself among rows of outdoor booths filled with "treasures". Ap Liu Street is well known for all sorts of cheap electronic items, from old remote controls, antique amplifiers, mobile phones and spare parts.

Yet not many realise the street is one of the city's oldest, with about 100years of history. It was once home to numerous duck farms (apliu in Cantonese), dating back to the late 19thcentury.

Beads and buttons

If you love accessorising, head to Yu Chau Street, better known as Beads Street. It's a hot spot for budding fashion designers, with a huge range of beads on sale, made from everything from plastic and wood to crystal and glass. One street down is Buttons Street or Ki Long Street. For just a few dollars, you can pick up some beautiful buttons to accessorise your clothes.

Pawning culture

Enter Nam Cheong Street from Ki Long Street and walk down a few blocks until you find the famous Nam Cheong Pawn Shop on your left. Built in the 1920s, the traditional shop has a 2.1 metre-high counter - much taller than an average person - for privacy. It also forces customers to look up, weakening their bargaining power. The pawn shop is still visited by lower-income groups and new immigrants. Gone are the days when blankets and gold watches were pawned. Mobile phones, cameras and luxury designer bags are more popular.

Taste of old Hong Kong

If you want an idea of what Hong Kong used to look like, look at the buildings in Ap Liu Street, Fuk Wah Street and Ki Lung Street. These tenement houses, or tong lau, are usually no taller than four stories. They are examples of the unique architecture of Chinese shop-houses in the 1930s. They come with balconies and partitioned rooms packed with bunkbeds, where families were crammed into a tiny space.

Eat like a local

Feeling hungry? Head to Wai Kee Noodle Cafe, a small cha chaan teng on Pei Ho Street famous for two signature dishes - kayan toast, a Southeast Asian-style French toast, and pig's liver noodle. If you have more of a sweet tooth, try the renowned red-bean bowl pudding and white sugar sponge cake at Kwan Kee Store on Fuk Wah Street. Starting as a hawker in 1960s, owner Fu Kwan-kee starts making cakes and puddings at 4am every day. He uses a family recipe passed on by his grandfather. As for its signature nine-layer black sesame pudding, the daily supply is limited so go early.

Living history

A slice of history not to be missed is Mei Ho House - the last remaining block of Hong Kong's first public housing estate. It was built in 1954 after the Shek Kip Mei squatter fire. Right next to brand new United States art school Savannah College of Art and Design, this grade one historic building features the typical H-shaped resettlement block of the 50s. It will reopen in 2012 as a youth hostel, with the first two floors as a public housing museum to showcase tenant life of 60 years ago.

Guided tours through the streets of Sham Shui Po will be organised by the Centre for Community Cultural Development and Heritage Tea House from January 26 to February 16, 3pm to 5.30pm. Visit www.cccd.hk.



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