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  • Wan Chai Street Market, Tai Yuen Street
    Wan Chai, Hong Kong
    It’s one of Hong Kong’s earliest settlements with a reputation as a raucous playground for American servi...

Wan Chai, Hong Kong

By:
Ben Hall
 

It’s one of Hong Kong’s earliest settlements with a reputation as a raucous playground for American servicemen, but Wan Chai has emerged as a sophisticated enclave which is ideal for a romantic getaway in Asia’s World City.

So where is Wan Chai?

It’s on the northern side of Hong Kong’s main island near the city’s Convention and Exhibition Centre.

How to get there?

Cathay Pacific has four daily flights between Sydney and Hong Kong, as well as three per day from Melbourne, 11 per week from Brisbane, and 10 per week from Perth. Premium Economy and Business Class feature on all flights, which use A330 aircraft. A taxi from Hong Kong airport to Wan Chai will cost around HK$350. 

Why Go?

If you want to experience an authentic Hong Kong locale without the tourist hordes and hawkers, then Wan Chai is a great place to hang for a few days and it’s close to all the major attractions.

Tell Me More

We’re walking down Tai Yuen Street and arrive at Wan Chai’s “ground zero”. It’s the area’s famous Street Market which sprawls out over eight blocks and thousands of locals have finished work and are packed into the narrow street. They’re buying food from stalls, fresh vegetables, meat hanging from hooks and seafood still alive and kicking in tanks by the side of the road.

The neon lights cast an orangey-red hue over the scene and it’s clear this is not Nathan Road in Kowloon with its designer stores and Indian hawkers trying to sell suits.

People live and work here and this is one of Hong Kong's earliest settlements 
with a rich heritage and a colourful history to match. There are historic buildings scattered throughout Wan Chai and despite its down to earth gritty atmosphere there are sophisticated restaurants, fun bars and funky hotels like the Hotel Indigo opening up at a rapid rate to complement the suburb’s appeal as a very “real” place.

The Wan Chai Street Market is the heart and soul of the area and one of its major attractions but there are other historical sights that make the area an interesting place to explore.

The Blue House on 72 Stone Nullah Lane is a four-story Lingnan-style house built in the 1920s with a mixture of Chinese and Western architectural features. The distinctive blue colour was not a deliberate aesthetic decision. The decorators only had blue paint, so a blue house it became. There are still residents occupying the structure, despite a lack of modern conveniences such as flush toilets. The building also has the Hong Kong House of Stories where you can see how people live in this historic place.

The Pak Tai Temple on Stone Nullah Lane was built 1862 in Chinese courtyard style and renovated 2005. Decorations include Chinese stone and wood carvings and the “Shiwan” pottery roof exhibits Cantonese opera stories.

Wan Chai has undergone many transformations and began life as a Chinese fishing village until British occupation when shipyards were built and commercial ships docked in the harbour. It then became the home of high-class residences for rich Europeans and foreign merchants. Recent reclamation has resulted in businesses moving into the area and it now has modern gleaming skyscrapers with rundown tenement buildings scattered in between.

The area’s reputation as a red light district began during the 1960‘s when American servicemen on R&R from the Korean and Vietnam Wars descended on Hong Kong. Lockhart Road became the place to go for girlie bars and “saunas” and these days there are still mama sans sitting outside nightclub joints calling on single men to enter, but it’s all pretty tame and good natured and nowhere near as intimidating as other Red Light districts.

This is now the place to go for some fun bars and sophisticated restaurants albeit in a slightly bizarre environment, and for couples looking for a romantic getaway in one of Asia’s most iconic holiday destinations, then Wan Chai has a little bit of everything.

Some good bars that have happy hours in Wan Chai:

Bar 109 (109 Lockhart Road)
Typhoon (37-39 Lockhart Road)
Insiders (17 Fenwick Street)
Carnegies (53-55 Lockhart Road)

And if you’re looking for some no-nonsense restaurants with authentic Chinese food:

Northern Dumpling Yuan (259 Queen’s Road East)
Bowrington Road Market Cooked Food Centre (it’s one floor above the actual market) 
3.6.9 Shanghai (30 O’Brien Road)

Getting There: 

For more information on Cathay Pacific, visit www.cathaypacific.com/au 

Where To Stay: 

Hotel Indigo Hong Kong is located at 246 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island. For more information, visit http://www.ihg.com/hotelindigo/hotels/us/en/hong-kong/hkgin/hoteldetail.

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