In the past, Sham Shui Po was purely a hive of industrial and commercial activity, but it now bears witness to a subtle transformation by Hong Kong’s young street artists and trendsetters. It’s one of the best places to see everyday life and has featured in blockbuster films including Rush Hour 2, Infernal Affairs, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Ghost in the Shell.
HKTB’s Sham Shui Po guide has four self-guided walking tours by local residents which showcase its greatest attributes – read on for a taster of each:
Recommended by Professor Joseph Ting, a pre-eminent historian of Hong Kong history, this tour reflects his view of Sham Shui Po as a district with a rich cultural heritage and an east-meets-west vibe.
The tour includes Yen Chow Street, where neoclassical monuments such as the Sham Shui Po Police Station sit side by side with Chinese-style tenement buildings known as tong lau.
For those who are interested in the more recent history of Hong Kong, Professor Ting recommends visiting the Heritage of Mei Ho House Museum, which features a fascinating exhibition on living and social conditions in Hong Kong since the 1950s.
Curated by Renee So, owner of the tofu street food restaurant Kung Wo Beancurd Factory, this tour is all about tasting.
Renee says that human kindness is what defines the area: “The local eateries and cafés are gathering places… we know all the restaurant owners around us and we support one another – there’s a really strong sense of community.”
Kung Wo is an old-school store selling various soy products including its signature tofu pudding, beancurd puffs, deep-fried tofu and homemade sugar-free soy milk.
Renee also recommends the San Lung cake shop, selling traditional Chinese sweets, from black sesame cakes to flaky pastries filled with whole century eggs and mooncakes baked fresh to order, or Wai Kee noodle café, known for its pig’s liver noodles (but you can also choose beef, ham, egg or sausage).
Walks of life
This tour is put together by Au-yeung Ping-chi, owner of Bo Wah Effigies, a local shop known for its paper offerings in the shape of modern-day consumer goods which are burnt to encourage good fortune. For visitors, he recommends Sham Shui Po’s many shopping streets. He says: “Even though this neighbourhood appears old and unglamorous, there’s a lot to eat, see and do here.”
Ho Chung Kee is tucked away in an alley, a tiny store where Mr Ho has been making hand-galvanized iron products for more than half a century, once a mainstay in homes and businesses before they were displaced by plastic and stainless steel.
Au-yeung Ping-chi also points visitors to Nam Cheong Street, an integral part of the textiles and manufacturing industry in the 50s and 60s and still one of the best places to find lace and ribbon in all sizes, shapes and colours. Pei Ho Street, meanwhile,is a bustling wet market lined with stores and stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and daily necessities, as well as numerous snack stalls.
This tour is created by Rex Yam, co-founder of locally-designed backpack brand, Doughnut. He says: “Some people think of Sham Shui Po as a poor and shabby neighbourhood but actually a lot of young people come here…It’s a very fun place.”
The neighbourhood has evolved over the last few years and although Doughnut was probably the first young designer brand to open, nowadays there are a lot of interesting cafés and shops.
Rex recommends Form Society on Tai Nan Street for its displays of illustrations, multimedia and animation works by emerging local talents, and its intimate artist talks. The street also has lots of great shopping.
His other top picks are Wong Kee Flea Market on Fuk Wing Street for a treasure trove of toys, stationary, party décor and other knick-knacks.
To eat, he recommends Man Kei Cart Noodles which boasts three outlets on the same block – all constantly packed with diners and recommended in Michelin’s street food guide, or Hop Yik Tai for cheong fun (or rice noodle rolls) paired with sweet, sesame and soy sauce.