Published on September 29th, 2013 | by Ann Rickard0
Wan Chai – Hong Kong
Today’s Hong Kong is one of the most thrilling of all cities, constantly evolving, its narrative continuously fascinating.
It isn’t easy to find much of old Hong Kong amid the forest of dazzling skyscrapers but in the Wan Chai district there are glimpses of its colourful past.
The sights and smells, the sounds and constant movement take you back to a long-gone era. Since the 1800s, even when it was a tiny fishing village, Wan Chai has been the epicentre, geographically and culturally, of all that goes on in Hong Kong. It became globally famous with the 1960 movie, The World of Suzie Wong.
Today more than 600,000 people go to Wan Chai every day to work, shop, eat and play. The iconic trams trundle through Wan Chai with ceaseless traffic as hundreds of people cross the roads at lights in one mass flow. You have no choice but to go with this human stream and just enjoy “the Wanch” as expat locals call it.
Stylish new Michelin-starred restaurants serving modern international cuisine sit alongside eateries offering traditional Asian dishes. Thousands of restaurants and bars and trendy fashion boutiques sit beside mahjong parlours and fight for space with prestige car showrooms.
Newly arrived in the district is the Hotel Indigo, a slender skyscraper of steel and glass with 29 floors to capture and reflect the dynamic environment of the district. It’s an oasis of calm to return to after exploring the thronging Wan Chai streets.
The hotel is proud to be in this neighbourhood and its respect and fondness for it shows in the fascinating artwork throughout the property.
Three dimensional dioramas depict street scenes of old Wan Chai: narrow old shops crammed with sacks of mysterious produce, roasted ducks hanging from hooks, workers carrying out car repairs on the footpath.
Even better than the Hotel Indigo’s roof-top, glass-bottom, space-defying swimming pool that juts out of the hotel and seems to float in the sky above the bustling street, is its mini-bar policy.
Items are at prices you would find at the local 711. When the midnight craving comes for a chocolate bar you have no fear of opening the fridge in your room and getting stuck in.
Hotel Indigo is perfectly positioned to check out everything in Wan Chai. It is almost next door to the Wan Chai markets where the locals shop daily for their food and you must brace yourself for produce so fresh it is still alive.
Just a few steps away is the quirky Blue House dating back to 1872 when it began life as a hospital until it became a tenement building in the 1920s. In the 1970s the government used surplus blue paint from the Water Supplies Department to paint it.
The name Blue House was born and the building is now one of the few examples left in Hong Kong of ”tong lau” buildings with balconies.
All around the district the cranes are at work and locals fear there will soon be nothing left of the old Wan Chai. Thankfully you will capture a feel for it at the Hotel Indigo which treasures the district’s colourful past.
246 Queens Rd, Wan Chai.
What to do in – WAN CHAI
- HAVE dinner at The Pawn. In a previous life, 125 years ago, this heritage building was a pawn shop. Now it is a refurbished dining venue of many levels, serving modern British food. Visit the rooftop, even if you don’t want to dine, it’s a public space. www.thepawn.com.hk
- Join the locals at yum cha of any one of hundreds of outlets.
- Go Spanish at 22 Ships in Ships Street where Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton presents a creative tapas menu that has crowds queuing to get in. www.22ships.hk
- Shop for rattan and Chinese furniture in Queen’s Road East and buy good inexpensive clothing in Spring Garden Lane.
- Swim in Hotel Indigo’s rooftop pool and look down through the glass bottom to Wan Chai going about its business. Later have a martini in the hotel’s Sky Bar followed by dinner at Cafe Post on the 2nd floor overlooking the old Wan Chai post office.
- Cathay Pacific operates four flights daily between Sydney and Hong Kong, three flights per day from Melbourne, eleven flights per week from Brisbane, seven flights a week from Cairns and Adelaide, and ten flights from Perth. The airline offers Business, Premium Economy and Economy on all flights aboard Airbus A330s.