When I first heard of Southorn Playground, my initial thoughts were of an actual playground with green flora interspersed with fountains and footpaths. In reality, it’s a football court and two basketball courts adjacent to each other with bleachers on one side of it. It is lacking in true flora (there are a few trees and planter boxes), there isn’t much space for that. So it’s not somewhere you would go for “fresh air”.
However, it is a big community space and members of the public are welcome to walk through it (to avoid the rubbish collection area on Luard) to get to Johnston Road, or sit on the bleachers for lunch. You could try and find a space along the perimeter of the courts but you’ll find yourself competing with the elderly and infirm hanging out with their caregivers.
When there isn’t a game of footie or basketball going on, the space is used for community events.
The event taking over Southorn Playground tonight is the Chaoren Association of Hong Kong. Looks like a lot of Hong Kong’s Chiu Chow people will be gathering in one place. At least 3000 of them anyway, according to the seating chart.
Well, it’s nice and cool weather, great to be outdoors. I’m impressed at how they are going to cater for that many people… unless it’s packed food handed out at the entrance.
Some of Wan Chai’splaygrounds are tucked away in little hidden areas, almost like private courtyards for in-the-know residents. It’s nice that these spaces are reserved and gazetted as public parks, though I wish the local district council would consider upgrading them (not just maintaining them) as a matter of routine.
One example is this playground at Wan Chai Gap Road. Not many would know of its existence unless you’re a regular commuter along the Wan Chai Gap Road, or have a habit of ducking down narrow alleys for a look around.
There are two access points to the playground, one down a narrow alley off Stone Nullah Lane (past popular drinking spot Stone Nullah Tavern), the other is via the steep Wan Chai Gap Road off Queens Road East. That’s the steep little road just by the old post office. Then down some stairs to the left.
It’s surrounded either by high walls or buildings on all sides, and there are steps for both entrances, so this isn’t one that I recommend going with your monster stroller.
It does open up to a fairly wide concrete area, with very small facilities for young kids. By that I mean that the age catered for is 2-5 years old. There are three little ride-ons which can provide a ten minute respite, and a tic tac toe grid if you fancy a quick game. I thought it was a real pity the very large under-utilised space had no swingsor slide.
Instead it serves more as an air well and walk through connector for residents. Not much of a playground is it?
I suppose kids could take their toys there to play… but if that was the idea then a ramp should be made in place of steps.
Hong Kong needs to step up a notch in playground design. As one of the top financial centres in the world, the public playgrounds are lagging behind Tokyo, New York, London, Singapore.
Find the playground here if you need to get off the busy streets and catch a breather.
It’s been at least half a year since I last visited Baumhaus. Since then, things appear to have gotten much busier with many more mothers and children visiting the playroom.
The lift attendants are now more attentive and open the door to the secure lift lobby when they see you coming. The lift buttons still don’t light up when pressed but light up only when it gets to the floor. In this case, Baumhaus is on the first floor.
Some thoughtful renovation has been performed. The front counter and bench has been shifted to give more space to the playroom, it also created a useful reading nook beside the cafe which was otherwise a wasted corridor space that visually partitioned the cafe from the playroom.
There were additional toys, a play kitchen, an aeroplane baby swing. I liked that when the playroom got really busy, they expanded the roam area by opening the collapsible doors to the classroom to create a contiguous space.
The soundproofing was a critical upgrade. The walls beneath the windows are now covered with an inch thick layer of padding. It makes a huge difference to the acoustics of the playroom. Think 30 screaming children dampened to half. That’s a significant tolerable reduction.
The cafe is now properly equipped, so coffees, teas, hot/cold chocolate and bottled juices are now available. Served alongside if you want are a variety of biscuits, muffins and toasted bagels with cream cheese (recommended, HKD 23).
The playroom costs HKD 80 per entry, kids are welcome to play for several hours but 2 hours is usually enough for them to do all the sliding they want, and get through most of the toys.
If there’s one thing worse than being in an outdoor playground when it’s hot, it’s being there when it’s full of people so there’s nowhere to sit, AND full of mosquitoes that leave horrible welts on your calves for weeks (horrible Hong Kong Park).
It was in the height of summer last year that I discovered Spring. How did I hear about it? A minibus went by with an ad for it and I googled the address and went to check it out.
What a fantastic find. A large open indoor play space with natural light in Wan Chai only exists here. Unfortunately Baumhaus, despite a better location (recently opened on Queens Road East) cannot compare. Combine that with great interior design and warm friendly staff who know when to leave you alone.
Small person has spent an immeasurable amount of time there ever since. She took to it right away, the toddler exercise area changes every week, providing new challenges. The indoor swings were a huge hit with her, I’m always moving furniture out of the way for maximum amplitude.
The padded stairs, tree house and slide are superb areas for toddlers to work out their little leg muscles. And it’s all cleverly designed so that a small adult can also fit in it if necessary. The glass windows provide a direct visual of the kids and serves to reduce the racket their making.. Very well thought out.
I love that I can sit for a while and perhaps speed read a magazine, have a drink and luxuriate for a few minutes in a nice loo.
Aside from cooking and mandarin classes, small person spends her time with kitchen play sets, train tracks, Lego and other dexterity building toys in the toy zone. Depending on where you sit, as it is an open concept space, it’s possible to keep an eye or ear on your toddler wherever they are.
The play space you’ll get to use for free if you sign up for at least one of their myriad of classes (cooking, language, art, sports, dance….). Though I’m sure that if you’re in the neighbourhood and just need to set your child down for a while, the staff will let you in.
Spring is on the 3rd floor of a commercial building. There’s lots of parking for cars nearby. You can get the tram to Tonnochy if it’s too far from the MTR (but remember,
no prams on the trams) If you’re coming on foot like me, there are two entrances to the building, via Gloucester Road ( big orange highway) or Jaffe Road. Jaffe road is also known as Food Street in Wan Chai, many delicious restaurants along here, most are mommy-pram friendly if you get there by 11am, before the lunch crowd starts. Otherwise, wait til 2pm and you’ll get your seat and less stressed wait staff.
This playground is very very popular on weekends. There are two playgrounds separated by a road. One for the young ones 2-5 years of age ( climbing frame and swings) and another for the 5-12 year olds which has a climbing frame, swings and a scooter/ skateboard zone.
Families come from all over to let the kids go crazy on the slides, scooter around, buy bubble guns that shoot out a stream of bubbles… Every kid wants one of those.
Then there’s the fairground atmosphere of adults and children eating as they play, instead of cotton candy floss and lollipops, think local snacks, fish balls, steamed Siew Mai and herbal boiled eggs (my favourite… try it for $5 per egg). The little concession stand does milk teas and coffees, hot or cold, ovaltine and Horlicks. The fridge stocks most soft drinks that you can think of and there’s an array of candy, chips and chocolate to choose from. Let’s not forget the ice cream. There’s the usual Walls type ice cream available, cones and sticks. They only accept cash so make sure you bring change.
Amenities wise, there’s a public restroom, water coolers to refill your bottle and lots and clean benches to sit and eat. Or just sit.
On a clear low pollution day, you can look out over the South side from the picnic area and enjoy the cool breeze rushing over the mountains. The falcons love it, look out for them soaring overhead.
In the high humidity of summer, there are lots of mosquitoes so do not forget your bug spray.
Access this playground via:
No. 15 bus, catch it from Central or Wan Chai towards the Peak (possible with pram but depends on how crowded bus is, usually full of tourists with very big fancy cameras)
Walk up Wan Chai Gap ( starts beside Bamboo Grove. Tough with pram, do not try going uphill unless super fit. Do not try going downhill unless someone else carries the baby.)
Catch a taxi/ uber it up there
There are some nice pram friendly walks you can do from here (Black’s Link and Aberdeen Reservoir Walk), I’ll be detailing them in another post.
On Sunday, we met up with friends who had just moved here from Paris. We brought them to one of our favourite noodle shops in the Star street area, 一碗麵 (“one bowl of noodles“, it only has a Chinese name). After that, we needed to get the kids to work off some of that excess energy.
A friend whom I’d bumped into on the minibus recently told me about a playground I’ve never seen or heard of. It’s not marked on maps and there are no signs on street level that this playground exists. He said it was up Electric Road, up the stairs from Maison Es. This was the playground I suggested we check out.
This playground is NOT pram friendly.
Firstly, Electric Street is a rather steep slope. If you found it steep going up Wing Fung Street or St. Francis Street then you should just stop for coffee and forget about attempting Electric Street. If your coffee came with two sugars and you also ordered dessert, then I highly recommend you try pushing your pram up here ( just to metabolize it off, of course).
At the top of the street, you’ll see some rather narrow stairs. Fold your pram up or hoist it up on your shoulder and prepare for a good workout. This walk up the stairs will feel like an x kg one arm dumbbell press (x = weight of your pram), working out your shoulder, back and legs. The good news is, it only takes about 3 minutes to get up there.
The playground is a decent size with a climbing frame and see-saw (but disappointingly, no swings), ensconced on all sides by the tall apartments on Monmouth Terrace. I suppose this playground was provided for the residents in these buildings. It’s shaded and has little in the way of greenery but a nice breeze makes up for that.
There’s lots of sitting benches, which are made of metal and discourage sleeping. A little gazebo provides a bit of shade if it should rain. There’s also an open gazebo structure, I’m not sure what purpose it serves apart from being an eyesore. Best if they remove it and put in a nice swing.
We spent a good hour here just relaxing and chatting. Having the privacy and the nice cool breeze made the effort worthwhile, although I’d never have made it up here with the pram on my own (thank you husband, your gym instructor is doing a fine job).
After that, it was back down the slope to Star street to peruse the shops. Fortunately small person had the company of an 8 year old boy, she was very motivated to walk and chase him down.
Morrison Hill is full of schools for all ages. They are literally on every corner you look. There’s the German Swiss International School, the two Tang Shui Kin Secondary Schools, the Muslim Kindergarten, the Christian Kindergarten, the Vocational Institutes and a plethora of other training centers all crowded around the Morrison Hill Public Swimming Pool.
Next to schools, there has to be playgrounds. These kids have their school yard during school hours, and can visit either Wan Chai park or Morrison Hill playground.
Right on the corner of Oi Kwan Road and Sung Tak Street is Morrison Hill Children’s playground and Skateboard park. It overlooks the very busy Morrison Hill Road and the high way link to the Aberdeen tunnel is just next to it. To be fair, the high way link isn’t too imposing once you’re used to Hong Kong city planning but the excessive use of horns by vehicles caught in congestion can be rather distracting. That, and the exhaust fumes. I’ve only seen skateboarders and kids on scooters on the weekends, during the week, it’s a completely empty space for kids to run around.
As always, weekday mornings are good and late evenings are fine too.
The playground looks quite similar to most other playgrounds in Hong Kong (presumably they were all bought on consignment and installed at roughly the same time). It consists of a simple climbing frame with slides. Although there is a sign indicating that part of the frame is for 2-5 year olds, it isn’t very good for toddlers as the frame is a little too high for them to get onto themselves. If your kid is over 4 years of age, I think it might work for them.
There are also two rocking ride-ons. Apart from that, there’s a lot of open seating and tree-shaded benches and tables to sit at.
Pram / Stroller access is via Oi Kwan Road only. So if you’re coming from Causeway Bay Leighton Road area, you just walk up Sung Tak Street and onto Oi Kwan Road. If you’re coming from Queen’s Road East, you don’t need to walk all the way around, use the corridor short cut onto Oi Kwan Road which looks like this. It’s just after the MacLehose Dental Centre and before the Queen Elizabeth Stadium. Look out for it on your left after you walk by a bus stop.
It’s a good pitstop if you’re on a mission to browse lamps on Morrison Hill Road or shop at the Bowrington Street Market and have a kid in tow. There are no public toilets here, you’ll need to go into the stadium or try using the ones at the public swimming pool across the street.
If your kid is screaming for swings, head to the Tak Yan Street Swing area. It’s about a 5 minute walk past the post office and mosque around the not too strenuous hill.
Digging beneath the dirt… To find the good and the gritty