Category Archives: Wan Chai Amenities

Creative Tourism- can Wanchai culture be manufactured? A letter to District Councillor Clarisse Yeung

Dear Clarisse,

I read this article in the SCMP with great intrigue. The Tourism commission wants to promote Wan Chai as a creative community by installing instagram-able art walls.

Ignore the directional landmarks indicated, it’s incorrect!

Thank you Tourism Commission. I do like the idea of having beautiful walls to look at. I’ve admired the art work on the sidewalk of Stone Nullah Lane, the mural that suddenly appeared beside Tang Shiu Kin Hospital and the flowers that now decorate the overhead bridge to immigration tower from the mtr does make the walk seem less concrete and more relaxing (you can spot the animals in the changing landscape).

Images of flowers replace on bare concrete

But is that really it?

In the article our Wanchai District Councillor Clarissa Yeung opined that the walls may go unnoticed by the residents and some residents don’t even like the art they see (despite the specific local cultural significance attributed to the motif). Can you please tell us what alternative proposals you have suggested to the Tourism Commission? Anything utilitarian? Residents want what they can use… for example well maintained, covered walkways and pavements (to protect us from being poked by umbrellas and having to maneuver around trees or potholes), smoke free zones so we don’t have to keep waving as we walk, barrier free access to all buildings (and bigger lifts or ramps for the existing public infrastructure), lower streetside pollution.

How about these suggestions Clarisse? You can say you heard it from a Wan Chai resident.

1) Pedestrian Car-free Day on Sundays on Johnston and Lockhart Road. To allow us residents to properly admire the art and enjoy the neighbourhood. If the authorities doubt how useful pedestrianized areas are, please look at the crowd on Lee Tung Avenue admiring the art there. Open up the streets for everyone to come to Wan Chai to enjoy. This would allow residents from all walks of life to meet and build connections. Trams can still operate and bring a bike or scooter? (Mostly, kids have scooters). A Sunday morning once a month from 6-11am would be very well received, other top world cities have done this.

2) How about Pop-up playgrounds? If you want the tourists and locals to bring families into the city to spend and stay, this would be an awesome project for the district. Instead of exhibits that cannot be touched (again, see Lee Tung Avenue which rarely allows anyone to touch anything…yawn *boring*…or high class Art Basel), how about getting an experiential artist who can design an installation and play spaces that will bring real lasting and fun memories to the next generation. Who brings the next generation? Well, this generation and very often, the one before. You’d be getting 3 generations which would be much more meaningful than the current exhibits. There’ll be a ton of social media sharing.

3) Force landlords who have commercial property sitting empty for more than 3 months to rent it to a cha chaan teng or convert into an indoor playroom. Ok, I admit this is a huge challenge but looking at empty “for rent” spaces while landlords wait for asset inflation creates just as much of a visual and featureless hole as art installations decorate one. (This would be a follow-on of the residential vacancy tax). The property next to the temple on Queens Road East facing Tai Wong East Street has been empty for almost a year and what a waste of space. There are many more to be seen as you walk down the street.

Wan Chai has a dearth of facilities for young children or moms and grandmas to get together. (Please do not suggest that the sitting out areas are appropriate or sufficient because they are not. Some are by busy polluted streets, others have benches at linear intervals that do not promote conversation and almost none are good in hot humid rainy weather).

The Stone Nullah art installation should remind the authorities to preserve more al fresco style casual restaurants or eateries. I’ve heard that St Francis Street is losing its only cha chaan teng very soon due to redevelopment. Locals and regular visitors to this 60-year old establishment will feel its loss, both for its nostalgic link to the past and its current popular menu. The red light district and its supporting establishments have their own means of advertising, public money need not go towards promoting it further.

Please share any other ideas you have with me in the comments section.

P.s. I’ve had to give advice and directions to tourists with families asking for the nearest playground and family friendly eating cafes. If you could get the Tourism Commission to put these into that fancy app, that may make it a lot more useful.

With reference to: Why Wan Chai is unlike any other place in Hong Kong – and it’s not just because of its sleazy red light district

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3006972/why-wan-chai-unlike-any-other-place-hong-kong-and-its-not

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Incentive to recycle in Wan Chai?

Just recently, Lee Tung Avenue added a recycling machine in the corridor towards Exit D of Wan Chai’s MTR station. I think it’s a fabulous idea that needs to be worked on more aggressively.

You pop a bottle into the round opening and it’s supposed to give you points from the company collecting these bottles (Note that not all recyclable bottles are collected, you scan the barcode and the machine tells you if they accept it🤔). I’m not sure what the accumulated points can be used for or whether it’s just like TripAdvisor, where you just get a virtual pat on the back for doing the community a service.

What would be better is to work with octopus, where a certain token sum is put back into your card. Even 5 or 10 cents would be a worthwhile incentive for people to detour out of their way in order to put the bottles in. The government can then reduce the messy sights on the street where the recycling bins are packed to the brim and often spilling over on weekends.

Another improvement on the machine is that the bottles aren’t crushed immediately, but simply dropped into a receptacle within. This was really cheap on the part of the recycling company, they should be getting the machines which compact the plastic bottles this saving bin liners. Go for maximum savings right? Bottles are bulky and take up so much space.

This article from today’s SCMP:

74 per cent of drinks cartons in landfill from Vitasoy – firm ‘must recycle’

It highlights a particular company (Vitasoy) that is obviously a very much loved brand in Hong Kong, where it’s tetra packs constitute 75% of all drink packets in Hong Kong’s trash. Why does Vitasoy not participate in collection by having these machines collect drink packs? Perhaps for every 20 packets consumed, one could collect enough points or cash to redeem a pack. How about partnering with 7-11 stores? 7-11s and Circle K are the major distributors of these drinks around the city. They could act as a collection point like they do for the Kowloon dairy milk bottles (washed Kowloon milk glass bottles redeem for 50 cents at 7-11).

Intrinsically, most people do want to do the right thing, they just don’t want to go out of their way, wasting precious time if it isn’t as rewarding as what they already need to do. Hong Kong has a work ethic culture that is one of the toughest in the world. There’s a minimum wage but it doesn’t match the cost of living. Everyone of all socio-economic level is under pressure to make every second count in order to afford living here.

If recycling is incentivized and promoted in Hong Kong (due to its high urban concentration), it could easily become a way of life and help balance out this fast paced throwaway culture.

just saw a new machine at Wanchai MTR! Now they need to put another machine to accept all the plastic bottles that these machines reject so that you don’t need to scout another 20 minutes for a recycling bin…..

Another construction site banging near you soon

If you live anywhere along Queens Road East, you may be suffering from the development of Hopewell Center 2. The constant jack hammering (they hit a big rock and it has to go, somehow) has forced tenants who are affected by noise and vibration to locate their business elsewhere.

The dusty and dirty business of construction drives out all but the most persistent of shops and stores as foot traffic drops. The rent had better be damn good to make them stay.

I noticed the vacancies on Anton Street for a long time and I should have guessed that it was the long awaited extension of the Swire empire in Wanchai. 28 Hennessy, that white swanky building next to the Ozo hotel is going to become a massive commercial property with another larger tower beside it. Thanks to the Designing Hong Kong blog, I was able to see what the plans are.

The extension is for two basement underground car park floors (only 32 cars so not even 1 car park lot per floor of each building), a few pop up shops on the ground level (1 basement retail-what could this be?!), presumably swanky chain coffee shops from the Swire group, two levels (in pink) for some varied purpose and a green space that doubles up as a refuge zone in the event of an emergency.

This is all very well from an architectural viewpoint. But Designing Hong Kong makes the case that it is destroying the vibrant street life that existed there before.

I’m not against redevelopment, in fact I think careful redevelopment brings certain advantages to the neighbourhood. For example bigger sidewalks due to mandatory setbacks, more shade from the sun or rain for pedestrians, the renewal of pipes and electrical wires that pose a hazard in old buildings attempting to support the demands of new technology. It could also bring about a better selection of goods and services….

So I took a closer inspection of what the redevelopment plans are all about.

You can see that the plot for redevelopment is about 60% of the block, affecting three streets, Anton, Landale and Queens Road East. Anton street has no street life anymore since Swire acquired the buildings, and Ozo dominates the opposite block. Landale Street is the F&B heart of the area with ever changing local food choices serving lunch to office workers.

Check out the ground floor. There’s some allocation for retail or pop-up stores, an interactive art wall, a bit of green here and there for visual impact (ie nothing that you can picnic on).

What really bothers me is the lack of public accessible seating or areas to rest. I think that the authority granting redevelopment licenses should demand more of this from every developer. You’ve deprived the area of convenient and accessible street-level amenities like restaurants, laundry, printing shops at street level (not to mention other businesses that used to operate above) and replacing it with an office tower full of financial firms and big name institutions. You could at least make some demands on catering to public interest.

Is this all part of the payback for the connection between Admiralty and Wanchai…. the bridge and tunnel domination of the Swire group as an extension of Pacific Place and PP3.

This plan shows the 2nd floor. Okay nice podium garden, landscape garden… is it open to the public? I’ve walked past 28 Hennessy many times and it’s cold and stark lobby area does not encourage anyone to ascend the escalator to the lobby. That pink area designated for office/Exhibition/education.. what is that? Will it be a tuition center or a Wework type office?

Here’s the side view. You can see that the gardens are inaccessible, they are all above the first floor.

The picture above from Designing Hong Kong shows the “entrance” to 28 Hennessy, all concrete, no seating areas, just a stark flat area (albeit with a few token sculptures) beside the escalator. It’s sayonara to the pink building with the curved exterior that (among other things) had a yoga studio, a local shirt tailor, a little snack shop selling the traditional Hong Kong egg waffles and fruit juice. Now we have large cement trucks, cranes and piling machines to look forward to.

As developers go, Swire sets one of the highest standards in the industry. Swire, please find a way to include many more redeeming factors in this particular development. I’d like to see a great connector between Johnston and Queens Road East where people can pass through, take a break, people-watch, shade from the sun and rain.

It used to be that office staff from Central would head over one or two stops on the tram to a bustling local neighbourhood to get a cheap and filling lunch quickly and all sorts of office or personal errands done.

Now, it seems those 2 stops aren’t far enough.

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Make your comment* about this development to the Town Planning Board here. It closes tomorrow (7Aug) so do it quickly.

Thanks to Designing Hong Kong for letting us know about this!

Heading out to the bookstore? Know this…

The two largest bookstores in Wan Chai are JP books (right by exit A3 on Johnston road) and Cosmos books which is on Lun Fat and Johnston, more or less opposite Fook Lam Moon restaurant.

The JP bookshop has only one entrance and is a multilevel shop with 3 floors. The ground floor is where the entrance is and you’re required to head up to the first floor and upwards (ie if you want to get to the kids section be prepared to walk up 4 flights of stairs).Cosmos books has a similar layout, it’s a massive sprawl of books set out on two floors, in the basement and on the first floor. The ground floor serves as the main entrance.

So going to the bookstore, you’re faced with these two entrances.

If you’re heading out to the bookshop to pick up a few travel or summer reading books for yourself or the kids, remember to leave the stroller at home. These bookshops have comprehensive collections but are definitely not stroller nor disabled friendly.

Without resorting to couch purchasing on Amazon, what would your stroller options be then?

Kelly and Walsh opened recently in Pacific Place. It’s tucked into a corner sort of opposite and one level up from the cinema. That bookstore has aisles that would make mothers smile…. and an excellent selection of English books.

Alternatively if you’re in Wan Chai this weekend, you can brave the crowds and head to the book fair at the Exhibition center.

New MTR exit and underpass in Wan Chai now open

Updated 2019: Hear hear, an opinion in SCMP that reflects my sentiments….

If you live in the Avenue on Lee Tung Street, you’ve now got a nice underground walkway to get you to the Wan Chai MTR station without navigating street traffic across Johnston Road. This underpass took around two and a half years to build so I’m relieved it’s finally done.

To get to it, take either escalator or lift down to the basement where the supermarket is and walk along the corridor until you get to the end where you’ll see an escalator taking you down to the tunnel.

Okay, so it’s escalators in the middle, stairs to the right. What about barrier free access?

Initially I thought this was a ramp. (Yay!). But no… it’s a lift for wheelchairs 🤔🧐.

The big pain is that you can’t just use it like in other buildings, you have to call the staff to switch it on. (Call in advance! 3791 2103) That is just so lame. Why couldn’t they just put in a ramp or just leave it on for the convenience of anyone in need of it. Why create another step and waiting time?? MTR Corp you are slowing down my journey!!! Hell, I’ll just use the escalator for my stroller. I feel sorry for the wheelchair users.

When you do get down into the tunnel, it’s nice and wide (at least 3 meters wide), slopes uphill going to mtr station and downhill if you’re walking to Lee Tung Avenue. From the design of it, Sino Land and Hopewell seem to expect a crowd heading in their direction. I suppose this is in anticipation of their next development and continued connection to Hopewell Center II. There are spaces created for a few new retailers in the station too.

That’s a new circle K shop coming up next to the platform lift (under repair until May 2018).

And here’s another shop undergoing renovation on the left opposite Circle K. Not sure what it is yet.

I’m not sure if behind this white sheet there will be a shop or an advertising installation. You can see beyond it however that there’s a corridor for future expansion into Southorn Playground’s new underground mall when that gets done.

So this exit is D and here’s a reminder of the opening hours.

I guess the arcade corridor access and lifts to the surface remain operational during these hours too. Check out the promotions from the basement arcade shops below.

Where to buy Bitcoins in Wan Chai

Bitcoins are all the investment rage now. Check out this Bloomberg article on the astronomical prices.

Bitcoin Guns for $10,000 as Cryptocurrency Mania Defies Skeptics

All this news about bitcoin currency exchanges being banned in China got me wondering what and why it’s such s big deal. Is it really that this currency is only used by people up to no good? That’s the feeling I get whenever I read mainstream news media.


And then I saw this. Genesis Block. It’s on my regular route to the kids playgroup Center.


How fantastic


What’s the exchange rate?
After reading this article, I’m still not sure what it’s about… how does one mine Bitcoins?

Here’s an article that describes the risks of crypto currency.

Then of course there’s the bubble effect of this asset class and how high it can go….

Here’s where to find it Genesis Block and their Ethereum ATMs.

A very strange playground off Bowen Road

Bowen Road has been undergoing some remodelling and renovations recently, mostly slope reinforcements and a refurbishment of decade-old toilets 👍.

But still no concession stands or octopus pay drink machines anywhere, which would be nice if LCSD could address. (I mean sometimes we forget to bring our water bottles and snacks for kids and ourselves…. how about allowing a pop up juice bar- coffee shop with croissants and bo-lo-baos that operates on weekends? Or a food truck?) Anyway, on my walk yesterday I noted the completion of a new playground off the fitness path. I really don’t know what to make of it. I think it’s neither here nor there.

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only two rocking horses and a small platform that's not even a slide. Oh yeah that's exciting. Yawn.

A badminton court surrounded by trees. Hmm, great for blocking the wind I suppose but kind of dark and enclosed.

It seems like a bit of a tick the box we have these facilities type thing. What a waste of money. To get kids and parents to go down those stairs to get to rocking horses and then back up is probably too much for most Hong Kong families. Mums with babies and toddlers wouldn’t go if they had a stroller. Who is this for exactly? Someone who has a kid of 2-5yrs and a 2 teenagers who play badminton?

ok, the space and area layout is sort of awkward but they should have done a fun looking playground based on a theme. Or just put in an awesome swing set with a view.

Maintaining it is quite a job in itself too. Poor sweepers looking at the stairs are likely to hate it.

Wish those in charge had been a little more innovative in design, then maybe it would be worth the effort.

If you want to see what inspiring playgrounds look like, check out the pics at the end of this post.