In our regular Street Talk feature, we talk to Digital Product Manager and Photographer Karling H about why she loves living in Sai Ying Pun.
Where do you live? Border of Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan.
How long have you lived here? Two months – since Christmas!
Why here? I love the strong sense of community, green spaces, café culture and arty vibe of this neighbourhood. Craftsmen have long lived and built businesses in SYP, and that spirit can still be felt in the neighbourhood today: the only surviving wood factory in HK is on Queen’s Road West; a family run bamboo steamer business from the 1950s still thrives; glass blowers and ceramicists can be found on First and Third Streets; sauce brewers make legendary chilli and soy sauce at Yu Kwen Yick; one of the few remaining traditional printing shops is on High street … I could keep going!
I especially love early mornings in the neighbourhood when the trolleys are hustling around the wet markets, listening to the locals call out to each other and have a laugh as they go about their work, shop cats stretching in the early light and bamboo steamers filling the air with a delicious scent making tummies rumble, locals doing tai chi in the park or joining my son on the basketball court (where, despite their age, they often outrun him – language differences being no barrier to fun!). The proximity of green space and the basketball courts in particular were a key decision to move into our particular building. The cultivation of a thriving community has not been diluted by the expansion of the neighbourhood, and that’s my favourite thing about the area.
What transport do you use to get to and from your work? I get the MTR – very handy! However, trams and buses service the area and, if I’m in Central for work for the day, I love the short walk to work.
When you walk out of your place, what’s the first thing you see? The rice man’s cat, cafes, mechanics, a laundry store.
The closest store to your front door is? Detour café, the rice man Sing Tak Lung, and the laundry lady.
The unofficial uniform of your area is? Anything goes!
If a celebrity moves in, it will most likely be: Lucy Liu – an artist in her own right, and someone who I feel appreciates artisanship, and is curious and community-minded.
When you’re in need of a dose of culture, you: Step outside my front door! Culture is all around, be it the people in the street, the street art everywhere, the art work at the MTR or down Art Lane, or the art gallery called Above Second.
A mandatory stop for taking out-of-town guests is: Art Lane.
A common myth about your area is: I’ve heard people say, “Oh, you live in such an expat area”, however I find there are loads of locals here, including many local eateries.
If you’re ever woken up at night it’s almost always due to: The person who lives in the flat above me who likes to practice piano in the dead of the night – that, or the clanking of the boats in the harbour; it’s amazing how high up and how far noise carries across water.
A massive late-night rager in SYP is likely to involve: Gin at Ping Pong Gintonería, a late-night set at Potatohead’s music room, then yakitori skewers at BBQ on Third Street … it’s a fairly quiet neighbourhood, which I love.
Your hands-down favourite neighbourhood joint is: Winstons for a coffee on the run, Detour for a laidback coffee, great avo toast and good tunes, and Locofama on a Sunday afternoon.
You won’t find better local food than at: Eng Kee Noodle Shop for the best char siu noodles and beef brisket noodles (soooo good!), Kwan Kee for claypot rice, and Yuen Kee for Chinese-style dessert!
The strangest thing you’ve ever seen in this area is: Older locals taking their caged birds out for early morning jogs around King George Park.
The best bargains in your neighbourhood are: Takeaway dim-sum dishes from the “bao lady” at Bao Dim Gui Yan on Centre Street, bamboo steamers and wares from Tak Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Company, made by hand since the 1950s, and the local electrical stores on Queen’s Road West.
The guiltiest pleasure in your area is: Afternoons at Premier Cru sharing a bottle of wine in the little courtyard out the back. My children would say FTea – their favourite bubble tea place – or Sweeties Dessert.
One thing you’d never change is: The community! As I mentioned, I love that when my son plays basketball in the local park, people always join in. I would also never change the colourful walk-up tenement buildings (tong lau), the little local eateries, the enormous trees, the incredible street art and the wet markets.
The city gives you $5 million to soup up your area. You use it to: Preserve the old tong lau and bring more greenery into the streets.
Do you love your neighbourhood? Share it with others – just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Street Talk” in the subject line. Include your name and street, and we’ll be in touch.
See more in our Living in Hong Kong section
This article first appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.