SCMP: Walking tour showcases colourful Sham Shui Po

Source: SCMP | Published: 20 Apr 2014

SCMP: Walking tour showcases colourful Sham Shui Po

Date: 20 April 2014

[Correction: the Chinese-style three-storey shophouse pictured in the report used to be one of 32 such buildings on and around Pei Ho Street. Today, it’s the ONLY ONE left.]

People can be a bit snobby about Sham Shui Po. It’s seen as poor and working-class, which it is. But it’s also one of Hong Kong’s most colourful districts and one, as a current exhibition shows, that is beloved by many.

A regular walking tour also shows off the tenement buildings, shophouses, the streets where film director John Woo got his inspiration, and the hair salons – which sometimes offer more than a cut and blow-dry.

“I grew up right across from this street,” said Olivia Tang Yiu-sum, a guide with walking-tour company Walk In Hong Kong.

The street she was referring to is Ap Liu Street, now a popular place to buy new and second-hand electronics. But the street derives its name from the words “duck cage”. “In the 1900s all the area used to be farmland next to the waterfront,” she explained.

She and Haider Kikabhoy, the founder of Walk In Hong Kong, have set up a tour of Sham Shui Po that takes the visitor past a series of interesting landmarks, some beyond the district, including the early public housing of Shek Kip Mei, the Garden Bakery building, and the Kung Wo Tofu Shop.

They are also collaborating with Chloe Lai Wing-sze, who works for the heritage NGO Urban Diary. Lai has curated an exhibition in a shop in Tung Chau Street that puts together the stories of those living in Sham Shui Po, former residents and regular visitors, with photographs by Robert Godden.

Lai said she was overwhelmed by how many people felt a connection to the district.

The space for the exhibition has been provided free of charge by clothes-shop owner Lee Sin Fung-yee, 68.

Lee is the last resident of the block and will shortly have to move out, as the Urban Renewal Authority is redeveloping it.

“I bought this place in 1992,” Lee said. “I want the URA to be fair. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I want a space that is equal to the shop and the flat.”

Dai Kam Lung, a Chinese-style three-storey shophouse still containing a Chinese-medicine shop, stands on the corner of Tai Nam and Pei Ho streets.

“There used to be 32 of these in the district,” Kikabhoy said. “Now there are only a few. This is a grade-two building, which still means it could be demolished.”

Tang introduced the Sham Shui Police Station, built in 1924 and now a grade-two listed building, as “bringing back a lot of childhood memories”. It turns out she was a cadet.

Decades ago, Sham Shui Po was on the cusp of Hong Kong and mainland China – criminals in Hong Kong could make a run for it across Boundary Street and flee into China.

“John Woo, the famous movie director, grew up in the Shek Kip Mei public housing,” Tang said, “and he has told how he was tailed by gangsters, and someone even threw acid at him.

“There was another story about some girls who lived on the seventh floor. They’d hear the gang fights on the ground floor. They would hear the knife chopping into the flesh, and one told me it would sound like the butcher chopping into pork meat.”

The next Sham Shui Po Vitality tour is next Saturday. Visit or call 551-14839.