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Sheung Wan

SW intro

 

Having ventured north in week one and south-ish in week two, I thought we’d head west to Sheung Wan for suburb No 3. I also chose it because it’s our local hood and feeling less than 100% recently, I didn’t want to roam far.

A lightening quick lesson on Sheung Wan before we set off. Located on Hong Kong Island, between Central and Sai Ying Pun. Name means either Upper or Gateway District; the latter would make sense considering Sheung Wan is where the British stabbed the Union Jack in the ground and declared Hong Kong their own.

But that was way back in 1842. What’s the place like in 2012? Glad you asked…

 

Part 1: Sassy Sheung Wan

If Sham Shui Po was a nice old man and Cheung Chau a gentle aunty, I reckon Sheung Wan is your glamour girl. Smart glamour girl that is, striding confidently forward into the modern age with a respect for the past and an understanding of both East and West. This is where cool cafes and chichi art galleries rub shoulders with temples, markets and lots of dried stuff in jars.

 

a great leap forward

a great leap forward

 

 

 

A line

A line

 

 

 

light and sound

light and sound

 

 

 

preferably delivered to my door

preferably delivered to my door

 

 

 

west east

West East

 

 

 

chic

c'est vrai

 

 

 

pretty boy

pretty boy

 

 

 

look left, look right, look left and right again

look left, look right, look left and right again

 

 

 

mieow

mieow

 

 

 

shooting hoops

shooting hoops

 

 

 

Have you noticed how much yellow, red and green there are in the images by the way? It hit me this week how so much of everything is one or more of those colours and now I see them everywhere. Yellow is earth, red, fire and green, wood. Three of the Five Elements that Chinese hold so dear.

 

everything's yellow, green and red, from the sacred to the sorted

everything's yellow, green and red, from the sacred to the sorted

 

 

 

even oil drums are red and green

even oil drums are red and green

 

 

 

Part 2: Old Sheung Wan – the faces

Forward looking and fast changing it may be, but Sheung Wan is still very ‘old Hong Kong’ in many ways. From the people who’ve worked and lived here forever to the buildings that house them.

 

the street vendor

the street vendor

 

 

 

the printer

the printer

 

 

 

moveable type

moveable type

 

 

 

the cook...

the cook...

 

 

 

and his customers

and his customers

 

 

 

the barber

the barber

 

 

 

Part 3: Old Sheung Wan – the places

Lower Sheung Wan, near the MTR, hustles and bustles with great gusto. But heading away from the harbour, climbing up the mountain, the neighbourhood calms down. This is especially true around the old terraces (as in large landings not buildings). With no cars and large outside communal areas, they are literally a breath of fresh air. Helpful on washing day in particular.

 

drying machine

drying machine :: 1

 

 

 

drying machine :: 2

drying machine :: 2

 

 

 

(By the way, have you tweaked that something is a little different with the above two images? I got my hands on a tilt shift lens for the first time, just to borrow. Tricky little gadget that allows you to play with focus, softening it where you couldn’t with a normal lens. In the image below, for example, the ledge over the window is strangely soft. Like?)

 

metal windows

metal windows

 

 

 

Anyway, two terraces really caught my eye. The first is Wing Lee Street where a row of dilapidated tenement buildings from the 1960s was set to be demolished until a film made them famous; the government has backed off for now but as far as I could gather, the future of the dear old things is still in question. Funny thing is, just around the corner a couple of very similar buildings look in much better shape and are obviously well cared for. Here’s hoping their neighbours follow suit.

 

Wing Lee Street

Wing Lee Street

 

 

 

neglected

neglected

 

 

 

nurtured

nurtured

 

 

 

this could be...

this could be...

 

 

 

this

this

 

 

 

The other terrace that I found interesting is Tai On Terrace. In one short street you can see Sheung Wan’s past and future.

 

what does this have in common with...

what does this have in common with...

 

 

 

this?

this?

 

 

 

they're neighbours

they're neighbours

 

 

The old carpenter’s shop and the funky new design agency. It is sad to think that the carpenter will one day be pushed out – but at least they’re not knocking the whole street down and putting up some ugly, obnoxious tower. Not yet anyway.

Not a terrace but a shop on Jervois Street in lower Sheung Wan, Yuen Kut Lam, also caught my eye. A beautiful, almost century old shop that sells herbs and medicinal teas. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather when I stumbled upon it. 

 

Yuen Kut Lam

Yuen Kut Lam

 

 

 

100 years of herbs

100 years of herbs

 

 

 

film star looks

film star looks

 

 

 

a remnant of older Hong Kong

a remnant of older Hong Kong

 

 

 

Part 4: Another New Year

Come this time next week, Chinese New Year will have come and gone. But right now, it’s all go. Every self-respecting Chinese is busy choosing their kumquat or peach blossom tree and buying decorations, food and sweets for the big day. To me it feels like Christmas all over again, minus the reindeer.

 

like Christmas but not :: 1

like Christmas but not :: 1

 

 

 

like Christmas but not :: 2

like Christmas but not :: 2

 

 

 

like Christmas but not :: 3

like Christmas but not :: 3

 

 

 

only peach blossoms may park here

only peach blossoms may park here

 

 

 

wall to wall kumquats

wall to wall kumquats

 

 

 

it's their time to shine

it's their time to shine

 

 

 

flower shops are at full tilt

flower shops are at full tilt

 

 

 

stocking up on sweeties

stocking up on sweeties

 

 

 

get me home

get me home

 

 

 

Aside from organising one’s bits and pieces, there are temples to visit and gods to worship. In Sheung Wan there are a couple of beauties, including the very old and original Man Mo Temple.

 

quick, to the temple to pay our respects, and don't forget the oranges

quick, to the temple to pay our respects, and don't forget the oranges

 

 

 

Part 5: Eat street

Aside from a handful of modern cafes aimed largely at the western market, Sheung Wan is filled to the brim with zillions of tiny eateries serving local fare. And although 7-11s have sprouted up everywhere, there are still enough corner shop types to make the neighbourhood seem, well, neighbourly.

 

eat and be merry

eat and be merry

 

 

 

staples of the Chinese diet, fish and rice

staples of the Chinese diet, rice and fish

 

 

 

mmm, dried fish

mmm, dried fish

 

 

 

the corner store

the corner store

 

 

 

fruity

fruity

 

 

 

On one day I hung around the corner store and the ‘fruity’ place for a good hour experimenting with the tilt shift lens. I don’t know what was more entertaining, the Rubik’s Cube nature of the lens or the constant stream of bodies rushing past me; Hong Kong is a busy place. Busy I tell you.

 

busy

busy

 

 

 

coming and going

coming and going

 

 

 

dreaming

dreaming

 

 

 

The Wrap

There seems to me to be two very different Sheung Wans. The one further up the hill, above Hollywood Road, is relaxed and aside from the temples, seems quite western and modern. Whereas the Sheung Wan that’s below Hollywood Road, closer to the MTR, moves at full pelt and feels more Chinese and old style. Might explain why the place has really grown on me these past few weeks; depending on what you feel like, East or West, slow or fast, modern or traditional, you can swap between the different worlds just by crossing a road.

 

enjoying herself before 'school' starts

Coco, enjoying herself before 'school' starts

 

On the ‘home’ front

Thanks to everyone who wished Coco and I a speedy recovery. We’re back to normal more or less, save for a paranoia about air quality that’s fueled (excuse the pun) every morning with yet more news about how bad the situation is here. I spit the dummy regularly and find a good rant at belching exhaust pipes to be helpful. Coco meanwhile just slaps on her kiddy surgical mask and gets on with it. Such wisdom in one so small.

Introducing a new element to the weekly post – something I completely forgot to do in the first two weeks – where I thank a different supporter of the project each week, like so…

This suburb has been brought to you by Jacquelyn Nolan

See you next week, our last one in Hong Kong before we hit Delhi. (Yes, I know, not exactly the home of fresh air either. Yikes.)

  1. Jodie says:

    Wow, so funny, I was just thinking to myself how much I was enjoying your use of colour in this post, particularly the red, and then I scrolled down and saw that you’d specifically mentioned the colour, seconds later, I was thinking hey I really like what Louise has done with the focus there, then scroll, bing!, you mentioned it!! It’s like we were having a conversation in my head!!
    Totally love this post!!! And so pleased to hear you are both feeling better.
    Catch you next week!
    Jodie

  2. Jo Kaupe says:

    Like the tricky gadget lens, like a pin hole camera. Works really well on buildings.

  3. Kalinda says:

    Lovely work again Lou!

  4. Nicole says:

    Hi Lou please please can Coco be a subject each week? Please!

  5. Kylie says:

    Another great post Louise. I hope you continue to enjoy the tilt-shift lens. I’ve only been able to cheat in Photoshop for the same effect, not the same though! Love the pic at the end of Coco…so sweet!

  6. Catherine Cloran says:

    I lived in HK for 4 years and find myself really enjoying revisiting all the old places, that I knew so well, through your eyes. I like the butting together of the two images and your amusing commentary. Thank you.

  7. Trish says:

    Loved the photos – renewing my memories of Hong Kong. Thankyou.

  8. Aimée says:

    I do love Sheung Wan – great to see the quaint corners you have found. I can’t wait to see which “suburb” you profile next, and all the New Year festivities you might capture on camera. Thanks!

  9. Beachtropic says:

    You’re into it now Lou. Best post so far this series. Loving the shutters also. Di xx

  10. Beachtropic says:

    Ps. Coco is a Hong Kong fashion item. Hope to see an Indian version xx

  11. Tony says:

    Love your blog. Look forward to the next installment.

  12. Leon says:

    Great composition. Really miss that place even after being gone for 20 years.

  13. Sarah says:

    Wow, amazing stuff as always! Love the Cumquat trees!

  14. Louise says:

    Jodie – Yes, I have ways and means of getting into people’s heads! Glad you enjoyed the colour and the tilt-shifting.
    Jo – It’s tricky to use but I’ve fallen for it. Want one!
    Kalinda – Thanks Kindy!
    Nicole – Ha! Actually, it’s rare that she lets me take her photo nowadays. Years ago I had the idea of travelling around the world, dressing Coco in different national costumes as we went. Thought it would like kind of bizarre, in a good way. Maybe I can do a mini version of that this time around.
    Kylie – Well, my friend says I can borrow it until we leave HK so at least one more week of play.
    Catherine, Trish – Thank you!
    Aime – Chinese New Year is going to be mayhem I believe. Should be interesting.
    Di – Well, Coco dressed herself that day, having been given the Cheongsam by a friend. I’m sure she’ll find her way into a sari somehow.
    Tony – Many thanks.
    Leon – HK has that affect on people doesn’t it. Gets up your nose and under your skin!
    Sarah – Kumquats or Cumquats? Seems both are correct somehow. But anyway, yes, they’re appealing little trees, especially en masse.

  15. Robert says:

    Louise,Kung Hei Fat Choi ! This weekend you will see how mad HK can be with Chinese New Year.
    Love the old side of Soho around Sheung Wan. I don’t know where the demarcation lines are, but my old place was nearby in Robinson Road ,up the top of the long,long escalator.we never had that luxury.
    Used to walk up and down thru the area in the old days,sure got up a sweat in summer!
    Keep away from those tilt lenses,they do your head in !

  16. Rebecca says:

    Hey, Love the post. To be honest, I prefer your photography without the tilt shift. Oh and I also loved the photo of Coco. Awesome post………just realised I missed last week……yippee I can now go back and find it! A lovely relaxing thing to do on a lazy Sat morning! Thanks again for the journey so far!

  17. Gill says:

    wonderful pics and interesting reading to boot! Love the colours – and the pic of Coco – more please!! Glad yr felling better.

  18. Jennifer P says:

    I really enjoyed this post Louise. I especially loved the ‘hanging around the corner store’ crowd shots. And Coco’s photo was a lovely surprise at the end! Perhaps you could do a self portrait before you leave Hong Kong?

  19. Greg says:

    I’m glad you have a facination with the metal doors. I like the pics of them. Not a big fan of the tilt shift lens, unless for correcting parallax in sky scrapers. Nor “Lens Babies”. But that’s just my humble opinion. So is it possible to purchase a digital photo from you? There is one I kind of like. Enjoyed the post. Glad to hear you and Coco are feeling better.

    Greg

  20. Louise says:

    Robert – Yeah, the world’s longest outdoor escalator system sure saves a lot of sweat. Damn ugly though!
    Rebecca – Thanks – and appreciate the feedback about the tilt lens. I still have a soft spot for it (can’t help the puns today).
    Gill – Many thanks!
    Jennifer – Hmm, self-portrait huh? I’ll see if I can swing one but it’s a tricky business!
    Greg – Sure, please shoot me an email and let me know which image you’re interested in – 52suburbs@gmail.com Thanks!

  21. natalija says:

    Love your new camera gadget and pics drying machine1 and “coming & going” especially. Never been in Hong Kong before and its lovely to see it through your eyes…

  22. Dee says:

    Great captions for the photos. I had a “no way!” moment about the carpenter and design shop juxtaposition. I always enjoy your photos and this week was no exception.

  23. Peter McConnochie says:

    I spotted the tilt shift lens and thought it was looking very cool – what a great suburb you have shown – excellent shots as always – keep that surgical mask in place and have a great last week in HK!

  24. Debbie Dixon says:

    Wondeful photos. I love the cumquats and the rice.

  25. Cassie says:

    I saw your exhibition in sydney for 52 suburbs and i was BLOWN.AWAY. i spend ages in that room. your so talented!!! i love the idea and how creative it is! your so inspiring!! just want to do something creative as well!! love your perspective and the way you combine your photos. thankyou for being such and inspiration!!!

  26. Catherine @ The Spring says:

    Incredible, vibrant photography. Just have to say what a pleasure it is to stumble across your beautiful blog!

    Catherine @ The Spring (in Brisbane)
    http://www.thespringblog.com

  27. Louise says:

    Natalija – Glad you liked the tilt shift. Not my lens though, just borrowed. Sigh.
    Dee – Yeah, those two shops are from different worlds aren’t they?
    Peter – Another tilt shift fan – seems people either love or hate it.
    Cassie – I love your enthusiasm!
    Catherine – Pleasure is all mine, thank you.
    Debbie – Thanks!

  28. Guy says:

    Hi Beano
    I am definitely on board for this trip around the world. If I can’t be there holding your camera bag and fending off pesky locals then at least I can enjoy your trip via the blog. Beautiful work Beans, just beautiful work; witty too. I feel proud of you doing all this. I agree with one of the suggestions made – a shot of you and or Coco in every country would be fantastic. C’mon there’ll only be 7 of them. Love to you both. Guy

  29. Louise says:

    Guy – Thanks bro! Lovely knowing my big brother is part of the crew. x

  30. Kate says:

    I stumbled by your blog via a link on SMH. Just love it! I lived in HK as a young teen in the 70’s and this really does take me back – further fires my desire to return, now with some hope that some of the “old” HK still exists. Thankyou for your beautiful work!

  31. Eddie says:

    I just stumbled across yor blog today and I will putting you in my favorites, I’m in Hong Kong at least 3 times a month and I love this city never bored with camera in hand all the time there is always a subject to be taken, although I stay out at Sha Tin I still find it just as interesting, I agree self portrait and Coco with each city behind you would be great, I just hope the weather will be warmer this Sunday when I’m up there, look forward to seeing more thanks for sharing.

  32. Leslie Chan says:

    I was born and grown up in HK, I am now living in Sydney. Thank you for bringing such colourful memories for me. Love your work.

  33. Jess says:

    I’m a Sydney girl who moved to Hong Kong 5 years ago to the day and I’ve lived in Sheung Wan the whole time. You have captured everything I love about the place. This has put a smile on my face. Happy weekend!

  34. Garland says:

    Thank you for taking us back to our roots! This is who we are!

  35. Josh says:

    I love your ‘this?’ shot… I did exactly what you’re currently doing 2 years ago – sold the pad, packed the bags and enjoyed the lesser ‘no eiffel tower climb required’ journey. The seed stays firmly planted… next year extended escapades beckon

    Love your work!
    Josh

  36. Chloe says:

    Such nice work Auntie Louise! You manage to find such interesting and beautiful nooks and crannies! Can’t wait to see all the other posts coming

  37. Louise says:

    Chloe – Thanks honey! Glad you’re following and say hi to mum and Monique.

  38. Lisette says:

    Wow, that has brought back even more memories, especially because I used to live off Hollywood Road, on Graham Street! Thanks for the wonderful photos and this nostalgic trip down memory lane (for me)!

  39. melissa says:

    OMG… she is so cute and dressed so well…
    Enjoy your time on earth together….

    xo
    m

    • Louise says:

      Melissa, thanks so much! Coco, dressed by Coco!

  40. Silvia says:

    I’m in LOVE with these photos. Your blog is fascinating.

  41. Damien says:

    I’m moving to HK in 8 weeks. Although used to city living, being from London I’ve still been feeling very nervous as HK is so far removed from what I am used to (and there’s always fear of the unknown). This blog has sparked feeling of adventure, exploration, excitement and almost reconnected me with childhood dreams. Thank you! It’s a magical blog!

    • Louise says:

      Damien – Oh, you’ll love it! HK and the adventure of living somewhere else. I’m thrilled I have helped you to feel excited about it. Worry not and have a ball!

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