Header image courtesy of @stefan.irvine (Instagram)
This sleepy neighbourhood is an old area of Hung Hom and technically part of the Kowloon City district. The first two words in To Kwa Wan’s name are said to refer to the sweet potatoes planted by Hakka villagers, who settled on the land a few hundred years ago. With surrounding mid-rise buildings no higher than 10 floors, take a step back in time with us as we venture into a relic of old Hong Kong and discover the best things to do, eat, drink, and see in To Kwa Wan.
Photo credit: @cwo.foto (Instagram)
The old Kowloon City Pier was originally located elsewhere, but it was buried due to land reclamations, as well as the construction of the Kai Tak Airport. Years later, the intact parts of the bridge were unearthed and moved to its current location. If the Tsim Sha Tsui harbourfront is getting too crowded with tourists and Instagrammers, consider hitting up the Kowloon City Pier and neighbouring Hoi Sham Park instead for a quiet afternoon of looking out to the ocean. This less-frequented promenade is perfect for you to snap some aesthetic shots and play around with angles to make it look like you’re stepping on water, too!
Kowloon City Pier, San Ma Tau Street, Ma Tau Kok
Yes, we are literally talking about thirteen streets that line up against each other! Lined with colourful buildings and car repairs shops, this particular neighbourhood is a nostalgic relic of the old Hong Kong. Each street is named after one of thirteen Chinese mythical creatures. Nowadays, a growing Pakistani population brings general stores selling imported ingredients and snacks to the area, but this evocative landscape is still a hotspot for budding street photographers.
13 Streets, Ma Tau Kok, Kowloon City
A small studio that celebrates the disappearing art of woodworking in Hong Kong, Contou Woodworking Studio is a sanctuary for the few artisans still practising their craft. Founder Yung Wing-yan and Arthur Li have decided to reinterpret this old, laborious vocation and find a new place for it in the modern age. Repurposing scraps from the neighbouring rubbish dumps, these artful woodworkers have been known to take on innovative and sustainable projects, like remaking musical instruments out of discarded materials.
Contou Woodworking Studio, 9/F Block C, On Lok Factory Building, 97 Ha Heung Road, To Kwa Wan
This old building made up of haphazard red bricks, Chinese roofing tiles, and sloping edges used to be a slaughterhouse for cattle (hence the name). Since its renovation in 2001, the Cattle Depot Artist Village is now a compound that houses 20 art groups, with regular exhibitions, talks, and gatherings for creative minds. You can spend a whole afternoon exploring the area, where artists showcase everything from folksy handicrafts and musical instruments to glass lanterns and sculptures.
Cattle Depot Artist Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Road, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2364 2959
Only open on weekends, this gallery that also doubles as a studio and workshop space is run by an artistic couple who share a love of graphic design and illustrations. The work they exhibit usually carries a humorous tone, and they also invite jewellery artists and tea masters to share their craft, share poetry and literature readings, film screenings and public art talks, making it a true space of acceptance and art.
Swing A Cat, Rear Shop, G/F 241 To Kwa Wan Road, To Kwa Wan
HeySoNuts guarantees great handcrafted coffee and espresso drinks, with a fully-equipped tea bar and an ever-busy kitchen with a full food menu. You can grab a cup of coffee and people watch for the day. The dessert menu is certainly a highlight, since they have soufflé pancakes, waffles, mille-feuilles as well as their famous Homemade Tiramisu ($54), plated to look like a rubber duck in a bath!
HeySoNuts, Shop 3, G/F, 149 Pak Tai Street, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2687 1428
This aesthetically-pleasing café recently opened in To Kwa Wan, with gilded marble patterns as the main theme. Some may say it’s “basic”, but who doesn’t enjoy a bit of luxury here and there? The café also blends in pieces of wooden flooring to incorporate different textures, creating a relaxing space to hide from the summer heat. Not only does the café serve great coffee, but they also have cute baked treats. From the bar and seating area to the storefront, everywhere is an Instagrammable spot, so make sure to come with a friend to help with all of your model pictures!
On The Hill Coffee Bar, Shop 2, Basement, Po Fai Building, 435–439 Chatham Road North, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 9841 482
This modern food stall is located in To Kwa Wan and they are known to mix some new and traditional ingredients together to create modern dai pai dong dishes, like fried truffle squid fish cake and Sugar-pulled Sweet and Sour Pork, which actually requires high-level techniques to pull off despite the cutesy names. Plastered with 1970s and 1980s posters, you should definitely come and get a real taste of how versatile Cantonese cuisine really is!
Chorland Cookfood Stall, Shop 2 & 4, G/F, 187 Ma Tau Wai Road, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2515 1500
Famous for their Fermented Bean Curd Chicken Balls ($36), Yue Min Fong retains the glory of traditional street food. The chicken balls are fried to a dark golden crisp that locks in the moisture and meat juices. One bite into them paired with their brown-red sauce brings out a deep bean curd flavour is the best proof to why this dish is the shop’s signature.
Yue Min Fong, G/F, 6 San Shan Road, To Kwa Wan | (+852) 2760 1872