I always think twice before answering the questions “Where do you live in Hong Kong?”. Depending on who is asking, my answer might be different. At the beginning I would just say “Sham Shui Po!” straight away, until I noticed some people’s horrified face expressions upon hearing that. Later, I understood what image does Sham Shui Po has and since my house is actually closer to Prince Edward MTR, I ended up saying “Prince Edward” instead, leaving most of the people unaware what it meant. Sometimes I would still admit the actual place to local Hong Kong people, because I liked seeing them surprised. Indeed, there are not many expats living here. At least no expats from Europe, it seems.
One year has passed and the area started to evolve and many things has changed. First came realisation that rent prices here are way cheaper, which made many young people try their luck with their own shops. Many really nice cafes started opening around the area, some arts and crafts shops appeared, some collectible shops cropped up as well. Together with colourful graffiti made during HK Walls events, it made the area “alternative” and more popular with young people.
Then, just few months back, a co-living space was built, offering cheaper accommodations for young people and it made more foreigners come to the area and so now sometimes it feels like I’m in Wan Chai rather than on the dark side of Kowloon.
To top it all off, Hong Kong Tourism Board decided to advertise Sham Shui Po more as well. They chose some local craft ideas to decorate lamp posts and streets, they created walking tours routes and made a beautiful guidebook available in Tourism Information Points.
The guidebook ends with map of Sham Shui Po and a little quiz: depending on what you are interested in – eating, shopping, photography or art&crafts – you will be recommended a different route. Also, some people who contributed to SSP development created their own routes, which you can follow.
I gladly saw some of my favourite places mentioned as well. Kung Wo Beancurd Factory – a shop with everything tofu. Tofu pudding – hot or cold with raw sugar. Fried tofu with chilli sauce. Boiled tofu. Tofu in jars. Tofu to eat in or to cook at home. All is made on the spot using traditional techniques and the whole business is monitored by a big fat cat, which belongs to the owners.
Then, there is Hong Kong style steakhouse, serving steak sets in cute and tiny restaurant called Phoenix, where you have to queue up in the evening to get a spot, but it’s totally worth it!
Also, Mei Ho House – a discovery from not so long ago. Now YMCA hostel with a small museum inside, but long time ago the building was first social housing in Hong Kong. Social houses are blocks of flats that belong to government and are rented to people with not so good financial situation. Nowadays, it’s super hard to get it, the queue is long and requirements rather strict. But going back to Mei Ho House – we love to go to their restaurant. It’s very big and filled with all the toys that P. and even his parents would play with when they were young.
To be honest, just after one year in Sham Shui Po, I feel a bit of local patriotism and really like all of its quirks. It’s a really homely place to be, where I can wear my PJs to go out without people being even a bit surprised. It’s also close to P.’s family, as well as family-owned restaurant that became our family’s HQ.