Central, Hong Kong

A haven on the hillside

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 June, 2010, 12:00am

Comprising Bonham Road, Caine Road, Upper Albert Road, Kennedy Road to the north and Conduit Road to the south, Mid-Levels towers above Central, Admiralty and Sheung Wan with a sea of apartment buildings - old and new.

Often, those new to the city choose to live here. The Mid-Levels escalator, at 800 metres, has been the longest outdoor escalator in the world since 1994. It gives easy access to offices in Central for busy urbanites every morning. The system is free and takes about 25 minutes one way.

Yet, Mid-Levels also offers a complete family environment, largely due to the many nearby and well-regarded schools and colleges, including the University of Hong Kong, apartment clubhouses and gyms in the more pricey blocks, large swimming pools and sweeping views across Victoria Harbour.

It also provides quick access to the exclusive Ladies' Recreation Club at the bottom of Old Peak Road, which feeds into Conduit Road.

The club, which was founded in 1883 to provide recreational facilities for women, is now a family venue largely used for tennis, swimming and dining.

An addition in 2006 features a five-star spa and an entire floor dedicated to junior activities.

Mid-Levels also offers plenty of places to live, with something to suit most tastes, from colonial low-rise walk-ups topped with roof gardens, to luxurious panoramic penthouses and compact studios.

The costs vary considerably according to the size, location and age of the building, ranging from a few million dollars to a seemingly endless rise to the upper millions.

At Henderson Land's 39 Conduit Road building, for example, a five-bedroom apartment was recently sold for HK$439 million, setting a new world record for the most expensive apartment for price per square foot.

Yet many young office workers without such income frequent the area, finding it a more peaceful alternative to SoHo, due mostly to its residential environment while being close enough to walk to the after-hours action along the escalator.

Historically, Mid-Levels was one of the original sites for elegant colonial residences with large gardens that spanned wide terraces and overlooked the harbour, long before the high-rise boom in the 1970s.

The 1955 drama-romance movie Love is a Many-Splendored Thing was partly filmed at the then Foreign Correspondents' Club housed at 41A Conduit Road. It is now a multitower apartment complex.

Yet, while historical sights have disappeared to make way for high-rise apartments constantly being upgraded for incoming resident demand, Mid-Levels is the starting point for hiking trails to The Peak and further east.

A 2.5-kilometre stretch of the Bowen Road Path is a popular running and walking trail. It snakes through the city's native tropical foliage, with harbour views and the city skyline appearing at intervals along the way, giving residents and visitors alike an accessible escape from the city beat below.

Selection of tasty treats

Ali-Oli Bakery on Caine Road is the place to go if you want fresh, quality home-made bread, pies, bagels and pastries. Breads include dark rye loaf, organic wholegrain and white crust bread, along with Aussie meat pies and curry mince beef pies.

The funky Awfully Chocolate nearby is a speciality store from Singapore which serves cake and ice cream. Enjoy their 'hei' ice cream, a very dark chocolate, or a blend of the Awfully Chocolate choc with Belgian dark chocolate. They don't use any artificial flavouring and colouring.

Enhanced ethnic mix

The trendy restaurants and bars on either side of the escalator have added to the ethnic food available in SoHo. The venues, from British-style pubs to French and Nepalese restaurants, are as much part of the area as its antique shops and hillside streets. Organic grocery and gourmet food shops can be found along Caine Road, while Central Market offers fresh produce.