Four Little Dragons
Alex Frew McMillan
The Four Little Dragons neighbourhood, just off Lai Chi Kok Road, feels something like a film set. It's as if a developer's perfect little property model has sprung to life, 60 storeys into the sky, with life-size potted trees along the clean but disturbingly empty pavements.
But what's to be expected from an area that was named by property agents and is surrounded by roads? What used to be the site of small shipyards along the Sham Shui Po waterfront has been reclaimed and hemmed in by the West Kowloon Highway along the coast to the south and the West Kowloon Corridor to the north.
Sandwiched in between are the megatowers of the beasts themselves. You can't fault their convenience, a short walk from Lai Chi Kok MTR station. And, hey, it's easy to get on the highway. The 'four little dragons' are Banyan Garden, Liberte, AquaMarine and The Pacifica, which opened in 2003. They are on the dividing line between Lai Chi Kok ('lychee point', named for the river that once ran through the area) and Cheung Sha Wan ('long sand bay') - though the fruit and sand have long since been replaced by concrete and tarmac.
Critics fault this style of neighbourhood for failing to allow the 'organic' growth seen in old parts of Hong Kong.
Besides the shipyards, this part of town used to be used for temporary housing - low-rise timber blocks for squatters or homeless people who didn't qualify for public housing. The neighbourhood was also a significant processing centre for produce. The wholesale vegetable market on Lai Chi Kok Road is still doing brisk trade.
The contrast with Cheung Sha Wan, for example, is remarkable: the busy streets to the north bustle with industrial and residential blocks. They may be crumbling, but they're full of life.
Lai Chi Kok was once where Hongkongers came to play. But the Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park closed in 1997, four years after the Lai Chi Kok Zoo.
Around Lai Chi Kok
1 Study time
St Margaret's (33 Sham Mong Road) is a well-regarded Catholic primary and secondary school that teaches in English. It moved to its present campus in 2003, shortly after it started accepting boys. Next door, Ying Wa College (1 Ying Wa Street) is another Christian-founded school. Originally opened in the Malaysian coastal port of Malacca in 1818, the school was re-established on Caine Road in 1914, then moved to Kowloon Tong before settling here.
2 Wheeler dealers
In the bottom three floors of one of the AquaMarine towers, there's a massive second-hand-car mall called Auto Forum. Besides HK$300,000 Porsches and HK$800,000 Benzes, there's a decent selection of late-model cars available for HK$100,000 or less. There's also a cafe and children's play area.
Many of the cars are direct imports from Japan, where, the salesmen swear, the excellent infrastructure means cars get a far better time of it than they would on Hong Kong's often unforgiving roads, or - God forbid - the Wild West that is the mainland's traffic network.
3 Eating out
G Gallery (4/F, Elite Industrial Centre, 883 Cheung Sha Wan Road, tel: 3583 0701) rates highly with locals for its Western food. A lunch of Spanish seafood rice with chorizo, or Australian lamb chops with basil mustard will set you back HK$110 while three-course dinners cost about HK$220. The restaurant also has a balcony and outdoor space, making for a pleasant place to relax.
Sister shop G Cuisine (tel: 3590 2168) serves Thai and Vietnamese fusion food, but is closed for renovation - it's due to reopen in mid-June.
Average house price HK$4.85 million for a 655 sq ft flat in Liberte
Average rent HK$14,200 for a 668 sq ft flat
Nearest bars/restaurants A handful of cha chaan teng, chains such as Pizza Hut and Chinese restaurants are in the malls of each development
Walking distance to MTR Five minutes from Liberte; 15 minutes from the other developments
Nearest ATM HSBC in Liberte, others in The Pacifica, Banyan Garden