• Wed
  • Sep 3, 2014
  • Updated: 9:35am

CULTURAL treasure chest

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 June, 2011, 12:00am

Look beyond the tower blocks and tatty tenements of Eastern district and you will see colourful hints of Hong Kong's rich cultural heritage and turbulent history.

Tin Hau is your first stop, a well-to-do area of schools, back-street garages and food shops around the clamour of Causeway Bay Market on Electric Road. Here you will see how hard-bargaining housewives prefer the freshest of food, some still twitching in their plastic bags. Tin Hau Temple was built on a rocky outlet to honour Tin Hau, the Taoist goddess of the sea and protector of sailors.

You can enjoy breezy walks on Braemar Hill or head east to North Point, which in the 1950s and 60s was the first stop for Shanghainese and other mainland migrants, and was once the most densely populated neighbourhood on the planet. A hive of restaurants, beauty parlours, family businesses and communist activity, North Point was also an arts alcove, with the now-endangered Sunbeam Theatre a centre for Cantonese opera. Venture further east along King's Road and you will see bamboo-mounted mourning displays of yellow and white chrysanthemums in the flower shops around Hong Kong Funeral Home, where farewells are bid to the city's celebrities and tycoons.

Hakka workers used to mine rocks for roads at Quarry Bay, where Swire ran and later developed its Taikoo sugar factory and docks into apartments and gleaming office blocks. Let your tram go past Tai Koo to Shau Kei Wan and you can still make out signs of the area's maritime culture, from the fish and vegetable markets to the shipyards, typhoon shelter and harbourside promenade. Or, you can amble along the old coast road to Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence. Built as a fort by the British in 1885, it fell to the Japanese on December 19, 1941. The government in 1993 converted the fort into an 11-gallery museum detailing 600 years' history of coastal defence in southern China.

PASSING THE TIME

Bricks and mortar

Woodside House, a charming brick house, was built in the early 20th century as staff quarters for the nearby Taikoo sugar factory and shipyard.

Sporting holiday

Lei Yue Mun Holiday Village Colonial barracks turned into a holiday camp with hostels for up to 282 campers, stables for up to 30 horses and a range of sporting facilities.

Harbour patrol

Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery, Quarry Bay Park. The fireboat patrolled the harbour from 1953 until 2002.

Reel adventures

Hong Kong Film Archive, at 50 Lei King Road, Sai Wan Ho, preserves the city's film heritage, from the first local film in 1913 to the Shaw Brothers, Cathay, Golden Harvest and modern eras.

Resting place

Sai Wan War Cemetery contains the graves of 1,505 Commonwealth casualties of the second world war; 444 of the burials are unidentified.

Village life

Law Uk Folk Museum is overshadowed by high-rises in Kut Shing Street, Chai Wan. Built about 200 years ago, it is the only farm village house remaining in the area.

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