Victoria Road

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 July, 2011, 12:00am


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Victoria Road takes a leisurely curve heading southwest from Kennedy Town, and the crumbling residential buildings and hard-scrabble feel of the city give way to greenery and sea views.

Close by the westernmost point of Hong Kong Island stand what once were the barracks of the Royal Engineers. Later, the blocks - which can be glimpsed through railings - were used to imprison Taiwanese spies and, during the 1967 riots, anti-British agitators. Post-Tiananmen mainland refugees were the last to call what was known by previous inmates as a 'Mount Davis Concentration Camp' home.

Further round, the road passes some of the city's most desirable real estate, occupied by several of our most colourful socialites.

Villa d'Oro, for example, has gold-leaf gates, railings and windows that hint at the lavish tastes of its owner, barrister Brenda Chau, who lived there with her late husband, Kai-bong. The couple were not familiar with the term 'understatement' and were known for wearing matching outfits and driving a pair of Rolls-Royces, one of which was pink, the other gold.

Across the road is Villa Cecil, modestly named after its creator, Cecil Chao Sze-tsung, who runs property developer Cheuk Nang (Holdings). Apartments in Villa Cecil were originally available only for rent, but 16 flats are now being sold, ostensibly because the company needs the cash.

Residents of the area were less than happy about phase three of the project, which converted what used to be Chao's private garden, helipad and basketball court into a block of flats with great sea views -at the expense of those enjoyed from balconies a little further inland.

Around the curve and beyond West Island School and the graveyards that stretch up the valley, Scenic Villas is a seven-block estate from the 1970s that's packed with expat families wowed by the large flats and views over the Lamma Channel.

Hoardings for the MTR Corporation are a reminder that plans exist to link the west and south of the island through Cyberport, ringing the island. Will the government resist the urge to ring the island with more concrete highways? Let's hope the tranquil seaside slopes at the foot of Mount Davis are left untouched.

The route, built in 1897, was originally called Victoria Jubilee Road to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria's coronation. It was renamed during the 1910s.

Around Victoria Road

1 Back to school

After beginning life 20 years ago in the old military hospital on Borrett Road, the English Schools Foundation's West Island School was moved to its sizeable purpose-built campus in 1994. Head down Victoria Road in the afternoon and you'll see packs of the 1,200 students heading home in their blue uniforms.

2 Taking the plunge

From the westernmost point of the island, a path leads to a pier on the Sulphur Channel. A hardy group of swimmers, many of them pensioners, still take regular dips here - regardless of the temperature.

3 Caring for kids

The Duchess of Kent Children's Hospital, at Sandy Bay, is the only specialist paediatric hospital in Hong Kong. Founded in 1956, it is managed by the Hospital Authority and has just 130 beds and about 260 staff, but has gained a worldwide reputation as a top-class paediatric orthopaedic hospital.

Average house price HK$28.45 million for a 2,194 sq ft, four-bedroom flat in Scenic Villas

Average rent HK$33,500 for a 1,700 sq ft flat in Victoria Gardens

Nearest shops Wellcome in Scenic Villas, or the ParknShop at Cyberport

Nearest MTR Sheung Wan. The area is served by minibuses and buses, and even the West Island Line extension will require a trip to Kennedy Town

Nearest ATM Five minutes by bus to Cyberport or Queen Mary Hospital