Hoi Yuen Road, Kwun Tong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am


Kwun Tong is a dramatic example of Hong Kong's transformation into a modern metropolis. South of Kwun Tong Road, the old factory buildings of this former industrial neighbourhood are being gradually bought up and replaced by gleaming glass-and-steel skyscrapers.

In the morning, the streets leading off Hoi Yuen Road bustle with delivery vans and couriers. But, come lunchtime, Hong Kong's shift away from trading and man- ufacturing and into service industries becomes clear: white-shirted and stilettoed office workers flood out of new towers such as Millennium City, seeking a quick bite before returning to the air-conditioned calm above.

The overhaul started in 2001, when zoning laws were changed to allow industrial land - often left abandoned by manufacturers that had decamped to the mainland - to be converted into commercial property.

Kwun Tong was originally called Koon Tong ('government ponds'), taking its name from the salt pans that once dotted the area, which were under strict control of the government.

The factories started to arrive in the 1950s, often occupied by small-scale textile and apparel manufacturers. The government developed Garden Estate, now just north of Ngau Tau Kok MTR station, to house many of the workers drawn to the area.

These days, insurance firms, back offices of banks and operations centres for mobile-phone companies are taking the place of the factory floors. The cheap rent in Kwun Tong's warehouses has also attracted musicians and much of Hong Kong's rock and underground music scene practice here.

New buildings have become home to trendy but cheap eateries, such as Japanese curry restaurant CoCo Ichibanya (1/F, Crocodile Centre, 79 Hoi Yuen Road, tel: 3572 0773).

The upscale APM Mall, the largest shopping centre in the area, was warmly welcomed by shopaholics when it opened in 2005.

An area that used to supply the retail industry is now a thriving shopping destination in itself.

Many superstitious types believe Kwun Tong has the highest number of haunted properties in Hong Kong - probably just a reflection of its long history.

Around Hoi Yuen Road

1 Art of the matter

Agnes Lin launched Osage art gallery in 2004 as a spin-off from her successful fashion business. Osage is headquartered in a Kwun Tong building (4/F, Union Hing Yip Factory Building, 20 Hing Yip Street, tel: 2793 4817), where there's space for dance performances and a small atelier. Osage's main exhibition space, however, is its 15,000 sq ft Kwun Tong gallery (5/F, Kian Dai Industrial Building, 73 Hung To Road), which specialises in Southeast Asian art, particuarly conceptual artists.

2 Rock the warehouse

Kwun Tong's industrial buildings are a beehive of subdivided spaces where the city's indie rock bands rehearse and perform. LiveHouse (3/F, Kwun Tong Industrial Centre, Phase 2, 472 Kwun Tong Road, tel: 2380 8578) puts on regular gigs and rents out band rooms for HK$160 an hour, or HK$200 with a sound engineer and equipment.

3 The killer within

You don't have to go outside to wage war these days. City Hunter (4/F, Mai Gar Industrial Building, 146 Wai Yip Street, tel: 3105 0666) bills itself as an 'urban combat training centre' with a 10,000 sq ft warehouse battlefield. Would-be commandos can practise close-quarters skirmishing, with two floors of what the company promises will be 'intensive massacre'. Sessions range in price from HK$150 to HK$190.

Average house price HK$3.7 million for a 642 sq ft flat at Yue Man Centre

Average rent HK$10,000 for a 642 sq ft flat at Yuen Man Centre (Midland Realty)

Nearest shops APM Mall

Nearest ATM Hang Seng Bank, Jetco in Kwun Tong MTR station

Nearest MTR Kwun Tong MTR station

Nearest restaurants a selection in APM Mall, and low-price eateries in industrial buildings