Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road: The Rebirth of Cool

 

To be honest, we never used to take our guests to the Hollywood Road antiques district.

It just wasn’t our kind of place. Hong Kong’s oldest commercial street was, for us, a stretch of forbidding musty galleries. Some sold trinkets (mostly to clueless tourists), others rare and valuable antiquities (mostly to connoisseurs and if the owner didn’t know you you’d get the cold shoulder). To separate the real from the not-so-real, you’d need an art historian at your elbow. Our director, Daisann, lives steps from Hollywood Road, yet seldom lingered there on her way to and from taking our guests to the nearby markets, alleys and backstreets of Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun.

Well, one morning, we woke up and discovered that Hollywood Road has done a Cinderella number. Almost overnight (well, in 8 or 9 months), she’s transformed into an amazing beauty again.

The big surprise

Just now, the Hollywood Road and the adjacent areas of upper Sheung Wan (it’s being called “Po-ho”, a name we hate but may be unable to erase!) are the center of some of the most interesting artistic and cultural energy to hit Hong Kong in years.

Bridging the old Hollywood Road with the new is the extraordinary private museum that opened last spring, the Liang Yi. You’ve probably read about it already in the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal, or perhaps in this lovely New York Times article by our good friend, Joyce Lau. It is quite our good fortune that our very own LAHK team member, Johannes Pong is an old chum of its director, so we got a sneak preview of her father’s fabulous, painstakingly curated and very, very quirky collection of Ming and Qing dynasty furniture treasures.

Immediately we could see this was a new and extraordinary addition to Hong Kong’s cultural and art scene.¬† Only private guests are admitted to Liang Yi. They are taken lovingly through the collection by a docent (or, often for our LAHK guests, the director herself). Liang Yi is a “hands on” collection–guests are encouraged to touch the marvelously silky huanghuali wood, and sit in the imposing Ming chairs. It is truly the only way to fully experience the beauty and functionality of Asian furniture.

We realized, after our visit, that we had to create an experience for our Little Adventures guests, wrapped around the Liang Yi, but also dipping into the other galleries, dealers, tea shops and antique temples that dot the area. Johannes, as well as Daniel Cheung, our PR director, chef, and art aficionado loved the idea.

And so we’ve introduced : Hollywood Road, Art, Antiques, Cocktails.

The tightly curated Liang Yi collection is small enough to fully explore and appreciate in an hour or so. That leaves us plenty of time to explore the happenings nearby at PMQ–a Modernist-style restored police dormitory building from the 1960s that’s been repurposed into¬† a mega complex of fine dining, Made-in-Hong Kong homewear, clothing and goodies, with a vast inner courtyard that’s often hosting special exhibits and events. Frankly we were skeptical when the project was announced, worried it would turn into another excuse for touristy designer-label commercialism. But no! Even us jaded locals think that PMQ is pretty darn cool.

We also love introducing our guests to some of the more traditional attractions of the area. We love the wonderful ritual of tea tasting that goes on in many little area shops, and we’ll take you to our favorite. (Or, if you are hankering for a superb espresso, there are lots of artesanal coffee places around too). The narrow streets, made with granite stones and intersected by what we call “ladders” or staircase alleyways, retain the feel of the early colony when they were built. Johannes loves to take people into the vast Man Mo temple; Daisann prefers the little neighborhood temples along Tai Ping Shan street, where you might run into a family ceremony in progress.

Um, did you mention cocktails?

Ah yes we did. If you like, we can end your day of art and culture with a crawl through some of the wonderful little craft cocktail and little bites boites that have been popping up in this area like dandelions. We have handpicked favorites–we particularly like the bar at Bibo, which is around the corner from Liang Yi. It reminds of a bit of Soho in NYC in the 1970s–the bar and restaurant is chockablock with original paintings by Basquiat and others. Oh, and the drinks are delicious, especially when Daniel is hosting you, since he not only knows the menu but most of the staff.

Or, if you prefer to walk around early in the day, we can combine your Hollywood Road adventure with a guided dim sum. That’s what some clients of ours recently did with Johannes–and quite by chance, ended up meeting Peter Fung, the modest and very away from the limelight collector who is the owner of Liang Yi. Mr. Fung was sitting at the next table (looks like he and Johannes have great taste in restaurants)! We live for serendipitous moments like this. We hope to have the chance to have some on Hollywood Road with you. favicon