With frequent visits to her grandmother in Causeway Bay, Haider KIKABHOY is familiar with the district. As founder and guide for the organization Walk in HK, Haider brings participants along intriguing city-wide trails along Queen’s Road East and Wan Chai.
While Haider came to know Wan Chai from his grandmother, daily life in the district has changed a lot since then. For instance, Haider’s grandma used to shop for food in the open-air wet market next to the Causeway Bay Terminus on Russell Street. In Haider’s memory, the wet market is crowded and slippery. In 1989, the Terminus was converted into Times Square, the district’s new landmark. Since then, Russell Street has become the equivalent of Times Square for the city’s newer generation.
The Old Wan Chai market adjacent to Hopewell Centre, now demolished, was also a place Haider’s grandma frequented. “Grandma used to praise the old market’s ventilation, but I only appreciated its architecture when I grew up. I believe the market’s architect would be very proud if he heard my grandma’s compliment.” Indeed, the Old Wan Chai Market is known for its streamline modern design, which allows better ventilation and natural lighting.
“Whenever I walked on the traffic way as a child, grandma would grab me back ‘under the veranda. In fact there was no longer any veranda, but it was an old name grandma used for the pedestrian way.” Indeed, during the golden age of tong lau, verandas extended out of the building.
In his memory, Haider once climbed a large banyan tree when he was in primary school. Walking with his father and sister along Sports Road, Haider climbed the banyan and saw the Happy Valley Racecourse. This was the first time that Haider and his sister witnessed a horse-racing event. In 1995, the racecourse was refurbished, and Sports Road was allocated to its current location.
A few years ago, Haider founded Walk in HK with a few friends. The organization offered guided tours for tourists and local kaifong alike. Wan Chai was undergoing rapid transformation, and many new residents were interested in old Wan Chai. Guided tours usually begin from Pacific Place III on Queen’s Road East and end at the Old Wan Chai Market.
Haider’s stories are weaved from his grandma’s tales, kaifong stories, and various memorabilia. He often rediscovers lost bits of Wan Chai when leading the tours. For instance, Dominion Garden on Sun Street is a quiet corner with long stone-made seats. As long as you look close enough, you will discover a quiet place inside the evolving landscape of Wan Chai.