A neighbourhood guide to Sham Shui Po by Soho House Hong Kong member Nicole Schoeni
We join the art dealer on an exploration of the district that’s filled with historic buildings, traditional crafts, and contemporary boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries
By Ollie Horne Videography by Hugo Cheng
Nicole Schoeni is an experienced curator and art dealer. Her latest project, which launched earlier this year, is ‘Sham Shui Po Is Still Sham Shui Po’ – a celebration of one of the oldest, poorest, and most dynamic districts in Hong Kong. Sham Shui Po is the traditional home of the city’s textile industry, and is increasingly becoming associated with a burgeoning scene of modern restaurants, boutiques, and contemporary art spaces.
‘Recently, I started noticing a lot of art spaces popping up in the area. And as I dug deeper, I realised the place was changing quickly, with some conflict around the issue of gentrification’ says Schoeni. ‘I knew I wanted to promote the district, celebrating both the old and new businesses together. Hong Kongers aren’t travelling at the moment, so a lot of them are looking inward for things to do. I was surprised to find a lot of people I spoke to about Sham Shui Po hadn’t explored it yet, so it made sense to me to promote the district by commissioning a map.’
Schoeni approached artist Li Chi Tak to create an illustrated map of the area, which is available to pick up in Soho House Hong Kong, as well as a few shops around the city. To accompany the physical map, Schoeni Projects has put together a digital version, which is constantly being updated to accommodate new openings around the neighbourhood.
‘I want people to visit the area, to appreciate it for what it is, and see the old traditions – whether it’s a super-cheap bowls of noodles that blow your mind, or one of those old-style iron box manufacturers – that’s a dying craft,’ says Schoeni.
Read on to explore our neighbourhood guide, which takes a closer look at some of the key destinations Schoeni and her team have highlighted in Sham Shui Po, from 1950s architecture and artisanal craft stores, to modern coffee shops and art galleries.
‘I want people to visit the area and see the old traditions – whether it’s a super-cheap bowl of noodles that blows your mind, or one of those old-style iron box manufacturers’
Nam Cheong Pawn Shop
In a city where buildings are readily demolished to make way for new constructions, it’s a welcome surprise to discover architecture from the 1920s. Following the legalisation of pawnbroking in 1926, many buildings such as this were constructed for the trade. This example on Nam Cheong Street is Grade III listed and features several original features, including the saloon doors in the entrance and the classic pawnshop signage: an auspicious symbol of a bat holding a coin, brightly lit and branching out from both corners of the shop.
117 Nam Cheong Street; +852 2386 8990
Dai Kam Lung Co
Architectural highlight and Chinese herbs
This three-storey tenement building is Grade II listed and originally housed the Cheng Fung Pawn Shop. Stepping inside the small red store today, you’ll instead be greeted by the aromas of Chinese herbs and traditional medicine, piled in huge sacks and stored in glass jars on shelves along the walls. For such a small retail space, Dai Kam Lung Co packs a punch for the senses.
58 Pei Ho Street; +852 2360 2107
Ceramic studio and art gallery
On Tai Nan Street – Sham Shui Po’s traditional leather street – you’ll find Mudheytong Gallery, a contemporary space founded by three young Hong Kong artists dedicated to promoting ceramic art. The name ‘mud-hey-tong’ means clay, ware, and space; accordingly, the venue is a working ceramic studio, homeware shop and gallery combined. Pop in for a pottery class, check out their latest curated show of local artists, or browse the beautifully made pieces for sale.
175 Tai Nan Street; +852 9863 2210
Ho Chung Kee
Traditional metal handcrafts
Metal storage boxes, dishes, letter boxes and a whole cacophony of assorted iron goods fill this traditional atelier on Cheung Sha Wan Road. Every product has been handcrafted by Mr Ho, the owner and one of few remaining artisans in his trade. These metal goods were once commonplace in homes across Hong Kong before they were widely replaced with plastic or stainless steel. The shop has hardly changed since it began trading more than 50 years ago; step inside and experience the old Sham Shui Po.
151 Cheung Sha Wan Road; +852 2380 3943
Alri Star Leather
Leather materials, goods and workshop
Alri Star Leather preserves the traditional craft of Tai Nan Street, offering quality hides and completed leather products, including bags, computer mouse covers, and cigarette holders. Step inside and check out the rolls of material, finished products, or simply watch the craftspeople at work. If you’re serious about making your own leather goods, you can sign up for one of their workshops, where the team shares secrets of the trade.
189 Tai Nan Street; +852 3791 2217
Second-hand record store
Paul Au of Vinyl Hero is something of a local celebrity in Sham Shui Po. His record shop is tucked away in his apartment in a residential building on Cheung Sha Wan Road. The entire flat is filled with boxes of records. His collection encompasses around 300,000 records in total, 35,000 of which are in the shop at any one time (the rest are stored in a warehouse). Spanning all genres and decades, there’s something for everyone, although Mr Au’s particular interests lie in American music from the 1960s and 1970s. Make sure you call ahead before you visit – the shop isn’t always open. And allow plenty of time, too; Mr Au is an excellent conversationalist.
Flat D, Fifth floor, Wai Hong Building, 239 Cheung Sha Wan Road; +852 9841 7136
Among the street-food stalls of Fuk Wa Street, a small boutique called Doughnut can be found – a local label that designs backpacks and luggage. The brand has since expanded with outposts in Causeway Bay and Tuen Mun, but its Sham Shui Po location is where it all started, back in 2013. Browse the variety of designs and pick one for exploring around town and beyond.
68 Fuk Wa Street; +852 2386 3279
The Park by Years
Sham Shui Po’s plant-based cafe, Years, has launched a second location in the district, The Park by Years, serving vegan dishes in a modern space. Its menu covers everything from porridge bowls loaded with fruit, nuts and seeds, to Sichuan spaghetti, tempura rice burgers, and cauliflower steaks. Expect a lively fusion of European and Chinese flavours, paired with excellent juices and local craft beers.
132 Yu Chau Street; +852 5336 4000
Sun Tak Ming Noodles
This wholesale store delivers freshly made noodles each morning to local restaurants and shops around the district. Entering it is like visiting a museum dedicated to noodles, with traditional egg offerings presented alongside Japanese varieties, vermicelli, and several shapes of pasta. Tak Ming Noodles first opened in 1957, when the current owner, Mr Meng, was working as the noodle master in the kitchen. He still starts his day at 5.30 each morning to prepare the noodles before making the deliveries himself.
254 Ki Lung Street; +852 2387 3079
Openground is a considered coffee shop, bookstore, and design boutique. Grab a barista coffee downstairs and have a browse through the collection of art books, records and thoughtfully designed record and CD players. The store also hosts talks and workshops with Hong Kong artists, so check out its events programme before you leave.
198 Tai Nan Street; +852 3974 5098
Pick up a printed copy of the Schoeni Projects map of Sham Shui Po at Soho House Hong Kong, or explore the comprehensive digital map.