As a Hong Kong native, I have a set itinerary in the back of my mind that I’ve curated for whenever someone visits. I often find that people know what Hong Kong is, but they don’t exactly know what makes this city such a metropolitan global village. Avoiding tourist traps is my forte, and I’d like to think if you took a tour with me, you’d experience the best side of Hong Kong—the little gems only locals know. Though if you don’t have the privilege of knowing anyone in this city, there’s a few spots that are universally sound: the Peak, the Star Ferry, and the infamous wall on Graham Street.
If you live in Hong Kong, you definitely know this wall. Nestled on an uphill slope in the midst of the bustling Soho scene, this wall was commissioned by the government as a point of interest for tourism. Whether its a rainy Wednesday or a bright Saturday afternoon, there will forever be a flock of people around with their iPhones held tight and selfie sticks raised. A mix of tourists, students, couples, and even some local Hong Kong natives who simply like to people watch. Though the wall is beautifully painted, there are some mixed feelings about how relevant it is as a local landmark for Hong Kong.
We asked a couple photo takers how they found out about this wall, and the responses varied from Google searches, Tripadvisor sites, to even a Chinese app called "Xiao Hong Shu." Most of the people who came to this wall came because it was the first suggestion on many of these city guides.
"We don't think its anything special or particularly nice to look at, but since everyone has come here to take photos, we came to do the same. To check out what all the hype was about." said two girls from China who came to visit Hong Kong for the summer.
To many tourists, this wall usually suffices as there aren't any other suggestions otherwise. Local Hongkongers were also seen observing the crowds with their cameras, paying attention to the people more than the wall itself.
"It's so ugly, there are so many nicer walls in Sheung Wan and Central. Those "art" walls are way better looking than this one. It's strange as there aren't as many people taking pictures where the art is better, and they end up here lining up just to get their shot. I'm retired and my passion is photography, so me and a bunch of my other old friends who are retired come to watch people and take photos ourselves," explains one of these local Hongkongers. "Honestly I really don't understand. They could have created something real and sustainable that could properly serve as an attraction of Hong Kong, yet money goes to projects like this."
The best thing about the Central/Soho area is how much art flourishes in this district. The main road running through, Hollywood Road, houses a lot of local art galleries, small boutiques, and cozy tea shops for a little break in between. So instead of running to this wall next time you're in the neighbourhood, here's a few pointers on where you could get a better experience and photo-op within the same area.
Just a five to ten minute walk down from the wall on Graham Street, sits Man Mo temple. Both a sensory experience and an authentically Hong Kong backdrop, tourists come here to immerse themselves in the local culture. Huge spiralling incense sticks hang from the ceiling as you enter, and a lavish traditional Chinese interior design that dates back to the 1800's.
As you walk past Man Mo temple, on the right there's a small street that leads up to the quieter part of Sheung Wan. This is Square Street, that eventually leads up to Tai Ping Shan street, and you'll find a lot of street art and pastel coloured building for all your photographic needs. The fusion of modern art and traditional Hong Kong comes together in this quaint little district away from the usual rush of Central. You'll also find a plethora of coffee shops, patisseries, and local cha chaan tengs, making this area the perfect place to explore for a couple hours.
Tucked between two big roads, this small alley is home to street vendors with the most interesting little antiques and trinkets. It may look like piles of junk on a table, but when you rummage through all their loot, you'll find some quirky little things that may catch your eye. They also have vendors who sell chinaware, vintage posters, and other authentically Hong Kong souvenirs and memorabilia.