A Walking Tour of Kennedy Town
Kennedy Town is located at the western end of Hong Kong Island with Victoria Harbor to the north and Mount Davis to the south. Kennedy Town MTR station opened in December 2014, really opening up the area to pedestrian traffic. A delightful mix of old and new blended together with numerous eateries so you won’t lack for places to stop on your journey around. Follow me on a tour of this interesting enclave.
From Kennedy Town MTR station take Exit C and turn left onto Forbes Street where immediately on your left you will see a row of Stonewall trees. The Hong Kong government originally planted these 12 Chinese Bayan (Ficus microcarpa) and four Japanese Superb Fig (Ficus subpisocarpa) trees in the early 19th century (prior to the invention of cement in 1824) so their powerful roots could strengthen the retaining walls on slopes helping to prevent landslides. If you look closely, you will see each of the trees has an architectural services department tag on it with its tree register number; at least this makes it easier to define each tree as their root systems are so large. This is an excellent photo opportunity.
The other side of Forbes Street is lined with restaurants if you feel the need to stop for a coffee or a bite to eat. As you walk through Kennedy Town, you will also see plenty of Hong Kong-style cafes where the menu is only written in Chinese. Continue along Forbes Street turning right at the end onto Cadogan Street. Originally this road was lined with garages and you can see this from the remnants of blue paint which remain on the sidewalk from when they spray-painted cars. At the end of Cadogan Street, turn left by the Wellcome supermarket (open 24 hours) onto Victoria Road and cross the street to the Cadogan Street Temporary Garden. The Hong Kong Government wanted to develop this space but the local residents petitioned to retain it as a green area for people to congregate and do tai chi in the morning and other activities throughout the day.
Continue along Victoria Road, past the Kennedy Town Jockey Club Clinic, and turn right onto Sai Ning Street. Of historical interest here, just opposite the Victoria City Morgue, you can see the memorial arch and foundation stone for the Tung Wah Small Pox Hospital (AD1910) in a small garden by the bus terminus. The original hospital building has been demolished and the beautiful memorial arch and foundation stone are the only parts that remain. As you continue along you come to the China Merchants Wharf where all the Naval ships initially dock when they come to Hong Kong.
As you continue to walk along Victoria Street, cut through the basketball court onto the promenade where you can look out onto the Sulphur Channel and you can see Little Green Island and Green Island. On Green Island, there are two working lighthouses (1875 and 1904) which still guide ships into the Sulphur Channel. From this promenade, you can appreciate a view of Hong Kong from a different perspective looking out over the water; such a stunning, ever-changing panorama. Once you get to the end of the promenade, head left to the stone steps covered with lichen, walk up, and you arrive at Victoria Road. Opposite you can see a small corrugated iron shop covered with a green tarpaulin. If this is open, it is a very local Chinese medicine shop serving medicinal teas.
As you continue left down Victoria Road, on the opposite side you will see a multi-colored gateway. If you walk up the stairs you come to the To Chi Fat She Buddhist temple which is like a mini “10,000 Buddhas” temple but with only about 200 Buddhas. It is worth the walk up the stairs as it is very ornate inside. The female custodians there didn’t speak English but they were very welcoming. Retrace your steps, turning left onto Cadogan Street and then right onto Catchick Street, and just on your left will see the start of the western end of the tram route. Turn left onto Davis Street and at the end turn right onto New Praya. Here you can stop and admire the great views overlooking Victoria Harbor to Kowloon and the two bridges (Stonecutters and Tsing Ma bridges).
Cross Smithfield and just next to the Kennedy Town Fire Station is Little Creatures which is a 6,000 square foot eatery and microbrewery located at 5A New Praya. (Tel:2833 5611, www.littlecreatures.hk, Open: 8 am - 11 pm). They brew their own pale ale and a house brew and import the rest of their offerings from their brewery in Australia. Open since July 2016, it is already a well established eatery in Kennedy Town and this would be a great time to take a break on this tour. I met with Tom Champion, the Head Brewer from Little Creatures to ask him some questions about the brewery. He’s a chemical engineer, and he described the entire process of brewing to me. It was fascinating! If you want to learn for yourself, you can attend their beer school. You can have a tour around the brewery and beer tasting (HK$200) or else they have beer school (HK$500 and includes a beer and snacks). Great presents for the man in your life and a fun activity with friends.
Once you have finished, come out and turn right onto North Street, walk up to the end and turn left onto Rock Hill Street where at the end you can take a lift up, then the escalator until you get to Ching Lin Terrace. Walk up the stairs of Ching Lin Terrace and at the end on the right you will find a small temple nestled amongst the high-rises. This temple makes a change from one of the over 60 temples honoring Tin Hau (patron saint of seafarers) as this temple honors Lo Pan, the patron saint of Chinese builders and contractors, explaining why it is located amongst buildings. Retrace your steps back and you’ll be at the Kennedy Town MTR by Exit B. Hope you enjoyed your time in Kennedy Town.
Special thanks to AWA member Susie Edrington for showing me her Kennedy Town and making it one of my favorite places to eat, relax and enjoy the seaside-vibe.
By Frances Nicholls