Tin Hau & Tai Hang

Both neighbourhoods are located in the eastern districts of north Hong Kong Island and can be reached via the Blue Island MTR Line. Get off at Tin Hau MTR stop and Tai Hang is within walking distance.

Exit A1 of the MTR leads you out onto King’s Road, cross this, turn right then left at Tin Hau Temple Road. Walk up and you will come to the Tin Hau temple (one of 60 plus such temples in Hong Kong). The area was named after the temple which was built in 1747 although the current buildings are from 1868.
The main altar in the temple is dedicated to Tin Hau who is the Chinese Goddess of the sea. Initially the temple was located by the coast but with Hong Kong land reclamation the coastline is now many miles away. The Tin Hau statue in this temple is unique as it is made from stone so cannot be paraded during the annual Tin Hau festival, unlike the Tin Hau statues in the other temples. A feature of the temple is the ornate Shek Wan porcelian figurines on the roof and eaves.

Around the temple you will see incense being burnt, this is a way of communicating with the gods via the smoke which travels up to heaven. The incense sticks are always placed in threes – one for the sky, one for mother earth and one to represent humans. People pay the temple to maintain the large spiral incense coils you will see hanging from the ceiling; these can burn for months and lead to a continuous communication with the gods.
As you walk out to the back of temple you can see the temple garden. Just by the spiral staircase is a Murraya plant, the Chinese believe wandering souls are attracted to these plants. Attached to the wall is the small leaf banyan tree. Hong Kong sparrows ingest the seeds and deposit them onto the porous walls where these stonewall banyan trees take root.

Walk up the spiral staircase and you will see a splendid example of the Chinese Banyan (Ficus microcarpa) in the middle of the road. The Hong Kong Government has trained the aerial roots of the tree down to try and give this enormous tree some support and comfort to the cars travelling underneath it!

Opposite the temple you will see the Hong Kong GO Development Centre (3 Tin Hau Temple Road, Tel: 2187 2677, Open daily: 10 am – 6 pm, www.hkgodev.com) where you can take classes to learn Chinese Chess ($180/1 hour) or Chinese Calligraphy classes ($250/1.5 hours). Come back down to King’s Road and turn left onto Tung Lo Wan Road on your left is the shop Man Woo Ho (164A Tung Lo Wan Road, Tel: 2566 7238) where you can purchase the iconic red and blue canvas bags.

On the other side of the road behind the lush foliage is Queen’s College, the first boy’s school in Hong Kong established in 1862. Many graduates of Queen’s College are imminent members of Hong Kong society including Dr Sun Yat Sen, Stanley Ho, Hysan Lee and C Y Leung (the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong). They have an active old Boys association which was set up in 1921 and have members worldwide.
Continue along Tung Lo Wan Road turning left into Lai Yin Lane past the Chinese Rhenish Church (protestant Lutheran Church from the 1950s). When you see the restaurant ‘Classified’ turn left onto Lin Fa Kung Road West and at the end you will see Lin Fa Kung temple. Built in 1863 the temple has two side entrances which are unique as you normally enter Chinese temples through the centre. Kwun Yum (the Goddess of Mercy) is worshipped here and she sits on top of a lotus flower. The temple is also known as the Palace of the Lotus flower which explains its unique octagonal structure. When the temple was by the shore it is said that at high tide sea water ran underneath the temple arches leading it to resemble a lotus in water. Of course, now with land reclamation, the temple is located in a maze of buildings.

When you enter, look up to see the incredible carved dragon. Mr Lam, a Chinese Fortune teller sits in the corner keeping up with modern times using his iPad to assist him. For $180 you can have your fortune told but Mr Lam told me that this is only valid for 1 – 2 years. The temple is maintained by the Chinese Temple Committee explaining its excellent condition. Continue left along Lin Fa Kung Street coming out to Wun Sha Street where you can see Tai Ping On Medicine, an old Chinese dispensary with Ginseng drying out front.

Cross over to School Street and turn first left onto Ormsby Street and further up on the left is Feel So Good Lifestyle Store (No 4, Second Lane, Tel: 2894 9311, Open: Tues – Sun 1 pm – 7 pm, Mon closed, www.feelsogoodls.com) a trendy shop selling eclectic home wares. This store may have moved by the time you read this, so go to their facebook page to check their new address.

One more block up is Hello Kitty Secret Garden (19 Ormsby Street, Tel: 2808 2868, Open: Mon – closed, Tues – Thurs 12 pm – 9 pm, Fri 12 pm – 10 pm, Sat 9 am – 10 pm, Sun 9 am – 9 pm). A quaint food place that makes Hello Kitty shaped desserts.

If Hello Kitty shaped desserts don’t make you purr, you won’t lack for places to eat in this area – here you will find Thai, Italian, Indian, Mexican and Japanese food. Once you have finished exploring these blocks reverse your walk to head back to the Tin Hau MTR.

Many thanks to local historian Sylvia Midgett for information on this area.

By Frances Nicholls