When the MTR West Island Line extension completed in 2015, this newfound convenience in transportation has made Sai Ying Pun a more accessible neighbourhood and along came an influx of businesses and visitors.
The history of Sai Ying Pun long began in the mid-19th century when the British military first landed and set up their camps in the area before the colonial era which in turn boosted the development of the neighbourhood, and the name Sai Ying Pun literally means ‘western camps’.
The combination of its unusual historical background and recent development boost has transformed Sai Ying Pun into a favourite destination for locals and expats alike in exploration of the city’s history and new hangouts.
More on Sai Ying Pun
Dried Seafood Street
Referring to the section of Des Voeux Road West that lies between Centre Street and Queen Street, Dried Seafood Street has been a longstanding landmark of Sai Ying Pun. Finding its beginning as a trading zone for seafood, the street currently has over 200+ stores with most of them maintaining their traditional storefronts and way of business. Dried Seafood Street is not only a place of interest for tourists but also a grocery shopping hotspot for locals because the shops on the street have a reliable reputation and offer reasonably priced products. Major product categories available on Dried Seafood Street include abalone, sea cucumber, shark fin, fish maw, and other various dried seafood products.
Chinese Medicine Street
Tucked directly behind Dried Seafood Street is Chinese Medicine Street, which is officially named Ko Shing Street. This hundred-year old street started out as a development project by a local tycoon and began to take its present form when Chinese medicine stores started to move in as Sheung Wan became overcrowded. It is now a wholesale centre for Chinese herbal medicine, and the dispensary staff are well-known for being highly knowledgeable. Visitors can get their health care ingredients and prescriptions filled from the Traditional Chinese Medicine cabinets that are made up of hundreds of drawers.
Centre Street is famously known for being the steepest road (grade 1:4) in the entire Hong Kong. With Centre Street Market and Sai Ying Pun Market at its epicentre, this district was previously frequented only by residents of the neighbourhood, but the construction of the Centre Street Escalator Link that connects Third Street and Bonham Road, coupled with the completion of quite a few new developments, has introduced a breath of fresh air to the area as restaurants, cafes, and chain-store branches moved in, creating an interesting blend of novelty and mum-and-pop businesses.
Formerly named Fourth Street, High Street is located directly above First to Third Streets, and went through a name change due to the Chinese taboo for the number ‘four’, which sounds like the character for ‘death’.
High Street has long been known as the home of the infamous High Street Ghost House, which had acted as a nurse quarters and asylum. Due to its dark history as a rumoured execution ground during the Japanese occupation in World War II, and its eventual abandonment, stories of ghostly sightings at this once mental hospital began to circulate.
However, this High Street is finally living up to its namesake. In a similar situation with Centre Street, the increased accessibility to the neighbourhood has attracted premium eateries serving cuisines such as western, Indian, Thai and Italian etc, to move in to High Street as it has an abundant supply of street-level shop spaces. Growing from a number of just two, over 10+ restaurants have now placed a foothold on High Street and it has become the new SoHo and a hotspot where all the buzz happens outside Central and Wanchai.
Historical Building Cluster
Being one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, Sai Ying Pun is home to numerous Grade 1 to 3 historical buildings and declared monuments. While some structures, such as King’s College, St. Stephen’s Girls College, and Second Street Public Bathroom, have remained in operation since their founding, others have gone through revitalisation after being abandoned or categorised as a historical building. Categorised as declared monuments, both King’s College and St. Stephen’s Girls College are among the most famous Band-1 secondary schools in Hong Kong, other notable structures in the neighbourhood include Old Tsan Yuk Maternity Hospital, the first Chinese hospital and now home to Western District Community Centre, Western Clinic, which now houses The Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage, and Upper Levels Police Station, which has been incorporated as the South Wing of David Trench Rehabilitation Centre.
Many of these century-old buildings are part of the Central and Western Heritage Trail. Through learning about these historical buildings, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of Hong Kong’s history and different architectural styles, and how the city has evolved since British colonial times.