Hong Kong
Where East meets West
Hong Kong Travel, Causeway Bay, Noonday Gun

Causeway Bay and Shau Kei Wan

A hip shopping district with fascinating historical sites...

Causeway Bay, east of Wanchai, is Hong Kong's trendiest shopping district.

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The small cluster of streets around MTR-Causeway Bay houses some of the city's best department stores, shopping malls and prestigious shops.  Hong Kong yuppies just love the area and consider it as the city's "fashion barometer" - The place where you go when you want to know what's new and "in"...

 

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Other than its trendy fashion shops and vivid nightlife, Causeway Bay has some points of interest worth visiting.

 

The area got its name from the causeway that used to cross the bay in the old days, before the coastline was "pushed" further by reclamation... (Where present day Causeway Road is).

 

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The Noon-day Gun, one of Causeway Bay's most prominent icons, is an old naval gun that has been mounted in this area since the 1860s.  Its original location was at East Point, which has long since disappeared due to land reclamation projects.

 

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The gun belongs to the international trade conglomerate, Jardine Matheson, who had their main godowns and offices at East Point and used to fire it as a salute to welcome the tai pans, every time they arrived by sea.

 

The British Royal Navy thought that such an honour should be reserved only for government officials or senior officers of the armed services and, in penance, ordered Jardines to fire the gun at noon ever since, to serve as a time signal.

 

Today, the firing of the gun is a tourist attraction, a small crowd usually gathers for the daily firing of the gun at noon by an employee of Jardines (who are apparently under an obligation to the Hong Kong government to continue to carry out this tradition in perpetuity, even though Hong Kong is now an SAR of the People's Republic of China and no longer the British Crown Colony it was when the tradition started).

 

To get to the gun's site: Use the underpass beneath Gloucester Road, from World Trade Centre shopping mall / The Excelsior hotel. You can also get to the gun from Victoria Park (use the pedestrian bridge and then turn left and walk along the waterfront till you get there).

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Tip: The whole idea behind visiting the gun is watching the noon-day ceremony... If you can't make it for the 12 O'clock gunshot, you may just as well give it a miss.

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Although the penance of firing the gun every day at noon symbolized colonialism at its worst, the government of Hong Kong decided that "tradition is tradition" and it has to continue, no matter how awkward were the circumstances that started it...

 

Victoria Park is Hong Kong Island's largest park and forms a beautiful green lung just next to the hectic shopping arena of Causeway Bay. The park occupies an area of almost 50 acres and boasts beautiful landscaping, flowers, fish ponds, fountains and plenty of sport and recreation facilities... Queen Victoria's old statue, which used to adorn Statue Square at the beginning of the 20th century, was repositioned here, after it was removed from its original location by the Japanese occupying forces, during World War II.

 

You can get to the park through Gloucester Road (take exit E of MTR-Causeway Bay to Great George St. and walk along it to Windsor House) or through Causeway Rd. (the tram passes right next to the park).

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The Tin Hau Temple, one of Hong Kong's declared monuments, can be found on 10 Tin Hau temple Road, just a few minutes walk from the southeast corner of Victoria Park and MTR-Tin Hau (take exit B, cross King's Rd. to the other side and walk along Tin Hau temple Rd.). The lovely temple was built in the early 18th century for the popular Taoist goddess, Tin Hau.  Inside the temple there is a bell cast in 1747 and 19th century stone tablets.  The temple's roof-ridge is decorated with beautiful ceramic figurines.

 

Tin Hau (also known as Matsu), "Queen of Heaven and Goddess of the Sea", is possibly Hong Kong's most beloved deity.  According to legend, she was born in 906 AD on Meizhou Island, Fujian, and since she did not cry when she was born, she was given the name "Silent Girl."

 

Although she started swimming relatively late, at the age of 15, she soon became an excellent swimmer and made a name for herself as the protector of fishermen and seafarer.  

 

After her death, the families of many fishermen and sailors began to pray to her in honor of her acts of courage in trying to save those at sea.  Much of her popularity, in comparison to other sea deities, resulted from her role as a compassionate motherly protector, completely different from authoritarian father figures.

Another place of interest around this area is the Lin Fa Kung Temple (also known as the Lotus temple) which was built in 1864 to worship Kwun Yum, the Goddess of mercy and compassion (also called Guanyin). According to legends, she was a princess who became a goddess and engaged in the salvation of the masses.

 

Although the temple is small in size, it features a unique architecture, with murals of flying dragons and phoenixes and patterns of lotus flowers on the ceiling and the upper part of the internal wall.

 

The temple is located on small Lin Fa Kung Street: take exit B of MTR-Tin Hau, cross King's Road to the other side and walk up Tung Lo Wan Road.  After 3-4 minutes, turn left to Lin Fa Kung Street West and proceed all the way to its end (it's a very small street...).

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The Happy Valley Racecourse is among Hong Kong's best known institutions and one of the world's best horse-racing facilities.

 

Originally built in 1845 to provide a horse racing facility for Hong Kong's British settlers, the place was burnt down in 1918, due to a tragic fire that killed at least 590 people.

 

Over the years, horse racing became more and more popular among local Chinese residents, mainly because it was the only permitted form of gambling in Hong Kong.  The money involved in Hong Kong's horseracing industry is the highest in the world in terms of per capita, and watching the mid-week racing is an unbeatable experience... The stands are packed with excited spectators and the atmosphere is electric... The races on Wednesday evenings are the most recommended.

 

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Since horse racing is the only form of gambling allowed in Hong Kong, it has grown beyond any proportions... As a matter of fact, the money involved in Hong Kong's horseracing industry is the highest in the world in terms of per capita  

  

The Hong Kong Racing Museum is located on the second floor of the Happy Valley Stand and showcases the history of horseracing in Hong Kong, from its beginning in 1845 until today, including interesting exhibitions about some of the legendary horses who once galloped the tracks of Hong Kong...

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There is also a cinema and a souvenir shop in the museum and some good restaurants at the racecourse premises.

 

The museum is open daily (except Monday), 10 am - 5 pm (Closed on Mondays, Chinese New Year and Christmas).

 

The best way to get to the racecourse and the museum is by tram : The tramway makes a loop around the racecourse and stops right in front of the museum.  Otherwise, you can also take a walk from MTR-Causeway Bay (10-15 minutes): From exit A, walk along Matheson St. to its end, cross Leighton Rd. and proceed along Wong Nai Chung Rd.

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Shau Kei Wan, on the easternmost corner of Hong Kong Island's north shore, boasts a few places of interest, worth visiting (And they are all within short walking distance from each other).

 

Getting here is very easy: You can either travel with the MTR along the blue marked Island Line to MTR-Shau Kei Wan (It's the seventh station after Causeway Bay) or with the tramway (the tramway terminus is just a short walk from the MTR station)

 

Shing Wong Temple is just a few steps from Shau Kei Wan's Tramway Terminus, on Kam Wa Street (Near the corner of Shau Kei Wan Main Street East). Originally built in 1877, it was the first temple in Hong Kong dedicated to Shing Wong.  In Chinese mythology, Shing Wong is a "city god"... which means he has to manage the ghosts and spirits of the city he is in charge of...

 

If coming from the MTR station, use exit A-2 or A-3 to Aldrich Street and after a few steps turn left to Kam Wa Street and walk along it till you reach the Tramway Terminus and the temple.

 

Just a few steps down along Shau Kei Wan Main Street East (away from the tramway line), on your right hand side, is the bustling Shau Kei Wan MarketAnother two minutes walk down the road will bring you to a small, historic Tin Hau Temple, built in the 1870s (on the right side - can also be accessed through exit-B1 or B2 of the MTR station).  There are some beautiful religious artifacts in the temple, so its worth popping in.

 

Keep on walking down the street for another couple of minutes, turn right to A Kung Ngam Village Road, passing one of the only remaining "traditional villages" on Hong Kong Island, and you will get to another small, historic temple, built in honor of Yuk Wong (Jade Emperor), the Taoist ruler of Heaven and all realms of existence below...

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Next in line is Shau Kei Wan's major attraction: The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence.  The museum comprises two sections: The museum itself, housed within the 1887 built redoubt, is where a permanent exhibition showing "600 years of Hong Kong's Coastal Defence" is displayed, while the outdoor Historical Trail is taking the visitor through the different structures of the Lei Yue Mun Fort.

 

Built in the 1880s to protect the eastern entrance to Victoria Harbour, Lei Yue Mun Fort was a state-of-the-art coastal fortification, in terms of those days... Unfortunately, many of the fort's structures were damaged during the Japanese invasion, in World War II. The Historic Trail passes through the Batteries, the Ditch, the Gunpowder Factory and the Torpedo Station... Coastal guns and canons are also on display, and if you have any interest in military history, it's surely worth the visit (otherwise, the views over the Lei Yue Mun Canal are also fantastic).

 

The permanent exhibition shows the history of coastal defence in Hong Kong and Southern China during more than 600 years, from The Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) to our days... The exhibits include hundreds of historic artifacts: uniforms, old weapons, charts, maps and what not...

 

The museum is open daily (except Thursdays that are not falling on public holidays and the first two days of the Chinese New Year), 10am - 5pm

Entrance fees are HK$ 10 for an adult and HK$ 5 for people with disabilities and seniors above 60 (Free admission on Wednesdays)

 

For more information, visit the website of the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence (plenty of information about the place and the different exhibits), or call them on 2569 1248

 

From the museum, take a few minutes walk through Tam Kung Temple Road, passing near the Wholesale Fish Market and the boats-shelter, and arriving at Tam Kung Temple, a recently renovated temple, built in 1905 to worship Tam Kung, a sea deity worshiped in Hong Kong and Macau.  Although it is relatively small, the temple is quite lavishly decorated and it's worth visiting.

 

From the temple, you can just proceed back to Shau Kei Wan Main Street East (where you can find some nice, authentic eateries) and the MTR Station / Tramway Terminus.

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You may also want to read about other trips around this area...

Wan Chai & Admiralty - Modern architecture, shopping and sinful streets