Local, local, local… This is where you go to sample the local life of the average Hong Konger – low-rise residential buildings, cheek-by-jowl apartment blocks, shophouses, and shops, shops, shops. Shanghai Street is one of the longest and oldest streets in Hong Kong. For the sheer number of shops here and volume of business they once transacted, Shanghai Street was also once the most prosperous neighbourhoods in the island-city. In fact, it was thus named by the British colonial government in Hong Kong because it was then as wealthy and prosperous as Shanghai in Mainland China!
Today, the 2.3-km-long street that runs north-south is a nostalgic walk down memory lane. Budget for a couple of hours, to window shop and if time permits, walk inside some of them and inspect their wares. They sell medicinal oils, wedding clothes, cooking supplies, herbal tea, kitchen ware, bamboo steamers, ancestral offerings, photo-frames and a whole lot more… everything you need to carry on with the business of living.
Before Shanghai Street developed into a vital business corridor, it was a neighbourhood whose shops catered to the ‘boat people’ a few blocks west. These were people who lived and worked in the Yau Ma Tei typhoon shelter. But since man cannot live by bread alone, ‘nightclubs’, brothels and cinema halls sprung up, giving Shanghai Street a seedy reputation. Somewhere down the line, the typhoon shelter was replaced by a highway, railroad and new housing estates, and Shanghai Street became a hardcore commercial and trading area.
With the march of time and technology dictating lifestyles and consumer preferences, Shanghai Street began to lose its relevance. Soaked in sepia tones today, full of flavor and character, and replete with memories, this section of Kowloon is definitely a must-see.