By LUXE City Guides; images by Jeremy Cheung
Kwai Tsing District came into being in 1988, with the amalgamation of industrial Kwai Chung in the New Territories and the green, hilly island of Tsing Yi.
Like much of the New Territories, Kwai Chung was once a rural area, but following World War Two, it became a hub of heavy industry. In the 1980s and 1990s many of the factories that had found a home in coastal Kwai Chung moved to mainland China, though Kwai Tsing remains Hong Kong’s key port facility, and one of the busiest container terminals in the world.
Shipping and logistics companies now coexist with the artists and creative businesses that have moved into the area, taking advantage of the spacious units available at good prices in well-worn factory buildings, and making them their studios. While shiny new office buildings have risen from the dust of the area’s industry, innovators and entrepreneurs are hard at work behind heavy cast-iron doors within the sprawling industrial towers, adding another distinctive feather to Kwai Chung’s character.
Across the Rambler Channel, Tsing Yi Island, thought to be named after a fish once common in the waters surrounding it, has also experienced a transformation. Once home to the stilted huts still found in Lantau Island’s Tai O village, it is now a major connecting point for Hong Kong’s transport infrastructure, with the Ting Kau and Tsing Ma bridges linking it to the New Territories and to Lantau Island. Significantly expanded due to land reclamation, its industrial western edge is separated from its more residential eastern side by the 334-metre Tsing Yi Peak, adding some greenery to this most urban of districts.
Wander the picturesque Tsing Yi Promenade running beside Rambler Channel, which separates Tsing Yi from Kwai Chung.
Marvel at Hong Kong’s stunning bridges from Lantau Link Viewpoint.
Enjoy a taste of Hong Kong at Yardley Brothers craft brewery.
Sign-up for a class at local wood and metalwork artist Stanley Lee’s Here Workshop.
Take a coffee break at one of the many independent cafes that have opened in Kwai Tsing.
A handbag’s throw from new development Kowloon Commerce Centre, and attached to office tower KC100, Florentia Village is part of the recent influx of sleek commercial buildings into the Kwai Chung industrial area, bringing with it the bright and bold statements of luxury fashion. There are outlets from Balenciaga, Armani, Sergio Rossi and Versace, as well as Hong Kong’s largest Prada outlet. Multi-brand retailers I.T and Lane Crawford also have a presence here. Enjoy the sophisticated shopping environment — and the savings — with all stock at up to 70 percent off at all times.
Local actors and visiting theatre troupes often take to the stage at the Kwai Tsing Theatre, which has given dance, performance art, experimental theatre and improv their moment in the spotlight. Since 1999, productions of various sizes and varying genres have been put on in the Auditorium or the more avant-garde Black Box Theatre establishing Kwai Tsing Theatre as a cultural hub for original and innovative theatre in Hong Kong’s New Territories.
This quirky space located off the Kwai Tsing Theatre purports to cater to the cultural and the creative. A library of travel books will keep many an imaginative mind occupied, while its proximity to one of the New Territories’ cultural hubs ensures many an artist and musician passes through. The cafe serves an eclectic all-day menu of international dishes, various coffee and tea options and a selection of craft beers. Alfresco seating is also available.
Pak Muslim Curry House has been serving traditional Pakistani curries, breads and classic paratha chai for more than 20 years. Situated on Ping Fu Path, which runs parallel to Ping Lai Path, (off Castle Peak Road), these two small streets became the heart of a small Pakistani community who moved in when Chinese factory workers left the tenement buildings in the 1980s — bringing with them their food and culture. Other authentic Pakistani restaurants include Haq and Karachi Takeaway — popular not only with local Pakistanis, but Hong Kong office workers too.
With demand for vegan food on the rise, this traditional Buddhist restaurant is known for its good selection of meat-free and dairy-free dishes. Frequented by monks who dine in their robes, this laid-back eatery, which was crowd-funded into being, serves a range of delectable vegetable-based dishes, from noodles and dumplings to stir-fries, all brought from the kitchen to the table by volunteer servers. There’s also an adjacent room for tea appreciation.
Shop 7-17, LG/F, Kwai Chung Fa Yuen Shopping Arcade, 50 Wo Yip Road, Kwai Chung, New Territories (View on Map)
+852 2811 0951
This cosy eatery has been making innovative hot dogs and burgers for almost a decade, offering combinations ranging from standard cheese and bacon to more unusual options such as the pickle dog, where a black pepper sausage is accompanied by pickles and sauerkraut. The veggie dog is comprised of lettuce, mushroom, tomato, corn and pineapple and served with a Caesar dressing, and the Hawaii dog features a honey chicken sausage, cheddar cheese, pineapple and corn. The burgers come in various guises, too — either beef or chicken with a host of intriguing toppings.
For art, culture, hip vibe
On any given Friday, an eclectic mix of individuals gather around a small bar in an industrial building in Kwai Tsing District. They are here to taste some of Hong Kong’s finest craft beers. What began from a living room on Lamma Island has become a successful and innovative brewery, Yardley Brothers, winning both national and international awards and, since 2016, brewing out of an industrial unit in Kwai Hing.
On Fridays, the brewery offers free tastings. At one such tasting, the bar is hosting a duo from the floor below who run a tattoo studio, office workers from one of the newer commercial buildings in the area, and a gaggle of Korean beer geeks. They have come on a pilgrimage especially to try Yardley Brothers’ Lamma Island IPA, Quit Your Job! and Hong Kong Bastard beers, as well as the single-batch special editions crafted each month by brewmaster Luke Yardley.
Down the street, musician and composer Andrew So recently opened VII Drip & Brew , a coffee shop that seeks to bring a haven of calm to the busy locality. “We want to become an oasis in Hong Kong, and Kwai Chung is probably one of the 'driest' areas,” says So.
Things are brewing in Kwai Tsing — and more than coffee and beer. These two entrepreneurs are helping to ignite a community in a district that has long been a habitat for creatives, yet has lacked a spirit of togetherness and collaboration.
“Everybody closes their doors and works on their own. It’s an industrial building and people are doing their own business,” says Kum Chi Keung, an artist known for his signature birdcage-inspired art, who, along with big names in the Chinese contemporary art scene such as Samson Young and Fang Lijun, has had a studio in the area for many years. “Maybe nobody is trying to co-ordinate or to connect artists so everybody is just doing their own thing,” says Keung.
Frederique Decombe, a French visual and performance artist who launched a gallery in the area five years ago, which ran for 18 months before becoming her studio space, agrees. “The gallery was a short and intense experience but too short to create community. We had high expectations about trying to make people work together, but it seemed to be more difficult than we had thought originally,” she says, adding optimistically: “It’s changing for sure, slowly but surely.”
Woodwork and metalworking artist Stanley Lee, who along with his partner Sheung Chau offers workshops where students can learn to make tableware, pens and jewellery, has also had a space in the area for five years. With an attached terrace his opened Here Workshop has also held rooftop farming classes.
“Within the last two years, this area has changed a lot,” says Lee. “When we started, there were just a few units offering classes, now there are lots, with many other studios moving to Kwai Chung.” At any time, visitors to Kwai Chung can usually find ceramic-making classes, art-jamming experiences and drawing groups.
New artists, drawn by the relatively affordable rents and improving infrastructure, are also seeing a community that is becoming more open. Designer and artist Arnaud Le Marteur Rêveur has been based in Kwai Hing for just over a year. “I really love the area. I have also met quite a lot of people — a few artists, a photographer and various entrepreneurs, even a beer brewer,” he says.
Commerce is helping. An increase in office workers has seen a rise in the standard and range of food and beverage options, which is creating more places for people to meet and connect.
As well as VII Drip & Brew, Cozy Café, set on the lower ground floor of an industrial building, caters coffee, tea and sweet treats to office workers and studio dwellers alike.
While the facades of Kwai Hing and Kwai Fong’s industrial blocks rarely inspire creativity, inside, some of Hong Kong’s most innovative artists, designers and entrepreneurs are operating. Where can you find them? If in luck, on the burgeoning social scene that sees coffee and craft beer bringing community to the area. Though there is still some way to go, who knows what the dawning of such a community could bring? Connection and collaboration often breeds creativity and innovation.
For architecture, sightseeing, shopping
Hong Kong has long been a global shipping hub and most recently Kwai Tsing has been at its container port heart.
Hong Kong’s principal port was once located in Yau Ma Tei, before land reclamation poached that waterfront. But in September 1972, the first container berth opened in Kwai Tsing. In the years that followed, Hong Kong’s commercial cargo handling would gradually move over to form the Kwai Chung Container Terminals.
Today stacks of red, blue, green and yellow shipping containers stretch into the distance. Row upon row is punctuated by armies of large cranes there to transport the containers from boat to berth and back. Beyond, glimpses of the western end of Hong Kong Island’s concrete jungle can be seen, while out in the waters low-slung ships await their cargo calling or, loaded up, chug up the channel and out to sea.
Ships are not the only transport to service Kwai Tsing. Roads skirt the port area, their myriad turn-offs offering access to residential neighbourhoods located on Tsing Yi Island, or connecting to the arterial bridges that make the area such an excellent logistics and transportation hub. As well as function, these arterial bridges boast form — they are major feats of engineering that have become Hong Kong landmarks — and are part of the Lantau Link.
You can admire the bridges from the Viewing Platform at the Lantau Link Visitor’s Centre, which also provides a wealth of information about the bridges themselves. Adjacent to the Visitor’s Centre is a model train shop and the Hobby NaNa Railway Cafe, both popular with model train enthusiasts.
The first bridge many visitors encounter from Central to the airport is the cable-stayed Stonecutters Bridge, a concrete and steel stunner that spans 1.6 km long. It connects to the imposing Tsing Ma Bridge, which crosses the Ma Wan Channel from Tsing Yi to Ma Wan Island with grace — its transport-ways suspended from cables and towers. Impressive by day as it is when the lights twinkle by night, this suspension bridge has the world’s longest bridge span, carrying both road and rail traffic, and provides direct access to Hong Kong International Airport.
The Tsing Ma Bridge joins the Kap Shui Mun Bridge, while the Ting Kau Bridge features numerous white cable stays that fan from its three supporting towers. This bridge crosses the Rambler Channel, and the picturesque Tsing Yi Promenade that runs alongside it, which affords pedestrians attractive views of ships and shore. A little further away, the easily accessible and peaceful Tsing Yi Nature Trail also offers impressive bridge sightings.
Kwai Tsing district is made up of two parts, with Tsing Yi Island putting the “Tsing” in Kwai Tsing. As well as container terminals, its significant residential population is centred around its MTR station and Maritime Square, a shopping mall situated above the station, with a green balcony and roof garden.
Across the Ting Kau Bridge, the industrial area of Kwai Chung lends the district the “Kwai” in its name, and it is from here that several creative businesses operate. Kwai Chung’s MTR stations include Kwai Hing and Kwai Fong, which along with Tsing Yi, are less than 26 minutes by train to Central.
Those who call Kwai Tsing home for business value the convenience of the neighbourhood. "The great thing about the area is that it's actually very close," says Elaine Ng Yan Ling who runs The Fabrick Lab, a contemporary textiles studio in Kwai Hing. “What I really like about this compared to other industrial areas is that it has kept a lot of the old character.” Ng extols the space afforded by the older industrial buildings in the area for the heavy machinery required in her work, but also appreciates the accessibility of the location for both her own travel and that of clients.
Calls are being made to develop the Kwai Tsing port and its surroundings. Identified as prime real estate, it has potential for new residential developments that could ease Hong Kong’s housing shortage — one suggestion is to construct a podium on top of the terminal. Whatever happens to this area, it is an increasingly desirable location where infrastructure and connectivity are central to its appeal.
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