The western districts of Hong Kong have been up and coming since the MRT was extended to the far reaches of the island in 2014, the workshops are moving out, and the kids are moving in. I wanted to check out what has popped up, so I jumped onto one of the historic trams and headed westward. There was a breeze from the open window upstairs at the front of the double-decker tram that took the edge off the otherwise omnipresent humidity that is a staple of Hong Kong life, and the tram slowly clattered down the street. It is slower than catching the underground MRT system, but the nostalgia it evokes is worth the jumps and jerks it makes at every corner. I descended at the last stop, Kennedy Town, to find that I had fallen into a hipster haven. Trendy restaurants and fashionable bars lined the streets, and the clothes hanging from the high rises even seemed more stylish. I knew then it would be a challenge to select only one place to eat, drink and see.
I headed off to Comptoir on the recommendation of a friend despite the raising of an eyebrow; sending someone living in Paris for the last decade to a Parisien bistro at the end of the line Hong Kong was a gamble. A gamble that thankfully paid off. The atmosphere of Comptoir was adorable. Sitting at the counter, I had a square on view of the chef cooking before my eyes, and the open front to the restaurant gave an airy feeling to the place. I spend a good deal of time gazing at the intricate roots of the trees across the road. They seemed to be drawn on, and even after my meal, I couldn't quite understand how these mighty trees still stood up. The meal was Parisian sized, so to say, you might want to order some sides to accompany a larger hunger. It was thoroughly enjoyable, the food was flavorful, beautifully plated, and just delicious.
42 Forbes St, Kennedy Town
Open Daily 11:30 - 23:00
SEE: Sai Wan Swimming Shed
I wanted to walk off the cream and butter, so I pointed my feet towards the hill leading out of town and into the jungle that surrounds the Peak of Hong Kong Island. Winding up the mountain in the warm summer sun made me break into a sweat, but it was a refreshing walk regardless, as long as you carry a bottle of water with you. Hong Kong has the highest concentration of skyscrapers in the world, so one would imagine more concrete jungle than green jungle, but there is a surprising amount of forests in and around the city. From the Peak to the New Territories, or here, just beyond the border of Kennedy Town, you are never far away from tranquillity.
Trundling through an unassuming gate leading to a series of stairs down the hill is a sign written only in Chinese that I hope describes my destination. I tentatively descend the seemingly never-ending stairs fearing that if I am wrong -and I hope I am not- I will need to return up these same stairs defeated in my quest. I am careful not to misstep, as the foliage is teaming with massive spiders that have seemed to create their own metropolis in the branches. I was born in Australia, so spiders rarely scare me, but if Nosferatu were to see the size of these ones, even his blood would curdle. As I made my final steps down, my destination opened before me, the Sai Wan Swimming Shed and its Instagram perfect pier that juts into Victoria Harbour, a tranquil hidden gem.
During the 60s and 70s, the city created a number of these facilities for swimmers to change clothes, take showers and store their belongings. However, it is much more often used these days as a shooting location. There are throws of local and mainland tourists patiently waiting in line for their five min of fame on the edge of the pier, posing and preening for that perfect shot. The actual view from the pier is a lovely one, with a lush green island behind, but I found that people watching the Instagram obsessed millennial generation infinitely more fascinating. I must admit, I really wanted to have one of the old swimmers climb up the pier steps in their one piece and pass the queue of trendsetters - that would have been quite the photo. Despite the fellow photographers, I still find it a magical place just past the end of the world, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong.
Sai Wan Swimming Shed
Victoria Rd, Mount Davis
A short walk from Kennedy Town, or get off the bus at "Caritas Jockey Club Hostel Mount Davis" then follow the stairs down the hill.
DRINK: Wilshire Bar
It took me a couple of circuits around the block before I found my drink. It takes a small amount of detective work to find out where the Wilshire Bar is, and I would tell you the exact location, but that might spoil the joy of trying to find it for yourself. Safe to say it looks over the corner of Davis and Forbes Streets.
Once I have cleared the curious process of getting in, complete with light switches and other tricks only the bartender knows, I was presented with floor to ceiling bottles in this candlelit hideaway. The cocktail list is short but had an expansion in the form of "bartenders choice" at the bottom of the list. I thought 'When in Rome...' expecting just a random cocktail I was taken back when the gentle and friendly mixologist asked my mood and appetite and proceeded to whip me up a superb short drink called a Second Marriage; not having had a first yet, I was a bit nervous, but it was heavenly. A delicious blend of Bourbon, Calvados, PX Sherry and a dash of Angostura Bitters served in a glass filled by a gigantic square ice cube with an orange peel.
As I was expecting some friends to join me, I realised I might be waiting a while for them to find the entrance, so I ordered another Bartenders choice and was presented with another fantastic creation that begged me to ask for the recipe. Being Sunday night the bar was quiet, only a girl propping up the bar, keeping the bartender company, and a young couple, one of whom shortly after I arrived, broke off to play the piano in the centre of the wood-floored room next to the pool table. I am pretty sure he wasn't hired staff, but a connoisseur, but he played magnificent jazz tunes and blushed when I clapped as he paused between songs. It couldn't have been a more fitting way to end a perfect day in Kennedy Town, Hong Kong.
Corner of Davis and Forbes Streets, Kennedy Town.
Daily 19:00 - 02:00