Holi is an ancient Hindu religious festival, a spring festival celebrated in India and Nepal, also known as the “festival of colors” or the “festival of love”. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships, and is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest. This year (2017) it is celebrated on 13 March.
Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Dahan where people gather, do religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that their internal evil be destroyed the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in the fire. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi – a free-for-all carnival of colors, where people smear each other with colors and drench each other. Water guns and water-filled balloons are also used to play and color each other. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colors occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. People visit family, friends and foes to throw colored powders on each other, laugh and gossip, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks.
There is more underneath the glass and steel of Hong Kong
When it comes to Hong Kong as a travel destination, scenes of the hustle and bustle, all kinds of cuisine and hundreds of shopping complexes probably flood your mind in a blink. No we are not going into the obvious beauty of the city. We are here to unravel the mesmerizing gem of the city’s cultural diversity. Let us freshen your vision and mind with some colorful hues!
For those who want to explore the city from an unconventional perspective, check out the HKwalls! For four years in a row, HKwalls has been making efforts to strengthen the link between art and the public space. Last year, HKwalls took place in Sham Shui Po, one of the earliest developed areas in Hong Kong. The mixed land uses and history has given the district a distinct character, making it an ideal area for the annual street arts celebrations. The festival featured 40 art pieces created by artists from 17 countries, 42 workshops, 3 free film screenings and a pop-up print exhibition.
This year HKwalls reignites the partnership with Vans as part of the Hong Kong Arts Month in Wong Chuk Hang. Unlike other events during the month, there are scattered happenings for the public to stumble upon. Though Wong Chuk Hang may be a little far from the city centre, it is chosen for a reason. While the art and creative community has been blossoming in the industrial district, the mural art pieces and interactive programs would perfectly compliment the growth. Just remember to have your camera ready!
Feeling revitalized now? Let’s dig deeper into the city’s cultural matrix, here is our recommended guide for you.
Old Town Central
Here we go a compact experience in the culturally diverse city!
Old Town Central (OTC) refers to the rectangular shaped neighbourhood in Central bounded by Wyndham Street, Caine Road, Possession Street, Queen’s Road Central and Hollywood Road. A miniature of the big city, it hosts many must-go including heritage sites, landmarks, historic architecture, religious buildings, designer boutiques, local shops, dining and entertainment outlets. It mirrors the transition of Hong Kong from a fishing village to a British colony to a metropolitan city throughout the decades.
The story of modern Hong Kong began at Possession Street in 1841, where the British soldiers landed and the colonial governance commenced. Fast forward to 176 years later, it is now the Hollywood Road Park, a Chinese-style garden. Still, you can find a mix of nostalgic and modern shops at Possession Street.
Climb a few staircases to POHO; fill yourself with the artsy air. Surrounded by Po Hing Fong including Tai Ping Shan Street, Po Hing Street, Tung Street, Sai Street, and Upper Station Street, the up-and-coming neighbourhood is analogous to Hong Kong’s hipster village with plenty cafes, quirky boutiques and art galleries.
YMCA Bridges Street Centre & Ladder Street
You will find YMCA Bridges Street Centre and Ladder Street at the east of OTC. Constructed in 1918, the YMCA Bridges Street Centre is an architectural epitome displaying a crossover between Chinese green glazed tiled roofs and Chicago School style. Ladder Street, a Grade 1 historical building, which is made entirely of stone steps, connects Queen’s Road Central all the way uphill to Hollywood Road and Caine Road.
Man Mo Temple
At the corner of Ladder Street, Man Mo Temple is a masterpiece of long-lost traditional Chinese architectural craftsmanship. It would certainly take your breath away the moment you step in. The temple was built for Gods worshipping and as “Kung Sor” where community issues were discussed and resolved.
Go along Hollywood Road and you will arrive at PMQ, the Police Married Quarters. It has been revitalized as a creative hub where over 100 shops, pop-up stores, design studios and restaurants are nested. The mission of PMQ is to nurture local designers, provide a place for organizing exhibits and for visitors to have a taste of creative lifestyle. With this in mind, you cannot miss this place from your to-go list in Hong Kong.
Gough Street and Kau U Fong
Also known as NOHO, there is a great deal of independent boutiques and contemporary art galleries awaiting your discovery; cafes and old-style dai pai dong (cooked food stalls) ready to fill you up. Be sure to spare some time and belly for them!
Pak Tsz Lane Park
Pak Tsz Lane Park, located at a quiet square behind Aberdeen Street, Hollywood Road, Gage Street and Peel Street, is a park featuring a monument in memory of anti-Qing Dynasty activities in the late 19th century by revolutionaries from Furen Wenshe and Xing Zhong Hui. Enlighten yourself with some knowledge on Hong Kong’s role in overthrowing the monarchy in China.
One of the oldest built in 1844, Hollywood Road has evolved into a renowned art hub, accommodating numerous contemporary art galleries, antique shops and boutiques. Get your art and shopping fix here and you won’t be disappointed.
At the junction of Old Baileys Street and Hollywood Road stands a gorgeous colonial-style establishment – Tai Kwun, or “big station” in Chinese. That was how the Chinese used to colloquially refer to the former law enforcement complex. Initially where the Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison were, it is now under transformation into the next talk-of-the-town hub of heritage, arts and leisure. Stay tuned!
Named after Hong Kong’s first governor, Pottinger Street is made of uneven slabs of cobblestone, and thus given the name “Stone Slab Street”. If you need ideas for your costumes and props to Halloween celebrations or themed parties, look no further, you can find everything here.
Lyndhurst Terrace is another featured spot of the Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail. The old Xing Yan Lou Western Restaurant was one of the secretive bases where Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his comrades meet as well as a refuge for overseas revolutionaries during the First Guangzhou Uprising in 1895. You may be hit by some shiok buttery aroma and it probably comes from Tai Cheong Bakery, renowned for “the best egg tarts in the world” hailed by the last British governor Chris Patten.
This content was produced in partnership with Hong Kong Tourism Board.