Hong Kong is truly the city of the future. The city’s ubiquitous skyline of shiny beveled-angle skyscrapers towers above you like a giant wall of steel and glass. Meanwhile, residents tap their Octopus cards at cash registers, magically paying for purchases without bills or coins. Yet lying beneath Hong Kong’s fancy neon wizardry is a puzzling trend. It seems these days, Hong Kong is not looking to the future. Instead, the city’s residents have decided to look to the past.
Perhaps it’s inevitable in a city as amazingly dense as this bursting Asian megalopolis. The city sits on a series of tiny islands leaning precariously onto the South China Sea, meaning there’s simply never enough space. The city’s modern skyscrapers and futuristic bridges exist side-by-side with ancient colonial tenement homes and incense-shrouded Buddhist temples. But whether you’re in search of a souvenir, checking out a museum or simply looking for food and drink, you’re likely to encounter a slice of Hong Kong’s growing love for all things vintage.
But “old and musty” vintage this is not. Hong Kong retro is all about reinventing and reusing the pieces of its textured past, providing visitors with a unique slice of checkered history in a decidedly modern way. If you’re in search of a unique taste of days gone-by or a one-of-a-kind souvenir, Hong Kong’s retro style is ready to be discovered. Keep reading to see where to find it…Retro Dining
For many food is the ultimate source of nostalgia, a reminder of our youth and days gone by. It’s a fact that’s been well-absorbed in retro Hong Kong, where a cuisine of fresh ingredients and age-old family recipes prevails. Nowhere is this better evident than at Kowloon’s Tai Ping Koon restaurant, an eatery defiantly still around after more than 150 years of business. But this is no tourist trap. Each evening Tai Ping Koon’s elegant Mid-Century modern dining room is packed with locals enjoying the restaurant’s signature chicken wings in Swiss Sauce and its light, puffy souffles. It’s the original example of East vs. West eating – a distinctly Hong Kong take on Western food.
Those looking to experience Hong Kong’s retro past need not only find it on a plate. These days, Hong Kong’s high-energy shopping experience is going retro too. It all starts at Goods of Desire (G.O.D.), a popular home goods store dedicated to “increasing interest in Asian lifestyle and culture.” The products for sale at G.O.D. aren’t your average spatula or cooking utensil. Instead, many items like the store’s retro textiles, kitschy selection of Mao Zedong postcards and old-school furniture pay homage to an earlier era of Hong Kong, a time when it was “the world’s factory,” producing cheap goods for sale in Europe and the U.S. It’s a great place to learn more about the city’s history and pick up a unique souvenir.
Just down the street from G.O.D. is Shanghai Tang, a clothing store that references Hong Kong’s famous reputation for custom-made clothing. The chain takes much of its inspiration from traditional Han Chinese apparel, updated with modern touches. Inside the stores’ Art Deco interior you’ll find both men’s and women’s clothing as well as an array of leather goods, stationery and household goods referencing traditional Chinese symbols and design.
The Pawn in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai neighborhood offers another example of the city’s reverence for its historic roots. Pawnshops are a particularly iconic fixture of Hong Kong life. Long before the city’s mammoth banks like HSBC were established, pawn shops played an important role as money lenders for a growing city of merchants and traders. The spartan interiors, high counters and darkened lighting have became a common sight for the city’s residents.
These days, many of Hong Kong’s pawn shops have been replaced, or as is the case with The Pawn, remade into fun hangout spots. The Pawn’s comfy interior pays tribute to Hong Kong’s days of old, offering visitors a wood-paneled interior, leather armchairs and old-school rickety foosball table inside what used to be a working pawn shop. A selection of international beers and cocktails rounds out the menu.
Hong Kong might be the city of the future, but it’s a place that hasn’t forgotten its unique past. From retro eating to shopping to drinking, visitors will find opportunities to enjoy a one-of-a-kind trip through time in this world-famous city.