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Top Historic Spots on Kowloon's Shanghai Street


A walk around Shanghai Street with photographer Simon Go gives a glimpse into disappearing Hong Kong. Story and photography by Christopher DeWolf

Published on Feb 13, 2012

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Nobody knows old Hong Kong like Simon Go. Nearly a decade ago, the forty-something photojournalist quit his job at a prestigious newspaper to launch Hulu Culture (, an organization dedicated to reviving the city’s traditions. Since then, he has spent years documenting a disappearing generation of family-owned shops that sell handcrafted items like sandalwood fans and bamboo steam baskets.

Every day, Go heads to work in one of Hong Kong’s most historic neighborhoods: Shanghai Street, an old-fashioned bulwark against the chain stores and shopping malls that have invaded other parts of Hong Kong. “Shanghai Street is the most extraordinary place,” he says. “People used to think it was a slum, that only low-class people and ethnic minorities live here.... It actually reflects the real Hong Kong style. You can find old Chinese opera houses, taste Hong Kong food, see the old style of architecture. It’s real. It’s alive.”


The first stop for anyone visiting Shanghai Street should be Mido Café (63 Temple St.; +852 2384 6402), the decades-old cha chaan teng that serves Hong Kong-style tea, coffee, pastries and dishes. “This is like my office—if I’m meeting with someone, I’ll always meet them here,” says the talkative Go, who has a kind face and an avuncular demeanor. Not only is the menu a relic of the 1950’s—Chinese-Western hybrids like baked spareribs rice and rich, crispy pineapple buns—but so is the décor: mismatched mosaic tiles (bought cheaply as surplus from local factories), wooden booths, green-framed windows and a big red, white and green neon sign. Go’s favorite place to sit is in the booths on the second floor, where he peers out of the windows at the buzzing streets below. “Anywhere else in Hong Kong, if you sit for more than an hour, the waiters will look at you and think, ‘Why is he still here?’” says Go. “Not here. The clock runs more slowly here.”

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