Happy Valley – More than Just A Racecourse
If you are looking to live in a really vibrant and diverse area that lives up to its name, whether you have a family or not, there is one district that definitely stands out for so many reasons. Happy Valley.
Being just a little out from the central districts this neighbourhood located more or less behind Causeway Bay and Wanchai really does have a lot to offer and is largely considered to be a little less expensive for renting or buying, or more pointedly, you get more space for your dollar. This fact alone has to be a good enough reason to feel Happy in the Valley living in Hong Kong but there is more to it as well ! Ex-pat families love it here because of the many many activities and the fun things to do all year round.
This area is also one of the most famously recognised neighbourhoods of Hong Kong, due to the historical site of the Happy Valley Racecourse. Known globally for holding the richest races for every race, where millions and millions of dollars are layed down on horses every night that the course is open. The season runs from September until the end of June, with races held usually every Wednesday night. Night time racing has become so popular, and being a mid week after work time slot, it’s an exciting night out and so much fun for everyone, with the punters piling in from around 6.00 pm for the start of the first race till around 11.00 pm being the last race. The racetrack which has celebrated over 150 years of racing since 1846, has continually delivered with drinks, food and a whole lot of betting entertainment going on. If you’re lucky enough, you may get an invite to the clubs fabulously luxurious VIP members areas, above the stands with full restaurants and bars and a birds eye view of the finish line from high above however the regular punters love standing in what’s known as the mosh pitt at ground level where the atmosphere is buzzing with high energy thrills all the way.
Happy Valley Village
And, of course there is the other side to Happy Valley. The residential side that has a variety of housing opportunities offering spacious apartment blocks. There are the modern high rise apartment buildings favoured by working singles and couples, wrapped around the perimeter of the race track grounds, most of whose balconies look out directly onto the racecourse and beyond (imagine being able to place a bet from your couch to watch your horse come in live!) or there are lower rise apartment buildings old and new, positioned in the much quieter streets behind the race track or terracing up the hillside towards Wong Nai Chung Gap and Jardines Lookout.
The people who choose to live here enjoy a very comfortable and peaceful village atmosphere with cute cafes, nice shops, plenty of green areas and parks, and seriously good restaurants. It’s these attributes that make Happy Valley so appealing to ex pats who are able to have a more western style of living.
For young singles and couples, the friendly village really does become a place to meet up with friends, away from the busier streets of the Central suburbs, yet miss nothing of good entertainment and venues. There are enough pubs and bars located here, and eating out is met with so much variety with French, Indian, Italian, bistro style, fine dining, pub food, steakhouses as well as local fare. Feather and Bone has become the village “brunch” scene since they opened, and St Germaine bar and French bistro is a long time favourite of locals and visitors alike.
For ex pat families deciding to live here, they can have a lot more space to move around in with larger apartments. Happy Valley is very close to a number of good schools, notably The Marymount Primary and Secondary Schools, and the French International School. For medical services there are two excellent hospitals in the area, and a number within easy reach.
Keeping the peace
Shopping is varied with local supermarkets and pet shops, grocers, butchers, cake shops and even an Aston Martin showroom. But to live this close to Causeway Bay where you can buy absolutely everything you could possibly dream up, it’s considered a definite advantage by the residents of Happy Valley that their neighbourhood does not have the noise, traffic and heavy foot traffic that go with a busy shopping precinct. Time square in Causeway Bay is only a short drive or cab ride away, along with Ikea, Sogo, and all of the popular fashion stores. Lee Gardens has all the high end designer stores and Wanchai has made a name for itself as the place to go for retail electrical goods, home wares and european luxury furniture stores as well as good restaurants and late night entertainment.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley which is open 24 hours daily is well worth the membership. There are a number of excellent restaurants within the club and it’s a favourite for Dim Sum on the weekends. At the Club house there are olympic sized swimming pools, indoor and outdoor so the kids can swim all year round, and there are always a number of childrens activities going on outside of and during the school holidays. Parking is easy with plenty of parking spaces and free parking for up to five hours is given to members.
Further up the hill towards Wong Nai Chung Gap is The Hong Kong Cricket Club which is also well worth the family joining. With cricket pitches, tennis courts, swimming pools, it’s a great day out for the family and for the adults, the English style pub restaurant is perfect for just relaxing in the warm summer afternoons, and taking a cold beer on the terrace watching what’s happening out on the sports fields and meeting up with friends.
A Joyful Ride
Although Happy Valley is not on the MTR line, it does have plenty of bus routes in and out to all over the island and connects with MTR stations in Wanchai and Causeway Bay. Cabs are reasonable and plentiful 24 hours a day. However, one of the oldest and cheapest forms of transport to Happy Valley from Kennedy Town through Central and Wanchai are the iconic Hong Kong Trams. The tramlines were opened back in 1904 and are still working today having witnessed the changing face and growth of the Hong Kong CBD. Not the fastest modes of transport compared to the MTR, (there are about 100 stops in a 13 km stretch) these double decked beauties however have become a major tourist attraction, with a dedicated loop to the Happy Valley Races. Clunky and slow, often referred to as the Ding Ding, due to the chiming noise they make along the way, they are loved by locals and visitors alike, and a really fun way to get around Hong Kong. The slower speed gives you the opportunity to really take in the sights of Hong Kong from the food markets, sky scrapers, mountains and harbour. At a ridiculously cheap HK2.50 per ride, these historical trams are the few gems left in the world today, still operating in a big city and reliably getting people home.