The Many Faces of Wan Chai
Here is a suburb that gets a lot of flack and mostly for good reason, being a late night destination, full of drunks and hookers. Well, maybe some of that is true, but you could throw a net around the offending streets these days, as the worst streets have decreased and the good streets have increased. Yes it’s a bustling noisy inner city district, but the changing face of Wan Chai has been taking place for some years now and it deserves to be considered by working professionals (by this I refer to bank and office workers not sex workers) as a highly respectable address to live. You could draw a line on a map straight down Hennessy Road and say everything south forget about it and everything north is well worth it.
Wan Chai has grown up. Like Sheung Wan, it has become the domain of creative types, who see the beauty in some of the older dwellings, or like the ultra modern chic-ness of the new, perfectly positioned to walk into Central or stroll to Causeway Bay.
Home now to some of the best restaurants in the city, Wan Chai boasts whole streets of great food and eateries, like Ship Street or Star Street, Sun Street and Moon Street. Whoever decided on the names of these streets deserves a medal for setting the scene for the romantic gentrification that is underway.
It’s Fun Living In Wan Chai
Wan Chai always has been a metropolis of energy and vibrancy. It is home to commercial offices, the immigration towers, and a number of government buildings. There are overhead walkways, keeping you dry and safe, linking the buildings together and connecting to the MTR. There are the late night venues of Lockhardt Road vicinity such as Joe Bananas and Escape. Respected crowds working around the Hopewell Centre head upstairs at the Pawn Hotel or La Piola at street level come cocktail hour. There are rooftop bars such as Woolloomooloo with views out over the harbour and Happy Valley. Specialty clubs such as Ophelia for your opium den chic experience is somewhere to take your visiting friends for a fantasy fun night out. There are artist’s studios with weekend exhibitions and art lessons. There are ballet schools and gaming venues. There is even an artificial ski slope where you can get private lessons all year around.
And there is food food food .. fast food, slow food, French, Italian and Spanish food, Greek food, Japanese food, Korean, Vietnamese and Indian food. You want Yum Cha or Dim Sum – no problem. You need fries with that ? - coming right up. You could eat out every night of the week in Wanchai and feel you’ve not even scratched the surface.
Retail shops line the streets with everything from fashion and sports gear to fabrics and furniture. Lighting shops, bread shops, car showrooms it’s all here. Street markets sell produce and electronics. Need a new cover for your phone or a headset? There is very little you cannot buy here. With direct access from Pacific Place 3 linking you to Admiralty and a hop and jump to Causeway Bay, this just makes it unlimited.
Where to Live
With all this activity going on it might seem surprising that you can actually find your own quiet oasis of peace and quiet to escape to. On the hilly side of Wan Chai you can find reasonably large residential apartment developments such as StarCrest, Hoover Towers, Manrich Court and Dragon Villa.
The Starcrest residence has twin towers and is located on Star Street adjacent to Pacific Place entrance and the MTR. Here you will gain amazing wide open views, mountains and harbour, space, solace and excellent facilities with swimming pools, gym and clubhouse. Step outside and you have the famous Giando Italian trattoria on site or Oolaa casual brunch and dining on the corner. The benefit of the 3 minute covered and air conditioned walkway to the MTR entrance right across the road ticks all the boxes although it is only a 10 minute stroll into Central from here. You can also find similar modern apartments nearby in buildings such as J Residence and The Zenith both which offer a stylish finish and recreational facilities. Star Studios is a new offering to come to market with sleek fit outs ranging from studios to 2 bedders and a range of layouts. This is a new concept where you get to choose as a purchaser, the style of décor from the selection such as Nordic Chic or Brick and Glam.
Around Moon and Sun streets, it’s possible to find very cute older style buildings that have lofty high ceilings and often a good sized outdoor terrace or balcony. These are gems in the pile and are hotly picked up when they come up for sale or rent. Many have had very elaborate renovations, opening them up to create more space with an open plan layout for a western lifestyle. This little pocket within the area has a lovely quiet village atmosphere that would be pleasing to anyone and a precious reminder of the once village that has partly been demolished. With quirky little shops selling specialised items like wine, art, beauty products, antiques and collectables, it’s hard not to fall in love with this tiny slice of heaven. Get to know your neighbours in the small local pub on the corner or in the many cute cafes in the area.
Who lives here
Wan Chai is definitely suited to professional singles and couples. It has morphed into the preferred district (along with Sheung Wan) for creative types of all ages that have offices or work in the local or nearby architectural, media and IT firms that call this district home. It suits young banking and finance types who like to be close to work with long working hours, and young couples enjoy all of the fun and nightlife that surrounds you. With ample sporting venues at your fingertips, access to hiking trails and bike trails for the weekends, not to mention the supermarkets and necessity stores, there is little wonder why Wan Chai is so popular.
For families with younger children, this area may be a little more challenging, not because it isn’t on good transport lines to schools and medical facilities , or hasn’t all the amenities that a family might need, but it is after all a bit of a rough and tumble area, still finding it’s feet, with a bit of polish and grime mixed in. But for everyone else, this is what makes Wan Chai so exciting and interesting and a really unbelievably great place to live.