Wan Chai means “Small Bay” in Cantonese, and for generations was also known as Ha Wan, or Lower Bay. Commonly romanised as Wanchai – this perennially interesting urban district began in pre-British times as a small Chinese settlement – little more than a hamlet – grouped around the location of the present Tai Wong Temple on Queen’s Road East.
The tramway opened in 1904 along that section of the waterfront that now forms Johnston and Hennessy Roads. Modern Wanchai began in the 1840s with the intention of creating a high-class residential and commercial centre. Major foreign firms owned substantial buildings, godowns and wharves facing the sea. For a time Wanchai was known, in English, as Spring Gardens; the name is perpetuated in the present-day Spring Garden Lane.
Lockhart, Jaffe and Gloucester Roads were all built on land reclaimed during an ambitious reclamation scheme in the 1920s. Gloucester Road, with its substantial police station, remained the Wanchai waterfront thoroughfare until further reclamation work started in the 1970s.
Nineteenth century Wanchai was also a major distribution centre for rattan goods, many rattan shops were originally found in the area, especially along Queen’s Road East. Some historic buildings remain from this time – the Tai Wong Temple, and the Pak Tai Temple on Stone Nullah Lane, both date from the mid-nineteenth century.
Wan Chai’s enduring reputation as a hedonistic nightlife zone only really developed in the post-war era. Before the Pacific War there were a few bars in the area, mainly owned by the Japanese and patronised by servicemen from the nearby Victoria Barracks, and the Royal Naval Dockyard. During the Korean War these businesses started to boom, and the party continued right through the Vietnam War and beyond.
While bars, night-clubs and associated pleasures remain a noted – and some would say notorious – feature of the district, Wanchai offers a great deal more interest than just a no-holds-barred night on the town – and Suzy Wong retired quite a few years ago!
Please note: All walks require appropriate footwear for walking. Please remember to carry water. We also suggest insect repellent, sunscreen, hat and an umbrella.
Please also note: This walk is not suitable for children under the age of 15 and is also not suitable for dogs. And we only take Hong Kong residents.
HK$550 per person for a scheduled walk.