Photo by tallkev
Causeway Bay has been synonymous with Japanese department stores for many years. Although stores such as Mitsukoshi and Daimaru have retreated from the territory in the past decade, they are etched in the collective memory of many locals, becoming landmarks. You will still hear locals telling taxi drivers to drop them off at the old Daimaru or Mitsukoshi. To fill the vacuum, Causeway Bay literally has a facelift and has evolved into a microcosm that caters to a wide spectrum of shoppers. One thing about Causeway Bay that hasn’t changed though is its status as a mecca for shoppers, where you can shop till you drop.
Photo by qiaomeng
The 13-storey Sogo is the last standing Japanese department store in the area. Across from Sogo is Times Square, a mega shopping complex with the biggest video wall in Asia. The front entrances of Sogo and Times Square are the most crowded places in Causeway Bay, somehow becoming de facto meeting points and new landmarks. Navigating through the crowd takes patience and tactics, alternately braking and accelerating. For some reasons, people will abruptly stop while walking, some turning to check if friends and family are in tow, some for no reason at all.
Photo by qiaomeng
Locals can distinguish the clientele who frequent different parts of Causeway Bay. The more affluent area is Lee Gardens and Lee Gardens Two that house the ready-to-wear collections of Chanel, LV, Prada and Gucci. You will see a lot of well heeled ladies having high tea at Cova Caffe Ristorante at the Lee Gardens. The café has a long history dating back to the 1800’s, but it is quite comical the way diners then and now mirror each other, where the cafe once has been serving European royalties, it is now serving the Queens of haute couture. There is a whole floor at Lee Gardens Two that caters to designer babies, luring chic moms with their toddlers and helpers. The clothes are ridiculously expensive for the amount of fabric, but the smiles you see on the proud moms twirling their precious ones in these adorable clothing are priceless.
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As you weave through the streets behind Lee Gardens and migrate to Times Square, you will find an eatery that is founded in 1860 on Pak Sha Road. Tai Ping Koon is famous for chicken wings cooked a la Swiss sauce, roast pigeon, Portuguese chicken and a gigantic soufflé that takes four people to finish. The waiters look like they have been around as long as the restaurant. The food here is a great example of “Hong Kong western cuisine” where classic western dishes are added a twist to become a novel cuisine. Unbeknown to the chefs a century ago, these dishes have become classics local people love.
Photo by wenzday01
A few turns and you will find yourself on Sharp Street or Yiu Wah Street, with Times Square looming in front of you. The rent in Hong Kong ranks amongst the highest in the world. In an area like Causeway Bay with such high human traffic, rent for a roadside shop is exorbitant. In recent years, there is a trend for shops to move from roadsides into buildings. As shops move upward into buildings, bars have followed suit. There are bars on almost every floor in the buildings on both streets. To pick one, simply step into the elevator and press any floor. Since the bars usually occupy a whole floor, you can take a peek to see if it’s to your liking or press “door close” to the next floor. The turnover rate of these bars is quite high. Moving into buildings does cut the overhead in terms of rent, but it also cuts off a lot of traffic. You don’t have to feel embarrassed by the above elevator technique in picking a bar, it’s well observed among locals.
When you see Lane Crawford, you are officially in Times Square. Lane Crawford is an upscale department store along the likes of Neiman Marcus or Saks. There is a Japanese supermarket and lifestyle store operated by Citysuper in the basement level. You will find all kinds of delicacies, home wares, gadgets that you don’t really need but nice to have. Many Japanese housewives shop here because they can find every cooking ingredient they need from home. If you want to have a quick bite to boost your energy for more shopping, the food court is right here. There are many cuisines to choose from. Before you leave, do stop at Flannel Flowers across the food court. Let your senses bask in the fragrance of the beautiful seasonal flowers on display. If you have a few days’ stay in the territory still, a bouquet artfully arranged by the “artists” will brighten your staid hotel room.
Photo by smaku
If you don’t feel like eating at the food court, there is always the choice of the food forum with “20 nationwide eateries”. You will see a lot of people queuing below the video wall for the glass elevators to a restaurant of their choice on 10-13/f. The massive Times Square has become the choice location for New Year count down. If you are in the proximity during New Year’s Eve be alert to the broadcasts of road blocks. The roads around Times Square are usually cordoned off at around 5-6pm. You have to make a quick decision to stay “in” the area till after the countdown or get out before the roads are closed.
Just opposite of Times Square on Russell Street is Soundwill Plaza, abound with many beauty salons and spas. If you want to take a well deserved rest from all the walking around, you may want to ask the concierge at the lobby for a list of the spas and make an appointment. However, if you really want to take a breather from the jostling crowd, you can plan a leisurely day. The Breakfast buffet at the Park Lane Hotel is a great way to start the day. Café One overlooks the Victoria Park and the harbor, depending on which side they seat you. You can enjoy the extra big cups of coffee or tea while reading a newspaper or magazine. The best part is you can enjoy the 3 hour breakfast at your own pace with multiple helpings of great food.
After a big breakfast, take a walk in Victoria Park. It is the biggest park in Hong Kong and is named after Queen Victoria. There is a statue of the Queen at the main entrance on Causeway Road. Aside from the sporting facilities such as tennis, basketball courts and swimming pools, there is a central lawn with ample greenery around. There are benches spread out in the park where you can sit and relax and temporarily forget you are in a concrete jungle. There are many events held at the park all through the year. You might chance upon one on your visit. The Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo is usually held in December, The Flowers Show in March and the Lantern Show during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The admission fee is HK$10-20, with free admission for children up to a certain age and seniors over 65.
Photo by bonnett
If you want a still quieter way to spend your time, you can visit the Hong Kong Central Library just across the park. There is an escalator to bring you up to a bridge that links the park and the library without having to wait to cross the busy street. As the main library in the territory, the floor area covers 33,800 square meters. The monolith building itself is quite impressive with an arch shaped doorway. If you love to read, browsing through the aisles of books is pure joy. Pick a favorite and read a few passages. If you have kids with you on your trip here, they can spend a relatively calm afternoon in the children’s book section. You can also take your book with you and have a cuppa at the Delifrance café located in the lobby. Depending on your energy level, you may want to venture out to the vibrant shopping places again, but if you are a bit bored by the shopping, you may want to have a drink on the top floors of hotels such as the Excelsior and the Park Lane, where you can sip your cocktail overlooking the Victoria harbor and the Kowloon skyline.
Photo by imuttoo
Causeway Bay is a really crowded place, so if you are not used to the density of people per square meter, take a moment to recuperate at the many cafes in the area. You can try out the siphoned brewed coffee at the UCC coffee shops on the 4th floor of Sogo department store and the 2nd floor of Causeway Bay Center. Each cup of coffee is individually brewed and watching the baristas skillfully executing these siphoned brews makes you appreciate your coffee in a brand new way. With renewed energy, you can brave the crowd and go shopping again. Have fun in the shopping paradise!!
Bonnie Wong is a full time writer, bilingual translator and founder of Pastel b. cards. She hopes to share the uniqueness of Hong Kong with everyone through her writing. Learn more about me [+]