Hidden & Hip Wan Chai: Starstreet Precinct
When one thinks of Wan Chai, there are multiple possible images that come into mind: the bright row of lighting shops, the computer malls swarming with tech junkies, the night clubs that buzz into life at sundown… But did you know that at the sites of these “very Wan Chai” spots, there once was the harbour? And along the original coastline south of Queen’s Road East is a quiet neighbourhood now blossoming with fashion and lifestyle boutiques known as the Starstreet Precinct.
By Jessie Chen / Photography by Tracy Wong
What’s in the name?
Hong Kong’s first power station operated out of the area at the turn of the twentieth century, and the neighbouring streets were named to commemorate the new source of light. Star Street along with the adjoining Sun Street and Moon Street, were named after the “Three Luminaries – the sun, the moon, and the stars” from the Chinese Three Character Classic.
Turning right from the glassy Three Pacific Place on Queen’s Road East, Sun Street is just around the corner. With a mere street block away, there’s a stark difference from the bustling city to the three quaint and quiet streets, as if you were transported to another time.
To visit the Sun, Moon and Star Streets, you would have to climb a little steep slope where the land predates reclamation. But this slope hasn’t stopped trendy boutiques from popping up, letting shoppers wander and discover trinkets and treasures off the beaten path.
Local Crafts – Leekeestore
In Starstreet Precinct, many old neighbourhood stores have given way to newer retailers. One tiny convenience store called Leekeestore is down to just 10 square metres, but don’t let its small footprint deter you.
Here’s how the story takes an interesting turn: the store owner handed the business down to his daughter, who after schooling in the UK transformed the family store into a showcase of Hong Kong’s local crafts. One wall of the store retains the traditional snack shop and convenience store items, selling cup noodles, toilet paper, and bottled drinks. Yet the rest of the space fills up with hand-drawn postcards, handmade canvas bags, and second-hand fashion.
Address: Shop N, 2A Star Street, Wan Chai
Opening Hours: Tue-Thu 12:30-19:30
Exotic Fragrances – Le Labo
Another hidden gem on Star Street is Le Labo, a perfume shop that took its roots from Grasse and New York City then landed in Hong Kong. Each bottle of fragrance are freshly made on site, labelled with each customer’s unique monogram, making each one truly one-of-a-kind.
Shopping in Hong Kong may seem a bit homogeneous, but in this world of mass produced goods, Le Labo stands out of the crowd and offers a fully personalised experience. It’s no wonder the owners chose Star Street as their Hong Kong base, where each shopper departs from the mainstream and finds something special in this alternative neighbourhood.
Address: 2F Star Street, Wan Chai
Opening Hours: Every Day 11:00-22:00
World Wanderer – nlostnfound
Turning off Star Street, you can find the antique and vintage goods shop nlostnfound. Displaying in the shop window are old copper spoons, typewriters, tin toys, and old photographs. Each piece is sourced from flea markets from around the world, awaiting its new owner on this quiet street in Wan Chai.
The shop owner may not give you an especially warm welcome, nor may she seem to care if you find what you seek. On a weekend, minutes tick by after the shop’s official opening time, yet the doors stay locked with the gate pulled up, tempting eager customers with the warmly lit shop windows. Even in a fast paced city as Hong Kong, you can find a leisurely shop keeper, watching over her treasure trove of goodies.
Address: 3 St. Francis Yard, Wan Chai
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 13:00-20:00
Over the Moon – Cocktail Jojo
In addition to the vintage, old time vibe, you can also find lifestyle zakka shops in the Starstreet Precinct. Cocktail Jojo, located on Moon Street, is one such shop. It sells all things kitten, along with other adorable animal memorabilia. The theme and name of the shop all originated from the shop owner’s love for cats – Jojo is his beloved cat.
Stepping into Cocktail Jojo, you’re greeting with all sorts of creative vignettes. The glass display windows are decorated with hand painted doodles, while the shop is chockablock with stationery, ceramics, soaps, aprons, and even little kimonos for babies… Of course, you’d find plenty of cat collectibles here.
Outside the store there are 3 tables for seating, where the owner serves coffee to patrons. The outdoor seating seems to transport the shop front to another place, outside of Hong Kong. Since there are lots of coffee and bar options nearby, the tables aren’t always occupied. Instead, even on a humid Hong Kong afternoon, you’ll find the shop owner catching some fresh air here, tapping away on his phone when he’s not busy greeting customers.
Address: 2 Moon Street, Wan Chai
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 12:00-20:00
Sat, Sun 11:00-22:00
The Sun, Moon and Star Streets of Wan Chai were once at the very edge of Hong Kong Island’s coast. Now when you walk towards the north, instead of seeing a vast harbour, you’d first pass though the bar district on Lockhart Road and get to the looming skyscrapers along Gloucester Road. In contrast, the historic Starstreet Precinct exists in its own time, inviting us to go back and relive those happy memories.