Made up almost entirely of the Jockey Club’s skyline-illuminating two race tracked stadium, Happy Valley is the gambling, horse-racing core of Hong Kong. It’s nestled between Wan Chai and Central and (just like everywhere else on Hong Kong Island) is similarly skyscraper-intensive. Prior to 1846 and the construction of the racecourse, however, the land was rich in agriculture. With it’s infamous yellow mud stream, bringing malaria and water borne diseases to the district, while nourishing the Wong Nai Chung Valley’s numerous rice paddies. With gardens, mosques, temples and cemeteries dominating Happy Valley, there is a distinctly multi-ethnic sense of solidarity in this ever-changing region. Food delivery is also available from a list of Happy Valley restaurants.
First on your tour of Happy Valley should be breakfast at Classified. The open planned restaurant with tiled floors and long wooden tables serves everything from homemade granola, Bircher muesli and pastries to buttermilk pancakes, French toast and eggs. Reasonably priced and extensive, there will certainly be something on the menu to tickle your taste buds and get you geared up for your afternoon.
After breakfast, head to the Hong Kong Racing Museum in the Happy Valley Stand, where you can soak in the region’s rich history of horseracing. Although, definitely more one for the racing enthusiasts out there, the museum does boast eight galleries and a cinema that showcases the 150 year history of Happy Valley.
Next, take a 10-minute walk from the Happy Valley Stand, along Sports Road to Wong Nai Chung Road. From here you can experience the multi-ethnic heritage of Hong Kong, passing mid-1800s burial grounds of the city’s Parsee, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and Sikh communities. When you reach the end of the road, visitors will see the beautiful blue Sikh temple that sits on the corner of Queen’s Road East and Wong Nai Chung. Built in 1901, the Khalsa Diwan temple boasts an intricate façade and is the largest Sikh temple in the city. Although various renovations and extensions have been made as the Sikh community of Hong Kong has grown.
All across Happy Valley there are trendy minimalist design stores and eclectic antique Chinese shops to check out. Follow the U-shaped Wong Nai Chung Road, which wraps around the stadium, to Ligne Roset, a collective of talented designers bringing the latest in luxury interiors. Located on Blue Pool Road, the shop stocks everything from rugs, chairs, lighting and textiles. On the same road, the historic Italian design store Porro boasts a stylish showroom. Established in 1925 by Giulio and Sefano Porro, the showroom is their first flagship store in Asia.
Head to the Wong Nai Chung Food Centre, on Yuk Sau Street for a bite to eat for lunch. Here make a beeline for Sheung Kee – a small stall on the 2nd floor where you’ll find delicious crispy garlic chicken. With the buzz of a classic hawker style food centre, Sheung Kee greets its guests with live seafood tanks filled with shellfish, prawns and pipis.
Next, make a stop at the F11 Photographic Museum. The gallery occupies a three-story Art Deco building right next to the Wong Nai Chung Cooked food centre, making it the perfect place to visit after lunch. Fantastically restored to the building’s original grandeur, the 80-year-old architectural features are beautifully preserved, while the museum boasts an extensive showcase of Leica cameras originating from 1925 and hosts the work of international photographers. (Check what’s on at: f11.com).
For dinner, check out Saint Germain – the moody French Bistro on Wong Nai Chung Road. Creating perfect, comfort-food French dishes, the restaurant brags a fan-base of Hong Kong’s French expats and if you weren’t across the road from the Stadium you’d almost believe you were in a Parisian bistro. Checkered floors, candles and the buzz of conversation make this the perfect spot for an early dinner before the races.
While the Hong Kong Jockey Club does not showcase races each night – if you are in town on a Wednesday, head on down to the horseracing to take part in this Hong Kong tradition. The first race begins at 7pm, with the last horses running at 10pm, so make sure to put a couple of dollars on your lucky horse between those times. With live music and drinks stalls, running horses and shouting gamblers – Wednesday evenings at the Jockey Club are always wild and wonderful. (Check the races are on this week at www.hkjc.com/english).
Images courtesy of www.yha.org.hk, www.goubao5.com, www.strippedpixel.com, facebook.com/ClassifiedHK and Hong Kong Tourism Board.