Not until Kwun Tong Line extension began operation two weeks ago (Oct 23), many Hongkongers’ knowledge of Whampoa may be limited to the fact that it has the same (romanised) Chinese name as the Taiwanese army’s military academy that was established in the Huangpu district of Guangzhou province, or that its landmark is a shopping centre that is shaped like a massive cruise ship.
Though the Whampoa area may not be as historically significant as some other areas in the former British colony, it still has its curious features. Located at the heart of the residential area, the 110-meter-long boat-shaped arcade is a symbol of identity for its history. Before Li Ka Shing’s Hutchison Whampoa Property started building the private housing estate in 1985, the site was home to the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock, which also operated a yard in Huangpu, Guangzhou. The boat landmark is berthed in the original No. 1 Dry Dock.
More recently, it bears witness to another historic change in the area – the opening of the new Whampoa MTR station. As one would expect, being on the map of one of the world’s busiest and most profitable railway systems brings about massive changes to the daily lives of people around the area, both years before as well as immediately after the launch of the station.
Below, you can explore Whampoa circa 2011 (left), before the construction of the MTR station, courtesy of Google Street View, as well as in October 2016 (right) after it has gone into service.
|Whampoa’s boat landmark, The Whampoa on Shung King Street|
“The opening of the Whampoa station means a lot to me,” said Mr Lung, a resident in the area of more than ten years. “I can sell my car and travel by the MTR from now on.”
“To get to Tsim Sha Tsui, we used to have to take the minibus and then the MTR. Otherwise, we would have to walk all the way to Hung Hom train station, which is quite a distance from here. Things are going to become much easier with the new station.”
The arrival of a new MTR station, located just adjacent to the public transport interchange that has been serving the neighbourhood all this time, has caused many people to jump ship and opt for the railway instead of minibuses, leaving the terminus nearly empty in non-peak hours of the day and reducing the lines for minibuses to Tsim Sha Tsui to just a handful of people during peak hours.
But convenience comes at a cost. Construction works for the Whampoa Station commenced in 2012 and up till today, much of the roadworks in the vicinity of the station remain uncompleted despite repeated construction delays, causing nuisance to nearby residents and drivers.
|Uncompleted roadworks outside Exit D|
“The construction work was often an obstruction to the traffic nearby. Moreover, quite a few businesses were affected too because of the construction panels put up near shop entrances.” Mr Lung added.
Man Siu Street, where cars used to have access to, has been reconstructed into a pavement that leads up to Exit A at the West Concourse of Whampoa station.
|Whampoa Station’s West Lobby on Man Siu Street|
The section of Tak Man Street that is adjacent the West Concourse has been converted from two-way traffic to one-way eastbound traffic. Multiple minibus and bus routes have been affected and their stops have been relocated due to the arrangement as well.
|The intersection between Hung Hom Road and Tak Man Street|
This implies that turning movements for all vehicles from Hung Hom Road onto Tak Man Street will be banned. Drivers who intend to do so will be diverted to travel via Man Tai Street and Tak Man Street.
|The other end of Man Siu Street. A new path has been constructed around it to divert vehicles affected by the one-way traffic arrangement on Tak Man Street.|
Although the Department announced back in December 2011 that these temporary traffic and transport arrangements would last for a period of about 22 months, normal traffic arrangements have not resumed even after the opening of the MTR station today.
With MTR station comes standardization and higher cost of living
With the arrival of the new MTR station, Whampoa has undergone gradual standardization of public consumption over the past few years — it is becoming another Mong Kok / Causeway Bay, both busy shopping districts which are tourists’ must-see destinations. Like in most modern cities around the world that are experiencing the effects of globalization, multiple clothing store chains and department store chains have sprung up in the inconspicuous area of the city.
On Man Tai Street, the street just across Exit A, the neighborhood also witnesses a new wave of “hip” restaurants among decade-old hardware stores and newspaper stands. These restaurants, often populating the narrow streets of Soho and Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island, is characterized by their marked-up prices, fusion cuisine, and young, trendy clientele.
There is the new gourmet burger shop serving a special eel, Japanese cheese-omelette burger with a side of sweet potato fries. McDonalds may be no threat to the “Burger Factory”, as it aims for wealthier diners who have a knack for unique and somewhat confusing fusion combos.
Next there is the cold-pressed juice store, which is sandwiched between a neighborhood-friendly laundry store and a newspaper stand.
Finally, the myriad of new Korean restaurants (there are six on the same block), two of which stand next to decade-old hardware stores. Each of those six serves different kinds of Korean food – traditional, fried chicken, rice rolls, etc.