Thursday, 9 February 2012

In Search of Nathan Road 彌敦道

Nathan Road, Shim Sha Tsui, 2010

Nathan Road on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong has probably been the main artery of roads since the early days of city development. It is a long road stretching from north to south that links several areas and ends at the southern most of Kowloon Peninsula in the area of Shim Sha Tsui, where Kowloon is shored up by Victoria Harbour from the Hong Kong Island. 

Victoria Harbour that shores up Kowloon from the Hong Kong Island. Taken from Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island, 2010

Nathan Road, Mongkok 2011
I have many fond memories connected to Nathan Road since many of my childhood activities took place there, i.e. shopping and dimsuming with parents, window shopping with friends, watching spectacular festival parades along its pavements, spending long summer holidays playing walking games on the pavements to see how far and fast one could walk etc. 

Nathan Road, Shimsha Tsui 2011
Nathan Road was not only my playground, it was also my window to the unrelenting changing fashion trends, and Hong Kong seemed/seems to be always 2 years ahead of Europe in high-street fashions. This was where I got inspirations from the enticing clothes shops big and small. However, as the possibility of buying clothes from those shops was slim, the near lack of options had prevented me from wanting further, instead I would settle for the cheaper versions from Nathan Road's backstreet shops and market stalls. 

Perhaps, this was how I developed my own fashion sense, that is, to mix and match with what is available. To the extent that, during my time as a student in London, not only did I find out that I was a fast walker,  I also brought with me the habit of mixing and matching items of clothing. So charity and  retro second hand shops that didn't (still don't) exist in Hong Kong instantly became my clothes shopping destinations where I picked up most unusual items, with which I could either adapt, cut, restitch and add to, to create a piece that I would finally be happy with. Almost expectedly, my engagement dress which was from the 1950s, was also bought in a retro-shop for under £10.

Back to Nathan Road, I literally went back to it a few times in recent years, each time hoping to see traces of past remnants that could refresh my image of Nathan Road. Disappointingly, all I saw were more trendy shops, taller and shinier buildings, more pedestrians, more vehicles and of course a more congested and vibrant atmosphere. The road that was responsible for instilling the then youth culture of Hong Kong in me has undoubtedly moved on with time, with the young people today. 

It hauntingly hits me that Nathan Road would only get younger and younger, she who tries to resume her past connection with Nathan Road is getting older and older, till one day she meets the same fate of the million souls who walked on it before her, she will no longer go back and walk on Nathan Road any more. 

Nathan Road 1926, the newly built Mongkok Police Station
Nathan Road 1967, the HK Riot, Mongkok Police Station is the brown old building in the centre
Nathan Road 2011, the Mongkok Police Station has been replaced by the tall shiny building


  1. Nathan Rd. was named after Sir Matthew Nathan, Governor of Hong Kong(1903-1907). At that time people said that Nathan Rd. was a white elephant, being too wide ans useless for such a sparsely populated city.

    1. Thanks for the information Chris, with a 'foreign' name, I thought it must have connection with colonialism. Can you imagine if those people were to travel through the time-tunnel to today's HK and saw Nathan Road?