Dusk on High Street

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High Street isn’t much of a high street. It’s actually a narrow sidestreet in the Hong Kong neighbourhood of Sai Ying Pun, which was first established in the mid-nineteenth century, shortly after the British took control of Hong Kong Island. Despite the steep hillside location, streets here were laid out in a tight grid, with First, Second, Third and High streets climbing up from Queen’s Road. They were intersected by Western, Centre and Eastern streets.

In this case, Centre Street was the true high street of the neighbourhood; High Street itself was so named simply because it was the highest road in the development. Not coincidentally, it also marked the dividing line between Chinese and European settlement, with members of the latter group allowed to enjoy, quite exclusively, the cooler air and more spacious confines higher up the hill.

Today’s High Street remains a dividing line between the working- and lower-middle-class streets down the hill and the much pricier Mid-Levels further up. It’s an unpretentious strip with a comfortable diversity of businesses (including, as Wikipedia notes, 15 car mechanics, a bakery, a greengrocer, four cafés, a sign maker and an art gallery, among many other things). It’s also a bit of a student ghetto, home to many people who study at the nearby University of Hong Kong.

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This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Tuesday May 06 2008at 11:05 pm , filed under Asia Pacific, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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