Cumberland Road

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Just ten minutes from Mongkok, Cumberland Road feels as if you’ve left Hong Kong altogether. Running north from Boundary Street into the heart of Kowloon Tong, this low-slung street is lined mostly by squat pastel-coloured villas. With its mountain views and looming trees, this could be a particularly well-off part of Los Angeles – except for the odd mix of love hotels, pricy daycares and Chinese temples, that is.

In the mood for love

Kowloon Tong was first developed in the 1930s and 40s, when Kowloon’s wealthiest found it a dandy place to build mansions for themselves. Many are styled in the breezy Art Moderne architecture that was popular at the time.

Over the years, many of those imposing villas have been converted into hotels where the moneyed classes park their Benzes for an afternoon of illicit love. They’re easy to spot; just walk up Cumberland Road and look for the signs. Essex Lodge, Romance Hotel – you get the picture.

If you’re there at peak hours, in the late afternoon or evening, peek beyond the hotels’ front gates at the rows of luxury cars parked in the courtyard. Look closely: their licence plates are discreetly concealed by well-placed signposts or curtains, the better to keep paparazzi or angry spouses from finding out who just checked in.

Kowloon Tong soundtrack

Earlier this year, local indie act My Little Airport released 浪漫九龍塘 (“Romance in Kowloon Tong”), a song about naughty trysts. “I want to sing you a song / about me and you went to Kowloon Tong / we have to be very strong / if we want to do something very wrong,” goes the chorus.

Repent for your sins

Cumberland Road isn’t just about love hotels. There are also a few Chinese temples along the street, but they aren’t your ordinary incense-filled halls of worship – with high walls, elaborate gates and gold-plated roofs, these are downright swanky.

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How to get there

Take the MTR’s East Rail or Kwun Tong lines to Kowloon Tong station, exit D. Walk south along To Fuk Road and Rutland Quadrant to reach Cumberland Road. Alternatively, take the East Rail line to Mong Kok East, exit D, and walk through the flower market and bird garden to Boundary Street. Cumberland Road is one block east of the KCR tracks.

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Another version of this article was published in Time Out Hong Kong’s Streetwise column.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Sunday February 08 2009at 10:02 am , filed under Asia Pacific, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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