Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Bruce Lee Guide to Tsim Sha Tsui

Walking tours are quite popular and there aren't many places where they are as easy as Hong Kong. Granted it's not the most pedestrian-friendly place you will have visited - any walk normally involves being hoisted above or below the roads so we don't interfere (heaven forbid!) with the smooth flow of HK's most precious vehicular traffic. Here is one of the walks I had cobbled together for the old blog, following on from the popularity of my original Bruce Lee’s Hong Kong post.

I also have a Yau Ma Tei walking tour article to re-post, but for the time being this is a nice easy-to-follow introduction to Lee fans. Given last year's 40th death anniversary celebrations and all the stuff that went with it (such as the eventual opening of the 5 year exhibit at the Heritage Museum) it seems a good time to put these up again.

The walk itself is about 3.5km in length and shouldn’t take too long unless you want to take full advantage of the locations and get snaps and generally admire the views and I have tried to be as direct as possible given the aforementioned ridiculous aspects of HK’s pedestrian flow - designed to take you past shopping opportunities rather than actually get you from A to B in the shortest time.

**IMPORTANT NOTICE: due to the recent closure of the Avenue of Stars - for the purpose of renovation expecting to last until 2018 - the first two points of interest on this walking tour will be inaccessible at their current locations. The statue of Bruce (#1) should be available to view in the 'Garden of Stars' to be opened in the podium garden of Tsim Sha Tsui East waterfront from the 15th Nov 2015. It's not clear if Bruce's plaque will be relocated as well. In light of this, I recommend you begin this tour from #3 and continue as normal, or visit the podium garden first before walking down to the clocktower**

Following below is the list of all the points of interest - I explain in great detail further down. I have also created a Google Map which can be accessed via this link.

#1 Bruce Lee Statue

#2 Plaque on the Avenue of Stars

#3 KCR Clocktower

#4 Heritage 1881 (former Marine Police HQ)

#5 Grand Ocean Theatre

#6 Hongkong Hotel

#7 Ocean Terminal Car park

#8 Osaka Restaurant

#9 Hankow Road

#10 Peking Road

#11 Peninsula Hotel

#12 Mariner’s Club

#13 Chungking Mansion

#14 iSquare

#15 Mirador Mansion

#16 Tsim Sha Tsui Mansion


#17 Golden Crown Court

#18 The One

#19 The Miramar Shopping Centre

#20 Champagne Court

#21 The Observatory

#22 St Andrew’s Church

So, on with the show...

#1 Bruce Lee Statue on the “Avenue of Stars”


The sole saving grace of the otherwise appalling done and badly managed Avenue of Stars is the Bruce Lee statue. The management of the Avenue would never have thought to do something like this and so it was left to other (smarter) people to take care of. Commissioned and funded largely by the Bruce Lee Club Hong Kong (with worldwide fan donations) the statue is still the biggest attraction along the promenade (well, okay then, perhaps the actual harbour is the larger attraction...). It was unveiled on 27th November 2005 by Bruce’s siblings, Robert and Phoebe. Well, at least it does actually look like Lee, unlike the crap wax effigy outside Mdm Tussaud's. Once you too have stood in front of it doing a stupid pose (and yes, you did look like a complete tit whilst you were doing it) head west and follow the floor plaques until you get to…

#2 Bruce’s Plaque on the “Avenue of Stars”


Eye’s down to avoid looking at the tacky plastic cartoonish concession booths and also to avoid tripping over people and you will eventually come to the plaque with Bruce’s name on it. Of course, the Avenue is a recent addition to the promenade (inaugurated in 2004 - probably to help lift a post-SARS doldrums) so you don’t get to see Bruce’s actual hand print. Thankfully they managed to spell his name right. Take a quick snap and keep walking towards the Star Ferry terminal until you reach the…

#3 KCR Clocktower


Okay, I am cheating here a bit because this place really has no link to Bruce other than the fact that it appeared in the background on one of the Ocean Terminal photo shoot images he did. In fact on this one.


Of course, the clocktower would have been a familiar sight to him anyway because it has been standing there for a good century. The terminus it belonged to was demolished in the late 70's and the clocktower is (sadly) all that remains. Anyway, from the clocktower, head north towards Salisbury Road and use the following crossing to head over to Canton Road.


Once across Salisbury Road you will be looking straight up Canton Road. On the opposite side of the road on the right you should be able to see the next spot on our list of locales.

#4 The Former Marine Police HQ


Again, no direct Bruce Lee link per se, other than the fact that it was around when he was (not many buildings in HK can make that claim anymore) but there is an anecdote from the Lee family that concerns their life during the Japanese occupation (1941 – 45). The Lee’s lived in constant fear of being accidentally bombed by American planes. During the occupation the building was used by the notorious Japanese Kempeitai Police and therefore became a target for US bombing runs. Living less than 1km away made the Lee's very nervous with regards to stray bombs dropping on their heads. Thankfully, the building survived the war (as did the Lee family) and you can see it now in all its Disneyfied-luxury-mall glory.

Get back onto the left hand side of Canton Rd because we have some direct Bruce links coming up, firstly with:

#5 Grand Ocean Theatre


These days it’s a much-reduced version of its former self but, still, it is the site which saw the 1971 premiere of Lee's first HK hit film: The Big Boss. Part of the original auditorium was turned into a branch of Planet Hollywood during the 90′s (I do remember the Predator suit in the window display and also getting quite drunk there once - maybe more than once - on several "Terminators").  Planet Hollywood eventually closed and the space it occupied was taken over by Lane Crawford.


It’s true that if you go into the neighbouring Lane Crawford, you will probably be closer to where Bruce sat in the original auditorium than if you went into the current version of the cinema.

Incidentally, in another tenuous Lee link it was at Planet Hollywood that you could see the 'original' catsuit he wore in his night time sneaky-beaky bits in Enter the Dragon and also a large replica of the Green Hornet car, Black Beauty, used to hang from the ceiling. The cinema itself is still part of the Golden Harvest network. You can go in and watch a film if you like but, as mentioned, you won’t be watching it in the original auditorium, much better to head back out and go next door to the:

#6 Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel


Formerly just the Hongkong Hotel, it was one of Bruce’s bar haunts and where he sometimes hung out with his pals including the subsequently prolific actor, Lam Ching Ying. Lam was one of Bruce’s trusted friends who was originally a member of Han Ying Chieh's stunt team. Lee poached him for Enter the Dragon (along with a few others such as Bee Chan) where he was an extra and also doubled for Shek Kin. Another link to Lee is that this was the venue chosen for his 31st birthday celebrations (in 1971). There is a picture of he and Linda behind a birthday cake that was taken at the hotel (although I have no idea which room). Anyway, by all means go into the hotel. You’ll need to to get to the next location anyway, so, walk to the back of the lobby and you’ll see some lifts on the right hand side (go up some steps first). Use the lift to go to floor 6.


Yes, that’s right, you want to go to the car park :-). Get out on the 6th floor and kind of bear right until you see this in front of you.


Go through these glass doors and out into the (usually) blazing heat of the car park on top of Ocean Terminal.

#7 Ocean Terminal Car Park

This is the location of a famous Golden Harvest publicity shoot that had Lee walking around the car park with various co-stars such as Maria Yi and Nora Miao. This excellent French website has all the pictures and more, just click on the link: http://flutesilencieuse.canalblog.com/archives/2008/01/14/7558045.html. But here are some of my own contemporary shots.

Rear of Hongkong Hotel

View towards Star Ferry (note the clock tower)

Remember the shot of Bruce with the clock tower in the background? Well it was up here where it was taken and if you walk far enough along the southern-side railings (i.e. looking south towards HK Island) you’ll eventually see the clock tower yourself and it will give you an inkling as to where he was standing when those shots were taken. Another link that Bruce has with this area is that it was from the previous incarnation of these docks that Bruce caught his ship to the US in 1959 - sailing on the APL General Gordon on April 29th. Gwulo.com has a picture of the ship it here.

Once you have done admiring the view, something that my take a while if the smog is not around, you can retrace your steps and go back down to Canton Road. Turn left and walk up until you come to the junction with Peking Road. You need to cross over Canton Road and head down Peking Road. So you don’t get confused here is a picture.


I'm not sure if Daniel Craig is there anymore (this picture is at least a couple of years old by now) but the road still is! So you need to cross over here and then walk down the road opposte (Peking Rd). The building you can see down there is the TST Langham Hotel, however, make sure you stay on the right hand side of the road because this is where it starts to get tricky.

At the end of this part of Peking Road is Kowloon Park Drive, however, we need to get to the other side of Kowloon Park Drive and we can only do this by walking through a subway (Attention my US friends: subway in this case is the English version - an underground pedestrian tunnel, not a train line).


Turn to the right and you should see the following.


There is a lift or stairs (depending on how knackered you are or if you are in a wheelchair). Once in the subway just walk straight on and take the steps or lift back up to ground level. Once on ground level you should be able to look across the road and see your next destination – Ashley Road.


So, use the nearby pedestrian crossing and turn left up here because you now need to keep walking until you hit the next right hand turn called IChang Street. On the corner where the two roads join is HK’s longest running Japanese Restaurant called the Osaka.

#8 Osaka Restaurant


Located at #14 Ashley Rd, inside a building called Ashley Mansion, the restaurant used to be called Restaurant Yamato and was a favourite spot for Bruce. The building was completed in 1971 so the timing is perfect for it to have been a brand new place for Bruce to hang out. Don’t be fooled by the exterior, the actual restaurant is on the first floor, immediately behind this door is a flight of steps.

John Little told me that Bruce had made copious notes – including choreography for the fight scene with Sammo Hung – on paper supplied by the restaurant, and if you do make it to the Heritage Museum exhibit in Shatin you will see some examples of these scribblings - replete with the restaurant logo at the top. Actually the shot I took above was done a couple of years ago and the restaurant has since changed its signage to a more modern looking one.


Moving on down Ichang St (and you can grab some takeout from the famous “Ka Ka Lok” hole-in-the-wall here if you are hungry) we hit our next locale.

#9 Hankow Road

You may or may not be aware, but various scenes from the opening credits of Enter The Dragon were filmed here. Fans may remember seeing the old man pulling Roper around on a rickshaw and various signs swinging into shot, one of which was for a famous club called Copocobana. It's long-gone now but located on this very part of Hankow Road. Here’s a reminder.


Here is the view looking north from Ichang St towards Haiphong Road.


And, the following picture is looking south from the same place, and is actually the same direction that can be seen on film.

Next we turn right and walk south down Hankow Road towards the next junction/intersection with Peking Road.

#10 Peking Road

Okay, so we have already walked along a part of Peking Road before we had to go underground. It's hard to believe but this was all one straight road once but the building of Kowloon Park Drive (the road that forced us under ground) has basically split it into two. Another odd bit of road 'improvement' means a pavement now splits the traffic flow so that it is no longer possible to follow either Peking or Hankow for the length of their course (if you’re in a car that is). It’s a weird one way system and totally unlike the standard intersection it used to be when John Saxon (and his luggage) were being pulled up Hankow and turning west onto Peking. Anyway, here is the screen grab of Peking Road looking east...


...and here is the modern day comparison. Look at the road and you can see there is now a pavement separating the junction between Peking and Hankow (the taxi has to follow the road around to the left).


I guess it is also worth mentioning that it was somewhere on these roads that Bruce purchased a tiger skin rug. Okay, he may not have had great taste (he did order a gold Roll’s Royce after all) but this was the area where those type of things (hmmm…curios?) could be bought until they were outlawed.

So, keep walking south down Hankow Road between the Peninsula and YMCA Salisbury hotels until we once again arrive at Salisbury Road before turning left to cross the front of 'The Pen'.

#11 The Peninsula Hotel

When Bruce’s returned to HK in the early 70's, the hotel (built in 1927) had a bar called "Gaddi’s" on the ground floor. During the filming of Enter The Dragon, several production meetings were held there. Gaddi’s is still around but, in 1977, was moved upstairs and its former ground floor location now forms part of the Peninsula’s shopping mall. Still, we can check out the glistening brass plaque they have installed on the side of the wall and, yes, I do see staff come out and clean it with a bit of Brasso every so often.


The entrance is now on the Nathan Road side of the hotel, but we need to backtrack a bit and cross over Nathan Rd at the crossing between the Peninsula and Sheraton Hotels (in front of the escalators that take you underground). Once on the other side of the road walk up until you come to the next road which is Middle Road. Turn down Middle Road and walk almost to the end where you will see a large blue building.

#12 The Mariner’s Club


This building has been around a while – it was built in 1967 – but I understand it is soon to be redeveloped (I'm not sure if this is true or just rumour). The link to Lee is a small one and is the fact that when he first moved back to HK in the early 70′s he used the telephones in here to call back to the US - mainly because he was in talks with William Dozier about possible work back there. I’m not sure why he used the phones in this building – maybe they were cheaper than wherever else he was staying or perhaps they were the closest ones that could get an international connection? Whatever the reason, get there while it’s still around.

Retrace your steps back down Middle Road and turn right onto Nathan Road again. Our next place is one that the connection is less clear but I’ll include it anyway.

#13 Chungking Mansion

Regardless of its current reputation as a den of inequity and crime crawling with refugees and generally dodgy looking people (i.e. backpackers), when the place was built in 1961 it was a top-class apartment building that had unrivaled views over the harbour and prices to match. Why or when it became associated with all sorts of sordidness I have no idea but at some point a nightclub cum restaurant was established inside called the “Bayside”. I have no idea when he did this but I have been told that the Bayside was frequented by Bruce who used to be friends with the Filipina house band. Seeing as Bruce was in the states during the 60′s it seems possible that he may have gone here during one of his return trips (1963 with Doug Palmer?) but that is all the information I have.

These days it full of curry houses, Nigerian refugees, betelnut stains and lots of cheap guesthouses/hostels. Here is a recent snap of the newly repainted (and sanitised) Chungking Mansion.


#14 iSquare – former site of the Hyatt Regency Hotel


Formerly known as the President Hotel, the Hyatt Regency sat on this block on the north side of Peking Road next to Lock Road and was recognisable for its sloped vehicular driveway on the Lock Road side of the building.

It was on this very same slope that Bruce supposedly first bumped into Betty Ting Pei, later to become his girlfriend, who was living in the hotel at the time. Perhaps one of the hardest truths many fans have trouble accepting (just one of many I guess) is that Bruce was a bit of a ladies-man and had several girlfriends – Ting Pei being the most famous probably by virtue of the fact that she was with him when he died.

Another link to Bruce is that he enjoyed going to Hugo’s – the restaurant/bar inside the hotel. The hotel was demolished in 2006 and the site now houses an ugly mall called iSquare - but I think the name iSore is more fitting.

Here is a snap of the old slope of the hotel (source: HK man's blog which has now disappeared...!).


...and here is the same view today looking north up Lock Road.


#15 Mirador Mansion


Across the road from the iSquare is Mirador Mansions. Like Chungking down the road, the Mirador (these days at least) is more famous for its floors of cheap and cheerful hostels that are a big draw for backpackers (and other cheapskates :-)). It’s had its own fair share of controversy over the years (including an unfortunate death a backpacker a couple of years ago) but seems to have avoided the general negativity reserved for Chungking Mansion.

The rooftop of Mirador is 'supposed' to be the location of Bruce’s last street fight in 1959. A vicious fight that saw him get into trouble with the police and forced his parents to pack him off to the US to avoid further ramifications. The building was indeed completed in 1959 so the timing makes this story feasible. If Bruce did indeed fight there then it would have been either a brand new building or perhaps still under construction (but almost finished).

It seems to be quite easy to gain access to HK rooftops (as we have seen with the infamous acid attacks over the past few years) so by all means try and go up but I don’t recommend it because I don’t know how safe these places are. Enter at your own risk :-)

#16 Tsim Sha Tsui Mansion, 83-97 Nathan Road

Almost directly opposite Mirador is another old residential block called TST Mansion. We won't cross over because the view is better from this side of the road, but if you feel the need to cross then it is easy to do. This building is where the (sadly deceased) actor and stuntman, Lam Ching-ying, used to live. Lam is well-known to Lee fans as he was in The Big Boss as well as an extra in Enter the Dragon and he also doubled for Shek Kin in the latter film. Lam and Lee were good friends and often partied together (like at the Hongkong Hotel) but Lee would always come to his home in TST Mansion first. I'll try and get a photo in here soon when I get a chance.

#17 Former Site of the Golden Crown Court Restaurant


Another one that has long gone, however in this case just the business and not the building. The building is actually still called the Golden Crown Court, hence the name given to the restaurant, and it sits at 68 Nathan Road. It was built in 1964 but I have no idea when the restaurant opened or finally closed. The restaurant itself featured several times in Bruce’s later HK life when he was snapped there a few times with such companions as Raymond Chow, Bob Wall and Chuck Norris. The part of the building that used to be the restaurant now houses a branch of the Standard Chartered Bank but, before this, was also used by the Banana Leaf Curry House. All we have left are pictures of how it used to look from outside. Here is a shot taken of the building just the other day.


#18 Former site of the Tung Ying Building

Just a little up the road is another one (quite literally) of TST’s new monstrosities. Looking like an uglier skinnier version of iSquare is The One. It's built on the site of the Tung Ying Building which was Lee-related in several ways - the most obvious being that it was the location of Golden Harvest’s offices (on the 6th floor, I believe). Of course that means Bruce spent a lot of time there and it was said he would sometimes jog there from his house in Kowloon Tong (actually not that far away - about 4km). Not only was it the GH office space but it also housed his local Bank of America branch (he pledged money for the Po Shan landslide fundraiser on a cheque from that bank) as well as an Oliver’s super sandwiches that was housed on the ground floor and where he supposedly went for a snack sometimes. I don’t know how long Oliver’s has been around so I can’t confirm it either way but I do remember going to that very same branch for a snack on my first trip to HK – unaware of its supposed Lee-related past. The Oliver’s was located street-side on Granville Road and of course went when the whole building was torn down in 2006. I don’t have any personal photos of the building but the HK Places website does more than make up for it. In fact look carefully and you will even see the sign for Oliver’s. Anyway, here is the monstrosity in question.


On a further note, it’s interesting to know that the Tung Ying Building was built by Bruce’s great uncle – Sir Robert Ho Tung. There used to be a bust of Ho Tung inside the foyer.

#19 Former Site of The Miramar Hotel

Moving up Nathan Road one block and we come to the modern day Mira Hotel. It was formerly known as the Miramar and Bruce Lee fans will recognise this name in two ways. Perhaps most (in)famously it was the hotel that Bruce was supposed to meet Raymond Chow and George Lazenby on the day he died. What many people may not realise is that the Mira, as it exists today, IS NOT the same place as the Miramar. The hotel that Bruce was familiar with was actually opposite the current Mira on the north side of Kimberley Road. It was knocked down in the early 1990's and replaced by the Miramar Shopping Centre.

Miramar Shopping Centre: former site of the Miramar Hotel.

One of Bruce's favourite restaurants was located inside the old hotel: the Kanetanake. The hotel was also the location for the Unicorn Fist Press conference which saw many of Bruce’s Way of the Dragon stars also in attendance. According to the hotel’s management (the friendly and helpful Mr Dalichau) the post-conference meal was held in the Kanetanake as well. He spent a lot of time here with his friend, Charles Lowe.

Looking for the original Miramar? This is where it was. Right spot, wrong time.


If you end up at the Mira, then you’re on the wrong side of the road :-(

#20 Champagne Court


Just down the road from the Miramar Shopping Centre is a place that Bruce was familiar with and it does still exist (for the time being – after all this is HK). It’s called Champagne Court at #16 Kimberley Rd and was the location of another one of Bruce’s nightclubs that he used to go and Cha Cha in. It’s just a block of flats these days with some shops on the ground floor selling antique and used cameras but still it’s nice to know some things are still around.

For the next location you need to turn back towards Nathan Road and make a right to walk north. Just before you get to the brightly coloured colonnaded building that used to be the Kowloon British School (now used by the Antiquities and Monuments Office) you can turn off into the entrance of the next site.

#21 The (ex-Royal) Hong Kong Observatory

This one is tricky because it’s officially off-limits to the public unless you join a pre-booked tour (which I haven’t been able to do so far so I can’t give any advice). You may be able to see it from the main gate which is just a little bit but it’s touch and go. It doesn’t matter though because great looking colonial era building that it is the link with Bruce is fairly tenuous in that his older brother Peter used to work there. If you can get in great, if not don’t worry too much. I believe you can try here so who knows perhaps you will be more successful than me. Now worries if you don’t succeed because you can always move on and see the last site on this walk – the only religious building on this tour (unless of course your religion is money in which case we’ve just about exhausted our faith).

#22 St Andrew’s Church


This Anglican church on Nathan Road was where Bruce picked up some flashy kung fu skills to enhance his more showy repertoire. He studied some Northern kung fu styles here in exchange for Cha Cha lessons but was so quick at mastering the moves that his teacher didn’t get the chance to learn the Cha Cha. Older photos show the church with a small spire but this is long gone, other than that it hasn't changed much since Bruce's time here in 1959. I've been told Lee did his kung fu studies on the open green in front of the church, but I can’t verify this.

And that is your lot for now. Don't worry, I shall bung up the follow up to this post soon and we can go wandering around Yau ma Tei. Until then, if you have any questions please leave a comment and, of course, any 'factual' errors are entirely mine. Many thanks to Simon Leung and Paul Li for doing all the original research that I have just unashamedly nabbed from them and a thanks to Vanessa Seed who kindly helped out with Hankow/Peking Rd and Bayside Nightclub identification, allowing me enhance Simon and Paul’s original research a little.

3 comments:

  1. I was hoping to add a brief trip through Hanoi Road past where Siu Lam Kung restaurant used to be. Chaplin Chang told me that was where he first met Bruce just before they went to Rome to shoot WOTD, however, I'm still not sure where exactly it was. If anyone can enlighten me I will stick it in. Cheers, Phil

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  2. Hi Phil,

    I've read from other blog that the restaurant was at now part of the K11 mall. The blog showed a link to a japanese site with a photo of an old menu which has the Hanoi Road address on it. I'll see if I can get the link.

    Arthur

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    Replies
    1. Hi Arthur - yes, unfortunately the K11 mall removed a whole block of buildings including one complete side of Hanoi Road, so the fact that the mall has replaced it does not surprise me. I was wondering how far down the street it was though.
      Cheers
      Phil

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