Reminiscences: Life in Hong Kong's Built Heritage
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There were always businessmen coming to our medicine shop in Yuen Long Hui (Yuen Long Market) from other provinces to discuss with my dad. My dad reminisced, most of his business visitors stayed in the most famous inn in the market area called Tung Yick Inn in the early years. The two-storey Tung Yick Inn was built in the Qing dynasty, with walls built of grey bricks. The style was simple and functional, but the main entrance was special, as it had a Western-style wrought-iron gate.

Tung Yick Inn

Located in Yuen Long Kau Hui (Yuen Long Old Market), Tung Yick Inn once provided accommodation for travelling merchants from other localities. When the New Territories just came under British administration, members of Tai Ping Kung Kuk (Great Peace Public Council), an anti-British organisation, stayed there. Tung Yick Inn is a two-storey grey brick building. The mural and shop name on its facade remain intact.

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My British music teacher didn’t know anyone when she first came to Hong Kong, but fortunately The Helena May in Central provided accommodation for female expatriates working in Hong Kong, so she stayed there. Unlike a hotel, it had a membership system, with accommodation and meals provided for members. The institute also organised activities such as tea receptions, seminars, concerts, fellowship and reading classes to enhance everyone's sense of belonging. My teacher spent some of her leisure time reading in the library and playing tennis with other members in the garden there.

On one occasion, she took us to Tsim Sha Tsui. We walked past The Peninsula next to the Kowloon-Canton Railway station. She said some of her expatriate friends lived in that luxurious hotel. I can still remember how grand the lobby was.

The Helena May

The Main Building of The Helena May was built in 1916. It originally served as a hostel for single female expatriates working temporarily in Hong Kong. During the Japanese Occupation (1941-1945), the Main Building was turned into a military dormitory of Japanese troops and the Hong Kong Citizen’s Library. The Main Building exhibits a type of Edwardian Classical Revival architecture, with Beaus Arts, Baroque and Mannerist features.

The Peninsula

The Peninsula was officially opened in 1928, and it soon became the most popular rendezvous in Kowloon for the rich and famous. In 1941, the then Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mark Aitchison Young, signed the instrument of surrender at the hotel. During the Japanese Occupation (1941-1945), the hotel was turned into the temporary command headquarters of the Japanese troops. In 1942, The Peninsula resumed business and was renamed the East Asia Hotel. After the Occupation, its original name was restored and it has continued to operate until the present.

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  • Tung Yick Inn

  • Tung Yick Inn at present

  • The Helena May

  • The opening of The Helena May