Detour: Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Hong Kong is Sheung Wan, best known for its antique shops, the Western Market, and Man Mo Temple. Some long-time residents say that this area on the far north-western side of Hong Kong Island is one the last remaining vestiges of “old Hong Kong” retaining a much older and chaotic character, much like “old Shanghai.”

During my afternoon walking up and down the ladder streets that connect the neighborhood, I:

– Met with Louise Garnaut of Bookworks, a book arts studio space. Louise, who studied paper restoration in Italy, started teaching bookmaking just weeks after she arrived in Hong Kong, over 20 years ago. Today, Bookworks has a roster of students who have studied with Louise for years and a long list of corporate clients who request Louise’s custom-made albums, folders, and boxes that are made with silk brocades and other fabrics. She kindly offered me a list of wholesellers in Hong Kong whom she turns to for book board and book cloth and discussed the possibilities of working together in the future.

Louise’s five-week beginner’s class runs year-round (HK$2600 for 15 hours of instruction, materials included). Bookworks shares its studio space with HK Memory Chest, a delightful scrapbooking shop chockfull of paper, rubber stamps, tools, and embellishments.

– Bought a yard of maroon book cloth (HK$28/yard) at Mee Tak Company Limited. Mee Tak is a wholesale supplier of upholstery fabric, but sells book cloth and papers from Italy and Japan in small quantities.

– Dropped by Librairie Ancienne Indosiam, Hong Kong’s first (and only, according to Lonely Planet) truly antiquarian bookshop. Owner Yves Azemar deals in rare titles from various East and Southeast Asian countries, particularly Thailand, China and the former French colonies. Many of Yves books are in French and sourced from Paris and beyond. My French is passable, mais mon mari parle français couramment and could have spent weeks here.

Yves showed us around his amazing shop, shared his love for the small bookstores in Bras Basah Complex, and said that he’d love to expand his business to Singapore, where there are currently no antiquarian bookshops. We walked out with two issues of Le Petit Journal‘s Supplément Illustré, one from 1893 and the other from 1903. Le Petit Journal was a daily Parisian newspaper published from 1863 to 1944.

If you go: Don’t miss Man Mo Temple, one of the oldest in the city. The temple has two sides: one devoted to the gods of literature, the other to the gods of war. 

(Additional credits: Photographs via Bookworks. Used with permission)