The Bruce Lee Guide to Tsim Sha Tsui
Everyone seems to be into walking tours these days – personally I blame Spurrier and his excellent books – so I figured it was my turn for once. Bear with me, I am a complete amateur but after spending quite some time researching Lee-related locations for no other reason than my own curiosity, I have got a bunch of places on my Bruce Lee’s Hong Kong entry that need consolidating into a more useful/logical form. So here is the first part, apologies in advance for the huge amount of piccies included but I’m hoping they will make up for whatever clarity I lack in my written directions.
Tsim Sha Tsui seems to be the perfect starting point for this series of walks (more on the way) because there are a cluster of places – some already gone, but many still around – that make it an easy walk. Hopefully I can get started on similar walks for other areas such as Yau Ma Tei, Mongkok and Kowloon Tong as well as HK Island and the NT, but it’s going to take some time to get organised.
Actually, the timing is right for something like this I feel. Interest in Bruce is on the up again due to the recent news about the failure of the Museum project. The final (and official) version of John Little’s “In Pursuit of the Dragon” is due for imminent release in Ireland and the UK and his rough cut (#5 – originally released only in France, in French) is about to get an English soundtrack release in Australia (looks like you can pre-order it here and I suspect this is the version I saw on my Korea Air flight).
Anyway, onwards with the walk. It’s about 3.5km in length so shouldn’t take long unless you want to take full advantage of the locations and get snaps and generally admire the views. It’s also not helped by some of the more 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.
Here is the list of points of interest, all of which I will explain in great detail further down, but I have also marked them all on a Google Map which can be accessed via this link. Obviously this is more useful than a screen print placed here because you can switch it into map mode and then print it out.
I did have a problem with Googlemaps recently, but errors now seem to be fixed. It doesn’t matter, I’ll leave the picture below in anyway in case you have found it useful, but going to the actual map allows some interactivity because you can click each marker and see what they are (or leave comments telling me how useful/useless it is).
#2 Plaque on the AoS
#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
#15 Mirador Mansion
#16 Golden Crown Court
#17 The One
#18 The Miramar Shopping Centre
#19 Champagne Court
#20 The Observatory
#21 St Andrew’s Church
Of course you don’t have to follow the walk as I have listed, it could easily be done in reverse order, and actually the area we are talking about is quite small so there is nothing really to stop you wandering around all over the place, partaking in various refreshments and foods and take all day. However, if you are pushed for time this is probably the most logical route to follow, starting with:
#1 Bruce Lee Statue on the “Avenue of Stars”
Of course not part of the original plan for the AoS and commissioned and funded largely by the Bruce Lee Club Hong Kong (with worldwide fan donations) the statue is the solitary saving grace of an otherwise tacky and very shite “Avenue of Stars”. It was unveiled on 27th November 2005 by Bruce’s younger brother Robert and older adopted sister Phoebe. Once you too have posed in front of it doing a stupid pose (and yes, you did look like a complete tit whilst you were doing it, only Bruce could carry that sort of thing off) 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, being inaugurated in 2004 means you won’t get to see Bruce’s actual hand print here but I guess it is a small consolation that he is also remembered as one of the “lucky” people who get his name trodden all over every day. He’s down there with huge stars such as…well hey, if you want my real feelings on this place just go here or here and start reading. Otherwise, take a quick snap and keep walking towards the Star Ferry terminal until you reach the…
#3 KCR Clocktower
Okay, I’m 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 below:I’m sure a boy growing up in the city though he would have encountered the clock tower (and its associated train terminus ) on a daily basis. So no direct link but it’s an old glimpse of the city that Bruce was familiar with as a child. Speaking of which, you need to turn right towards Salisbury Road and use the following crossing to head over to Canton Road.
Once across this veritable ocean of impassibility (trust me, you try and cross anywhere else but here and you will get so lost you will need to be helicoptered from the bowels of SOGO) 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 but there is an anecdote from the Lee family that concerns their life during the Japanese occupation (1941 – 45). Bruce was just a youngster at the time living with his family at 218 Nathan Road. The Lee’s lived in constant fear of being accidentally bombed by American planes. They believed their home, almost 1km away, was just too close to the Marine Police HQ for comfort and believed the HQ building would be targeted because it was known to house the Kempeitai (the notoriously ruthless Japanese military police). Of course the place wasn’t bombed (and neither was the Lee family home) and you can see it now in all its Disneylandified glory courtesy of the Mekon-headed Li Ka Shing (Me-Kon Shing – remember, you heard it here first )
Anyway, 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 premiere of what became Bruce’s big breakthrough – his first action film: The Big Boss. It was here in 1971 that Lee first dazzled HK audiences with his new style of film fighting and HK cinema was arguably changed forever.
Part of the original auditorium was turned into Planet Hollywood during the 90′s before that closed and Lane Crawford took over that space.
Incidentally in another tenuous Lee link it was at Planet Hollywood (I do remember getting a bit drunk there one night on some ghastly concoction called a “Terminator”) 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 hanging from the ceiling. Either way the cinema is still here and still being run by Golden Harvest. 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 pals and co-stars in The Big Boss and stunt-double for Shek Kin on the set of Enter set (notably in the mirrored room finale). Another link Lee has to this place is that it was the venue chosen for his 31st birthday celebrations back in 1971. There is a picture of Linda and he 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. Walk to the back of the lobby and you’ll see some lifts on the right hand side up some steps. Go inside the lift and hit the button for floor 6.
#7 Ocean Terminal Car Park
I’ve actually covered this place in its very own blog entry a year or so ago, so I think it’s better for you to just go back and read through that instead of me repeating stuff.
This is the view of the back of the HK Hotel from the car park
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 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 the fact that it was from a cruise ship terminal on the same spot (the previous dock was knocked down in the 1960s?) that Bruce embarked on his journey to the US to claim his citizenship. He left from here on APL General Gordon on April 29th 1959 (Gwulo.com has a picture of it here).
Once you have done admiring the view (it is very easy to stay up here for a long time because the view is great – especially if you are lucky enough to be there when the air is clear – harder than it used to be these days) you can retrace your steps but instead of heading back out into the heat take some time and perhaps have a drink at the bar. Once refreshed though go back onto Canton Road 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 pic.
So you need to cross over here and then walk down that road in the picture, 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 (subway as in the English definition of an underground passageway).
There’s 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
Sitting on 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 informed me that Bruce had made copious notes – including choreography for the fight scene with Sammo Hung – on paper supplied by the restaurant. 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.
#9 Hankow Road
You may or may not know it but various scenes from the opening credits of Enter The Dragon were filmed here. Fans may remember seeing the old man pulling Roper around and various signs swinging into shot, one of which was for a famous club called Copocobana. Long-gone now but located on this very part of Hankow Road. Here’s a reminder.
#10 Peking Road
This bit has changed a little because 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. I did discuss this location in an earlier post but it’s worth repeating. Here is the screen grab of Peking Road looking east.
You can see where the pavement now splits each road, but anyway it’s the same spot and I feel still has almost the same vibe (heck, what do I know I was less than 2 when the film was made although I’m not sure there were so many copy watch sellers back then?).
I guess it is 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 we keep walking south down Hankow Road between the Peninsula and YMCA Salisbury hotels until we once again arrive at Salisbury Road. Once it was a breeze walking across here, now it has become a 6 lane highway and the planners once again make us head underground and past more shopping malls just to get to the harbour. However, this time we don’t need to because we will turn left.
#11 The Peninsula Hotel
A veritable piece of history if ever HK had one (and it increasingly doesn’t thanks to redevelopment). Built in 1927, this place became the “Toa” during the Japanese occupation and saw the initial incarceration HK’s Governer Sir Mark Young after he surrendered the colony to the Japanese Military Govt in 1941. During Bruce’s time it had a bar called Gaddi’s on the ground floor and I believe that several of the Enter The Dragon production meetings were carried out here. These days 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 (not sure though). 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 states in particular to Linda and the family (who were yet to join him) and also to various studio honchos regarding potential roles (I think Bill Dozier may have been one of them?). 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 etc) 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.
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 plot itself now houses the depressingly ugly iSquare building (actually I prefer to call it “eyesore” because it really is a truly shite building full of the usual high end crap, and some middle and lower end stuff that has to charge astronomical prices in order to cover their astronomical rents).
Here is a snap of the old slope of the hotel courtesy of HK Mans blog.
Across the road from the iSquare is the Mirador. Like Chungking down the road, Mirador (these days at least) is more famous for its floors of cheap and cheerful hostels that are a Mecca 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 HK streetfight 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).
If you are the proud owner of the premature release of John Little’s Pursuit doc then you will see a segment he included (and one which I suspect will be dropped for the final version) where he goes onto the roof of the Mirador to have a look around. I don’t remember John mentioning it by name on screen but that was definitely the place he was (it too was covered in scaffolding at the time back in August 2009, getting a long overdue facelift).
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 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.
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, built on the site of the Tung Ying building. It’s yet another high-end mall and office complex of the type that HK already has too many of and it’s full of exactly the same shops that can be found in every other mall in the territory as well. Its precursor, the Tung Ying Building, 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 at 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 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. Actually, if you’ve read my entry on Kom Tong Hall you will be aware that a direct blood connection is under some dispute (it’s believed that Grace, Bruce’s mum was actually adopted into the family rather than being the natural born daughter of Bruce’s Grandfather, Ho Kom Tong).
#18 Former Site of The Miramar Hotel
Moving up Nathan Road a 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 positioned opposite the current building on the north side of Kimberley Road i.e. it has been replaced by the Miramar Shopping Centre in the early 90′s (1993 to be precise).
Another one that has bitten the dust I’m afraid. Apart from it being the place where Bruce was going to attend his meeting the hotel was also the site of one of his favourite restaurants the “Kanetanake”. It was also the location for the Unicorn Fist Press conference which saw many of Bruce’s Way of the Dragon stars also in attendance (including our good friend Jon Benn). According to the hotel’s management (the friendly and helpful Mr Dalichau) the post-conference meal was held in the Kanetanake as well.
#19 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.
#20 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).
#21 St Andrew’s Church
I’ve mentioned this place before but its worth recapping that this 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. Actually, this place has a lot of history and is planning on removing its aged (and therefore fairly historical) front wall to replace it with some see-through plastic. Why? I have no idea. Older photos show the church with a small spire but this is long gone however it remains pretty similar to how Bruce would have seen it. I was told he did his kung fu study on the open green in front of the church but I can’t verify this. Anyway, for more information I recommend you visit my previous post, see it here.
Well done, you’ve just completed Part 1 of the Bruce Lee tour series leaving you just south of Austin Road which is very close to where Part 2 will start from. I trust it’s been informative and hope it will be especially useful to any Bruce fans who are visiting HK and want to retread some of his old hangouts. These people are really who I am aiming to assist.
Any questions please leave a comment and of course any 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 identifcation allowing me enhance Simon and Paul’s original reasearch a little.
Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon…