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Your neighbourhood guide to Repulse Bay

By Alisa Chau 3 June 2021

Header images courtesy of The Pulse

Hong Kong’s infamy as a breeding ground for high-rises with sky-high prices could not be better encapsulated anywhere else than at Repulse Bay. Wedged between Deep Water Bay and Stanley along the Southern District coastline, this little pocket of luxury residences and pristine beachside comforts encompasses one of the most expensive property spaces in not only Hong Kong, but also the world. Here’s our neighbourhood guide to this opulent corner of Hong Kong and all the things you can do in Repulse Bay.

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A history of Repulse Bay

Repulse Bay, a beautiful waterfront region, is referred to in Chinese as “Shallow Water Bay” (淺水灣; cin2 seoi2 waan1), though its azure waves roll deeper than you would think. Aside from bearing little to no connection to its local namesake, there lacks a consistent storyline behind the origins of the English label of “Repulse Bay.”

Several theories have stuck, all of which pinpoint colonial events in the nineteenth century. Some state that the term referred to when the colonial British Royal Navy had evicted—ergo, they had “repulsed”—local pirates who occupied the bay and posed a threat to the merchant trading ships stationed there during the 1840s. Another story goes that the name was taken from the battleship HMS Repulse that was stationed at the cove. Its geological shape and proximity to the sea have deeply infused the area’s history with naval annals.

It was not until the Hong Kong Golf Club opened in the valley close to Deep Water Bay that the district began to develop a network of roads connecting to the inland of Hong Kong Island. Following the influx of upper-class settlers in the early 1900s, the Kadoorie brothers built the ever-iconic Repulse Bay Hotel to attract leisure seekers to the newly minted beach. It also birthed a well-known bus line to the cove from Central, which remains one of the oldest public transport routes that continue to run today!

Not long after its establishment, the hotel played a brief role in the Battle of Hong Kong during 1941, serving as a strategic defence location before being assumed by the Japanese as a military hospital. Aside from its role during the Second World War, the hotel also witnessed the comings and goings of the rich and famous. It played host to quite a number of historical figures, from Marlon Brando to George Bernard Shaw. Unfortunately, the Repulse Bay Hotel was demolished in 1982, mostly bulldozed and survived by a replica of the front lobby, with the $38-million-dollar ocean-facing residential project The Repulse Bay towering over it from behind.

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Things to see & do

Photo: @onecrazyrichasian (via Instagram)

Go beach-hopping

Blessed with one of the longest beaches in Hong Kong, Repulse Bay Beach is a beautiful 292-metre-long golden strip that curves along the seaside afront the collection of picture-perfect malls, condos, and shopfronts. It regularly draws in nearby residents, city dwellers, and tourists alike, easily winning the starring role of the neighbourhood. It has also arguably won the hearts of local residents thanks to amenities like clean public bathrooms and the open beach volleyball court. A large number of the restaurants and stores are concentrated here, making it easily accessible with ample amenities.

Lesser-known are the smaller but just as amazing sandy strands down the coast. Around the corner and a mere 15 minutes away, there is the unofficial LGBTQ+ favourite, Middle Bay Beach. Severely underrated, this beach is officially recognised to hold the highest grade in water quality and makes for a secluded spot to swim laps to your heart’s content. Paddleboard rentals are available for those who want to drift off to explore. Otherwise, the plentiful emerald canopies provide plenty of cool shade for beach bums who want to enjoy their lie-in.

Keep advancing south and you will reach a secret enclave. South Bay Beach tends to be mostly bare on weekdays and during the day, but at night is when the place really comes alive. Crowds file in to set up camp across the 16 barbecue pits, pile onto rental rafts from the kiosk, and lounge across the soft banks, where they cosily remain until the wee hours of the night. You can even see as far as the rollercoasters that line Ocean Park, making for an extra special view during sunsets. Paying a visit to the rooftop of South Bay Snack Store is also recommended, as it is a wonderful spot to relax with an iced beer or frosty latte in hand.

Photo: @ sibyl.leisuretime (via Instagram)

Marvel at unusual architecture

Aside from being famous for its beaches, Repulse Bay is also the place where you can encounter “that one building with the hole in it.” Completed in 1986, the bright blue lattice of beams surrounding a gaping square hole resembles a piece of complex scientific equipment more than it does an elite residential estate.

At 16 metres wide by 24 metres high, this quirky design element of The Repulse Bay is believed to be part ventilation and urban planning solution, but also part mysticism, as the latter explains that the hole is a feng shui element to allow for dragon spirits that lurk amongst the surrounding peaks to pass through.

It was one of the first buildings to feature a construction that has become quite ingrained into the urban aesthetics of Hong Kong architecture. The Repulse Bay can be admired in full view from the main beach.

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Photo: Home Affairs Department

Walk the literary trail

There have been many figures throughout the timeline of local Chinese literature who set their tales against the backdrop of the Southern District. Retracing their steps, four gorgeous monuments were erected across the southside to celebrate and bring to life the literary legacies of our home-grown authors.

Luckily, Repulse Bay hosts two of these landmarks, namely Eileen Chang’s “Hong Kong Journeys bench installation that straddles the stairway between Repulse Bay Road and the beach, as well as the “Stray Birds 31” sculpture in commemoration of Xiao Hong. You may also find Hu Shih’s Tic Tac Toe” matrix in Stanley and the “Stroll the Past” compasses dedicated to Cai Yuanpei in Aberdeen.

Photo: @ommiiaum (via Instagram)

Kwun Yum Shrine & Tin Hau Temple

Originally a community of seafarers, it comes as no surprise to see the ubiquity of Hong Kong temples consecrated for sea goddess Tin Hau. There are over three hundred of them scattered around the city and the outlying islands, providing protection and blessings in every corner. This one stands guard behind the outstretched reclaimed concrete and cobblestone of the Repulse Bay Pier, and the wooden limbs of the Longevity Bridge are particularly noteworthy for their featured collection of statues and vibrant colours.

Brilliant scarlet beams and tiled roofs form a shapely structure, shading a handful of plaques and altars. Beside it sits an assortment of deities and auspicious creatures gleaming in brightly saturated varnish, poised atop swirling porcelain clouds and tiled platforms. Tin Hau herself is presented shrouded in a yellow tunic. Right next to her stands the elegant effigy of Taoist icon Kwun Yum in her customary shade of pure marble-grey, poised and looking over devotees who flock to this seaside space of worship.

Middle Island (熨波洲)

Although Middle Island’s Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club is only open to members, this tiny blip in the ocean holds a secret (and public) beach that sits a mere two-minute boat ride away. Swim across the tiny channel or kayak to Middle Island to find zen in your own private sandlot. While you are basking in the glow of the sun, kept warm with the clandestine smugness that comes with being in on one of the southside’s best-kept secrets, you can have a gander around to explore the miniature Tin Hau Shrine and Tai Wong Ye Temple stationed on the islet.

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Photo: @healthwithkiki (via Instagram)

Hike the Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path

While this is more accurately described as an ultra-easy hike around the area rather than through it, Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path gives you an unparalleled visual sweep of Repulse Bay in its full glory. It starts from the Wong Nai Chung Reservoir, and runs across Violet Hill and Repulse Bay Gap, before bringing you to the Tai Tam Reservoir. For a full guide on how to hike the Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path, click here.

Photo: @cymichelle (via Instagram)

Take a family walk along the Seaview Promenade

If you are looking to stretch your legs a bit after laying static under toasty UV rays for too long, but don’t want to stray away from your claimed spot, look no further than this waterside romp. A shaded trail that bridges the two kilometres running from Repulse Bay to Deep Water Bay, the Seaview Promenade is absolutely perfect for families with strollers, young children and pets, and even scooters or bikes!

Photo credit: The Repulse Bay

Visit the Repulse Bay Historical Gallery

Snaking around the lower lobby, ground floor, and The Verandah of The Repulse Bay is a series of exhibits brandishing artefacts from the historical hotel that once stood in the space. Immerse yourself in the past by admiring the authentic items of clothing, memorabilia, and old photographs that thrust you back into the glitz and glamour of Hong Kong’s very own Roaring Twenties. Do take your time to admire the surrounding architecture as well, built to capture the colonial style of swooping wooden rails and cream-toned palette.

The Repulse Bay Historical Gallery, The Repulse Bay, 109 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay | (+852) 2292 2888

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Where to eat & drink

Neighbourhood Coffee (鄰里咖啡)

Neighbourhood Coffee (鄰里咖啡) perfectly recreates the tender vibes of their sister locations in Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau, as well as riffing off the hipster interior décor of their predecessors, Halfway Coffee.

Enclosed in exposed walls lined with vintage furniture and shelves of paperbacks as well as periodicals, it makes for a stellar place to duck into when the heat gets stifling. Replenish yourself with an iced latte with oat milk ($45) whilst tucking into a fulfilling serving of bacon & scrambled egg on sourdough bread ($98).

Neighbourhood Coffee, Shop 4, 35 Beach Road, Repulse Bay | (+852) 9500 0051

Amalfitana

Inspired by cuisine from along the Amalfi Coast of Italy, this pizzeria presents a modernised and fresh take that flaunts clever combinations such as the artichoke-and-ham Regina ($180) or the Stracciatella ($240) with soft buffalo milk cheese. These delicious mains are best paired with antipasti to go around, along with a bright cocktail like the Quando ($110) that has been concocted with jalapeño-and-pineapple-infused tequila.

Amalfitana, Shop 105, The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay | (+852) 2388 7787

Photo: @fratellihk (via Instagram)

Fratelli

What better way to refuel after a day of swimming than with a hearty load of carbs? Known for its sophisticated pasta-based fare, Fratelli puts forward classic comfort options like spaghetti alla carbonara ($160) that is elevated with expert cooking and additions like black truffle shavings ($50).

If you are only slightly peckish, nurse one of their signature cocktails—the gin-based Fratelli Flirt ($100) and Coco Breeze ($110) being top-notch choices—over a shared mixed platter ($240) of cheese and cold cuts.

Fratelli, Shop 112B, The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay | (+852) 2887 0082

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Meen & Rice

Head to Meen & Rice for a Hong Kong-inspired option that draws upon the essential food groups of congee, noodles, and rice. Boasting mouth-watering local eats like home-style fresh shrimp wonton noodles (starting from $60), typhoon shelter-style fried mud crab with chilli & garlic (seasonal price), and roasted geese (starting at $168), you are guaranteed to leave with a full belly and your cravings satisfied.

Lovers of dai pai dong-style dining are sure to be charmed by their kitsch restaurant design that incorporates round tables and wooden school deckchairs under an artfully arranged installation of traditional noodle sieves.

Meen & Rice, Shop 113, The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay | (+852) 2668 8970

Photo: @sipsonghk (via Instagram)

Sip Song

Drawing influences from the roadside stalls of Bangkok, Sip Song cranks the heat up to 12—get it? Its name is the anglicised phonetisation of the number 12 in Thai, and their roster of authentic dishes is likely to incorporate 12 main components, all whilst showcasing multitudes of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavours.

Indulge in oceanic picks like the pla krabok manow ($390), a herb-steamed seabass, and the kaeng massaman pu nim ($255), a soft-shell crab curry. If the fumes from the chilli fragrance are too much to bear, save yourself with a gulp of clear ambrosia from a head of fresh young coconut ($50).

Sip Song, Shop 114 & 115, The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay | (+852) 2328 8385

Photo: The Verandah (via Facebook)

The Verandah

Live out your Great Gatsby fantasies by paying a visit to this continental restaurant that conjures up a former era of old-fangled splendour. For many years, the Bamboo Bar served as a watering hole for well-known figures, hosting the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Jennifer Jones, and William Holden during their time filming together, as well as Spanish royalty to boot. Feast on Sunday brunch in one of their artisan couches at the lounge, or if you crave a more intimate environment, head to the Reading Room for a beautifully prepared dinner.

The Verandah, 109 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay | (+852) 2292 2822

Spices

With a lively open terrace out front—aptly referred to as Breeze—this fusion Asian restaurant resembles a vintage cabana and lawn front where people lounge, eat, and drink their worries away. Admire the tropical fauna accompanying your meal of organic meats and seafood masked in colourful spices, or be blown away by their raw vegan options that are a welcome complement to the sweltering summer nights. Spread the raw Vietnamese rolls ($138) and marinated tofu satays with peanut sauce ($128) at the centre of the table for grabs and enjoy the verdant sceneries whilst sipping on a glass of wine.

Spices, The Arcade, 109 Repulse Bay, Road Repulse Bay | (+852) 2292 2821

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Where to shop

Photo: The Pulse

The Pulse

Covering all sorts of retailers that speak to the carefree and active lifestyle of residents around the Repulse Bay neighbourhood, it is guaranteed that you will come across top sportswear, pet products, children’s fashion and toys, as well as party fancies at The Pulse. Aside from the lovely selection of brands, there are also plenty of wellness services, such as a salon, a gym, and even a dog groomer who can pamper your furry friends!

The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay | (+852) 2815 8888

Photo: @wing1990hk (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Repulse Bay Arcade

The Repulse Bay Arcade is a modestly-sized shopping mall built over where the Repulse Bay Hotel once stood. It now carries an eclectic assortment of retailers and, strangely enough, educational centres. Offering essential pillars for the neighbourhood, you will find health and dental clinics, a supermarket, and some home goods stores. You may also run into people posing for snaps at the beautiful central piazza or around the building, firstly because of its masterfully retained architecture, but perhaps also because it once served as the backdrop for Ang Lee’s 2007 feature Lust, Caution, which was adapted from the Eileen Chang novel of the same name.

The Repulse Bay Arcade, 109 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay | (+852) 2292 2888

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Alisa Chau

Junior editor

Always down for an adventure, Alisa’s general approach to life (and anything, really) is to “just go with the flow.” She believes that the most unforgettable moments are the most spontaneous ones. One thing she will always be certain of, however, is her love for the band My Chemical Romance and potato-based food.

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