Best of Hong Kong

6 extremely Instagrammable reasons to visit Hong Kong

Text by Maggie Hiufu Wong, video by Edward Scott-Clarke, CNN Published 11th July 2018
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Hong Kong (CNN) — After you've snapped the essential postcard shots of Hong Kong -- namely Star Ferry and Victoria Harbour -- how about a detour to an abandoned desalting plant that's now a movie studio and graffiti artist's paradise?
"Hong Kong actually has a lot of gray canvas to use," says "Uncle," one of the city's most active graffiti artists.
His studio, Afterworkshop, is one of the few organizations in Hong Kong that's dedicated to educating the public, making street art a part of the city's urban landscape.
"When an old district needs refurbishing, the government or the owner can hire street artists to paint the walls instead of just a plain color, for instance," he tells CNN Travel. "It'll give Hong Kong more characters and new colorful attractions."
Fortunately the city isn't off to a bad start. From the biggest street art party in Hong Kong to a community art tour, here are six Instagrammable ways to enjoy Hong Kong's artistic side.

1. See art outside a disused desalting plant

hk graffiti siu lam_0608
Once the largest desalting plant in the world, the disused factory is now a paradise for street artists.
Maggie Wong/CNN
Towering over the South China Sea, the now-shuttered Lok On Pai Desalting Plant is a hotspot for Hong Kong street artists.
The biggest desalting plant in the world when it was first built in the 1970s, the factory was closed in 1982 and is now mostly used as a movie studio (some scenes from Jackie Chan's "New Police Story" were filmed there.)
Visitors need permission to get inside but the periphery of the factory is accessible to the public. There's also a weekly flea market behind the factory.
"It is one of the rare places in Hong Kong where we're allowed to paint large-scale graffiti," says Uncle. "It's a bit far from the city center but as the flea market next to the factory opens on Saturday, visitors will walk past the factory and see our works."
Lok On Pai Siu Lam Flea Market, Tsing Fat St, Siu Lam

2. Join Hong Kong's biggest street art festival

Hong Kong, Street Art, HKwalls, graffiti, festival
The industrial area of Wong Chuk Hang has plenty of large-scale graffiti and a vibrant creative scene.
courtesy HKwalls
HKwalls is Hong Kong's biggest street art organization.
Created in 2014, its founders wanted to promote street art by providing artists with prominent walls they could legally paint.
The team organizes an annual street art festival inviting artists from Hong Kong and overseas to create pieces on dedicated walls.
"This gives the artists time to work on something larger or more detailed, and gives the public an opportunity to see the process as well as the final outcome," Jason Dembski, co-founder of HKwalls, tells CNN Travel.
HKwalls Sham Shui Po graffiti festival
HKwalls gives people a chance to see street artists in action.
courtesy Cheung Chi Wai
"In a museum, gallery or even on the streets, typically people only get to see the finished product, they don't get to meet the person behind it, see their process, or the energy they put into it. Letting people see the artist's work is like a window into their world. It's fascinating and engaging."
There are also parties, exhibitions and workshops during the festival.
Visitors not in the city during the event -- this year's took place in March -- can find maps of street arts created for previous festivals on the HKwalls website.

3. Check out a seven-story 3D fox in Sham Shui Po

Hong Kong, Street Art, HKwalls, graffiti, festival
Spanish street artist Okuda created a seven-story 3D fox on the facade of a building in Sham Shui Po in 2016.
courtesy HKwalls
Known for creating colorful and geometric works around the world, Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel painted a larger-than-life mural over the façade of a residential building in Hong Kong's Sham Shui Po neighborhood.
The 3D fox mural, more than seven stories high, was commissioned during the 2016 HKwalls festival.
"With all the planning and shifting artists' schedules we have to manage, we forgot to tell people that Okuda was actually going to start painting two days before the festival was officially supposed to start," says Dembski.
"And no one in Hong Kong had ever painted something so tall with a crane before, so that day, when we posted photos online of Okuda seven floors above Tai Nan Street painting the side of the building, it was a bit of shock for everyone. It really kicked HKwalls 2016 off with a bang."
Man Fung Building, 180 Dai Nam Street, Sham Shui Po

4. Pose for selfies on Hollywood Road

Hollywood Road: One of the hottest Instagram/selfie locations in Hong Kong.
Hollywood Road: One of the hottest Instagram/selfie locations in Hong Kong.
Hollywood Road, an area known for hosting Hong Kong's hippest bars and galleries, is also street art heaven.
The most popular "Instagram wall" at the moment is a mural of old shop houses on narrow Graham Street (outside local creative brand G.O.D.'s store on Hollywood Road).
Created by Hong Kong-based artist Alex Croft, the colorful work lures flocks of tourists and locals, who attempt to steal a shot with the mural amid the never-ending foot traffic.
Find it at the road junction between Hollywood Road and Graham Street

5. Take a self-guided art tour

Smile Maker Hong Kong street art Gau Kee Noodles Central
Local street art team Smile Maker painted an image of the owner of Kau Kee Restaurant onto the shop's shutter.
courtesy Smile Maker
Launched in 2017, HK Urban Canvas is a community art project that turns shop shutters into storytelling street art.
Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation, the organizer behind the project, teamed up with different local street artists and old shops to create more than 40 shutter artworks and seven art routes in four different districts around Hong Kong.
Artists work with each store owner to create a piece that reflects the characteristics of the shops and their owners. The easiest day to see the work is Sunday, when the shops are closed.
But travelers can also use HK Urban Canvas' app's augmented reality technology to see animated versions of the shutter artwork -- even when the shops are open.
The app provides information such as locations and the history of the participating shops.
Follow the suggested routes or find a particular shop using the HK Urban Canvas' app

6. Hunt for the calligraphy of Hong Kong's Plumber King

hk graffiti_9676
The Plumber King's graffiti ads are now legendary in Hong Kong.
Maggie Wong/CNN
"Everyone has heard of Kowloon King, but there is another hidden graffiti artist in Hong Kong that people should know about -- the Plumber King," says Uncle.
Plumber King, a plumber in his 70s, has become an urban legend for "wall-tagging" his advertisement around Hong Kong -- sometimes in the most random places, from a lamppost to a gutter.
"His calligraphy work is so neat," says Uncle. "It requires a lot of skill to master.
"I called him once and we talked for hours. He's an old man now but he's so in touch with the young street art scene as he often paints next to our works.
"I told him that we were doing a mural in Aberdeen. Then, the next morning, we went back to the site and saw this massive work by the Plumber King right next to our work."
Find it pretty much everywhere or check out this Instagram page dedicated to his work.