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The Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Happy Valley, Hong Kong

Picture of Isobel Dobson
Updated: 22 July 2016
Situated in the Wan Chai district on Hong Kong Island, this area is (literally) rich in people and culture. Its history dates back to when the British colony decided to set up home in the heart of Hong Kong and started building – a bit like Emperor Kuzco and the swimming pool situation, except this was successful. It is a thriving community with popular attractions, and nobody got turned into a llama. Enough with the mumbling, let’s get cracking with the facts.

Over 600 people died at the racecourse

So, everybody knows about the famous racecourse in Hong Kong, but in 1918, one of the worst tragedies happened in Happy Valley. Over 600 people died due to a fire that had started in the kitchen where the meals were being prepped. The fire had only lasted around 20 minutes, but it had spread quickly causing the stands to collapse, ending in many deaths. After the accident, there were reports of ghostly sightings at the racecourse, so monks were brought in to perform rituals.

When the races are on, traffic changes

Since Wednesday nights are very popular in Causeway Bay/Happy Valley for numerous reasons, the roads can get very congested. Even more so during peak times. For people going to the racecourse by car, they have to go through Wong Nai Chung Road. You may want to consider walking instead; it’ll probably end up being quicker than attempting to take public transport.

It’s one of the most expensive areas to live in Hong Kong

Known to be a middle- and upper-class area, this is an area that is very much favored by expats. It’s near Causeway Bay MTR, close to the racecourse, popular shops, and good nightclubs but not close enough to be party central like Mid-Levels, which means the streets are a little quieter at night. Why wouldn’t this be a catch?

It was formerly a mud area

When you think of Happy Valley, the first thing would be either shopping or horses, so you wouldn’t expect the words like mud or swamp to come into play. A lot of Hong Kong used to be rice paddies and muddy fields until the British came along and changed history.

It has six cemeteries

Here’s the list: Jewish, Hindu, Parsee, Hong Kong, St. Michaels and a Catholic cemetery. Where did these come from? People immigrated to Hong Kong many years ago from all over the world, so it’s very diverse in religions. The first cemetery opened because too many British soldiers were dying from malaria caused by mosquitoes living in the swamps. So, naturally, a graveyard appeared on the scene.

Hindus in Hong Kong go to this temple

Over 40,000 Hindus who are immigrants from India use this as their place of worship because it is the main temple in Hong Kong. It’s not only a place for praying but also to exercise, take part in fun activities with the whole community, and classes.

It wasn’t always called Happy Valley

Originally, it was called Wong Nai Chung, which is translated as ‘yellow mud stream,’ or Shrek’s swamp. With the British known for their sense of humor, they decided to rename this area the complete opposite to what it actually was. Refer to point five. They’re like that one friend who’s trying to keep a positive outlook on life even though everything is going wrong.

The tallest residential building is situated in Happy Valley

Standing at 65 stories high, The Summit is one of the tallest in Hong Kong. Building work had started back in 1999, and it opened up two years later. It faces Mount Nicholson, along with its building buddy, Highcliff. Both buildings together are casually nicknamed ‘The Chopstick.’ How original and apt.

Tramways didn’t extend into Happy Valley until 1922

Trams are the best way to get around Hong Kong, so it’s surprising to hear that the tracks didn’t make it to Happy Valley until a later time. Around that time, the company kept changing names and electricity suppliers to fit the growing demand and population.

It has one of the oldest bus routes in Hong Kong

Known today by the locals as Route 1, this route dates back to 1928 when it didn’t even have a number. Over the years, the destinations kept changing as it was slowly starting to expand from Happy Valley. It halted for a brief moment due to the Japanese occupation but returned to normal in 1945. It holds the record for the most bus terminus alterations, before and after the war. This bus route now goes all the way to Kennedy Town.

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