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Urban Safari: Oil Street
In a forgotten corner of Hong Kong, a silent monster, a post-industrial attraction
With the empty hulk of the old Government Supply Depot looming over Oil Street, it isn’t the most obvious neighborhood for an afternoon getaway. But for post-industrial thrills, it exudes an unbeatable grim and gritty appeal.
In a city packed with some of the most expensive real estate on the planet, you don’t expect to find a piece of prime waterfront property such as Oil Street on the North Point waterfront, to be abandoned like an old shipwreck. But this waterfront scene speaks more to post-apocalyptic decay than miracle-economy expansion.
Proposals to redevelop Oil Street have come and gone over the years. In the 1990s, the depot was home to a thriving artists' colony, but the bohos were unceremoniously booted out for a proposed redevelopment project that never materialized.
Oil Street ends abruptly at Victoria Harbor in a small cul-de-sac surrounded on three sides by graffiti-covered walls, which include a poignant homage to the city’s most famous graffiti artist, the King of Kowloon, who died last year. The sloshing of water against the concrete shore and dull roar of traffic from the nearby East Island Corridor provide appropriate ambience.
Sitting on an old bench, I take in a sweeping view of the bustling harbor and the city’s famed skyscrapers, wondering if any of the corporate big shots inside of them are looking back across the water at this forgotten corner of Hong Kong waiting for its reclamation.
Take the Island Line to Fortress Hill MTR, Exit A. Oil Street is less than a block west.