When I’ve traveled with my mom, she’s liked to stay at nice places. So when I googled the Sun Ya Hotel, where she stayed on her first trip to Hong Kong in 1962, I was shocked to learn it was in the now-densely populated Mongkok area, miles north of the popular Tsim Sha Tsui district near the harbor front.
“Why’d you stay there?” I recently asked her. “It was so far from the touristy areas.” (And here I thought I was adventurous for roaming Mongkok and spending countless lunches eating fish congee [rice porridge] near the site of the former Sun Ya Hotel.)
But she couldn’t remember why she chose the Sun Ya. It was 48 years ago, after all. “All I remember is that the hotel was in Kowloon.”
The picture on the left was from a few years after my mom stayed at the Sun Ya. A couple decades later, the Sun Ya was knocked down and rebuilt as the Grand Tower Hotel (below). The Grand Tower closed in 2002 and now houses office and retail space.
For Hong Kong history, I like to check in with www.gwulo.com, or 古老, which translates to “ancient” or “old fashioned”. I posted something about the Sun Ya, where I found the photo on the left, wondering if it was a popular tourist destination back in the early 60s. Because it sure wasn’t in the 90s.
“I wouldn’t have picked Mongkok as a likely spot for tourists to stay in 1962,” the Gwulo webmaster replied.
But when I searched deeper into the Gwulo archives, I found a photo of the Sun Ya from the 50s. Cinemas, night clubs, palatial restaurants, orderly neon lights everywhere. It looked like a nightlife destination back then, a bit different from the pawn shops, watch stores, gold shops, banks, and casual clothing stores I knew.