Hong Kong can be divided into four main areas, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon across Victoria Harbour, the New Territories north of Kowloon and the Outlying Islands in the South China Sea which include Lantau, Lamma, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau. This article covers Kowloon and the New Territories. Click here for Hong Kong Island or the Outlying Islands.
Kowloon – Image courtesy of Sarah Joy @ Flickr
If you are heading to Kowloon from Hong Kong Island, travel in true Hong Kong style on The Star Ferry. Since 1888 these distinctive and reliable boats have been carrying passengers across Victoria Harbour between Wan Chai, Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. The short ride provides spectacular harbour views by day and night and the most it will cost you is HKD3.40. The MTR also runs between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
Tsim Sha Tsui (or TST) is where you’ll find the Kowloon Canton Railway (KCR) Clock Tower standing beside the pink ceramic-tiled ski-jump that is the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. If you are in the mood for art or museums, you’ll find the Hong Kong Museum of Art and Hong Kong Space Museum & Theatre nearby. A short walk away is the TST East promenade where you can take in the views across the harbour and the Garden of Stars, which celebrates the Hong Kong film industry with statues and stars with handprints a la Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre.
A short walk north is the Hong Kong Museum of History which has an excellent permanent exhibition ‘Hong Kong Story’ and the Hong Kong Science Museum, which is great for kids and not without its attractions for adults. Cathay Pacific’s first aircraft, a DC-3 called ‘Betsy’ hangs from the ceiling of the Transportation exhibition and the museum has hosted the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in the past so do check the special exhibitions.
To Market, To Market
Goldfish Market – image courtesy of yeowatzup @ Flickr
Further north in Yau Ma Tei is market territory. Here you’ll find the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden where elderly men meet with their birds (feathered) and sell birds (again feathered) and birdcages. Adjacent is Flower Market Road thick with blooms and a few streets away the Goldfish Market with shops selling an incredible array of colourful and exotic fish and sea creatures. Brace yourself and dive into the Ladies Market (Tung Choi St Market) where shopping is a contact sport with breaks for loud bartering. For a similar experience by night, head to the Temple Street Night Market, by day you can visit the Tin Hau Temple for which the street is named to hear your fortune and stock up on incense coils. Finish with a visit to the Jade Market for a cheap souvenir made from the distinctive green precious stone. I highly recommend this excellent self-guided walking tour which includes all of the above.
A Refined Afternoon
Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula Hotel is another classic Hong Kong experience. Be sure to adhere to the dress code: no flip flops, beach sandals or plastic footwear and additionally for men no sleeveless shirts and after 7pm full length trousers only. You cannot make a reservation (unless you are a hotel guest) so arrive up to an hour early if you are hoping to be seated soon after opening time (2pm to 6pm) and join the queue. When you are finally seated, choose your tea from the extensive collection and delight in finger sandwiches, savoury pastries, scones with strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream and miniature desserts while the string quartet plays.
Near the Peninsula is 1881 Heritage, the former Marine Police Headquarters, a magnificent building which is well worth a walk around and has five restaurants under the Hullett House name including ‘The Parlor’ which also offers afternoon tea if the Peninsula doesn’t work out for you.
A Walk in the Park
Flamingos in Hong Kong Park – image courtesy of Matt Chan @Flickr
Take a stroll in Kowloon Park which features a maze, sculpture walk, Chinese garden, aviary and a lake with flamingos, swans, geese, ducks and koi carp. On Sunday afternoons you can catch a kung fu demonstration and possibly a dragon or lion dance performance.
Room with a View
For amazing views across the bay you could pop up to the Sky100 observation deck (100th floor of International Commerce Centre ICC) but if it is between the hours of noon and 11:30pm and you’re not with children I suggest you instead go to the Ozone Bar (131st floor of the ICC – part of the Ritz Carlton) and put the admission cost toward a cocktail.
Another option for great views across the bay is 1 Peking Place there are restaurants on consecutive floors, Hutong with Chinese (Beijing and Northern) cuisine on the 28th Floor and Aqua (Roma & Tokyo) with Italian & Japanese cuisine on the 29th floor and Spirit, a bar on the 30th Floor.
10,000 Buddhas Monastery – image courtesy of Pietro Motta @ Flickr
North of Kowloon is the New Territories. Catch the MTR to Che Kung Temple Station or Sha Tin Station and take a short 15 minute walk to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
Not far away (2km) is the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, a Buddhist temple near Pai Tau Village, Sha Tin which houses almost 13,000 Buddha statues, it’s a little tricky to find, follow these instructions.
Grab a cab for the 16km journey north to another New Territory gem, the Tin Hau Temple and Wishing Trees at Lam Tsuen. (Not to be confused with the Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei which gives Temple Street Night Markets their name, the many other Tin Hau Temples in Hong Kong, or the suburb Tin Hau.) Traditionally, joss paper was thrown into the trees whilst making a wish, the higher the paper landed the higher the likelihood the wish would come true. Nowadays, to spare real trees becoming buried in paper, you can throw joss paper into an imitation tree.
If a bus tour is more your style, try the Big Bus Tour (Hong Kong Island and Kowloon).