Overview: Hong Kong is often described as the quintessential East meets West location, but the eastern element is easily lost amid the glass and... more »
Hong Kong is often described as the quintessential East meets West location, but the eastern element is easily lost amid the glass and... more » concrete banking towers of Hong Kong Island. Rediscovering the city's Chinese roots and culture starts with a short ferry ride across Victoria Harbour to the Kowloon peninsula.
For every multistory designer department store on the island, there are dozens of traditional stores and markets in the crammed working-class residential areas of Kowloon.
This trail is more about the cultural experience than shopping--customs will take a dim view of you trying to return home with a parrot and bag of live grasshoppers-- but there will be chances to haggle for a mahjong set or jade trinkets as well as countless photo opportunities.
To help put the whole experience into perspective, the trail concludes with a visit to the Hong Kong Museum of History. No dusty display cases here--visitors can wander through eight galleries recreating the city's past from prehistoric to post-colonialism. less «
The trail deliberately avoids some over-hyped Kowloon shopping areas including:
* The so-called Golden Mile of electronic and jewelry... more » shops along Nathan Road (Kowloon's major north-south thoroughfare). No photo opportunities here and the stretch is more famous for ripoffs than bargains.
* The disappointing Temple Street Night Market. It's still touted in many guide books as a "must do" but locals and regular HK visitors say it has lost its appeal. Supposedly it's a good place to pick up cheap counterfeits of Western designer goods, but the quality is more "counterfeit of counterfeit" standard. Buy something more individual on Shanghai Street or in the Jade Market instead. less «
The trail starts with a ferry ride across Victoria Harbour, which is a worthwhile activity in its own right.
Look back as well as forward. It might not have the same drama and natural beauty as Sydney Harbour, but for $HK3, it's a great way to appreciate the scale of what has been created on Hong Kong Island. Impressive city views by day or... More night.
Forget the tourist board cliche of Chinese junks with sails crossing the water. The diesel ferries started to replace them 120 years ago and the rare survivors only emerge for film shoots.
Ferries leave Pier 7 for Tsim Sha Sui (the area at the southern end of the Kowloon peninsula) every few minutes from 6:30am to 11:30pm.Less
Don't stop here at the start of the trail (you'll be tempted to settle in); save it for a special dinner later.
This stylish place in the One Peking building offers stunning views back across the harbor, but the food is the real spectacle. It specializes in northern Chinese fare, which is spicier than the local Cantonese cuisine. There's no... More better example than its red lanterns dish: soft shell crab buried in dozens of bell chillies and served in a traditional wooden bowl. Don't be tempted to eat the chillies, they have already done their work on the crab. If the lip-tingling gets too intense, better to get the food in your mouth without touching the peppers than miss the taste sensation.
Hutong is often fully booked so reserve ahead on +852-3428-8342 or online (see link in other resources).Less
This market can be fun if you treat it as a source of trinkets rather than investments. Some of the 400+ stall holders have been trading here in jade for decades so they are probably better at spotting a bargain than you are.
The general rule seems to be look for cheaper items that you like and haggle for what they are worth to you. High-quality ... Morejade pieces sell for thousands of dollars so it's unlikely that a zodiac charm selling for $HK25 is in that domain. Lower-quality jade is usually bleached or colored, which can make it brittle or cause it to fade over time, so it's best to avoid the more intricate higher-priced carvings unless you know your stuff.
The market is open from 10am to 6pm but a lot of traders pack up after lunch. This trail recommends you walk through Kowloon Park to reach the market. It's a much more peaceful route than hectic Nathan Road and the park has diversions such as a Chinese garden or sculpture walk if you're not in a rush.Less
The area around the Jade Market is Yau Ma Tei and above it you walk into Mong Kok. The shops in different streets or blocks have traditionally specialized in particular products, creating a patchwork of themed shopping areas.
Shanghai Street provides good examples of this as you move north through blocks of herbalists, funeral parlors and bridal ... Moreoutlets, but feel free to explore off path to parallel Reclamation Street for a similar experience. The shops on both vary from designer to down at heel so expect the full range.
The trail leading to the Jade Market is deliberately loopy for the same reason. Visit Nanking Street for your mahjong needs, pick up some votives (paper models of everything from meals to mobile phones you burn to transport to dead relatives) on Ning Po Street or wander along Saigon Street for that tailored suit.Less
Prepare for some culture shock if your food normally comes from a supermarket. It's "wet" because the fish and other forms of (sometimes unidentifiable) seafood are kept in bowls or tanks of water until you buy. Hong Kong residents are passionate about the freshness of fish. The price will include the killing, cleaning or any other... More surgical preparation needed for your recipe.
Visitors are unlikely to buy anything, but the spectacle is fantastic (and not too gory). However, if you are staying will locals or self-catering, your options will extend to eels, frogs and various crabs.Less
You've got to admire the courage of entrepreneurs who would build a five-star hotel in the middle of a working-class district, but the beauty is that you can get a room here for three-star prices (by Hong Kong standards anyway).
This is a great accommodation option if you want all the attractions of this trail at your doorstep. The rooftop pool... More is welcome relief from Hong Kong humidity and the inclusive breakfast buffet is a gourmet expanse stretching from dragon fruit to bacon and eggs.
Don't confuse it with the sister Langham Hotel farther south on Kowloon--that could be an expensive misunderstanding.Less
Shop after shop on both sides of this section of Tung Choi Street will sell you anything from a simple goldfish to rare exotic tropical species costing thousands of dollars.
Trade can be brisk so store entries are lined with racks of bagged fish ready to go. They are the perfect pets for high-density living.
Shops are generally open from 10:30am... More until 10pm.Less
This is where you come if you're in the market for a parrot or something less exotic in an elegant bamboo cage. Other visitors include past customers taking their birds for a "walk," while picking up a bag of live grasshoppers for the daily feeding.
It's all slightly bizarre, especially when you see owners hang their cages within... More squawking distance of the market birds as if they had prison visiting rights.
Again, it's great camera fodder. Open daily from 7am to 8pm.Less
The next attraction on this trail is the Hong Kong Museum of History. You'll be doing a fair bit of walking around its exhibits, so save your feet and take the Mass Transit Railway to get there.
The MTR is the highly efficient, modern and clean train subway system that carries 3 million people a day on eight lines stretching from Hong Kong Island... More to the mainland border.
Tickets, based on distance traveled, cost as little as $HK4. Signs and ticket machines are in English as well as Chinese.Less
Hung Hom MTR is just one stop from Mong Kok East (the closest MTR to the bird market) on the East Rail line. Take the D1 exit and head east on Cheong Wan Road. The museum entrance is via the courtyard plaza off Chatham Road South.
There are eight galleries recreating the city's past from prehistoric to post-colonialism. It covers everything from natural to social history, so you may wish to skip to the periods of greatest interest unless you have a whole day to spare.
You walk through replicas of villages and city streets from different eras, and there are excellent audio... More visual displays in English explaining important milestones such as the opium wars and life under Japanese occupation in WW2.
Recent history includes the British handover and a collection of classic '70s toys Made in Hong Kong.
Admission $HK10, free Wednesday
Daily 10am-6pm (7pm on Sundays; closed Tuesdays)Less