Hong Kong is a city with an amazing vibe. A city with a perfect balance between madness and serenity. The city where I lost my heart.
The city can be divided into two parts; Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. In this blog we take you straight to Kowloon, the traditional part of Hong Kong.
For the first time in my life, I felt in love with a country immediately after my plane had landed. Hong Kong gave me the “I need to know more of this – I want to see it all” feeling. Driving from the airport to my hotel, seeing the harbor, the skyline.. this city got me!
Hong Kong arrival
Arriving in an unknown city can be exciting and scared at the same time. Luckily in most Asian countries transportation has been organized very well. In Hong Kong the taxis learned me right away that the city is divided in two parts; the green taxis only go to the northwest and northeast of Hong Kong and the red taxis (urban taxis) go to any other place.
If you have any doubts about the taxi you should take, you can always ask one of the employees. They are very kind and their English is good, they can certainly help you! Please keep in mind that the taxi drivers barely speak English and their cars are not so well maintainted. Paying in cash is the only option you have, so make sure you visit an ATM before you head to the taxis.
Two faces of the city
When I opened my curtains the next morning, I was surprised by the view I got. People in this area are literally living in the clouds! Personally I could never live in an (small) apartment like this, but in Hong Kong people don’t really have a choice. Living freely but close to the sea and port costs millions and since the money is made in the center of Hong Kong, an apartment in the same area is the best option. Wiki learned me that seven million people share an area of 1,104 square kilometers! That clarifies the typical Hong Kong buildings immediately.
The center of Hong Kong can be divided in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Hong Kong Island is the financial heart of the city, but is strongly developing and more restaurants/bars are opening their doors. For a food lover this is the place to be! Kowloon is the complete opposite; this part of the city takes you back to the traditional lifestyle of Hong Kong. I was lucky enough to visit Hong Kong twice and therefore I could stay in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. It is amazing to see and feel the differences between both parts!
The most famous neighborhoods in Kowloon are Tsim Sha Tui, Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok. These neighborhoods are home to the middle class and poor co-workers. This makes Kowloon less western and therefore it gives travelers like us a good picture of the everyday life in Hong Kong.
Tsim Sha Tui
Tsim Sha Tui is a very popular and touristic area. It is the place where you can take the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island, where you can find the Avenue of Stars (including Bruce Lee’s statue!) and is home to the most expensive shopping street Canton Road.
At the end of Canton Road you can find the beautiful Kowloon Park; one of the largest parks of Hong Kong. This park is definately worth a visit! For me it was the perfect spot to cool down during a hot summer day, but you can also go to the swimming pool or listen to the bird songs in the Bird park. If you want to explore the other neighborhoods of Kowloon, just keep walking. In less than 30 minutes you will reach Yau Ma Tei followed by Mong Kok.
For me Tsim Sha Tui is the best location to watch the skyline and take lots of pictures of one of the prettiest skylines in Asia. Walk to the Clock Tower (the terminal of the old railway link to China) and enjoy the amazing view! In the evening you can enjoy the light show at the Star Ferry Pier. If you are lucky enough you will see the famous Duk Ling Junk boat as well; this will make your Hong Kong experience complete!
Nathan Road – most famous street in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s most famous street is Nathan Road, also known as Kowloon’s most important traffic artery. Neon lights, busy traffic roads, restaurants and authentic shops are the characteristics of this area. During the evening everything comes to life; local restaurants open their doors and terraces, markets pop up and there are people everywhere! If you are looking for some nice souvenirs for a reasonable price, Temple street and Ladies market are the places to go to. Make sure you negotiate the price. If the sales woman becomes angry, you know you have reached the right price.
If you continue your way on Nathan Road, you will eventually reach the Mong Kok district. Mong Kok is a slightly less secure neighborhood because of criminal organizations. Therefore it is recommended to visit this place during daytime. I went to Mong Kok in the evening because of lack of time, but the feeling I got here was not a nice one.
Interesting places to visit in Mong Kok are the Goldfish market and the Bird garden. The Goldfish market is a small area where local people buy their fish for their aquariums. It is fascinating and sad at the same time to see how those fish are sold. Large and small fishes are hanging in their small bags waiting for their new owner..
The Bird Garden is a park where you can find old men with their birds, trying to let them sing. In the past, only rich people could afford (pet) birds. The cages were very expensive because of the special wood they are made of (you easily paid 300 euros for a bird cage). Nowadays, the majority can afford (pet) birds and on Sundays you can find the eldery in the park. They often do contests to see which bird can sing the most beautiful.
More time? Visit the Thousand Buddhas Monastery and Pau Tai village in Sha Tin
When you are in Hong Kong and have some time left, make sure you visit this breath taking place! The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is located in Sha Tin and is built by Yuet Kai. It is said that Sha Tin collected all the Buddhas and brought them to the mountain himself. It took him eight years to complete this project. It takes us “only” 400 steps to meet all the Buddhas and to reach the top to have an amazing view! The easiest way to reach this place is by taxi or by metro.
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is located on the mountain. But before heading to the Monastery, there is another place that deserves a visit. The little village Pau Tai village is a must visit since it shows you a complete different side of Hong Kong. The funniest thing of this village is that it’s only one street and most houses are owned by the family Lam.
If you travel by bus / train, you will pass this village when you’re walking to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.
Where to stay in Kowloon
During this trip to Hong Kong I stayed at the Casa Deluxe Hotel. The reason I booked this hotel is because of the location; it is right in the center of Nathan Road. Besides that it was quite affordable as well.
When I arrived at the hotel and went to my room, I had the biggest (unexpected) surprise. The room was so small! I am sure that if I had to stay there for five nights, I would definately die. Luckily it was possible to upgrade the room and I got myself a bigger room. If you are planning to stay in this hotel as well, make sure you check the size of the room before booking!
Other things to keep in mind; the WiFi is free of charge and they don’t serve breakfast.
Restaurant recommendations – Where to eat in Hong Kong
Even though there a thousands of restaurants in Hong Kong, the following are definately worth the visit when you are in Hong Kong:
Lock Cha Tea House
I read about this place and I had to visit the Lock Cha Tea House myself. If you love tea and dimsum, this is the place for you to visit. The tea can be very expensive so be careful what to choose. Regarding the dimsum; this is vegetarian and tastes so good!
There is WiFi available and there is also a small shop where you can buy tea or other souvenirs.
Island Shangri-La Hong Kong
The locals love their western breakfast. Island Shangri-La Hong Kong is a hotel, but you are welcome to join for breakfast. If you could use an amazing breakfast, make sure you add this place to your list.
There are so many options, it is a paradise for the health freaks among us!
Corner Kitchen Café
This is another breakfast place. Since my hotel didn’t offer breakfast, I had to find new breakfast places every day.
Corner Kitchen Café is a small place with an amazing atmosphere and great breakfast options. We had an omelet (approx. € 9,00) and pancakes (approx. € 8,50) and we highly recommend them!
For the travelers; there is free WiFi.
Tai Cheong Bakery
Egg tart is something special in Hong Kong and there is no better place to buy and try them than at the Tai Cheong Bakery. They are all over Hong Kong, so make sure you visit one of the restaurants to try the famous egg tarts. They are delicious!
This is a Chinese / Asian restaurant that serves the best dimsum in Hong Kong. The service is good and the food is delicious. During the week this place is full of business men and women, during the weekend it is a place for families.
The Cupping Room
For the best coffee in Hong Kong you go to The Cupping Room. The coffee is freshly made and is so good that I went back every day. This place is also good for a delicious lunch.
Crafty Cow Gastro Pub
For beef and burger lovers, this is the place to be! The food (and especially the burgers) are made of high quality products and this is something you taste. The neighborhood where this restaurant is located is the perfect place for street art lovers as well.
Koon Thai Cuisine
Even though the staff barely speaks English, the food is really good. Try the lemongrass and ginger lemonade and of course the rice with chicken. Good to know for travelers; there is free WiFi.
Emack & Bolio’s
This place is famous for its ice creams. Honestly I have never visited a place like this before. The combinations and options are unbelievable! It is a little bit more expensive than the “normal” ice creams we are used to, but the creation that you get is pure art.
Double Happiness Cafe
We accidentally bumped into this place when walking around. This place is so colorful and beautifully decorated that we became so curious and had to visit this place. The food that is served here is typically Chinese and the quality is very good. Try the dumplings, chicken with vegetables, rice with vegetables or a fish curry and end with the red bean soup as dessert.
L16 Cafe and Bar
Close to Lock Cha Tea House you can find the L16 Cafe and Bar. L16 is an amazing place to relax and eat or drink something. The atmosphere is amazing, the Thai food and drinks are good and there is free WiFi. There is a big terrace outside where we could sit the whole day. Definately a place to recommend!
When I was in Hong Kong, Catch served superfood dishes and the healthiest smoothies. Nowadays they serve the prettiest meals made of the best and freshest ingredients.
This is the funniest restaurant I have ever been to. The food that is served here is mainly dimsum, but in a very special way.. You can actually play with your food when you stepped into the world of Kobitos. I couldn’t stop laughing! Make sure you drop by, you don’t want to miss this!
I hope I could share some of my love for Hong Kong with you. Of course there are must visit places, but most important is to wander. Walk around, get lost in the labyrinth of shopping streets and try the local food. Explore and become part of this city life!
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