Famed for its fast paced life, its robust film industry and some of the shrewdest and most forward looking merchants in the commercial world, Hong Kong offers an endless supply of attractions and delights for those who can keep up with her intoxicating pace.
Here are some tips from a local insider on what to see, where to shop and what to do on your next holiday in Hong Kong!
What To See in Hong Kong
I recommend staying in Tsim Sha Tsui, get a harbour view room, ride the ferry, walk the length of Nathan Road, which takes you from Tsim Sha Tsui to Yaumatei to Mongkok. The best view of Hong Kong’s floodlit skyscrapers at night is behind the Cultural Centre next to the Star Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui. You can also stroll down the Tsim Sha Tsui East promenade, which starts at the Avenue of Stars near the Space Museum with the round dome. The Avenue of Stars, one of Hong Kong’s newest attractions, imitates Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre. You can check out Jacky Chan’s hand prints there. At 8pm every night, go to the Ave of Stars and you’ll see a multimedia light and sound show on the waterfront, with pyrotechnics thrown in during holidays.
The Art Museum and History Museum are in Tsim Sha Tsui too. If you’re lucky, you can see the occasional sampan (Chinese fishing boats with a huge brown coarse sail) drifting on the harbour. If not, go see the replicas in the History Museum. But nothing beats the Heritage Museum whose exterior replicates ancient Chinese architecture, truly striking (1 Man Lam Road, Shatin, at the outskirts in the New Territories). The bar scene is in Lan Kwai Fong, which has trendy bars and restaurants, on Hong Kong side.
Where To Shop in Hong Kong
An alternative to Hong Kong’s numerous palatial malls (Pacific Place, Times Square, International Financial Centre, Harbour City, Ocean Terminal, Festival Walk) is to visit the quirkier Temple Street, which used to be called the peasants’ night club. It starts after dark every night – an open street market lit by oil lanterns. It sells all kinds of bric-a-bracs, and you can get your fortune told for HK$300 which you can negotiate down to $100. Say you just have $100 in your pocket and show him the bill. You can also hear, if not see, people playing mahjong on Temple Street. It’s located at Yaumatei. Exit Yaumatei MTR (subway train).
Tung Choi Street in Mongkok, which we also call Ladies’ Street, is where you should go if you have only HK$500 left and want to buy lots of things, like two pairs of shoes, 10 I-love-HK T-shirts, 2 nightgowns, and all the hair paraphernalia you want. If you see something you like at a stall, don’t buy it immediately, because three stalls down you’ll see the same thing or an even a better version being sold for $3 less. Go during a week day after noon. Otherwise that street is so jammed you can hardly move. My mom’s favourite shopping street is Granville Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. You can find hidden treasures there.
To buy Chinese arts and crafts, go to Chinese Arts and Crafts or Yue Hwa. They both have outlets in Tsim Sha Tsui. Good place to buy antiques, ceramics, cloths, lace. If you want to concentrate on fabrics, they are housed in Western Market – a huge colonial mansion in Sheung Wan district, Hong Kong side. Sheung Wan feels like Hong Kong had stood still in time – nothing changed much there, as if it’s still in the 1960s. Besides fabrics, Western Market sells Hong Kong memorabilia and all kinds of other stuff. Still not enough shopping? Go to Stanley Market. To get there, you can take the scenic No. 6 bus under Exchange Square in Central, Hong Kong side. Unlike shops in Europe, you can shop until 11pm in Hong Kong, seven days a week.
Attention: Be extremely careful when buying electronics in Tsim Sha Tsui – digital cameras, camcorders, laptops etc. Many shop staff are sharks, they rip you to shreds, partly to survive the exorbitant store rent in TST. To be safe, buy them at chain stores like Broadway or Fortress, where prices are just slightly higher. You can also take your chance at Mongkok’s Sai Yeung Choi Street South and around – electronics paradise. If you’re lucky, you’ll get fabulous deals. But also beware of their switch and bait tactics. I remember BBC or CNN once did a survey which is the cheapest place to buy electronics, comparing Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and New York. Hong Kong came on top, miles ahead of the other 3 cities.
A Little Bit of Hong Kong History & Nature
If you want to experience a bit of Hong Kong history, go to the Kowloon Walled City Park, the site of the original Kowloon Walled City. It was an underground sin city off limits to Chinese, British or Hong Kong administration – the result of an ambiguous territorial treaty clause made during the Ching dynasty in 1898. That place – a perfect hideout for criminals and drug addicts – was an underground maze of dim winding alleys with pipes that never stop dripping and courtyards with leftover Ching cannons. Residents there didn’t have to pay for utilities, they can siphon anything they need. It’s also a famous breeding ground for unlicensed dentists – you come out of their clinics with your mouth all bloody. The whole place was torn down in 1993. You can now see its relics in the park.
My favourite outlying island is Cheung Chau, a fishing village with a lot of local colour. The best seafood is in Lamma Island. You can get to these two islands by taking the Outlying Ferries in Central, Hong Kong side. Lastly, I won’t miss Ocean Park if I were you. I would spend a whole day there. It’s much more than the usual whale and dolphin fare. If I describe all the things you can do in the park, I’ll need another 10KB. I’ll just say it’s the place where you can see the prettiest pair of pandas in the world. Their accommodation and the way they are displayed are unrivalled anywhere. To everybody, Ocean Park is guaranteed fun. Of course you can always drop by Hong Kong’s newly opened Disneyland.
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