Exploring the Kowloon Side of HK
Hong Kong is, without a doubt, my favorite city in Asia. The melding of east-meets-west, the unbelievable craziness of the atmosphere, the ‘buzz’ – nothing beats it. One of my favorite thing to do on any Hong Kong trip is wander about the streets on the Kowloon side. It is a sensory experience in itself – the pungent smell of XO sauce permeating the air, cars and motorbikes buzzing by, the sidewalks well lit at night by neon. Here are a few of the places I in Kowloon I’ve always enjoyed exploring.
Kowloon City Park.
Kowloon Walled City Park
This seemingly tranquil park is a significant historical location. This was a Chinese fortification used to protect Kowloon Bay and was an important defense mechanism during the British takeover of Hong Kong Island in the year 1841.
When the New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898, this walled fortress remained stationed with Chinese soldiers; a year later they were forced out by the British but due to a loophole in the law, this tiny parcel of land fell into a “limbo”, technically not under jurisdiction of neither China nor Britain. Behind the remaining fortress walls, a miniature city developed, full of slums and illicit activity. It was only in 1994 that the city was demolished and the gorgeous park that we see today was built.
Neon chaos at Nathan Road.
The first road built in Kowloon after the British takeover was Nathan Road. It was originally called the Golden Mile, and to me it still is. It’s lined on both sides with various shops and tacky restaurants, and the neon signs go up several stories. While the MTR runs partially underneath Nathan Road and is the traditional form of transport, I’d rather just walk the couple of miles from Mong Kok to Tsim Sha Tsui and poke my head in some of the shops or vendors selling their wares. They are not as cheap as in the markets but the displays are interesting, nonetheless.
Temple Street night market.
Oh, yes, the famous markets. Any tale about Kowloon would be remiss not to mention them. My preferred shopping detour is the Night Market, on Temple Street. Be sure to explore the portion north of Jordan Road, beyond past the famous fortune tellers – the stalls continue some of the best deals are had at this end.
To help your stamina, be brave and have a snack at one of the adjacent stalls on the market. No, there usually isn’t an English menu but typically one of the staff on duty speaks decent English and will help you choose. You can’t go wrong with noodles or seafood.
The sunset view from the Star Ferry terminal.
Getting Back to Hong Kong Island
The best method of travel between Hong Kong and Kowloon is the Star Ferry. It’s so cheap it is almost free, you get some fresh air (which is in limited supply in Hong Kong, without a doubt), and the views are fantastic. However, if you happen to be in the area around 7:45PM, be sure to call ahead and book yourself onto the junk boat cruise.
Why 7:45? Because this is the tour that has the honor of enjoying the 8PM light show, the Symphony of Lights. Sure, it is somewhat cheesy – particularly the musical accompaniment – but sitting on the boat in the middle of Hong Kong harbor, it feels as if the dazzling skyline in front of you stretches around the earth. All this experiences are combined to create what is often praised as the cheapest multi-cultural, multi-sensory cruise experience in the world!