I spent an hour at dusk just loitering around Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), Kowloon’s densest and most active commercial area with a tongue twisting name (my 3-year old calls it Chim-sha-chu). As our group took a much needed rest at the hostel before dinner, I took the chance to head out by myself and just look around. There was nothing in particular that I wanted to see. Instead, I just wanted to feel the rush on this busy and lively district. Oh, and I just drooled at the display of gear on the numerous camera shops scattered around. My budget for these stuff was nil, and I just got a new EPM-2 a couple of weekends before anyway, but I just wanted to have a look around and get myself envious, in a sort masochistic way. I was relieved though, to know that the price in the streets of TST, for the EPM-2, was roughly in line with the price I got in Manila (I got a good discount here). That meant I don’t have anything to regret 🙂 They had a lot more choices of lenses and other accessories there of course…but I left that for next time.
My previous visit to Tsim Sha Tsui was a brief one, two years ago. We just ate somewhere along Canton Road on the Western edge, and walked through Haiphong Road into the MTR entrance at Nathan Road, and that’s it. This time around, I ventured deeper into its narrow streets.
The weather was cool with just a light drizzle…just enough to warrant a hood over my head, but not wet enough to threaten my EPM-2. And it was just at that right time in the afternoon, when the neon lights start to glow, but the skies are still bathed with a “mellow” light…what photographers call as the “golden hour”.
As I went through the streets of TST, taking pictures and window shopping at the same time, I couldn’t help but think this is what Manila’s chinatown should have been. Just like old Manila, TST is composed of endless rows of shops packed so close together. It is just as tight, just as cramped, and just as crowded, yet it felt clean and comfortable, unlike the former which leaves you drained after a couple of hours’ walk – though to be fair, the former’s tropical location is also partly to blame. The stores there sell roughly the same stuff, from fruits, to herbal medicines, to food, to just about anything. And yes of course, there are the cameras too (drool again).
Flavors of Tsim Sha Tsui
We didn’t really get to see much of Hong Kong cuisine during this stay, owing in part to our kid-friendly itinerary. As such, there was none of the “eat where we couldn’t understand a single thing on the menu” experience that we had a couple of years ago. But still, I got to try a couple of things that trully belong to the streets of Hong Kong. One is Tsui Wah along Carnarvon road in TST. A popular “chaa chan teng” (Chinese tea restaurant) in Hong Kong, I was quite surprised to see that the place is always packed, even on ungodly hours. We had lunch there once, and it’s not hard to see why there’s always a queue outside. Though not exactly “cheap”, they are quite reasonable by Hong Kong standards, and servings are generous. The fishball soup and rice noodles that I had was very much enjoyable too. And the best thing is that – if you’re one of those who can’t eat with chopsticks – they actually know what a spoon and a fork are like. 🙂 (Not that it matters to me though. I use chopsticks whenever the opportunity presents itself).
Wah Kee Snacks
This one was a bit of a surprise. As I was wandering aimlessly around TST, I came across this snack shop that was selling all sorts of hot pot goodies…much like the Wing Kee that I came across in Macau last year. The name of the shop is Wah Kee Snacks, along a busy corner in Prat Ave. What grabbed my attention was the bright signage, and a small crowd of twenty-somethings that was gathering infront of it. Curious me went in to investigate, and what I saw whetted my appetite. As usual in these places, the first and biggest hurdle was knowing how to order…and how much to pay for what you ordered, as chances are whoever’s behind the counter speaks no English. What I’d do is just to observe other customers from a short distance…see what they order, how they order, how much money they pay, and how much change they get back. After observing a few of them, I step in, do the same thing, and it works. What I had was curry fishball, which tasted so addictive. It was not cheap, at 7HKD a stick…but each bite was worth every HKD. Yummy!
Tsim Sha Tsui at Midnight
I also spent some time close to midnight, going around TST. Crazy? Probably. But I just wanted to see how the place feels like once the stores close down for the day. It was a short walk, just to satisfy my curiosity. Starting down Nathan Road, I picked a route that took me to Peking Road, before crossing over to Haiphong Road through one of the side streets, and finally ending at Canton Road, before making my way straight back to Nathan. There we more people than I had initially thought, and at no time did it feel “lonely” as I was walking. What caught my eye were people who were still cleaning their shops close to midnight. Normally you would have expected people to just have gone home for the night, and picked up whatever is left of their work the following morning, but not here, as people were scrubbing floors and sweeping pavement at Cinderella hours. And on hindsight, you could say, maybe this is why TST feels so clean despite the thick crowd that passes through it daily. Now, if only people in old Manila put just as much effort to make it cleaner…but I’ll leave it at that.
* All photos taken on April 2013, using an Olympus EPM-2 with M. Zuiko 14-42mm IIR.