It’s our third time in Hong Kong in a span of five years, though this time around it was more of a side trip from Macau. Most people arrive in Hong Kong and take a trip to Macau for a day or two before backtracking, but we did the opposite. There’s a different feeling in arriving Hong Kong through the ferry (aka. The TurboJet). In my previous visits, the experience was set at the start by the grandiose of the Chek Lap Kok airport. It’s like entering a new house through the main door, where one is usually greeted by the house’s best furniture, and the receiving area. Entering Hong Kong through Macau is like entering through the back door. No receiving area, no cozy furniture…you head straight to the kitchen, or in this case Sheung Wan, right next to the busy and hectic Central district. The experience feels more raw, and adventurous.
Nan Lian Garden
A bit off the beaten path is one of Hong Kong’s hidden gems. The Nan Lian garden, located in Diamond Hill, is perhaps Hong Kong’s most serene and pleasant piece of real estate. Due to the fact that there’s pretty much nothing of interest in the vicinity of Diamond Hill, the garden, pretty as it is, has stayed under the radar of the Hong Kong tourist trail. The garden is within close walking distance from the Diamond Hill station of the MTR’s Kwun Tong Line – one of the territory’s first rail lines which holds almost no value to a non-resident, as there’s barely anything interesting for a tourist throughout its length. That’s bound to change though, as the garden has been gaining popularity in recent times. Though a fairly recent development, the Nan Lian Garden’s Tang Dynasty-era styling coupled with minimalistic oriental landscaping gives it a distinct beauty – one that I would have normally associated with Japanese gardens.
The Star Ferry
I’ve been itching to ride the Star Ferry since five years ago, and this time I finally got the chance. Coming from the water’s edge in Tsim Sha Tsui and wanting to take the scenic bus route to the Peak, the quickest way to get to the bus stop on the island side was to cut through the harbour, and cut through we did. The Star Ferry has two routes from Tsim Sha Tsui – one to Wan Chai and one to Central. We took the latter.
The (normally) green and white boats have been an icon of Hong Kong for a long time, and was the primary means of crossing from Kowloon to the island before the undersea road and rail tunnels were built. At present, even though the tunnels now handle the bulk of cross-channel traffic, the cute ferry boats (“cute” was once defined as “ugly but presentable”) still traverse the harbour with regular frequency. It’s also one of the best sightseeing spots, as the view of the Hong Kong skyline from the ferry will beat the view from the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade anytime.
The Temple Street Night Market
The hotel we stayed in at Hong Kong was just a couple of blocks away from Temple Street. I’ve been seeing the name “Temple Street Night Market” in many travel books and articles about Hong Kong, though I’ve also read in forums that there’s not much to see there anymore. Still I was curious and since it was just near to where we stayed, I skipped out one evening and decided to see for myself what it’s all about.
What I saw didn’t really impress me though, unfortunately. I was half expecting to see something like the night markets in Taiwan or Bangkok, which were bright and lively. Well, Temple street was less bright, and definitely didn’t feel very lively (or maybe I just went in the wrong evening – it was a Thursday). What I saw was an endless row of shops selling shirts (the lower quality types), toys (also of low quality – many imitations from the mainland) and other stuff – none of which really caught my interest for anything more than five seconds.
There were a number of restaurants though that looked mouth watering, but since I was wandering alone I didn’t bother to try. If you’ve been to Hong Kong before and didn’t get to see the Temple Street Night Market, then worry not. You haven’t lost much.
On our way back from Nan Lian Garden to Shim Tsui, we decided to switch trains in Mong Kok, and took the opportunity to eat lunch there as well. As one of the most well known and busiest areas of Kowloon (next to Tsim Sha Tsui), I’ve always wanted to scour around the place, though it took three visits to Hong Kong before I could even set foot on it. Our stop in Mong Kok was pretty much an “eat and run” affair, as we had to be on the ferry back to Macau that afternoon. After emerging from the MTR station we headed for lunch at Cafe de Coral in the Argyle Centre and just bought a few items in the shops within the vicinity before going back underground. We did see part of the Occupy Hong Kong protests though, as they blocked part of the stretch of Nathan Road.
Many have described Mong Kok as one of the ultimate foodie and shopping destinations in Hong Kong, though we didn’t get to try if for ourselves. Well, maybe next time.
Now this is one place we have never missed each time we were in Hong Kong. As we were de facto tour guides in our last two visits, our last two times at the peak were more due the accessibility of the place. For first timers in Hong Kong, it’s one of the easiest attractions to get to one the island side. There’s nothing particularly new there though each time we were up, but the Hong Kong skyline is one that I never get tired of seeing, especially at night.
The Prudential Hotel
We stayed at the Prudential Hotel, the best one we’ve stayed at so far in terms of balancing comfort and accesibilty. Located right on top of the MTR Jordan station, right next to Nathan Road and the bus stops, and a short walk away from the shops of Tsim Sha Tsui, it’s hard to spot a better location. The rooms were definitely not bad as well, clean and spacious enough by oriental standards, plus it’s got a magnificent roof deck. This one definitely goes in my list as “highly recommended”.
* All photos taken October 2014, using an Olympus EPM-2 with M. Zuiko 25mm f1.8.