Best of Kowloon

Best of Kowloon

Kowloon Peninsula, the northern portion of Hong Kong connected to mainland China, has become an ever expanding mecca for shopping, the arts, and entertainment. A British Colony since 1860, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. A cosmopolitan center, Kowloon is tightly packed and endlessly bustling with a close proximity to the international airport and the cruise ship terminal.

Although its mostly populated by Cantonese speaking Chinese, other cultures are represented in the mix: Thai, Indian, Indonesian, Filipino, and Nepalese, making for a thoroughly international city. Often labeled “more Chinese” than its island companion located just across Victoria Harbor, a visit to Hong Kong should include time spent in both areas. (Check out my recent article,”Best of Hong Kong Island,” for plenty of tips to complete your trip).


Tsim Sha Tsui: This vibrant district in the southern tip of Kowloon is a major tourist hub chock full of restaurants, museums, and performance spaces. It’s Hong Kong’s most cosmopolitan corner and host to the highest concentration of hotels. Take a walk down the Waterfront Promenade to the Avenue of the Stars (like Hollywood’s walk of fame), where local film stars are memorialized in the pathway. (The statue of Bruce Lee gets the most attention from selfie-stick wielding tourists.) Climb the stairs near the Clock Tower to the elevated observation deck to get face to face with Hong Kong’s iconic view.

Wong Tai Sin Temple Hong Kong

Colorful Wong Tai Sin Temple

Wong Tai Sin Temple: Built in traditional Chinese style, this famous Taoist temple boasts grand red pillars, a soaring golden roof adorned with blue friezes, bright yellow latticework, and detailed multi-colored carvings. Stop and have your fortune told by soothsayers working just outside the temple entrance.

Chi Lin Nunnery & Nan Lian Garden: This Tang Dynasty-style Buddhist complex is the largest in East Asia. Nuns have lived onsite since 1937, but the present structure opened in 1998—built completely of wood without using any metal nails. The grand compound includes Buddhist halls and a tranquil lotus pond-filled garden at the main entryway. The most impressive statue, the massive, golden Sakyamuni Buddha, rests on a lotus altar in the Main Hall. Across the road, Nan Lian Garden is hands down the most beautiful and tranquil Chinese garden in Hong Kong. Its winding paths take you past classically styled ornamental rocks, pavilions, water features, and rare, sculptured trees.

Nan Lian Garden

Hong Kong gem — Nan Lian Garden


Traveling with kids? There are plenty of museums to keep them busy. The Science Museum: this technology and science focused museum with a flight simulator and loads of interactive exhibits, will keep kids of all ages engaged. The iconic, egg-shaped Space Museum houses the planetarium, Hall of Astronomy, Omnimax and 3D theatres. Recently undergoing major construction, check the website for its grand reopening. The Museum of History documents the story of Hong Kong, from its ancient origins to the end of colonial rule. The Museum of Art, Hong Kong’s largest public art gallery, mixes traditional and contemporary paintings, calligraphy, and photography – temporarily closed for a major renovation, it is slated to open in 2018. Hong Kong Cultural Center: Adjacent to the Star Ferry, this multipurpose performance center has a revolving schedule of Philharmonic performances, ballet, musicals, and children’s programming – holiday times brings the celebrated “Nutcracker.”


Shanghai Tang: This unique men’s and women’s outfitter specializes in collections representing a modern chinoiserie style blending rich fabrics and traditional Shanghainese tailoring in novel, up-to-the-minute designs. Bright, saturated colors are a hallmark.

Shanghai Tang, Hong Kong

Shanghai Tang

Harbour City: A walk through this cruise ship terminal will lead you to three shopping malls which comprise this massive complex stretching for 500 meters along Canton Road. Yes, many of the 450 retail locations are those you see in the U.S. or European malls, but there are some unique shops, some great dining choices (50 of them!), and on a hot and humid Hong Kong day, nothing beats browsing in this blocks-long, air-conditioned oasis.

Temple Street Night Market: A popular street bazaar named for the Tin Hau temple located center stage stimulates the senses with fortune tellers, opera performers, and street food hawkers interspersed with endless displays of trinkets, tea ware, electronics, watches, menswear, and antiques.

Markets Hong Kong

Trinkets, chess pieces, and mah jongg sets on display in Kowloon’s outdoor markets

Ladies Market: Located at Tung Choi Street, this is the place to find inexpensive women’s clothes, from lingerie to shoes. It’s especially good for jeans and accessories, men’s and kids’ clothing, as well as toys and knick-knacks.

Flower Market, Hong Kong

Flower Market

Jade Market: Visit the Jade Market in Yau Ma Tei at the junction of Kansu and Battery Streets to browse 450 stalls selling jade of all types, shapes, sizes and prices. Believed to bestow magical properties, wearing jade provides a triple benefit: good health, good luck, and protection from evil spirits.

Bird Garden: Nestled into Yuen Po Street, this charming Chinese-style garden and tribute to the age-old avian hobby includes some 70 songbird stalls. Beautifully crafted bamboo cages and bottomless bins of live crickets are also for sale. Nearby, the Flower Market peddles everything from Dutch tulips to exotic orchids, and on Tung Choi Street, stop at the Goldfish Market to gaze at aquariums, corals, and exotic fish.

Bird Garden

Song bird enthusiasts will be enthralled with Kowloon’s Bird Garden


Overseas visitors soon realize that the Chinese food they encounter in their countries bears little resemblance to what is served in Hong Kong. Cantonese dim sum (dumplings steamed in bamboo baskets) are delicious light as air morsels meant to be shared—authentic local places are plentiful. Many menus, although only in Chinese, come equipped with user friendly photos, so pointing can be a very effective way of ordering. Beyond Cantonese choices, there’s a substantial cosmopolitan culinary scene: Southeast Asian cultures are well represented — Malaysian, Thai, and Singaporean.

Dim Sum, Hong Kong

Dim Sum translates to “little heart”

Cuisine Cuisine: There are two outposts of this well regarded restaurant, one in Kowloon (with sweeping views of the Harbor) and one on Hong Kong Island. Mastering the “36 Chinese Cooking Methods,” they offer a genuine Cantonese dining experience with dishes prepared with seasonal ingredients and traditional, time-honored recipes.

Serenade: With a panoramic, harbor view, this bustling Cantonese restaurant is conveniently located right above the Cultural Center and offers an array of stir-fry and dim sum served from traditional trolleys.

Hutong: Dine in the evening at this northern Chinese restaurant to make the most of the dramatic views and the nightly multimedia light show over the harbor. Settle into the funky, vintage Hong Kong vibe and enjoy a signature Chinese menu with a contemporary twist.

Afternoon Tea, Peninsula, Hong Kong

Digging in to Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula

Afternoon Tea at Peninsula Hotel: Make a stop a this iconic, colonial era hotel’s, high ceilinged lobby for an elegant afternoon of tea and finger sandwiches, savory pastries, and raisin scones served with clotted cream and strawberry preserves. Hint: although the often lengthy queue for afternoon tea starts at 2pm, (first come, first served), if you sit at a table earlier (around 1:30pm) and order an appetizer from the lunch menu, you can promptly switch to the tea menu when it commences.


Lantau Island: Take a ferry to Hong Kong’s largest island – home to Disneyland and the city’s international airport. Its south coast is ringed by beaches, and its mountainous center region boasts the red, orange and gold Po Lin Monastery, and the bronze Tian Tan Buddha, known affectionately as the “Big Buddha.” A long flight of steps takes you up to the statue’s base and rewards you with expansive views of the city.

Big Buddha, Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Lantau Island’s Tian Tan Buddha

Macau: Originally a Portuguese colony, it was returned to China in 1999 becoming, like Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR). Once a sleepy outpost, it is now known as the “Vegas of the East.” There’s lots of pizzazz provided by international mega-casinos, but pockets of graceful southern European charm can still be found. Accessible by ferryboat or four-hour car ride, an ongoing massive construction project consisting of 26 miles of bridges and tunnels will eventually link Hong Kong to Macau (trimming the ride to 45 minutes).

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Best of Hong Kong Island

Best of Hong Kong Island

When planning a visit to Hong Kong, a common question is usually asked – where to stay – Hong Kong Island or Kowloon? First time visitors often head right to Kowloon (the peninsula area connected with China’s mainland) because of its easy access from the cruise ship terminal. Hong Kong Island, which lies just south across Victoria Harbour, is the city’s economic center with a bit of soul. It features a mix of sites from soaring towers to stylish Soho. Thanks to several tunnels and bridges and the Star Ferry connecting the two areas, it’s even easier than ever to crisscross from one to the other and explore both locations in one trip.

Hong Kong IslandHong Kong Island’s Central District is know for its tightly packed financial hub. It’s heavy on international banks, but light on historical buildings. For gallery hopping or antique browsing, visit Lan Kwai Fong and Soho. Sheung Wan is more traditional but still hip, while Wan Chai beckons visitors to its nightlife and shopping mecca, Causeway Bay. By contrast, the island’s more serene, and less inhabited southern coast, is ringed with harbors and sandy beaches.

Hong Kong Island

Aberdeen Harbor on Hong Kong Island’s southern coast


Star Ferry: A fifteen-minute journey on this iconic ferry across Victoria Harbor is a great way to take a photo op of the city skyline and surrounding mountain view. Tip: go in the evening to catch the nightly multimedia, Symphony of Lights Laser Show.

Lan Kwai Fong and Soho: These trendy areas are known for their stylish galleries and eclectic boutiques, modern cuisine, and chic drinking spots lined up on Hollywood Road.

Mid-levels Escalator: Take a ride on this unique people mover, which runs between the Central and Western Districts (it was completed in 1993 at a cost of HK$245 million). With 20 separate sections covering 800 meters (2,625 feet) it’s undoubtedly the world’s longest outdoor escalator system. Designed to ease the jam-packed traffic below, it begins at 100 Queen’s Road Center.

Ladder Street: You won’t need to hit the gym if you take a climb up this 19th century street, named for its steep stone steps that zigzag from Caine Road to Hollywood and Queen’s Roads.

Man Mo Temple: This Taoist temple with its dramatic curling incense dangling from the ceiling is one of the city’s oldest temples. Dedicated to the gods of war and literature, it was built in 1847 during the colonial era. Wander through the otherworldly, smoke-filled rooms and shake prayer-sticks from a bamboo container and have your fortune read by the resident soothsayers.

Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong Island

Incense coils hang dramatically from the ceiling of the Man Mo Temple

Hong Kong Park: Although almost exclusively manmade, this eight-hectre park is worth a visit. Wander through the Aviary, home to over 90 different species of birds, stop in the Museum of Tea Ware, or check out the t’ai chi practitioners early in the morning.

Sheung Wan: Crossing into this neighborhood brings you into the more traditional and residential areas of Hong Kong Island. Stop on Man Wa Lane to see the chop-makers — craftsmen who create Chinese character name stamps from blocks of stone that serve as a signature on official documents. Since it only takes about an hour (and they will translate the names into Chinese for you), they make a great souvenir or gift.

Des Vouex Road West: Known as the center of Chinese medicine trade in Hong Kong, this area is where all manner of herbs, ancient remedies, dried extracts, and animal parts can be purchased. Nearby streets Wing Lok and Ko Shing specialize in ancient Chinese tonic foods, ginseng, and bird’s nest, believed to hold the key to a longer life, increased energy, and a glowing complexion – who wouldn’t want that!

Hong Kong Island

A vendor on Des Voeux Road shows off caterpillar and other ancient remedies used in the medicinal trade

Peak Tram: This almost vertical ride takes you straight up to Victoria Peak, the highest point on the island. Built 125 years ago, it’s Asia’s oldest funicular. An eight-minute trip rewards you with amazing views of Kowloon and Victoria Harbor and on a clear day, a glimpse of mainland China. Walk the nature paths and then wander through Victoria Peak Gardens.

Victoria Peak, Hong Kong Island

Victoria Peak’s stunning views of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon across the harbor


Causeway Bay: Not far from the metropolitan center of Wan Chai (located on the northern shore of the island) is one of Hong Kong’s most impressive shopping complexes, Causeway Bay — a place to dine and shop late into the night. Nearby is the area’s own bustling “Times Square,” a mega mall with 14 floors of international shops, restaurants, and a cinema.

Happy Valley Racecourse: The first horse race was held here in 1846 and it continues to be a main attraction and home to the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Its vast stands can accommodate over 55,000 spectators. Stop by the complex’s Hong Kong Racing Museum for some historical perspective and pick up a few tips on famous trainers, jockeys, and horses.


Aberdeen: A harbor with an urban feel, its surrounding waters are filled with hundreds of wooden fishing boats, junks (ancient Chinese sailing ships), sampans (flat bottomed wooden boats), and yachts all bobbing in the natural typhoon shelter. Once a quaint fishing village, it has evolved into a high-rise filled town. Take a half-hour Sampan Tour from Aberdeen Promenade to get a close up view of life on the water. If you have time, stop for lunch at the famous floating restaurant Jumbo, which resembles an ornately decorated Imperial Palace.

Jumbo Seafood, Hong Kong Island

A Sampan ride will take you past famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant

Stanley Market: On the southern coastline of Hong Kong Island is this lively open-air market offering traditional handicrafts and locally made clothes and accessories at bargain prices. Maybe it’s a bit touristy, but it’s a great place to pick up last minute gifts and knick-knacks at reasonable prices. (My kids can never resist an opportunity to haggle!)

Stay tuned for my article on Kowloon.  Header image courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

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