Hong Kong has something for everyone. It’s expensive, it’s crowded and it works.
Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) is my go to place here. I don’t come here for the Indian men who line Nathan Road, weave through the crowd and either thrust their business card at you, going ‘tailor sir, tailor,’ or ‘Rolex copy watch, hashish, cocaine.’ As a vegetarian, I don’t come for the restaurants either. I come for the view.
The view from Kowloon Pier to Hong Kong Island might be the most spectacular view I’ve seen in any city. One of my favourite things to do alone here is grab a can of lager from the 7eleven at the Star Ferry terminal and go up to the top deck of the Pier to share it with the island. The city looking back at me from over the water is all the company I need.
On Hart Avenue you’ll find lots of different bars. I usually go to Tequila Jacks for the nachos and the Signal Point draft, or Fatt’s Place for the peanuts. There’s something quite therapeutic about picking your way through a bottomless basket of peanuts and scattering the shells on the floor.
Like live music?
Catch the Star Ferry to Central and make your way to The Wanch. This bar has live music every night. From open acoustic classics to death metal, you’ll not be disappointed. It’s a tight squeeze when the place is busy, and it’s loud, but you can always stand outside and watch through the window.
One Tuesday night here Chris Barron from the Spin Doctors played a set. The place was heaving that night and Chris’s full talent was on display. It was one of the best nights I’ve had here.
Another night a couple called Iris and Fidela took to the stage to play their own material. Just Fidela singing and Iris on the guitar. It’s the best original material I’ve ever heard played in a pub.
I should also mention Salon 10 up behind LKF on Arbuthnot Road. Every Wednesday this place packs out. If the music isn’t good enough, which it is, you should go here just to look at the interior design. The door may be the most unique in Hong Kong. Im not sure if designer was inspired by a submarine, a spaceship or both, or neither. It’s well worth a visit, though it is expensive. You’ll find a mixed crowd of locals and expats and a good band playing Jazz music. Put your good shoes on.
Wednesday night at Happy Valley horse races
There are races every 30 minutes on Wednesday nights until almost 11. In each race there are twelve horses. I don’t have a clue about horse racing, but I always follow the same order with my betting. I put $20 on the 9 at 9 then depending on how many races I’ll stick around for I put my money on 12 then 6 then 3. I haven’t had much success.
You wont find stuck-up faces and fancy hats here. You’ll find a crowd of people having a laugh, plenty of alcohol, and a band playing between each race. The view is of the buildings around the track is pretty good too.
LKF and Soho
LKF is the party place here. It’s where you’ll find the student crowd. Drinking in the streets is legal here, so many people buy cheap drinks at 7eleven and gather around outside. If drinking in the street is not your thing, there are plenty of bars to go to. Brickhouse is a pretty good one there, hidden down an alley. They have some fancy cocktail with burned wood chip smoke held in the glass under a coaster. That’s what I usually go for. I also like going to Le Jardin on a Thursday. It’s the only bar I know of here with a jukebox.
Not far from LKF is Soho. There you’ll find nice restaurants and bars and a slightly more civilised crowd. I go to Staunton’s quite often on a Sunday morning to watch the UFC. They open at 11. But there are many places to choose from. Have a wander. Get lost.
Broadway Cinemateque – Tin Hau Temple – Ying Vegetarian Sushi
This is my favourite place on the Kowloon side. Located in Yau Ma Tei, this is a Cinema, cafe and bookshop all in one. In this place you’ll be able to watch a range of films that would never get shown in the big commercial cinemas. You can also buy pretty cool movie posters with Chinese writing on them, and find a good selection of books in the cafe, plenty of Russian literature. I’ve spent many an afternoon here.
Just up the street towards Nathan Road you’ll find the Tin Hau Temple. I’m sure a cut scene from Ghost in the Shell with Scarlet Johansson was filmed here. This is a great little temple to have a look inside. I love the smell of the incense, the way the sun comes in through the roof, the sooty effigies in the three main shrines. The courtyard is quite nice too with its mature banyan trees spread throughout offering plenty of shade.
You’ll find a lot of Buddhist style vegetarian restaurants in Hong Kong that provide a huge selection of meat substitutes, but Ying Vegetarian is one such restaurant with a difference. it’s the only one I know of with vegetarian sashimi. I always come here when I’m in HK. You’ll find it across the street from the Temple, at the foot of Temple Street.
Considered by many to be the anus of Hong Kong. Naturally, Mong Kok is where I made my home for the year I spent here. It’s the entry point for all the busses arriving from the mainland. It’s also the most populated area on earth, according the the Guinness book of records.
Highlights here are the Ladies Market, where you can buy cheap goods made, no doubt, in sweatshops by modern slave labour, and if you love to hear Chinese karaoke, go down the adjacent street to torture your ears. There are a few street performers operating around here also, and the pet shop street is a worthy visit if you want to see cute puppies and animals in glass display cases before they transfer them up into the attic for the night. The Mong Kok branch of Paisanos is the best in the chain, much better than the crap they sell in the central one. Go check it out.
Other places I recommend
Prince Edward flower market – Ten Thousand Buddha Temple – Big Buddha – Repulse Bay – Stanley – The Beer Hut by Central Pier 3
Hong Kong is surrounded by hills and beaches. Within an hour you can be rid of the concrete and into nature. Most of the surrounding area is well served by public transport, and taxis are not expensive. I’m not that much of a hiker, but I enjoyed the hike to Lion Rock, be careful with the monkeys, and the Dragon’s Back. I also liked taking the mid-level escalators to the top and walking from their to the Peak. Bring mosquito repellent for that one.
A note on Accommodation: People are used to living in shoeboxes here. Your luggage will take up most of the floorspace in budget rooms. I have stayed in the Hi Inn in Yau Ma Tei and the Panda Elegant Hostel across from the mosque by Kowloon park. Both of which are good. During my first visit I stayed in Chungking Mansions – I will never stay there again.
Hong Kong will always be a special place to me. The people, the scenery and the pace all blend together in a way that gives the place a personality unlike any other city in the world.