Hong Kong/Kowloon

The Kowloon waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui

Kowloon (九龍, "nine dragons" in Cantonese) is an urban peninsula on the mainland part of Hong Kong, to the north of Hong Kong Island, where the central business district is. The mountains that overlook Kowloon account for eight of Kowloon's nine dragons while, as the story goes, the ninth dragon refers to the emperor who counted them. Of the eight mountains that overlook the crowded city, the most famous is Lion Rock, which when seen from the right angle, really does deserve its name.

With over 2.1 million people living in an area of less than 47 square kilometres, Kowloon is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, and has a matching array of places to shop, eat and sleep. Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀) pronounced "Tzeem Sah Jeui", the tip of the peninsula, is Kowloon's main tourist drag and has a mix of backpacker and high-end hotels. Further north, Mong Kok (旺角) has a huge choice of shops and markets in an area of less than a square kilometre.

"Kowloon side", as it is often known, managed to escape some of the British colonial influences that characterise "Hong Kong Island" side. While prices on Kowloon side tend to be cheaper, it is also less tourist-friendly and English proficiency is not as strong as on the Hong Kong side.

Get in

By ferry

Star Ferry. Riding the ferry from Central (Pier 7) or Wan Chai ferry piers on Hong Kong Island is considered a "must-do" for any traveller to Hong Kong. Not only is this the cheapest way to traverse the harbour, it's also the finest way to go sight-seeing, particularly at night, where you're surrounded by a wall of lights and skyscrapers on both sides. The Central ferry has different fares for the two decks; if you're feeling posh, you can travel on the comfortable upper deck, or you can travel steerage and maybe get a glimpse and sniff of the noisy diesel engine room. You can buy a trip token from the vending machines at the piers. You can also pay by coins at the turnstile, but no change is provided if you don't have the exact fare. M-F $2.50 ($2 on lower deck from Central), $3.40 Sa-Su, holidays.

By train

The Airport Express runs from the airport to Kowloon MTR station in south-west Kowloon in 20 minutes. Most of Hong Kong's rail lines converge on Kowloon Peninsula. If you are travelling from Hong Kong Island, change at Admiralty on the Island Line for the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui from Hong Kong Island. The MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui offers a faster service and is the most popular choice for commuters, so avoid Admiralty interchange during the rush hour (5PM to 7PM). Alternatively the section of Tseung Kwan O Line between Quarry Bay and Yau Tong can be used for crossing the harbour, or use the Tung Chung Line to bypass Mong Kok if you're heading to West Kowloon. If you're travelling to Kowloon City however, the new MTR route is currently under construction and is to be completed in two or three years time. If an MTR transfer is a must, interchange with buses in Hung Hom, Mong Kok or Kowloon Tong is a reasonable choice.

By taxi

Row of taxis at the International Commerce Centre, Kowloon.

Taking a taxi across the harbour to Kowloon can be slow and expensive due to traffic. Some taxi drivers operate only on one side of the harbour, so you may have to find a taxi rank marked "Cross-harbour trips only." Expect to pay tunnel fees both ways unless you depart from a taxi rank dedicated to cross-harbour service.

By helicopter

Helicopter transfers can be arranged between Hong Kong International Airport and the roof-top landing pad at the Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.

By bus

Citybus provides several bus routes from the Airport terminal. The bus A21 ($33) and its respective night bus N21 ($23) are heading to Tsim Sha Tsui going through Nathan Rd. Get off at the stop #14 (or #36 if using the N21) called "Middle Road" if you're going to the Chungking Mansions. The bus A22 ($39) is going to Lam Tin. Although they take longer than the MTR Airport Express, their fares are much cheaper and they call on many more stops along areas including Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui, as well as some nearby hotels. Prepare the exact amount, no change will be given.

Numerous local buses travel through different areas of Kowloon, as well as between New Territories or Hong Kong island. Bus routes with number-prefix 1XX (e.g. 102, 104, 118), 6XX (e.g. 603, 601), 9XX (e.g. 904, 905) are harbour-crossing buses and they call at the bus interchanges of the tunnels and some routes via Kowloon peninsula.

Get around

Entrance to Kowloon Station within the Union Square project, West Kowloon

By public transport

Most of the local bus routes mentioned above are well-suited for getting around within Kowloon as well. The 5 follows Chatham Road north at first on its run from the Star Ferry pier to Fu Shan, with the 6 going northwest from the dock to Lai Chi Kok and providing access to the western side of the peninsula. In the east-west direction, bus 215X leaves from the Kowloon train station for Lam Tin, following Austin Road between Tsim Sha Shui and Mong Kok as it does so. Should you desire more personalized vehicular transit, taxi fares within Kowloon itself are reasonable.

Underground, the Tsuen Wan MTR line runs under Nathan Road, with regular stops. The East and West rail lines terminate at Hung Hom, providing service to some other stations in Kowloon closer to the shore as well. Note the service advisories above for the Kowloon station.

Most traffic in Kowloon is on foot. Sidewalks are often narrow and crowded, especially at night when most people go out. Many small alleys offer shortcuts; check a map or online mapping service (you may also find a delightful store or restaurant this way). In Tsim Sha Tsui, it can often be preferable to use the extensive network of tunnels that connect the Tsim Sha Tsui and East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR stations if going a considerable distance, as they are climate-controlled and traffic poses no problem.

See

Crowded and vibrant: a colourful street in Tsim Sha Tsui

Thai Town

Hong Kong's Thai community is focussed on a few mundane streets in Kowloon City (九龍城寨). This area, adjacent to the old airport at Kai Tak, is off the beaten track for most tourists but it has plenty of good Thai restaurants. Arguably, you may find a better Thai meal here than many tourist destinations in Thailand.

Kowloon City has few of the usual high-rise developments that characterise the rest of Hong Kong. Here low-rise buildings were developed to enable aircraft to scream their way across the rooftops towards Kai Tak. The MTR does not come this way, so take a taxi or bus from nearby Prince Edward MTR.

Landmarks

The Kowloon Waterfront offers splendid views of the Hong Kong Island shore and skyline. This is the best place to experience the classic view of Hong Kong, and nobody on their first trip here should miss out on promenading along the waterfront. The best views are at night when the lights of global capitalism provide a powerful spectacle. If you are not proficient with night-time photography, you can pay a modest sum for a professional to take your photograph against one of the world's most iconic backdrops.

Start at the Star Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, where cruise ships berth at   Ocean Terminal. Visitors can not help but be impressed by the spectacle and majesty of 40,000 tonne cruise liners parked in the heart of the city. Begin your walk by inspecting the historic clock tower, which is all that remains of a railway station that once took colonial officials back to London via the Trans-Siberian railway.

If you continue your stroll along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, you will soon find yourself walking along Hong Kong's version of Hollywood's walk of fame, the   Avenue of Stars. Look down to see where so many local film stars have pawed the wet concrete. You might not recognise their names, but it shows how big Hong Kong's film industry is. The experience is targeted at tourists from mainland China and the piped music gives it a slightly cheesy feel, but the statue of film legend Bruce Lee provides a photo opportunity even for those who know little about Cantonese cinema.

Every night at 8PM there is a colourful light show that is staged atop the key buildings on both sides of the harbour, dubbed A Symphony Of Lights. On Monday evenings, spectators can listen to the show's music and English narration live at the Avenue of Stars, on radio on FM103.4 MHz or by calling 35 665 665.

After visiting the Kowloon waterfront you can take the   Star Ferry. It goes across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island, getting an excellent view of the skyline in the process.

Museums and exhibitions

Parks and nature

Do

Kowloon Park offers an oasis of calm in the midst of high density living.

Buy

If your budget doesn't quite stretch to the Tiffanys, Guccis and Shanghai Tangs of Hong Kong Island, head to Kowloon for more affordable shopping.

Shopping malls

Markets

Kowloon street markets have something to tempt most bargain hunters.

Electronics and computers

Head to Sham Shui Po for gadgets, computer accessories and street markets.

Eat

Kowloon is a great place to go for cheap and authentic Chinese, Indian, Nepalese and Thai food. It makes a welcome change from following the sophisticates who dine across the harbour in Soho. However, for those who seriously want to splurge, some of the swankiest restaurants are to be found Kowloon-side.

Budget

Pedestrian friendly streets offer travellers a great place to eat and people watch. Head for Temple Street and explore the surrounding roads as night falls.

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

View of Victoria Harbour from sky100 Observation Deck, Tsim Sha Tsui

Notable watering holes:

Drinking areas:

Be wary of entering the girlie bars scattered around the southern tip of Tsim Sha Tsui. Their entrances are usually decorated with photos of women in various stages of undress. Strip bars are not popular with locals for good reason. There are reports of these places being owned by rough people, even triads, and they may place unexpected exorbitant charges on your tab (such as a fee to talk to a girl). They may even escort you to an ATM if you don't have enough cash. The days of Suzie Wong have long passed. These places are very much not-recommended.

Hostess Clubs

Sleep

Budget

A large number of guesthouses are located in Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Jordan offering cheap, small but generally comfortable and safe accommodation licensed by the Hong Kong government. These are barebone places to stay so there will be no restaurants, souvenir shops or newspaper delivery. Most owners will only speak basic English. Chung King Mansions and Mirador Mansions, both on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, are famously home to a number of budget hotels and hostels. Having attracted western backpackers for decades, these guesthouses have become increasingly popular with budget travellers from mainland China. Staying at budget hotels is entirely at your own risk and you are advised to seek recommendations from other travellers. Please remember to post your own recommendations here.

Expect budget hotel rooms to be undecorated and small with only a bed (or beds), night stand, telephone and television. Noise from fellow travellers may be a problem, so invest in good earplugs. Most will have "in-suite" bathrooms while others have communal bathrooms. Upon check-in, you should ask the owner how to turn on the water boiler unless you want to shower with cold water. Some guesthouses will include free wireless Internet. Virtually all rooms will come with air-conditioning.

Bookings are not needed and some Wikivoyagers have reported that bookings have not always been honoured. The best way to secure a room is simply by arriving at around 1PM, when many of last night's guests have just checked out. Ask to see the room before paying, and you should pay for only one night. If you're happy with the first night, the owner will almost always happily extend your stay. You should also ask if there's 24 hour unassisted entrance (which is recommended) or if you have to ring a bell at night. Credit cards aren't accepted, it's cash only. Remember to ask for a receipt with check-in and check-out dates clearly printed.

Prices generally range from $150-$250 per night for a single room with en-suite bathrooms. If you are comfortable with a community bathroom, expect to pay about $120. If you know how long you are staying, negotiate in advance to get a lower rate: they want your business over several days, so they will be willing to drop their prices to even $90 a night for a four or five night stay. However some less honest managers tend to increase their prices dramatically around public holidays, in which case it will take either a reservation or a very hard bargaining to get back to the prices mentioned above (or you can simply try and pick a good one, but it can take several hours).

There are more accommodation options on the Chung King Mansion, including dormitory rooms. The building which was once an office building is over populated by the countless cheap hostels within it and is now home for lots of foreigners from poor countries all around the world. The massive amount of people creates a queue of up to 15 min to the elevators at rush hours.

Among those that have a long history are the Travellers Hostel, Block A, 16 Fl in Chungking and the Garden Hostel, 3Fl, Mirador Mansions. There are places in the Mansions however that travellers seeking fair lodging should definitely avoid. Among them are the Fortunate Guest House and Peninsula Guest House, both owned by the same shady individual who will not hesitate to put you in another, cheaper guesthouse while making you pay disproportionate fees and keeping the difference. The said individual has apparently earned himself quite a reputation among the Chinese guesthouse owners, and is usually seen on the ground floor trying to attract customers.

Mid-range

Splurge

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 12, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.