It’s no secret that Hong Kong is famous for high-end shopping, but as a first time visitor I was blown away by just how many designer shops there actually are. I’d expected all of the well-known brands to be here, but most of them have three stores, and big ones at that. Thankfully I’m not in Hong Kong to shop so wasn’t even a little bit tempted to walk through those doors.
I’m visiting Hong Kong and Macau for a few days on my way to Shanghai (where I do intend to do a little shopping). Clearly I’m not going to see much in such a short time but wanted the opportunity to take a look around and see if I’d like to come back for a longer stay in the future. When I travel I prefer to spend most of my time walking around getting a feel for the place and its people. This means that I sometimes miss the more popular tourist sites, particularly when I’m short on time. I used to worry about this and wonder if I should be planning my trip better but now I just accept that this is what I like to do and that’s all that matters.
I’m staying half a block from VERY busy Nathan Road in Kowloon. Surprisingly my hotel room is quiet so the traffic hasn’t been a problem at all. Nathan Road, lined by shopping malls, shops and high-rise apartment buildings, runs from the base of mainland Hong Kong for about four kilometres.
I stepped out early on my first full day here and walked the stretch from my hotel to the ferry terminal before the shoppers and tourists hit the streets. At that time of the morning the locals were heading to work and going about their normal day-to-day business. The huge harbour promenade was virtually empty – just a few early morning tourists and what appeared to be some young people recovering from a big night out. The ferry terminal was much busier with locals heading off to work.
I took the short ferry ride across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong island and after a quick wander around the central district, where I discovered even more designer shops, I jumped on one of Hong Kong’s very cute double-decker ‘ding ding’ trams and made my way west to the Sheung Wan district. I’d read that it was a nice area to walk around – a good mixture of locals and a thriving arts community. I was not disappointed. The walk back along Hollywood Road revealed so much about this vibrant and interesting district.
The first few blocks were full of galleries and Chinese antique shops, smart cafes and restaurants. I even found some street art which doesn’t seem to be very common here in Hong Kong. I also discovered the Man Mo Temple. The temple was built in 1847 and is the place to worship the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo). According to the website, both were worshipped by ‘ambitious students looking to succeed in the civil examinations of Imperial China’. The giant incense coils hanging at the entrance coupled with (mostly) young people lighting large bunches of incense sticks for their God (hopefully Literature) made it a very heady but interesting experience and was much bette for the soul (and wallet) than worshipping the God of Consumerism at the temple of Prada or Fendi.
As I continued the walk I discovered some small but very busy food markets selling fruit, vegetables, fish, herbs and spices. These were mostly frequented by locals with the odd tourist like me out for a sticky-beak.
I spent the afternoon wandering around my own neighbourhood on the mainland where I discovered the delightful Haiphong Road Temporary Market, which was essentially a large room full of women arranging flowers. It smelled and looked amazing and I was so pleased to find it.
Later in the evening I went back down to the water’s edge to look at the lights of Hong Kong island which is quite a spectactular sight. People lined up along the promenade taking photos of each other or ‘selfies’ with the beautiful view as their backdrop. An old fashioned Chinese junk boat with its red sails brightly lit cruised around the harbour and a very good busking band entertained people on shore, all contributing to a really nice atmosphere.
Hong Kong is noisy, bustling, colourful, beautiful and very vibrant, and I’ll definitely be coming back for a longer stay in the future.