If you go to Hong Kong, you will want to take the train up Victoria Peak, spend some time in the old British quarter of Central, eat Dim Sum, and see the Bruce Lee statue at the walk of stars. To really get a feel for the genius loci of the place, there are a few other places you’ll want to visit and linger to truly tap into the spirit of Hong Kong. If you are visiting Hong Kong, don’t attempt to see “everything”. Ditch your plans, take it easy, and make a promise to come back again. The following are my top 10 Hong Kong off the beaten path places to flow with the Hong Kong current:
1) Mong Kok
When many think of Hong Kong, their first image is of the fantastic skyline of Hong Kong Island. A ferry’s ride away (yes, you will want take a Star Ferry ride and further line the pockets of Stanley Ho, Hong Kong’s Cornelius Vanderbilt and Steve Wynn all rolled into one) is the real heart of Hong Kong- the Kowloon peninsula, and the heart of the Kowloon Peninsula is Mong Kok, home to late night noodle shops, temples, whole blocks filled with the same kind of store (I lived in a building on Nelson St. that housed LED car accessories) and an incredibly vibrant street life.
2) Nathan Road
The pulsating spine of Mong Kok is Nathan road. To get to Mong Kok from the tourist hub of Tsim Sha Tsui, you can either walk up Nathan road or ride on a British style double decker bus. Take the bus at least once and ride up top. If you’ve ever seen a movie filmed in Hong Kong, you will know almost immediately that most of the exterior shots were taken right on this very road.
3) Late Night Noodles
There are oh so many to choose from, so make sure that you have a long stay and feel free to eat out 3 times a day, as, at least in Mong Kok, it can be cheaper to eat a good meal out than to cook at home! It’s crazy, but it was the case when I lived there back in 2006. I recommend ordering Cheong Fun, a rice noodle that comes stuffed with a wide variety of fillings. You should wash down the Cheong Fun with Hong Kong style iced milk tea (Dong Lai Cha). If you are sensitive to caffeine, don’t have any after 4pm. One of the better late night restaurants is the Long Kee Noodle shop, famous for being run by a trio of bodybuilding brothers who make a fantastic noodle soup.
4) Outdoor Markets
The pulse of Hong Kong is often most apparent in the many outdoor markets. During the day, check out some of the many produce markets and go home with some dragon fruit. At night take a jaunt down the one kilometer long Tung Choi Street Ladie’s market for crazy deals on everything from pashminas (I bought pashminas for about 2 USD per scarf back in 2006) to electronic gadgets.
5) Lantau Island Buddha
Situated across from a Buddhist monastery is the largest metal Buddha on the planet. The trip to and from Lantau Island via bus and ferry should be at least a half day trip, but the payoff is wonderfully beautiful. Bring a book or a journal and a picnic and make this a time for reflection.