1 Wong Tai Sin Temple
The 7-minute ferry ride north from Hong Kong Island across Victoria Harbor to the Kowloon Peninsula was a welcome respite from the bustle of Central. My destination was the Hung Hom ferry terminal in the shadow of the new Kerry Hotel, my home-base for the next few days. Once docked, I made my way the couple of blocks to the Whampoa MTR station to begin my Kowloon afternoon.
Hong Kong’s extensive MTR system is undoubtedly the best way for a newcomer like me to get around, so I had more or less mapped out my itinerary based on the MTR’s route maps. Fortunately everything I wanted to see was an easy walk from one of the system’s stations.
Wong Tai Sin Temple is a deep plunge into the culture and religious traditions of Hong Kong. The temple is home to three religions: Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. In addition to hundreds of worshippers observing various customs, there were hundreds of tourists – mostly Chinese – posing for photos beside colorful statues and architectural features. The grounds wander back into a series of garden pathways, dotted with pavilions and seating areas, ideal for quiet contemplation and appreciation of the rich display of flora. Of course, if quiet contemplation gets boring, there’s always the modern glass-and-escalator shopping mall just outside the temple gates – this is Hong Kong, after all. Open daily 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
2 Hong Kong History Museum
When a visit to the Hong Kong History Museum was first suggested, I wondered how much history there could be in such a tiny place. Well, it turns out it’s quite a bit. So much, in fact, that it takes two floors of this large museum complex. Start by deciding what interests you – the region’s natural epochs or its political and cultural history since about 1842, when it became a British colony. There are plenty of fun exhibits including a full-size Hang Trawler (a traditional fishing boat) and a 30-foot-tall tower of buns from Cheung Chau Island’s Bun Festival. Open Mon, Wed-Friday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Sat-Sun 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM, closed Tue. 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
3 Harbour City
If there is a national sport in Hong Kong, it’s probably shopping – an activity that’s less about buying stuff and more about the social experience. So from marketplaces to malls, Hong Kong retailers are among the savviest and most customer-centric in the world. Harbour City is set on the waterfront in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, occupying the site of one of Hong Kong’s oldest wharfs. Over 400 stores span the nearly two-million-square-foot complex, which encompasses a Marco Polo hotel, the Gateway arcade, Pacific Club Kowloon, Ocean Centre, and the Ocean Terminal that is both Hong Kong’s first shopping center and a cruise ship terminal. Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. harbourcity.com.hk/en.
4 Temple Street Night Market
Just up the road from Harbour City’s glitzy high-end stores and restaurants, yet feeling a century or more away, this legendary street market is loaded with ambience, unusual characters – everything from juggling acts to opera – and dai pai dong (open-air street stall) food. All kinds of merchandise is plentiful and price tags are really opening bids – negotiation is not only acceptable, it’s expected. It looks like some unique cultural festival, but this spectacle is an every-night affair starting at sundown and rocking on well into the night. Kansu Street and Jordan Road, Mongkok, Kowloon. temple-street-night-market.hk
5 Red Sugar Terrace Bar
Cultural overload having reached its peak, I doubled back to the Kerry Hotel where I meet up with my fellow travelers at Red Sugar, the hotel’s bar. Perched at a table on waterside terrace, I’m treated to one of the bar’s specialties, cocktails pre-mixed and aged in barrels for two to three weeks. My Manhattan was smooth and cold, served up in its own bottle emblazoned with my name. It seemed the perfect complement to the dazzling night skyline of Hong Kong Island reflected in the waters of Victoria Harbor. Kerry Hotel Hong Kong, No.38, Hung Luen Road, Hung Hom Bay, Kowloon. shangri-la.com.