This is the follow up post to our morning wandering through the many markets of Mong Kok.
Next to the entrance to King’s Park on Nathan road we visited the atmospheric temple of Tin Hau. This small temple is dedicated to the goddess of the sea and the ever-present incense smoke could be smelled and seen from outside of the building. Underneath the open centre were rows of coiled incense spirals, slowly burning beneath the grey Hong Kong sky. Outside on the square we saw beggars and fortune-tellers with their tarot cards. We knew what our immediate future and started to walk through the Temple Street Night Market, where the vendors and food stalls were just starting to set up for the afternoon and evening.
A few blocks west from Tin Hau Temple we found the Jade Market. A covered market hall, with around 400 stalls selling jade and other semi precious stones in forms of pearls, necklaces and braces. We did not want to buy anything at the stalls but it was certainly a different and interesting sight so see. Unless you are familiar with stones it might be advisable to not spend too much money there as you can never be sure you are actually getting the real thing justifying the price you would pay.
The Night Market is a great place to try some Chinese Street food. Seated at one of the tables on stools under the chain of bare light bulbs we had had dinner here on our last trip. It is a popular location for an inexpensive dinner with authentic food and the possibility to share a table with locals from the area. It is perhaps an experience no one should miss on a visit to Hong Kong.
After a brief pause here and then walking on to the corner of Jordan road we turned right towards the tall and modern towers of Austin and Kowloon metro station. It is incredible to see how many flats are squeezed into these skyscrapers and such a foreign concept for us, being used to live in low storied apartment blocks or detached houses in London. Imagine the amount of people living in these blocks, thousands…but I guess with the ever increasing demand of housing in these vast cities it is the only way forward and maybe many of the world cities will follow suit over the coming decades. We soon reached the complex of buildings of Union Square, with the ICC Tower as the main stand out super skyscraper on Kowloon’s side of town. The ICC tower is the highest building in Hong Kong, 469m tall and it serves mainly as an office building with an exclusive designer shopping mall on the first three floors, the Sky 100 observation platform and the luxury Ritz Carlton Hotel on the top six floors.
We were meeting a friend for afternoon tea at Café 103 of the Ritz Carlton. After a walk through the maze of shops in the malls we ended up at the posh lift lobby for the hotel. We were guided into one of the lifts by a friendly staff member and whizzed up to the 103 floor, which almost felt like being back on a roller coaster at Ocean Park thanks to its fast ascend. We received a very warm welcome and were guided to our table in the luxurious café, overlooking one of the restaurants on the floor below. Sadly we were not able to get a table next to one of the windows to enjoy the amazing view but the food made up for that. We had a delicious chocolate themed afternoon tea, with plenty of cakes and savoury bites with our friend who lives in Hong Kong.
The brief journey to the toilet afterwards was almost more rewarding than the meal itself as the floor to ceiling windows gave an impressive view of the harbour and Hong Kong Island. The sunrays shone though the gaps of the clouds and reflected on the sea and the boats below, it incredibly beautiful to see. If I would have the chance to stay in the hotel, I probably would never leave the room and just enjoy the changing views from its window, what a sight it must be at sunset and night time with the colourful neon lights shining on the other side of the bay.
We could have taken the metro from below the complex but Jerome wanted to take the Star Ferry back across to Hong Kong island side. We strolled through Kowloon Park past the indoor and outdoor swimming pool, the Aviary, pretty lakes with flamingos strutting along the shores and at the Kowloon Mosque at its far corner. Once we excited the park, which is a great place for a refreshing escape with children away from the hustle and bustle of Kowloon’s hectic streets, we found ourselves on Nathan Road. This part of Hong Kong is much more commercial and less authentic than the parts we had explored earlier that day. We saw plenty of Asian and western shoppers on the hunt for the next retail fix, outside some of the designer shops we even saw long queues. We ignored all the stores and dodgy men approaching us, trying to sell us fake designer goods, heading for the quay.
When we finally reached the Star Ferry terminal the sun was just setting and we could watch the lights across the bay light up one after another. We waited until it was completely dark and then took the next ferry across Victoria harbour to the New Wan Chai Ferry Pier. Jerome has always loved a ride on the ferries, any child or adult would and no trip to Hong Kong is complete without having taken a ride on one at least once. This wonderful fleet of electric-diesel ships with their unique green and white design have been a long-standing institution since 1870 so remain a must see site for any traveller and especially with children. To get the most dramatic ride, take the short ride across the bay at night from Kowloon to Central like we did, grab a seat on one of the wooden seats or benches on the upper deck next to the window at the front and enjoy the ride – if you are lucky, you might even see one of the junks with their signature sails gliding past. To use the Star Ferry use your Octopus Metro card or purchase tokens at the Star Ferry Terminal.
On our walk back through Wan Chai and some of the seedier parts of town with clubs and bars we were transported straight into the atmosphere a Wong Kar Wai film. The brightly lit, rainbow coloured neon lights were shining up on us from everywhere. We did not know where to look, completely overwhelmed by the buzz of the lights. This is another mesmerising side to Hong Kong that should not be missed. We could so easily get lost in the streets and admire the signs.
A short hop on the tram back to our hotel left us with a complete set of Hong Kong modes of transport for the day.