The Kowloon Side of Town

Miles away from Hong Kong Island’s spellbinding hillside views and posh hotspots is where budget travelers seek their temporary homes, and where the rest of the Hong Kong population can relatively afford to live. The place in question is Kowloon, which—if you’re looking for authenticity and have the stomach for slightly gritty places—is one side of Hong Kong that you should seek.

Interestingly, a photograph of Chungking Mansions’ stack of tiny windows will crop up on Google images when you look up the phrase “gritty places.” Kowloon is the densest city in Hong Kong, with over 2 million residents. This becomes more obvious as you avoid bumping into pedestrians.

Kowloon isn’t to be mistaken with the dissolved Kowloon Walled City. While nuances of the wealth gap certainly becomes visible as you get farther away from the harbor, the once poverty-stricken part of Kowloon no longer exists and was demolished in the early 1990s. The site was remembered with a historical park.

Window looking out to Nathan Road
In view: other apartments in Kowloon. Photograph by BFOWB Mom.

First Impressions

BFOWB went to Hong Kong via Macau in July 2016. We almost booked a room at the Chungking mansion, except that the accommodation we chose via Booking.com was more accessible. The space inside, however, is a different story; our shoebox was all the more dwarfed by the department stores and mega-structures around our chosen apartment building.

Roads are super-wide and are a stark contrast to the minuscule apartment spaces. It’s no wonder though as rising rental prices are making it difficult for locals to find a suitable apartment with more moving room, while leaseholders, on the other hand, see it as a chance to maximize their units. Apartments are split into several mini-rooms, each with their own amenities, while others have shared ones.

Limited spaces aside, Kowloon did not disappoint. While we did a lot of walking, the sights were energizing. Tsim Sha Tsui is a vibrant thoroughfare that is home to the Avenue of Stars, as well as a nest of apartments and shopping venues. I was surprised that the tourist destinations were quite easy to find from our place and navigate.

Victoria Harbour view from Kowloon
View of Victoria Harbour from Kowloon/the Avenue of the Stars promenade. Photograph by Sandy Miguel.

Getting Around Hong Kong

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We arrived at Hong Kong via turbojet from Macau. The whole ride took 45 mins, but boarding time for the next trip could take about an hour if you purchase your ticket at the harbor on the same day of your trip.

Kowloon destinations are all connected by its Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station in some way. Major districts including those that lie on the boundary with Mainland China are part of the railway line.

You will need to purchase Octopus card (their equivalent of our Beep card here in Manila). Most tourists opt for the On-loan Octopus card, which comes with a refundable deposit of HK$50. If you forget to return your card, that is okay as you can always re-use it. Just have it reactivated when you return to the country at the MTR station. For example, the Octopus card that I used was loaned to me by a friend.

You can also take a short taxi ride to your destination. The taxi situation in Hong Kong is quite efficient. We took a cab from the turbojet terminal to our miniature apartment in Kowloon, Hong Kong. You can also go for the the whole Hong Kong experience and ride a tram or double-decker bus for the best tour of the city. Night times are perfect, meanwhile, for a Star Ferry Ride across Victoria Harbour, to enjoy the Symphony of Lights.

Kowloon Hong Kong Map

Featured Image by Sandy Miguel

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