Hong Kong has the big city specials like smog, odour, 14 million elbows and an insane love of clatter. But it's also efficient, hushed and peaceful: the transport network is excellent, the shopping centres are sublime, and the temples and quiet corners of parks are contemplative oases. The best thing about being in Hong Kong is getting flummoxed and fired by the confluences ...


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Transportation  |   Kowloon  |   Hong Kong and Arts

Hong Kong Museum of Art

This is an easy decision: if you or your family like Chinese traditional art in all of its forms, this is the place. There are floors of it, attractively displayed and not too crowded. However, if you do not like Chinese art, skip this museum as that is what they have. If you are lame or just not sure, admission is only HK$10, about US$1.20, so pay and have at least a quick look.

The Museum has an excellent bookstore worth looking at even if you skip the art stuff. They offer quite a few nice books on Hong Kong, as well as a good selection of not tacky souvenirs (also tacky ones if you insist) at decent prices. Check out the carved name stamps (“chops”) for about US$10. The aisles are quite narrow and a lot of very breakable stuff is on low, open shelves, so be very careful with strollers and young children.

Hong Kong Museum of Space

Next door is the Hong Kong Museum of Space, though in many minds the terms “space exploration” and “Hong Kong” are not always directly linked. The museum is really more for local kids to discover space and the planets and not really about Hong Kong’s work in the universe. They do have an IMAX and the whole thing might work as a bribe, um, encouragement, to allow you to detour later into more adventurous travel fun with reluctant kiddies.

Nathan Road

One way or another, Nathan Road is a kind of right of passage for Kowloon visitors, so you have to do it too. This is the center of all shopping in the known universe, from real to fake watches to designer goods, both real and fake. It is where you are most likely to have your pocket picked in Hong Kong, and where you will be able to buy the cheapest stuff, albeit at a price. That price is that the whole area is a bit sleazy in feel, and crowded, and you are required to bargain for everything but McDonalds.

Chung King Mansions

If you really want to descend as quickly as possible into the ooze, wander into the street level arcades at the Chung King Mansions. This is the cheapest place in the area to stay for the night, maybe US$20 and if you hate your kids and want your spouse to divorce you, book a room here. Otherwise, browse among the stalls for stolen cell phones, very cheap electronics from somewhere, CDs and VCDs of unknown origin and inexpensive Indian foods. Really, I would not bring my own kids here but found it interesting enough by myself to look around a bit while the family enjoyed fast food nearby.

For some excellent, evocative photos of the place, try www.nathanward.com.

Temple Street Night Market

Near Yau Ma Tei MTR Station is Temple Street, where, in the evenings you will find the Temple Street Night Market. Similar to other such markets in Kowloon, this is a collection of small stalls selling cheap clothing, food, fake stuff and electrical gadgets and souvenirs from the Mainland you don’t need but may buy because it is all "so cheap".

If you are used to shopping only in air conditioned malls, the place has some charm as a new way to exchange money for goods, but otherwise seems a bit sad, like a place destined for ghost town status that decides to revive its fortunes with a new wax museum. Bargain on all prices and no matter what anyone says it is all fake and Region 3 DVDs will not play in your US-standard Region 1 player at home no matter how hard you wish for it to be true. The nearby food markets are full of bloody carcasses of pigs and cows if you need to buy meat; otherwise, just enjoy the sweet smell of flesh while you shop. If your kids accidentally touch anything, just cut off their hands to stop the spread of disease and continue your vacation. Its all a party, baby.