Kowloon in some people’s minds if Hong Kong’s evil twin: while most of Hong Kong island is modern and flashy, Kowloon’s image is more run down and trashy. While Hong Kong is the sorority sister with the perfect hair and nails, Kowloon is her naughty sister who is the life of any party. Judge them as you will, but certainly take a look at Kowloon and enjoy the things it has to offer with eyes open so that it all fits with your family.
Unless you can afford the hundreds of dollars per person helicopter rides or swim really well, there are three ways to get to Kowloon. Taxis from the Hong Kong side go through an underground tunnel, which is slow, expensive and boring. The subway (MTR) is cheap, fast and I guess also boring but cheap and fast; the most common stations on the Kowloon side to use are Tsim Sha Tsui (known among foreigners as TST) and Jordan (see more on the subway here). Our recommended way of crossing the harbor however is the Star Ferry (we talk about the ferry in detail elsewhere).
Tsim Sha Tsui
After avoiding the touts near the ferry or subway exit (how many cheap suits and fake Rolexes does the world really need?), there are a couple of places of interest.
While not likely to be officially impressed, the kids may at least tolerate a look at the Peninsula Hotel. The place just screams old money and puffy classism. Built some 75 years ago when the waterfront was right at the front door before landfill fun, this place is expensive and likely designed for people not like us with kids. That said, do look around the lobby and if you want a treat, go for the afternoon “High Tea.” The price in 2005 is about US$20 a person, for which you get tea and a tiered tray of sweets and yummy cakes. The kids will like this, though whether it is worth the price is up to you. I wish I could afford to stay there and feel guilty about poor people while having an in-room foot massage.
All those cool modern buildings across the street or so are where you are headed for more-kid-friendly fun. Crossing the street is not kid friendly however, so look for the underground walkways. The big one is near the TST exit and is well marked. Depending on when you are reading this the passage will be choked with either dust and paint fumes or intensive retail shops. Watch the signs and choose the right exit.
The Other Side of the Road
Assuming you made it across the street somehow, you now have a selection of things to explore.
Hong Kong Cultural Center
If you are hungry, head towards the Hong Kong Cultural Center and its dim sum restaurant “Serenade.” We cover Eating in Hong Kong in general, and dim sum in the specific, elsewhere, so please read that too. The important things to know about this restaurant are that it is reasonably priced (maybe US$10-15 a person) and has an amazing panoramic view of Hong Kong/Victoria Harbor, the w-h-o-l-e skyline view of Hong Kong you have seen and read about. Wonderful. They have a subsection of their menu available in English but you have to ask. Monday through Friday between 2-4pm the prices drop almost by half. No discounts on weekends, sorry.
The Cultural Center offers all sorts of performances and programs, so check their web site. On Sundays many local maids from the Philippines gather to dance and socialize on the front steps. There is some drinking and dancing that some families might find suggestive, so be advised.