By Ka Wing Wong
First time visitors to Hong Kong will already have The Peak, Victoria Harbour, The Big Buddha and Temple Street Market on their list of places to see in Hong Kong, but once you’ve been there, done that, what’s next? These are my 5 hidden gems in Hong Kong, and you’re in a for a few surprises on your next Hong Kong adventure! Luckily for you, there are more than a few hidden gems in Hong Kong, your only problem could be tracking down where these Hong Kong secret spots are! But I’m here to point you in the right direction, so let’s get started.
Tai On Building 太安樓
Shout out to all the foodies! Mong Kok isn’t the only street food paradise in Hong Kong, the Tai On Building is a local favourite too. What makes this one special is that despite being a residential building itself, the ground floor arcade which is our main target has endless food stalls. Apart from having most standard Hong Kong street food like egg waffle, offal and cart noodle, there are also choices like torn pancake, Hainanese chicken rice and tong sui (a sweet, custard-like dessert soup) which are fusion dishes with a twist. I am sure everyone will have a stuffed stomach when they leave! The time to experience the market at its climax is midnight, since most stalls don’t open until the afternoon and the locals like to eat late. But coming to the Tai On Building shouldn’t be only about tasting those award winning street snacks; if you’re looking for things to do in Hong Kong it’s also a great place to learn about the old city. The Tai On Building was built in 1968, and it bears one of the longest histories of public housing in Hong Kong. Designed as a H-block, which was the common structure of residential properties in 1960s, even today visiting this neighbourhood can pull you closer to local citizens and their way of life. After all, not every place in Hong Kong is like Central or Stanley.
Monster Building 怪獸大廈
Are you the kind of person who doesn’t carry a professional camera around with, you but still want to document some impressive scenes and incredible moments while you are travelling? If you’re finding yourself nodding, I think you should check this one out. The Monster Building got its name from its architecture complex, which is composed of five old mansions that resemble a walled city. Even some Hollywood directors couldn’t resist the charisma of this famous building. Can you spot where several scenes from Ghost in the Shell and Transformers: Age of Extinction were shot at this location? By daylight, looking up you’ll find yourself surrounded by many stacked flats, and with all those households’ lights at night, it becomes something different - a monster that comes alive! This is one of the most unique experiences in Hong Kong you’ll find.
Garden Hill 嘉頓山
There should be no argument about just how spectacular the view is at The Peak. But you may wonder are there any more places visitors can go to observe the city a little bit more? Maybe not with such million dollars views, but something a bit more down to earth? Well, we have a hill – Garden Hill in Shek Kip Mei. Shek Kip Mei is a relatively old district in Hong Kong compared to where tourists usually go. It is so named because there is a Garden Bakery Plant at the foot of the hill. Regardless of the name, this is certainly a perfect escape from the hustle city life where you can find a piece of serenity. Up at the summit there is a large platform extending ideally for observatory and photography. To really capture one of Hong Kong’s time lapses, it’s best to come near sunset. When the sun is coming down, everything seems peaceful and quiet. But just give it few minutes to finish the transformation, as the city will soon be busy again with streets and buildings all being lit up. In addition to being an observatory, Garden Hill is also a hiking trail and an easy one to conquer - it only takes 15 minutes to the highest point! Hikers will have to climb some stairs which are next to Mei Ho House, which is actually worth spending some time checking out because it has an exhibition about what it’s like to live in public housing in the old time in Hong Kong.
Journey back in time
If you’re looking for some more things to do in Hong Kong, it’s interesting to learn about what were the hacks and survival skills that residents used to get through the tough times. Indeed, the struggle was real! Back then, the government implemented a restriction on water usage, and there was this complete cut off of water at a certain time every day. Residents would have to get in line to fill up buckets and buckets of water, and what’s more, all the bathrooms were built outside the hallways instead of inside each of the apartments. Imagine you have to go outside to the hallway for a shower! So, I recommend people can first explore the Mei Ho House and then walk their way up Garden Hill. One more thing, since there will not be too much lighting along the way to the hill, equip yourself with a flashlight, especially for the return trip once the sun has set.
Ocean Terminal Observation Deck of Harbour City 海運觀點
Every tourist wants a piece of the view of Victoria Harbour. But what if I tell you there is a hidden spot for you to enjoy the 270-degree panorama of Victoria Harbour without the big crowd and blockages above your head? This is really a Hong Kong secret spot! It’s the rooftop of Ocean Terminal, a new extension building of Harbour City, which is now open to public. The whole extension area was transformed from a deserted cargo loading area into a five-storey complex with the free observation deck, restaurants, upgraded customs and facilities for cruise passengers. Every night at 8 o’clock, Victoria Harbour will be turned into a stage for a laser show which is called the “Symphony of Lights”. Green lasers will be shooting out from skyscrapers in a rhythm with music playing at the back. Some magic moments right there! So what I would suggest is you can spend your day time doing your shopping in one of the biggest malls in Hong Kong – Harbour City. It’s connected together by three shopping areas, which are Ocean Terminal, Ocean Centre and the Gateway. The mall features many branded boutiques and a large Lane Crawford. And at night around seven-ish, head over to Ocean Terminal and take the escalator to the top floor.
Gough Street 歌賦街
Have you been wondering whether there’s anywhere in Hong Kong where the pace is slowed right down, but you’ll never be bored? Gough Street is the place! Answering the prayers of hipsters everywhere, this stylish neighbourhood has funky retailers, designer homewares stores and fashionable restaurants all in one place. This area is informally known as NoHo, which means north of Hollywood Road; a nod to the more established wine and dine district of SoHo. You might be familiar with Central, aka the heart of Hong Kong, where money flows and government buildings are everywhere. But Sheung Wan, the neighbourhood where you’ll find Gough Street is still underrated, but is a very unique and trendy area of Hong Kong. On one hand, it’ been lucky enough to preserve some of the traditional sides of Hong Kong. On the other hand, it’s Western influences blend in beautifully. Characteristic places worth visiting are Tai Ping Shan Street, Man Mo Temple and Upper Lascar Row Antique Market. And you know what? They are all in walking distance from each other and can be done in just a day! With the growing popularity of this artistic zone, it’s quite normal to find people doing snapshots with their OOTD and for graffiti artists to leave their trademarks on the streets. Make sure you visit before Hong Kong’s best kept secret gets out!
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