Hong Kong #3: Kowloon Park and Kowloon Tour

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April 7th 2018
Published: September 21st 2018
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We decided to take it a bit easier today and tried to sleep in a little later. I don't think it really worked as we were still out the door before 11 am. The place that I really wanted to have breakfast at didn't open until 11:30, too late for us to wait that long, so we went to another place just a couple of doors along from our guesthouse. The place was called Hunghom Cafe. Since it was a Saturday morning, the place was heaving and I wondered if we would be able to get a seat. However, once we were inside, I saw that the restaurant was a lot bigger than it looked from the outside. We were shown to a table and had a look at the menu. We both opted for the same thing the truffle eggs breakfast set. Our food and coffees came quickly. The coffee was much better than the one I'd had for breakfast the previous day. The food was pretty decent; we had buttered toast, a slice of some kind of ham, and scrambled eggs with mushrooms in them. While the good wasn't amazing, it was pretty decent and set us up nicely for the day.

We had a few hours before the tour we had booked for the afternoon would start, so we decided to stay in our local area and explore Kowloon Park. It was really close to where we were staying so we headed across there and spend an hour or so wandering around the park. Kowloon Park was opened to the public in 1970 and before that it was the site of the Whitfield Barracks of the British Army. The park is massive and it is a nice place to wander around away from the hustle and bustle of Nathan Road. While we were walking through the park, we came across the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre, so headed in there for a look about. The museum was quite interesting and it was good to see how Hong Kong has changed over the years.

After the museum, we continued our stroll around the park. We took a walk through the Chinese Garden. That was quite pretty. I really enjoyed watching the group of artists, who had taken up residence under the pagoda by the water and watched them painting the scenery for a bit. We also came to the Avenue of Comic Book Stars, not that I had any idea who any of them were, but it was cool to look around them. We headed out of the park and walked up to Jordan subway station, looking for a coffee shop on the way. We didn't find one so took the subway to Mong Kok, where our tour would begin and continued to look for a coffee shop. We wandered the streets for about 40 minutes and didn't find one, what the... I was gutted as I really needed a caffeine hit before the tour started.

We had opted to do the Kowloon walking tour operated by 'The Hong Kong Free Tours', the same group we had used for the delicacy tour. Lots of people had turned up for the tour, the group must have been well over twenty people. The subway station was quite busy so we headed up to the overpass to regroup where there was more room. Our tour was run by Michael, who is the founder of 'The Hong Kong Free Tours'. The overpass was a sight to see. It was filled with Indonesian domestic workers, all hanging out and chilling with their friends. From the overpass, we headed to the Goldfish Market. The market used to be a lot bigger but as rents and real estate prices in Hong Kong have increased the small shops selling goldfish and other fish have forced to relocate to higher up in buildings as the ground floor is worth the most money. There was also a very expensive turtle for sale. I can't remember how much it was, but I was pretty shocked that the seller wanted that much for it, I think it must have been some kind of exclusive breed. We also passed places selling creepy crawlies and tiny albino frogs. I don't know if the frogs were actually albino or just that they looked freshly hatched. The buildings in this area were quick old and ramshackled looking, like a crustier version of Tsim Sha Tsui.

We walked further along the streets, not really knowing where we were going and just following the guide. We came to the Flower Market and the guide explained about the origins of the market. If I remember correctly, it had some thing to do with prostitution, which was rife in the area at the time. My memory is a bit hazy but flowers were used either by the prostitutes or their punters to indicate that they would like to do business. The original market is gone but the stores lining the street all sell flowers and the wares extend out on to the road. The market wasn't very big, but it was mice to see all the flowers on display. As we reached the end of the Flower Market, we came to the entrance of the Bird Market, you could tell it was the bird market by all the birds in the air and on the roof of the building at the entrance. We were left to our own devices as we meandered through the market, our guide had asked us to take note of a couple of things before we entered, so I made a mental note to do that. The Bird Market was quite a bit bigger than the Flower Market and I enjoyed strolling around looking at the different stalls. I had never been to a market like this before, so it was a new experience for me. There were lots of birds in cages, some beautiful bright colours, others were chained up by a leg so they couldn't escape. There were also a lot of bugs for sale. They were a bitcreepy, but I suppose they were needed to feed the birds one would buy. One of the stalls belonged to a man who made beautiful bird cages. These cages were quite expensive and the owner is said to be pretty rich as he invested his money in proprty, definitely a smart move in Hong Kong. All the stall holders and customers, save for the tourists, were all pretty old. The guide had asked us to look at the age of the people in the market. This market definitely caters for the older generation and we were left wondering if it would be around in a few years time.

From the Bird Market we followed the road around and came to a residential/ recreational area. There was plenty of seats here, so we all took a break and talked about house prices and rents around the world. It was nice to sit down for a while and we also got to make use of the bathroom facilities in one of the sports centres. The final stage of the tour focused on the housing crisis that Hong Kong is facing. We walked along Boundary Street and Portland Street, looking at somewhat dilapidated neighbourhoods. At one point, we stopped by a small street park and as our tour guide was telling us a bit about the area he got heckled by a local. That was quite amusing and he brushed it off saying it happened more frequently than we would think. The buildings in these neighbourhoods seemed to be the places, where landlords would try to cram as many bodies as possible in their space to maximise profit.

We made another quick pit stop at Lui Seng Chun, a Grade I Historic Building that is located on Lai Chi Kok Road. This traditional style four storey shophouse was completed in 1931. The building now houses the Hong Kong Baptist University 's Chinese traditional medicine and healthcare centre. For sale in the foyer was some herbal tea. It was pretty cheap, so we decided to get a cup each. It was very bitter. I enjoyed it at first, but a whole cup full was just too much and I was happy be finished it. We continued on our tour to Tung Chau Street and Kweilin Street. We stopped underneath an overpass and were told we weren't allowed to take photos here. Just across the way was a collection of small shacks that people lived in. It was harrowing to see this pocket of poverty in the Hong Kong, one of the world's richest places. Our guide had worked with an NGO that had produced a book above the terrible living conditions in Hong Kong and he showed us some examples from the book. It was sad to see that it documented people living in stairwells as it was the only option they could afford. There was also construction work going on the neighbourhood, but this housing would be for sale to the highest bidder, not social housing, which is desperately needed. Our guide had told us that the Hong Kong government is complicit in the lack of affordable housing as it makes a lot of revenue from real estate. The tour was eye opening and I definitely got to see another side to Hong Kong that I would have been oblivious too, if I walked through these neighbourhood by myself.

We were absolutely starving by the time the tour finished at 5:30. The tour had lasted a lot longer that we thought it would. We 'd had nothing to eat since breakfast and were in desperate need of food. The tour had ended at the market by Sham Shui Po station. The guide had pointed redirection that the restaurants were in, so we headed over that way. I can't say I enjoyed walking through the market it was big, crowded, noisy and a bit smelly. I am not a fan of markets in general, they just have a feel of the great unwashed to them. My hanger also didn't help. We took the subway underpass and came up on the other side of the main road. We wandered for about 15 minutes before finding a restaurant we liked the look of. I'm glad we found an Indian place as I hadn't had Indian food in forever and I love it. The restaurant we found was quite small and a bit dingy, but I wasn't too bothered by the places outward's appearance. I was so hungry I could have ordered everything off the menu. All the dishes looked really good, too. Instead of following my gut instinct, we settled on potato samosas, palak panner, chicken tikka masala, rice, keema naan, and a couple of lassis. The food all arrived quickly and it was really good. I enjoyed the naan and chicken tikka masala the most. I love palak paneer, but this one was a bit disappointing. We then made our way back to our guesthouse to rest up for a bit before our night out on the town.

We had decided to head to Lan Kwai Fong. This is the place to go drinking in Hong Kong. I remember coming years ago with my friends and sitting at one of the bars outside and enjoying a few beers. Since today was Saturday and the rugby had been on, this place was rammed. We had a wander around for a bit looking at all the different bars on offer. We ended up with some drinks from a street stall and Frank those while watching the world go by. I am glad I am too old for partying as this place was minutes of hell, millions of people and noise. We had another beer in the park, which was nice and chill, before finding a bar. We ended up at a Korean place called 'Han Jan', which did a load of Big Bang themed cocktails. They all sounded pretty rank, so I stuck to strawberry mojitos. We also got some kimchi nachos, which were delicious despite having zero kimchi in them. We ended up staying in the bar for a few hours, watching the world go by and I was particularly enthralled by a rat across the street that liked to go between its drain and a pile of rubbish. It ended up being a late night and we didn't return to our guesthouse until the early hours of Sunday.

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