I find the mere sound of the word ‘Kowloon’ exotic and exciting. It’s up there with ‘Bombay’, ‘Malacca’ and ‘Timbuktu’ – names which to me suggest a far-flung empire on which the sun never sets. So it was a little disappointing when friends advised us against staying on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour. ‘Not dangerous or unpleasant, just a bit dull.’ Fortunately, our day trip across the water from Hong Kong turns out to be far more interesting than expected, and that’s not just damning it with faint praise. Our expedition begins with a short ride on the Star Ferry, not only cheapest and efficient, but also offering the best views of the Hong Kong skyline.
From the ferry pier we have the option of a stroll along the waterfront past the Cultural Centre, Space Museum and the Museum of Art. We save this option for later, and instead head along the busy roads to Tsim Sha Tsui MRT station.
At the end of the Flower Market Street, we arrive at Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. We don’t quite know what to expect here.
What we like about Kowloon is that it feels both exotic and ordinary. Lunch in a crowded cafe is shared with groups of office workers, just as it could be anywhere else in the world. Except that the food is cheap and exceptionally good. Real people live and work here. Next stop on the map is the Jade Market. After a couple of minutes in there we realise we don’t have much interest in jade, and we’re irritated by the insistent salespeople who can’t believe we don’t like little green elephants.
Better was a walk through the local fresh food markets, emerging eventually in the gardens of Kowloon Park.
We feel we’ve packed a lot into our day. We’ve discovered that Kowloon is certainly not dangerous, not unpleasant and, in our opinion, not at all dull. Next time we’re passing through we may even try to stay here.