One day in Kowloon, Hong Kong: Dim Sum and Markets

After exploring Hong Kong Island on my first day in Hong Kong, I crossed the water to Kowloon to spend a day discovering what mainland Hong Kong had to offer. What I found was the world’s cheapest Michelin starred dim sum and some serious brand name bargains at Hong Kong’s myriad of markets.

I was on a mission to find luxury for less in Hong Kong and I soon learned that there were plenty of high-end experiences and things to do in Kowloon on a budget.

Day 2 in Hong Kong: My Kowloon itinerary

Kowloon city guide

Tim Ho Wan

I had big plans for day two in Hong Kong: a meal at the world’s cheapest Michelin starred dim sum restaurant, Tim Ho Wan! First though, I had to get there – no walk in the park when you don’t speak Chinese and the taxi drivers don’t really speak English. Ignorant tourist, me? Nah.

The chef behind Tim Ho Wan used to run things at the Four Seasons but set up on his own because he wanted to serve quality Chinese food at an affordable price, and though many branches of his restaurant have popped up, I went to the original in Mongkok, which happens to be one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the world. Eventually, I found my way to Fuk Wing Street, where Tim Ho Wan (the restaurant, not the man) sits inconspicuously in the middle of a row of shabby looking buildings.

From the outside it looks like every other dim sum canteen in Hong Kong, but as soon as those prawn dumplings entered my mouth, I understood how this place earned a Star.

original Hong Kong Tim Ho Wan shop

I’d heard horror stories of two hour waits, but I had no problem being seated. You’re placed wherever there’s space so I joined three girls from Kyoto and marked my order in pencil on the order sheet. It’s chaotic and there’s no frills, but that’s what makes it so authentic.

Tim Ho Wan original restaurant in Kowloon

Soon, steaming servings of prawn dumplings and vermicelli rolls arrived along with tonic medlar cake for dessert. They bring out your food in the order it’s ready, and you wash it all down with unlimited hot tea.

Tim Ho Wan original restaurant in Kowloon

Tim Ho Wan original restaurant in Kowloon

The pork buns are the stars of the menu, and though I wasn’t sure about the combination of sweet outer shell and pork filling, I was pleasantly surprised.

Tim Ho Wan original restaurant in Kowloon

I was amazed that I had managed to find Michelin starred cuisine in Hong Kong for just 82 HKD for four dishes. If you get a chance, you need to eat here.

Watch the video

More things to see and do in Kowloon

Nowhere is Hong Kong’s heaving population more apparent than on Nathan Road. Undoubtedly the grittier side of Hong Kong, it’s heaving with people and scents. Nathan Road is Kowloon’s main artery, where the buzz of neon lights adds to the the cacophony of food hawkers yelling in local tongue, business people yammering into their phones and schoolgirls giggling behind their hands.

Nathan Road Hong Kong

Kowloon Hong Kong guide

Like any big city, the best way to get a feel for Kowloon’s frenetic energy is to pace the pavements and get lost down side streets, so that’s how I spent the remainder of the day, taking in a few of Hong Kong’s many markets along the way.

Kowloon Hong Kong

Kowloon Hong Kong

Kowloon Hong Kong

Kowloon Hong Kong

Tin Hau Temple

I had visited Man Mo Temple on Hong Kong Island the day before, and I was curious to find out whether other temples in Hong Kong would be much different. Turns out they aren’t.

temples in kowloon

Kowloon Hong Kong temples

Outside, tarot card readers and gaggles of men playing chess gather under the shade of the trees.

Markets in Kowloon

Hong Kong is a shopaholic’s paradise, and whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it on the streets feeding off Nathan Road. I wasn’t there early enough to squeeze in the Flower Market, but I did shop at a few others.

Goldfish Market

I was soon battling down Tung Choi Street North street, which is lined with shops selling live marine animals – turtles and tortoises and every fish imaginable. The Chinese regard fish as good luck omens in the art of feng shui and the Goldfish Market is the hub of pet trading in Hong Kong. It’s a bizarre place to visit.

Kowloon Hong Kong goldfish market

Kowloon Hong Kong goldfish market

Jade Market

The world’s largest jade market sits opposite Tin Hau Temple. Jade is believed to symbolise good health and long life in Chinese culture. There are hundreds of stalls and this is the place to buy a good luck charm. Which animal your pendant should take the form of depends on the year you were born.

Kowloon Hong Kong jade market

Kowloon Hong Kong jade market

Ladies Market & Temple Street Night Market

Though both very similar, the one km long Hong Kong Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street and Temple Street Night Market are worth a visit, particularly if you fancy a few knock-off designer handbags, purses, sunglasses and more – all at a price that’s open to negotiation. I practiced my haggling skills and came away with three pairs of sunglasses, a silk kimono that cost just 70 HKD and a fake Mulberry at 100 HKD. I figured it was time to leave, before I spent my rent for the month.

markets in kowloon

markets in hong kong

markets in hong kong

markets in hong kong

markets in hong kong

Somehow, I was hungry again. I ate fresh squid and noodles at a bustling outdoor cafe and saw a girl eating a cheese sandwich with chopsticks. That’s it, I’ve seen it all now, I thought, and started heading back towards my hotel on Hong Kong Island.

 Kowloon Park

After the chaotic surrounds of the markets and Nathan Road, the tranquillity of Kowloon Park washes over you and you could almost forget you’re in Hong Kong’s beating heart. This peaceful place was actually once an army fortress that was handed over by the military for public use in 1970. I ventured in on my way ‘home’.

hong kong park

There’s an outdoor swimming pool and a Chinese Garden where turtles float in the water. It’s the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic. By night, older residents practice Tai Chi in the park, offering a rare glimpse into the tradition.

Tsim Sha Tsui

I was soon back on Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade where I boarded the star ferry back to Hong Kong Island near the clock tower.

kowloon clock tower

I definitely preferred HK Island to heaving Kowloon, but both sides of the harbour had their own charm.

It’s absolutely possible to treat yo’self for less in Hong Kong, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I spent under £200 – including plenty of bargains at the markets. My sunset cruise on the first day was super relaxing, but eating world famous dim sum at Tim Ho Wan was a unique experience that I’ll always remember.

While Hong Kong is best explored on foot, you can buy tickets for Big Bus Tours online before you arrive if you’re short on time or would rather  have someone else navigate for you.

I stayed at Butterfly on Hollywood hotel over on Hong Kong Island and it was the ideal base for two nights – affordable, comfortable and well located. Highly recommend!

You can pin this post to your bucket list on Pinterest, share it and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (dannielle-lily) if you want to see more adventures in Dubai and beyond. Ciao for now!

Share:

12 Comments

  1. July 30, 2016 / 8:40 pm

    I visited Hongkong a lot last year. I loved it. It feels so vibrant and all that. Try the rural areas too its fun.

  2. July 31, 2016 / 3:54 am

    Those Dim Sum photos made me hungry! I wouldn’t mind visiting that Michelin star restaurant 🙂

  3. July 31, 2016 / 9:20 am

    I found a great online app (can’t even remember the name now! lol) that did a self guided tour through Kowloon and took us to all the different markets and highlights. It was a great way to see Hong Kong!

  4. July 31, 2016 / 6:59 pm

    Your posts brought me back some amazing memories that I got from living in Hong Kong for half a year. I was also walking around all the markets and trying out new tastes. I am glad you liked the dim sum:)

  5. August 1, 2016 / 1:38 am

    Hong Kong was actually the first country that I’ve traveled to (abroad) so your post just gave me doses of nostalgia today! I’m glad you enjoyed it; now I feel like I need to get back there soon :))

  6. wanderingwagarschristina
    August 1, 2016 / 3:39 am

    An affordable Michelin starred dim sum restaurant? Kowloon is now a must visit in book!

  7. August 1, 2016 / 4:33 am

    I’ve heard so much about Tim Ho Wan that I’m dying to get there and try these famous Dim sum! Awesome that you were able to be seated straight away!

  8. August 1, 2016 / 4:35 am

    Great street photos! I especially love those colourful shoes. I haven’t heard of anyone who didn’t enjoy Tim Ho Wan, those buns are amazing.

  9. August 1, 2016 / 7:32 am

    I just read about Tim Ho Wan somewhere else as well–sounds like I need to plan a visit there sometime soon! Looks like a great spot! I always love checking out markets, and it looks like you found a lot of great ones. I think ending the day with a walk through that calm park sounds like a perfect idea. Definitely sounds like you succeeded in luxury for less!

  10. August 1, 2016 / 3:54 pm

    I’ve never visited Hong Kong but it sure looks amazing. I’d love to try that dim sum – it all looks really delicious! Great photos!

  11. The number of times I’ve been to Hong Kong and I still haven’t made it to Tim Ho Wan. Next time I’ll be making a beeline there for sure although I too had heard about huge queues. Hopefully I’ll time it right like you did and walk straight in 🙂