A first impression of Hong Kong is often centred around the dominating architecture and hectic, people filled streets, and what with so much looking up at the skyline it often takes a few days to focus on the multilayered and intricate cultural elements in the city. But rather than see it in a museum or some sort of exhibition, I’m all about immersing myself in the day to day lives of the locals, to understand their culture as they see it. In partnership with Hong Kong Tourism Board, today I’m sharing my favourite things to do to experience Hong Kong culture as the locals do.
Hong Kong Guide: Culture & Life
This ancient form of exercise is actually a martial art, and take it from me it’s WAY harder than it looks. Every morning all over the city, the elderly of the city congregate in parks and on lawns to practice and balance their chi – no wonder they all look so spritely! To take it all in and even have a go yourself, wake up early and hit a local park, Victoria Park, Kowloon Park and the small park on Po Hing Fong in Sheung Wan are my picks.
The Tung Po Bird Gardens
Adjacent to the Flower markets you’ll find the Bird Gardens, and while they’re a somewhat well known landmark in the city, I like to go there not for the bird (although they’re pretty!) but for the men who come there to chat and socialise, often with their own small cage of precious birds.
Man Mo Temple
A serene oasis amongst the hectic streets of Central, Man Mo temple is one of my favourite spots to take a breather. The patterns of hanging incense and lanterns make it one of the most picturesque places to visit.
The Wednesday Night Races
A true Hong Kong institution, the track itself is a surreal experience set amongst the 80 storey buildings of Causeway Bay, and the atmosphere is always electric. And don’t expect to find a Ladies Day style atmosphere – Hong Kong locals take their racing very seriously as it’s the only form of gambling allowed.
Although Shanghai Street is ostensiably a shopping destination, for me it’s so much more than just that. A street with shop after shop of traditional cooking utensils, including steaming baskets and steel spoons, these small domestic items say so much about the love of food and cooking that is ingrained in Chinese culture. You’ll be tempted to buy everything, but even if your suitcase won’t allow that it’s worth a stroll.
Hong Kong Shopfronts
What struck me when I first moved to Hong Kong was the fine grained nature of the local streets – I was particularly drawn to the tiny shop fronts that house printers, stationary stores and tea shops. Although like most cities Hong KOng is experiencing gentrification, and many of what once was has now moved on, there are still areas where you can explore the tiny, immaculately arranged stores that sell only a handful of goods. Areas like Sham Shui Po and Yau Ma Tei are perfect for this type of exploring.
Sai Kung Pier
Sai Kung Pier is uniquely Hong Kong – with the boats that pull up to the pier with the catch of the day and the many dog owners who go there to show off their pet’s new outfits, it’s world’s away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a great place to explore before sitting down to a Cantonese meal.
Love these old mail boxes
Wandering the busy streets of Sheung Wan (my studio is right upstairs!)
Take a tram
Immerse yourself in red
Visit Tung Po Bird Garden
Buy some traditional medicines
Take a red limousine (you won’t actually be able to avoid it!)
Visit Man Mo Temple
To celebrate Hong Kong Summer and our new partnership, Hong Kong Tourism and Flight Centre are giving away an amazing travel prize to Hong Kong, including flights and 5 nights accommodation. To top it all off, I’ll be personally showing the winners around this gorgeous city, so they can get the hidden insights. Head to the Hidden Hong Kong site here to enter!
Photos by Nicola Lemmon