An old style Chinese Junker boat ploughing through the waters across Hong Kong Harbour, a dazzling array of futuristic fluorescent in the distance, soaring modern buildings covered in glass stand beside dilapidated and overcrowded concrete blocks splattered with vibrant decked out kanji signs from a time long ago. This is Hong Kong; The old, the new and the unexplored, many travellers don’t even attempt to scratch the surface of this misunderstood city. Stay long enough and you will be rewarded with one of Asia’s most fascinating destinations. Hong Kong, city of colour and culture, a photographers dream.
The Old Vs the New
This is why I love Hong Kong, the city is constantly evolving, erecting massive new buildings designed by the utmost famous architects while much of its historic buildings lay far below nestled in hidden corners, waiting to be discovered by a curious traveller.
The people of Hong Kong are also a great example of old and new, youngsters wearing hip hop style clothing walk alongside their elders who often can be seen wearing tailored traditional clothing whilst shopping for birds or flowers at the bustling markets.
Hong Kong might be developing fast, but its people are grasping hard onto their unique and beautiful culture, as a photographer in Hong Kong seeing this delicate balancing is bewildering. In search of both these worlds I explore the countries roots while also delving into its new face.
My favourite area of Hong Kong is Kowloon. This is where grungy neon lit streets display rustic heritage signs soaring high into the sky’s above. It’s where you will find some of Hong Kong’s best food, street markets, cultural sights, and get to experience the energy pulsating from the city.
Kowloon also offers the best variety of great quality cheap accommodation, making it the best place to base yourself as a traveler in Hong Kong.
Jordan Road and Neon Streets
This is the Hong Kong you dreamt about. Set amidst an out-dated neighbourhood the grungy buildings are often covered head to toe in a blinding display of flashing fluorescent signs. The colorfully lit streets reflect from the puddles of rain water while steamy street food stalls call out to oncoming customers.
This area is great to see during the day for its old Hong Kong feel and at night for the over the top display of lights and color. Great food in this area as well!
Hong Kong Harbour
Obviously if you come to Discover Hong Kong you will visit the harbour, but knowing when to come is key. The harbour shows its many faces depending on the time of day.
Mid-day is best avoided as the harbour is at its hottest and the heat can often obscure your view. Afternoon is my favourite around 5pm. There are many different areas to explore to get a unique angle as you watch the changing colours of light.
For me right a sunset sitting at the elevated stands watching the Junker boats take off into the setting sun is amazing. Shortly after the dubbed “symphony of lights” begins.
Temple Street Night Market
During the day Temple Street is just any other street in Hong Kong, but when night falls Temple Street shows its true colours.
The best way to see the street is to climb to the 4th or 5th floor of the parkade at the North end of the street. From here you get that classic look of shadowy dark buildings and the street market wedged in between full of life. Don’t stop here however, actually get into the market and see one of Hong Kong’s liveliest scenes!
Just North East of Hong Kong Harbour is the shiny China Terminal. Enter the building from the main street and take the escalators to the top floor where the hotel is located. Here look up and be amazed by another of Hong Kong’s amazing buildings.
North East Hong Kong
Where the mountains meet the ever expanding metropolis is the North East. Here new buildings erect in what seems a few hours while classics like Choi Hung still display their timeless beauty. Nearby are green mountains and Buddhist monasteries adding to this picturesque region.
The North East is quite spread out making walking a bit time consuming. There is plenty of metro stops making it easy to get around, but if you manage the time to spend walking around you will get to really experience this area.
Ping Shek Estate
Hidden and hard to find, the Ping Shek Estates appear to be regular buildings from the outside, but venture to its inner heart and be amazed with this architectural wonder. Look up and be amazed and try not to get hypnotized.
The Ping Shek Estates are located south East of Choi Hung across the busy highway.
Choi Hung Estate
The multi coloured apartment blocks that surround the elevated basketball court have long been sought after by Instagrammers. Resembling a vintage scene from the 80’s, Choi Hung easily ranks as one of the most photogenic spots in Hong Kong.
Be sure to get here early enough as by midday the sun drowns out the colours and the hordes of Instagrammers cover the courts posing in ridiculous ways for selfies…. I also did this.
Chi Lin Nunnery
Easily Hong Kong’s most dramatic sight of old meets new. The exquisite Buddhist monastery is decorated with bonsai gardens, wooden carved beams, chanting monks and smoking bowls of incense. Look up and you will see modern Hong Kong skies rising and circulating the monastery creating quite the photo opportunity.
Nan Lian Garden
Located right outside the Chi Lin Nunnery is the tranquil Nan Lian Garden. Undoubtedly, the top sight is the Buddhist pagoda that is placed near a beautiful lake surrounded by juniper trees. Similarly to the Nunnery, the Nan Lian Garden offers great views into traditional culture, but modern Hong Kong Looming in the distance.
Hong Kong Island
This is a wonderland for billionaires and architects, and for many travellers the undisputable highlight to their trip in Hong Kong. The main sights of the island are spread out between Quarry Bay and the downtown. Ride the Ding Ding (British Built Local Tram) and see the changes in architecture through Hong Kong’s fascinating history.
Hong Kong’s Hipster Avenue is lined with antique shops spilling onto the street, murals of the countries heroes such as Bruce Lee and artsy cafes well worth hanging out in and watching the crowds go by. It’s a colourful scene that makes for an abundance of fun and artistic opportunities to snap some photos.
Man Mo Temple
Right smack in the heart of downtown Hong Kong Island is the historic Man Mo Temple. Separated into three halls, one is a burial place for ashes another is a shop with a fortune teller and the main hall is a incense filled smokey room dedicated to many different deities.
Man Mo Temple is a great place to see the old Hong Kong tucked away in one of the cities most progressive area’s.
Lai Tak Tsuen
The last of Hong Kong’s circular buildings are located right near Causeway Bay. Recently renovated, these bright pink building blocks are residential apartments fashioned into a circle. From there inner core you can see the floors circulate upwards in a dizzying way.
Entry is restricted, but if you hang outside and ask locals they will take you in and show you their home too!
Every guide book will tell you this is the best view in Hong Kong and they are not wrong. Victoria Peak has enabled tourists for decades to climb the mountain with ease and view one of the world most incredible cities.
After climbing the hill in the historic Peak Tram British cable car you can view the city from a newly build viewing platform (it’s amazing!) or walk the many different hiking trails that snake alongside the nearby hills providing many unique views of Hong Kong.
Come here before sunset and plan to spend lots of time as the night shots are incredible as well!
Yick Cheong Building Aka Monster Building
Another favourite amongst Hong Kong’s Instagram scene is the Yick Cheong Building Complex. Yick Cheong also known as Yick Fat and Monster Building has been the location of many Hollywood films, more recently transformers.
The incredibly over crowded and densely packed apartment complex is an insight into the reality of Hong Kong’s grossly cramped living conditions for migrant workers and low waged families.
Chun Yeung Street
Tucked away in a narrow street is Chun Yeung Street. The street is the home to Hong Kong’s best wet market. Here you can take a look into all the strange sea creatures, exotic produce and other oddities that go into making the countries food so dam delicious.
It also has kept its ding ding tracks and when the tram comes down the crowded streets its fun to watch people/market stalls move out of its way like a scene from the history books.
Many don’t realise that Hong Kong actually doesn’t end at the city limits. From here you can venture to uninhabited islands, forested nature parks, massive Buddha’s and stunning fishing villages. Sadly I never made it to the fishing village of Tai O, but hopefully next year I will make it!
Tiu Keng Leng
Still on the mainland is the newly constructed Tiu Keng Leng. Advertised for its arts university making it hugely popular with students and residents who want a brief break from the city. For the investigating tourist it’s a home to some of Hong Kong grandest apartment blocks many of them scaling well over 300 floors.
Tian Tan Buddha
Located on Lantau Island, in Hong Kong is the Tian Tan Buddha. Yes, it is a very big Buddha indeed. Making the pilgrimage to see it is half the fun to coming here. The island is a heavily manicured giant garden and there are also plenty of hidden temples to find!
Using Maps.Me in Hong Kong
Coming to Hong Kong and trying to find all these sights can be a daunting experience. I used Maps.Me to pinpoint where everything is so that I can plan daily routes depending on light and whereabouts.
You can find all these locations I have mentioned above on their offline map, but I will also include a snap shot of what I pinned for you here! Geoduck and happy photo sessions in Hong Kong!