Hong Kong Asia's World City

Kowloon City

Kowloon City

Where Thailand Meets China

Heidi Pun: “If I have friends come to visit, I definitely will bring them to try different cuisines, such as Chiu Chow and Thai food, which are famous here.”

Just across the harbor from Hong Kong Island lies Kowloon City, a district that’s built a reputation as a foodie haven: you’ll often hear locals talk about ”The Food City” or ”Little Thailand.” This credibility didn’t spring up overnight—it was actually the result of decades, if not centuries, of a very sordid past. The district is named after the former Kowloon Walled City—a 2.7 hectare, densely populated and essentially ungoverned settlement in Kowloon. Before the Walled City was demolished in 1994, it was a largely lawless area under the influence of triads, where high rates of prostitution, gambling and drug use were commonplace and where British colonial forces feared to tread; in Cantonese it was known as the City of Darkness.

Ruamja Thai Restaurant

Today, instead of squalor and anarchy, you’ll find a pagoda and green grass: the Kowloon Walled City Park opened in December 1995, modelled on the Jiangnan gardens of the early Qing Dynasty. Some historical artefacts from the Walled City still remain, including its Yamen building and remnants of its South Gate. Just outside of these walls, you’ll see evidence of the influx of Thai immigrants who moved in to Kowloon City in the 1980s and 90s and formed their own little community—Little Thailand—selling the wares of their home country. A wander around this hood-within-a-hood will introduce you to many of the sights, sounds and smells you’d expect from the Land of Smiles: head to South Wall Road for the biggest concentration of groceries, street stalls and dessert shops. Just around the corner from here is Ruamjai Thai Restaurant and Friendship Thai Food, which are just two of many highly-recommended authentic Thai eateries.

There’s also a heavy Chiu Chow influence in the cuisine here, which can be traced back thousands of years to the movement of Chinese settlers from Chaozhou (Chiu Chow) in China to Thailand, where they later integrated. Some of the oldest Chiu Chow restaurants can be found in Kowloon City, including the famous Lok Hau Fook, which has been open since the 1950s, popular sweet soup spot Hop Sing Tong Sui and traditional bakery Kwai Yue Woo Kee Lung.

Heidi Pun, the owner of fashion outlet Seven Kee Closet

A varied food scene consisting of small outlets also thrives in the small tangle of streets here: you can find old Cantonese diners such as Xiamen Fengwei; one of the oldest and famous bakeries, the Hoover Cake Shop; and halal offerings from Islam Food. For local Heidi Pun, the third generation owner of fashion outlet Seven Kee Closet, it’s this combination of unique flavors that defines Kowloon City: “If I have friends come to visit, I definitely will bring them to try different cuisines such as Chiu Chow and Thai food, which are famous here,” she said. “I will also take them to the Kowloon City wet market, because the market is renowned for being somewhere you can grab the best food in Hong Kong. You get lots of people—and celebrities— who drive to shop here specially.”

A gentrification of sorts is taking place in the neighborhood with the new development of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. This sits on the spot of the old Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport, renowned worldwide for its dramatic landings over the city. Completed in 2013, the terminal is a sleek, long structure that takes inspiration from the former runway, with smooth lines and shark-tooth-like triangular windows dotting its length. At one end of the terminal, a feature arch perfectly frames and commemorates the original flight path taken by each plane as it descended on the old airport. Glorious views of the harbor can be had from all sides—a rarity for space-starved Hong Kong architecture. Besides being a state-of-the-art transit point for international passengers, the terminal also houses a vast rooftop garden—Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Park—dotted with local flora. Restaurants and boutiques are gradually taking up shop spaces to provide food, beverage and other leisurely options.

Cattle Depot Artist Village

Another example of the district’s facelift is evident at the Cattle Depot Artist Village, which served the community as a slaughterhouse (known as the Ma Tau Kok Quarantine Depot) from 1908 to 1999. It’s an enormous estate —five blocks of distinctive red-brick, with pointed roofs tiled in a Western style. In order to protect and to revitalize this Grade II historical building, it was turned into a village for artists and is now home to around 20 art groups.

 

Do-it-Yourself

Morning
  • Hoover Cake Shop
    Egg tarts for breakfast
    Hoover Cake Shop
    You’ll have to get up early in the morning if you want one of Hoover Cake Shop’s famous dahn taht—egg tarts. That the shop opens at dawn is an indication of how highly revered the egg tarts are here. They are made with a flaky puff pastry using Beijing eggs and fresh cream from France. Selling a thousand egg tarts a day is no sweat for Hoover. Other staple Hong Kong favorites include pineapple buns (their specialty is the modern peanut butter pineapple bun), Portuguese tarts and coconut tarts. Contact them if you want a baking lesson while you’re here.
    Address:
    136 Nga Tsin Wai Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2382 0383
    How to Get There:
    MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit A2. Take bus 27 from Clear Water Bay Road and alight at Hau Wong Road. Walk a few minutes along Nga Tsin Wai Road to junction with Fuk Lo Tsun Road.
  • Kowloon Walled City Park
    Go behind the walls
    Kowloon Walled City Park
    The first place you must head to in order to understand the district’s heritage is the Kowloon Walled City Park. These Qing Dynasty-style gardens were officially opened in August 1995 by then-Governor Christopher Patten. The focal point is the Yamen building, the only remaining structure from the Walled City. Follow the floral paths and admire the Chinese pavilions. Also don’t miss the two carved granite plaques from the original South Gate, which had once been the main entrance. Other remnants of the walls, gates, cannons and columns are dotted throughout the park.
    Address:
    Tung Tsing Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2716 9962
    How to Get There:
    • MTR Lok Fu Station Exit B, then take a taxi to Tung Tau Tsuen Road; or,
    • bus 1 from the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier Terminus. Get off at Tung Tau Tsuen Road (opposite to the park).
  • South Wall Road
    Enter “Little Thailand”
    South Wall Road
    Walk through the park to the south and you’ll pop out into the heartland of Kowloon City’s tight-knit Thai community. Running for several blocks, South Wall Road contains the biggest concentration of Thai grocery shops, street stalls and sweet, sticky Thai dessert shops in the area. Just follow your nose!
    Address:
    South Wall Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    How to Get There:
    MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit A2. Take bus 27 from Clear Water Bay Road and alight at the Regal Oriental Hotel. Walk along Sa Po Road to South Wall Road. It’s about a 5-minute walk.
  • Ruamjai Thai Restaurant
    Fill up on Thai
    Ruamjai Thai Restaurant
    Your palate would never forgive you if you didn’t break for a Thai lunch after all the sights and smells of South Wall Road. Walk a block over and you’ll stumble across Ruamjai Thai Restaurant. Here you can enjoy the country’s signature dishes to suit your palate—as extremely spicy or mild as you prefer. Recommended dishes include: pig's knuckle, green papaya salad, duck soup noodle, tom yum goong (prawn soup), satay and pumpkin rice. When you check the bill, you’ll find it extremely good value to boot.
    Address:
    G/F, 5 and 11-13 Tak Ku Ling Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2383 6983
    How to Get There:
    MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit A2. Take bus 27 from Clear Water Bay Road, alighting at the Regal Oriental Hotel. Walk along Sa Po Road and turn left at the first block. It’s about a 5-minute walk.
Afternoon
  • Hop Sing Tong Sui
    Sweet treats
    Hop Sing Tong Sui
    Round off your lunch with a true Hong Kong experience—dessert soup. It’s worth stopping at the buzzing Hop Sing Tong Sui (check out the rave magazine reviews plastering the entrance). Try the ever-popular papaya with snow fungus and the green bean lotus soup. The black sesame soup is another can’t-miss.
    Address:
    9 Lung Kong Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2383 3026
    How to Get There:
    MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit A2. Take bus 27 from Clear Water Bay Road, alighting at the Regal Oriental Hotel. Walk along Sa Po Road and turn left at the first block. It’s about a 5-minute walk.
  • Kai Tak Cruise Terminal
    Cruise to the new town
    Kai Tak Cruise Terminal
    The newly finished Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is an impressive sight to behold. Sitting where the old Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport used to be, this terminal has been built to accommodate mega cruise ships. At one end of the terminal, a feature arch frames and commemorates the original flight path taken by each plane as it descended on the old airport. Glorious views of the harbor can be had from all sides—a rarity for space-starved Hong Kong architecture.
    Address:
    33 Shing Fung Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 3465 6888
    How to Get There:
    • By Train and Taxi: From the airport, take the Airport Express to MTR Kowloon Station (approximately 20 minutes) and it’s approximately a further 20 minutes by taxi.
    • By Mini Bus: Take green minibus 86 at Kowloon Bay MTR station.
    • By Ferry: Take a ferry from North Point or Sai Wan Ho on Hong Kong Island, across the water to Kwun Tong and change to a taxi.
  • Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Park
    Chill out on the roof
    Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Park
    The idea behind the creation of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Park was to come up with a building that was not just a cruise terminal, but also had the flexibility for other uses for the people of Hong Kong. The park was opened on 18 October 2013 atop the new cruise terminal, and it’s equipped with various amenities such as a large central lawn, a viewing platform, water garden, fountain plaza and more. What’s most impressive is the Victoria Harbour backdrop—it’s an angle that few visitors get to see.
    Address:
    33 Shing Fung Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2806 3155
    How to Get There:
    • By Train and Taxi: From the airport, take the Airport Express to MTR Kowloon Station (approximately 20 minutes) and it’s approximately a further 20 minutes by taxi.
    • By Mini Bus: Take green minibus 86 at Kowloon Bay MTR station.
    • By Ferry: Take a ferry from North Point or Sai Wan Ho on Hong Kong Island, across the water to Kwun Tong and change to a taxi.
  • 1a Space
    Delve into artistic spaces
    1a Space
    Check out how the government has worked to conserve and revitalize the historic Ma Tau Kok Quarantine Depot. Now the Cattle Depot Artist Village, this successful initiative has seen the Grade II historical building transformed into an artist community. Now you’ll find the Cattle Depot Theatre, plus drama, concert, small-scale fashion shows and workshops. Gallery 1A Space is just one of the many galleries inside that participates in Art Basel and frequently holds art exhibitions. The artist village is technically closed to the public, so call one of the galleries ahead of time to see if you can make an appointment.
    Address:
    Unit 14, Cattle Depot Artist Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2529 0087
    How to Get There:
    Road and get off at To Kwa Wan Road, near Hung Fook Street. Walk along Ma Tau Wai Road to Fat Kwong Street. It’s about a 20-minute walk.
Evening
  • Xiamen Fengwei
    A diner dinner
    Xiamen Fengwei
    Xiamen-style fried rice and noodles are a tricky dish to get right. To get the real deal, come to this humble shop. Xiamen Fengwei is owned by a true native, and its menu has a comprehensive list of snacks (many of them fried) including soups, soup noodles and rice. Remember to try their most popular dishes: the five-spice roll and the mini wonton dumplings—a delicious combination of shrimp paste and fried dough skins alongside a bowl of savory Xiamen broth.
    Address:
    G/F, 44 Mei King Street, To Kwa Wan, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2954 9788
    How to Get There:
    MTR Mong Kok Station, Exit B1. Then take bus 6F and alight at stop 70C on To Kwa Wan Road. Walk along To Kwa Wan Road, turn right on Lok Shan Road and after a few minutes Mei King Street is on the left.
Others
  • Seven Kee Closet
    Do a spot of shopping
    Seven Kee Closet
    Kowloon City is a great spot to stock up on fashions from Japan and Korea. Check out Seven Kee Closet, a two-story outlet store that was originally set up in 1938 by a family from Macau as a rice and cooking oil retailer. It evolved into an outlet store, one of many on this street, featuring designs from Asia, along with their own locally designed line, SK. They've got another branch, Seven Kee Original, up the street (39 Lion Rock Road).
    Address:
    G/F, 50-52 Lion Rock Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2716 1638
    How to Get There:
    MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit A2. Take bus 27 from Clear Water Bay Road, alighting at Hau Wong Road. Walk along Nga Tsin Wai Road to Lion Rock Road. It’s about a 5-minute walk.
  • Friendship Thai Food
    Eat some more Thai
    Friendship Thai Food
    An alternative for dinner is this poky, humble little Thai restaurant, tucked in beside car mechanics, that has survived in the district for decades and is always full to bursting. The food at Friendship Thai Food is superb and the staff, as the name implies, are really friendly. A lot of these dishes are common in Thailand but rare in Hong Kong so snaffle them here: try lab moo (spicy-sour minced pork with crunchy lettuce), pineapple fried rice, and their “King Dish”—the Thai beef salad, with beef that’s served rare inside, charred outside.
    Address:
    G/F, 38 Kai Tak Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2382 8671
    How to Get There:
    MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit A2. Take bus 27 from Clear Water Bay Road, alighting at the Regal Oriental Hotel. It’s a 2-minute walk just around the corner.
  • Islam Food
    Try Halal-Cantonese fusion cuisine
    Islam Food
    Islam Food is one of just a few restaurants serving halal food, so it’s a popular one among Muslim visitors—many make a pilgrimage to Kowloon City just to eat here. It was founded by Chinese-Muslim couple Mr. and Mrs. Ma (Mr. Ma learned to make Pakistani curries while working at the police station in Sheung Wan). Their first restaurant opened in Tsim Sha Tsui in the 1970s before moving to its current location in the 90s. Their children run another branch just down the road (35-37 Hau Wong Road). The veal goulash pancakes and the equally famous mutton curry are hits among the punters.
    Address:
    G/F, 1 Lung Kong Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2382 2822
    +852 2382 8928
    How to Get There:
    MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit A2. Take bus 27 from Clear Water Bay Road, alighting at the Regal Oriental Hotel. Walk along Sa Po Road and turn left at the first block. It’s about a 5-minute walk.
  • Lok Hau Fook
    Sample Chiu Chow
    Lok Hau Fook
    Lok Hau Fook is a family-run restaurant serving Chiu Chow cuisine to the Kowloon City community since 1954. The décor inside has not changed much since then and this provides much of the restaurant’s charm —Canto-pop star Eason Chan filmed a music video here because it was considered so retro. Come here for old-school Chiu Chow meals: cold steamed crab and goose cooked in spiced soy sauce.
    Address:
    1-3 Hau Wong Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2382 7408
    How to Get There:
    MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit A2. Take bus No.27 at Clear Water Bay Road and alight at Hau Wong Road.
  • Woo Kee Loong
    Enjoy traditional cakes
    Woo Kee Loong
    Woo Kee Lung is one of the most popular Chiu Chow bakeries in Hong Kong, and it’s one of the most traditional—having been open for more than 50 years. Here’s where to come for food during the various Chinese festivals, where you can find Chiu Chow-style variations on sweet snacks including mooncakes and rice dumplings.
    Address:
    35 South Wall Road, Kowloon City, Kowloon
    Tel:
    +852 2382 4642
    How to Get There:
    MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit A2. Take bus 27 from Clear Water Bay Road and alight at the Regal Oriental Hotel. Walk along Sa Po Road to South Wall Road. It’s about a 5-minute walk.

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This guide was produced by HK Magazine Media Group from 2014-2015.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board disclaims any liability as to the quality or fitness for purpose of third party products and services; and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, adequacy or reliability of any information contained herein.

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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this guide, the Hong Kong Tourism Board and HK Magazine accept no responsibility for any obsolescence, errors or omissions contained herein.

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