Known as the “crowded corner” in Chinese, Mong Kok has been labeled the busiest district in the world by the Guinness World Records. A conglomeration of eclectic buildings, lights, sounds and stalls – it is one of the major shopping centres of Hong Kong, with streets named after the things they sell from flowers to goldfish, sneakers and kitchenware. Yet the region has been at the heart of contention this winter with the government’s steady extermination of Mong Kok’s famous fishball stalls. A delicacy many locals were ready to riot over. You can also follow this link to find a list of top restaurants in Mong Kok.
Promising to wake you up with their specialty coffee is 18 Grams, an independent coffee chain that has taken Hong Kong by storm. Managed by a world-class barista judge – 18 Grams serves fantastic coffee and even better banana bread – grilled and served with organic honey. For a reasonably priced breakfast in the heart of busy Mong Kok, this is the place to go.
After a quick breakfast, head to Fa Yuen Street or ‘Sneakers Street’ as it is also known. Now on the must-do lists for tourists, Fa Yuen Street has always been a popular shopping-hub for locals. With bargain shoe and clothes stalls selling a selection of genuine designer brands, you’ll be able to pick up some imperfect ‘seconds’ for a fraction of their original cost. The food market running through a section of the street has been pedestrianized for visitors too, leaving way too lively fruit and veg stores with exotic produce and animated sellers.
For lunch grab a scoobie-snack at one of the street food stalls on Fa Yuen Street, Bute Street or Argyle street. Here you will find local delicacies such as fried stinky tofu, folded and grilled scallion dim sum on a stick, sweet glazed chicken wings, turnip cakes, and beef, pork and fish balls. The chaotic sounds of sizzling and steaming, as well as the screeching cries of the vendors – gives you an exciting taste of Hong Kong. If you need something thirst-quenching after a morning of market-scouring, try one of the fresh juices available at the stalls – from mango juice with sago to fresh pineapple juice, you can choose any combination that takes your fancy.
Wander towards the Grade 1 listed Lui Seng Chun building on 119 Lai Chi Kok Road in Mong Kok. The building was built in 1931 as a Tong Lau building, a style of tenement building that was built in Macau, Taiwan and southern China in the 19th century. The balcony-style buildings were used for both residential and commercial use – pawnshops and street vendors mostly, influenced by the Neo-classical design that was popular in Europe. Using wood, tiles and iron for the balconese, the design was similar to traditional Cantonese buildings but used windows of a classic French style.
Next make your way to the Tung Wah Museum, located on Waterloo Road. Built in 1911, the museum was once the first hospital providing free health care to the Chinese population. Maintaining the original authentic décor, the former-hospital holds archives pertain to the building’s long history.
For dinner, try your luck at the Sichuan shop Sour and Spicy Noodles. Located in Dundas Square, the restaurant’s tagline is ‘so sour it makes you salivate, so spicy it makes you cry!’ If you’re a spice fiend who wants to try something other than Cantonese cuisine, maybe Sichuan is for you. From Chongqing Chicken to their Sichuan-fish, you’ll be guzzling down the beer as fast as you can but those dried chilies are well worth it.
Later, head to the Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street to grab a bargain – depending on how good your haggling that is! Here you will find everything from weird and wonderful electronics to fake bags, watches and jewellery, as well as some traditional Chinese handicrafts. Situated between Sai Yeung Choi Street and Fa Yuen Street, the Ladies Market is completely touristy but is definitely worth checking out. Vendors shout ‘missy missy’ aggressively from their stalls, while their produce is laid out in small booths under the open air. In the humid heat of Hong Kong, there’s a distinct fever in the air at the Ladies Market that’s unmissible. So stop and have a Tsing Tao in a dai pai dong when you get tired.
Finally, make your way to Sai Yee Street for some midnight mah-jong. Expect to see competitive grandmas on plastic tables battling over the traditional Chinese gambling game.
Images courtesy of www.expedia.com.hk, hongkongthrumyeyes.com, ilovehongkong.org, www.heritage.gov.hk and www.facebook.com/18gramsmk.
Emma Russell | Editor