Finding Old Hong Kong

14 May 2015

Hong Kong is oft thought of as a business hub, a place made for stop-overs on the way to other exotic, cultural destinations. Upon a recent and first-time trip to Hong Kong, this notion was completely debunked. Hong Kong in and of itself is a vibrant city full of diverse culture and layered history.

Here’s our pick for cultural attractions worth uncovering to experience a taste of the old Hong Kong.

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Cafes from yesteryear

Known as cha chaan teng, there are only a handful of Hong Kong style tea restaurants left the city that have kept their original 1960s style alive and well.

 Iconic Mido Cafe in Kowloon

Fit for a scene straight out of a Wes Anderson movie, with its off-white laminate tables, wooden booths and retro tile-work, Mido Cafe is quintessential 1960s Hong Kong . Exuding nostalgia, it’s the perfect place to relax with a traditional Hong Kong milk tea and sample Hong Kong-style delicacies from the old-school menu. Tip: The braised eggplant and Mido-style fried noodles make for the perfect lunch.

 Lunch, Mido Cafe style
 Mido Cafe time warp

Wander through the busy market-stall-laden-streets of Mong Kok before stepping back in time in a quiet table upstairs at China Cafe. Much like Mido Cafe, China Cafe has all the charms of a traditional cha chaan teng. Tip: Try the classic pineapple bun loaded with butter, the french toast slathered in sweet syrup or, for savoury lovers, the Hong Kong-style ham and cheese toasted sandwich, as you imagine yourself in the middle of a scene from a film noir circa 1965.

Mido Cafe, 63 Temple Street, Kowloon

China  Cafe, 1077a Canton Rd, Mong Kok
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Temples and monasteries

Blending the old with the new, Ngong Ping Village on Lantau Island is home to the colourful Po Lin Monastery and the towering Tian Tan Buddah; however, the most scenic way or reaching the village is by a modern, 360 degree ‘crystal cabin’ cable car. The cable car departs from Tung Chung Town Centre and takes around 25 minutes to reach the Ngong Ping Plateau.

 The cable car journey to Ngong Ping

Upon reaching the village, duck into Linong Tea House – where Artistic Flower Teas were founded – to witness an artistic tea ceremony. After ascending then descending the 268 steps to reach the seated Buddah, spend some time in Po Lin Monastery. Tip: First light some incense, taking note: light three sticks in line with Buddhist practice and hold the incense high up against your head. Not at chest height or lower. After spending some time admiring the decorated temples, enjoy a sweet treat made by the local monks from the snack shop next to the monastery’s vegetarian kitchen.

 Sweet treats at Po Lin Monastery
 Looking out at Tian Tan Buddah

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is located around 45 minutes from the Kowloon City at Pai Tau Village in Sha Tin and is one of Hong Kong’s most famous Buddhist temples. Be ready to say ‘Namaste’ to the 431-step pathway lined with 500 golden life-sized Arhan statues, each representing the experience of enlightenment. Once you reach the main temple, admire the walls lined with over ten thousand miniature Buddha statues; then take part in a Buddhist ritual such as Kau Cim, a Chinese fortune telling practice.

 The path from the Ten Thousand Buddahs Monastery

Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddah, Ngong Ping Village, Lantau Island

Linong Tea House, shop no. 8 at Ngong Ping Village

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Tai Po Road - Sha Tin
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Tai O Fishing Village

Wind your way through shopping alleys with stores selling all manner of fresh and dried fish, dodging past un-phased bicyclists as you roam the streets. The residents of this part-dilapidated fishing village are as adaptable as the tide, and barely blink an eye at the nosey tourists peering into their living quarters. Tip: Architecture and design buffs take note: the eclectic building styles in this village that time forgot are captivating, so have your camera at the ready.

 The captivating Tai O Fishing Village

Take a short boat ride along the village waters and out into the surrounding ocean to spot one of the region’s famed pink dolphins (while we didn’t see any on our trip, our guide has spotted them on several occasions).

 Collagen-rich dried fish stalls at Tai O

Try the snack food off the street from sweet sticky pork jerky to locally made rice buns with peanut filling, and then pull up at chair at a local restaurant. Tip: Head to the homely Tai O Crossing Boat Restaurant for traditional Cantonese seafood dishes.

Tai O Crossing Boat Restaurant, 33 Kat Hing St, Tai O, Lantau Island

 Street food in Tai O

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Don’t make Hong Kong a stopover, make it a destination.

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A Foodie's Long Weekend in Hong Kong

The Best Of Both Worlds At Harbour Grand Hong Kong & Harbour Grand Kowloon

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Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Hong Kong.

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Rachel Surgeoner

A self-confessed 'food-tourist', I take hunting for the world's greatest sandwich very seriously, my quest has taken me from Berlin to Hoboken. Stopping off only for vintage shopping, craft beers and Mediterranean sunsets.