I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Hong Kong has endless corners to explore. My recent journeys through this mini country of 8 million people took me to Yau Ma Tei. It’s an area those unfamiliar with Hong Kong will hopefully want to get to know. I was actually there for my girlfriend’s birthday and we had a few nights in really nice hotels to get a feel for this place as a tourist, rather than a local or a cheapskate just backpacking through. We stayed at the excellent City View Hotel in Yau Ma Tei which comes recommended as the best hotel in Yau Ma Tei.
Here are seven cool things to check out in Yau Ma Tei, these can all be visited within a 24 hour period if you are pushed for time. They are all walkable from the City View Hotel. I’ll write about Mong Kok (the district next to Yau Ma Tei) in another article as we spent a night there as well.
1. Nathan Road
Get to grips with the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s “Golden Mile” on Nathan Road. Buses and taxis drive past 24 hours a day. There are restaurants and cafes galore. There are designer jewellery and clothes shops. And if it all gets too much for you, there’s always a massage parlour for a Thai or Chinese massage, or a bar for an ice cold beer. Nathan Road remains my favourite street in Hong Kong.
The best way to explore Nathan Road is to walk at your own leisure and visit any shop or restaurant that takes your fancy. The road stretches all the way from the seafront (in Tsim Sha Tsui) to Prince Edward MTR station.
2. Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market
Please, please remember this – Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market is one of the best yet least expected experiences for a traveller in Hong Kong. I have travelled through over 100 countries and this is the only place that I have seen of its kind – it’s basically a crazy night time wholesale fruit market.
Be ready for an early start though!! It runs from around 3am – 7am. It’s a huge wholesale traders fruit market that has been going for generations. It’s on every night. Local businesses come here to buy their fruit. And yes – it’s only fruit. Nothing else.
When you are touring the Yau Ma Tei fruit market, you will probably be the only tourist there. This is a real glimpse at Hong Kong’s trading life at its best. Please note that there are lots of hazards though – heavy machinery, crates been pulled past you and forklift trucks about. It’s total madness!!
This was my highlight from Yau Ma Tei and one of my favourite things to do in Hong Kong. There are types of fruit here that you cannot get anywhere else in the area, and because you are buying in bulk, they are cheaper.
We bought red dragon fruit and special Kyoho grapes. My girlfriend loves these grapes.
What we saw but didn’t buy are a huge range of fruits including starfruit, durian, limes, yellow watermelon, mango apples, Canadian cherries, honeydew melons, large mangoes, guavas, custard apples, Colombian dragon fruit.
3. Tin Hau Temple
People don’t normally visit Hong Kong to specifically tour temples, but they are missing out on some of the coolest and most spiritual places in the city.
The thing I love about temples in Hong Kong is that outside the temple it’s madness, busy and crazy. Yet once you step into that temple, you feel at ease in silence and peace. Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei is a perfect example of a temple in the heart of the city – get your spiritual and cultural head on and make a visit to Tin Hau Temple.
4. Temple Street Night Market
You’re never far away from any kind of market in Hong Kong and one of the most famous ones is Temple Street Night Market.
Temple Street Market is popular with tourists and locals alike in the evening, it is common to see the place crowded at dusk so try going mid afternoon to check it out in detail and then return later just to dip in and see the madness. It sells cheap merchandise and food items, amongst other completely random things like jewellery, porn magazines and phone accessories.
Temple Street night market is actually aimed at men, so don’t be surprised to see hookers here, or stalls selling a number of condoms and lubricants. Hong Kong has never been a city shy about sex, just ask Suzi Wong.
5. Jade Market
The Jade Market in Yau Ma Tei contains hundreds of vendors selling jade jewellery, accessories and good-luck charms. The Jade Market runs from 10 am to 3.30 pm and is on Battery Street in Yau Ma Tei. The range is pretty phenomenal, even though I admit it is not my personal thing!
6. Yau Ma Tei Theatre
I was surprised to find this vintage theatre in the heart of the bustling city here. Yau Ma tei Theatre is a place of history and performance and it sits nicely opposite the street from the fruit market.
We didn’t make it to a show when we were there, but I’d recommend it if you can. The theatre has a history of being a listed red brick building, which was later refurbished into the quirky modern day Chinese theatre that it now is. It’s a small venue, so get in quick for tickets for popular events. You can register for a guided tour of this quintessential venue for Chinese Opera.
7. The Acme Building, Nanking Street
Officially the Acme Building is closer to Jordan MTR station than Yau Ma Tei, but being a short walk from the hotel, this place might come in interesting for Britpop Music fans. The Acme Building on Nanking Street is the venue where English Band Blur came in 2013 and in this very building, they decided to reform the band and release a new album, inspired by Hong Kong. The early sessions for the record were written and recorded here. Damon Albarn mentions the building and his time in Hong Kong during a recent Blur documentary.
The new Blur album features songs about Lantau Island, Happy Valley and Jordan and the band launched their Asia and Australia tour in Wan Chai in July 2015.
Overall, Yau Ma Tei is just a small snippet of life in Kowloon and I recommend heading here to check these things out. I also love Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and the outer parts of Kowloon like Yau Tong and Kwun Tong. It’s a huge place to explore, so I hope these seven will get you started in Yau Ma Tei. I’d also recommend booking into the City View Hotel. Here are the details for booking the magnificent City View Hotel in Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong:
City View Hotel Website
Address: 23 Waterloo Road, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, Hong Kong
For enquires or reservations, please call: (852) 2783 3888 or email to [email protected]
Here are some videos I took over the times I have spent in Yau Ma Tei the last few years:
6 thoughts on “Backpacking in Hong Kong: 24 Hours Exploring Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon”
Reading about the Fruit Market reminds me of the Ontario Food Terminal here in Toronto that my Dad would take me to as a young child in the late 80s. Farmers would come in with their fruits and vegetables to sell them in bulk from 4am – 10am usually and it was open to the general public, as well. Looking at your photos instantly reminded me of the chilly air we felt as we left in the early morning hours to sell our peaches at this Farmer’s market and the hustle and bustle we would see around us there.
Those were some happy times for me as a child, so thanks for that wonderful (albeit unintended) childhood flashback! Much appreciated. And you are correct – if you get a chance to visit these types of fruit markets, then do it! It is definitely one of those things that everyone needs to experience once in their life. Pure bliss!
Hi Ray – it sounds very similar to the one in Hong Kong. The only difference I can see is when you say “chilly air” in Toronto, as I was sweating walking around Hong Kong – it’s even warm at 4am in this country during the summers! Safe travels. Jonny