The site of the old airport, Kai Tak has not been allowed to lie fallow, with the former terminal converted into the world’s largest golf driving range. In the neighbouring streets are excellent budget dining and seconds outlets, for this is where locals go bargain-hunting. Culture is found to the north, in the Tang Dynasty-style architecture of the Chi Lin Nunnery or the joyful chaos of Wong Tai Sin Temple.

The Grimmest Conditions on the Planet

More than 50,000 poor souls once inhabited the Kowloon Walled City, a place of few laws and no taxes, but plenty of diseases and desperate criminals. In the 1950s the triads moved in, and the narrow lanes often ran red with blood. Before 1992 it was also one of the few places left in Hong Kong to find grizzled opium addicts puffing away in divans.

Sights in New Kowloon
  1. Wong Tai Sin Temple

    A noisy, colourful affair, Wong Tai Sin is always crowded and aswirl with incense smoke. Legend holds that Wong Tai Sin (originally known as Huang Chu-ping), who was born in Zhejiang Province around AD 328, could see the future and make wishes come true. The temple opened in 1921, after a Taoist priest brought a sacred portrait of Huang to Hong Kong. Its vivid, stylised architecture contrasts sharply with the surrounding concrete boxes. Worshippers from the three main Chinese religions – Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism – flock here, not to mention 100-odd soothsayers hawking their services. Find out for yourself if they are as accurate as Huang. Behind the temple is an ancient and mysterious tomb that still baffles historians.

    • 7am–5:30pm

    Temple prayer sticks and incense
  2. Lion Rock

    One of the best places to view this fascinating natural landmark is, conveniently, from outside Wong Tai Sin temple. Find the open area near the fortune tellers’ stalls where you can look straight up at what from this angle resembles the grizzled head of a male lion. Those feeling energetic may be tempted to scale its heights. Take lots of water, and be warned – the top section is not for the faint-hearted.

    Lion Rock
  3. Kowloon Walled City Park

    One of Hong Kong’s most picturesque parks began life in 1847 as a Chinese fort. A legal oversight by the British left the fort under Chinese control after the New Territories were leased to Britain. It was levelled during World War II, and a labyrinthine ghetto called the Walled City sprang up in its place. This bizarre place quickly became a magnet for triads, drug dealers, heroin addicts, pornographers and rats the size of small dogs (see The Grimmest Conditions on the Planet). It was pulled down in 1992 and replaced by the park. A display of photographs in the almshouse near the entrance tells the story.

    Kowloon Walled City Park

    Maze, Kowloon Walled City Park
  4. Oriental Golf City

    This is, reputedly, the world’s biggest driving range, with more than 200 bays. Whack away to your heart’s content – unless you’re well-connected or seriously rich, this is as close as you’ll get to a golf course in Hong Kong.

    • Kai Tak Runway, Kai Fuk Rd

    • 2522 2111

    • 7am–midnight

    • Adm

  5. Chi Lin Nunnery

    It is said that not a single nail was used in the construction of this lavish replica of a Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) place of worship. The nunnery opened in 2000, funded by donations from wealthy families, whose names are inscribed under the roof tiles. On the mainland, few original structures survived the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, so this is a rare chance to see the ingenuity of ancient Middle Kingdom architecture. There are also impressive statues of the Sakyamuni Buddha, ornate gardens and gently whispering waterfalls, and the underlying hum of the chanting, shaven-headed nuns.

    • Chi Lin Drive, Diamond Hill

    • Thu–Tue 9am–4:30pm daily

    • Free

    Chi Lin Nunnery

    Chi Lin Nunnery complex
  6. Lei Yue Mun

    Once a fishing village, Lei Yue Mun translates as “carp gate”, although the only fish you’re likely to see now are in the excellent seafood restaurants lining the waterfront. This is the closest point between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon but don’t be tempted to swim across – if the pollution doesn’t kill you, you’ll be whisked away by the strong currents.

    Lei Yue Mun fish market
  7. Fat Jong Temple

    Although it is one of the most famous Buddhist sites in Hong Kong, the Fat Jong Temple is little visited by foreigners. Making it well worth the journey to see is the striking colour scheme – with red pillars standing out from the white walls – ornate decorations and magnificent Buddha sculptures. The temple somehow manages to be both busy and serene at the same time.

    • 175 Shatin Pass Rd, Won Tai Sin

    • 10am–6:30pm. Closed Mon

  8. Lei Chung Uk Tomb

    The Han burial tomb (AD 24– 220) can barely be seen through a scratched sheet of perspex. Still, it’s one of Hong Kong’s earliest surviving historical monuments, so act impressed.

    • 41 Tonkin St, Sham Shui Po

    • 10am–1pm, 2pm–6pm. Closed Mon

    • Free

  9. Hau Wong Temple

    Quaint and tiny, Hau Wong is hardly worth a special trip, but take a look if you’re in the area. It was built in 1737 as a monument to the exiled boy-emperor Ping’s most loyal advisor. Usually fairly quiet unless a festival is in full swing.

    • Junction Rd

    • 8am–5pm daily

  10. Apliu Street

    This huge street market is full of all sorts of strange junk and pirated goods. You’ll feel you’re on another planet here – this is as “local” as Hong Kong gets. It includes perhaps the world’s biggest collection of secondhand electrical stuff. Occasionally you can spot the odd retro turntable or radio, but most of it is rubbish.

    Apliu Street
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