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HONG KONG - Wanchai? Tsimsatsui or Mongkok?

HONG KONG - Wanchai? Tsimsatsui or Mongkok?

Old Jul 21st, 2008, 06:03 PM
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HONG KONG - Wanchai? Tsimsatsui or Mongkok?

What is the difference between staying at hotels in these areas?
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 12:35 AM
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I live in Hong Kong, so have not stayed in hotels on either side in a while, but I can give you my impressions of why you may or may not want to stay on either side. (I have stayed in years past, in hotels on both side as well):

1. Tsim Sha Tsui (or “TST”) is on the tip of the Kowloon peninsula along the waterfront, and if you have a hotel with a harbour view, then you will have the picture-postcard view of Hong Kong that you see in all the magazines and guidebooks, and that is THE reason to stay there. It is also close to the Star Ferry so you can get over to Hong Kong Island quite easily and very picturesquely, which is another nice plus in staying there. Otherwise, there is not a whole lot of reason to stay there, IMO. However, a large number of hotels are there, and that is where a lot of tourists end up staying. There are some good restaurants, and some very expensive designer shops (which you may have at home as well and which are also on the Hong Kong side),lots of camera shops which offer no bargains to most people (especially people from the US where cameras are cheaper), and then lots of Benetton’s, Body Shops, etc which is probably just like shopping at home for you. The area is also full of “touts” who walk the streets looking for tourists and will barrage them with offers of “suit made sir” or “you have a lucky face, tell your fortune madam?”

2. Mongkok is further inland on the Kowloon peninsula and unless you have a room on a very high floor you will have no view at all. It can be quite congested with traffic and has a high population density (possibly the highest in the world, although a few places in Hong Kong compete for that honour). I see little reason to stay there. There are one or two luxury/boutique hotels, and then a ton of average tourist hotels, so again, a lot of tourists end up staying there. There are some quite average restaurants and a good bit of cheap clothes shopping (both in terms of quality and price) and also designer knock-offs and then places like Benetton shops, Body Shops, etc which is probably just like shopping in your home country. There are somewhat fewer touts, but they are still present. The Bird Market and Flower Market are in this area, as is the dreaded Temple Street night market.

3. Wan Chai is an area of Hong Kong Island to the east of Central that has is fast developing as a trendy area of restaurants and little boutiques. It still has however, many neighborhood market areas and small family noodle shops and other local restaurants (both going fast I fear in favour of the trendiness…). Your hotel is unlikely to have any views unless you are at the Grand Hyatt/Renaissance and then the views are of the “wrong” side of the harbour, but still can be interesting, esp on a clear day when you get mountain views of the New Territories. (Lke the best views of NYC are from Jersey City; Kowloon side is Jersey City.) However, I have long enjoyed this neighborhood. While there are tourists is some areas, there no touts at all, and I think the local market areas are wonderful, and you can go places like the Pak Tai temple and have it to yourself. I find it much less congested than the Mongkok area. It also has the wonderful double-decker street tram running through it which is a great way to take in the street life of the city. There is good bus service to all parts of the Island (the #6 bus to Stanley runs along Queens Road as does the #15 to the Peak) and the MTR Island Line is here is well. It is also walkable to places like the Peak Tram or Central, or they are a short taxi, tram ride or 1-2 stops by subway. I personally think it is the preferred choice to TST if one cannot afford the Penn or the Intercon or cannot get a room at the more moderate Salisbury YMCA. If you don’t care about a view, then of the three, it would be my preferred location hands down.

I also really like the Sheung Wan area on the West side of Central, which is even more “undeveloped” than Wan Chai, and may make a good alternative as well. Places like the new Marriott Courtyard would be a quite interesting choice, IMO. There is also nothing wrong with staying in Central on Hong Kong Island, unbeatable location, convenience, some wonderful hotels, in the center of everything. There are even several hotels in mid-levels which have some good views and make a nice place to stay to get a more green neighborhood feel.

While TST and Mongkok are perfectly fine in terms of safety, etc, there are far fewer tourist sights on the Kowloon side (and far fewer good restaurants), so in general, other than walking the esplanade along the waterfront to take in the view of Hong Kong Island and its skyscrapers, and perhaps going to the Bird Market/Flower Market, the Jade Market, and maybe the Wong Tai Sin temple, there is not really a whole lot of major tourist interest in Kowloon. All can easily be done in a half day as a group, and all can easily be reached by MTR from the Hong Kong Island side, so there is no advantage to staying near them. (There are two good museums in TST, but the times I have been there I have not seen many tourists in either, so I don’t think the museums are the attraction there.. There is the Cultural Centre which offers some wonderful programs, but again, I doubt many tourists get to a performance there, and you can hop over from the Hong Kong side in moments in any event). I don’t consider the stuff sold at the night markets to be worth much, so I would not consider that as a “reason” to stay on the Kowloon side (and you can find much of the same in Stanley and get that great bus ride and a good meal along the waterfront into the bargain). Most of the sightseeing that you want to do will be on Hong Kong Island: The Peak and the Peak Tram, Central, Stanley, Aberdeen, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, the Hollywood Road antique area, some great local markets, and the bar and restaurant areas of Lan Kwai Fong, Soho, Noho, Star Street, etc are all on Hong Kong Island. Happy Valley horse racing track is here. (Yes, there is one in Sha Tin on the Kowloon side, but that is not anywhere near Mongkok or TST.) There are also some spectacular and easily-accessible walks, including several around and the Peak and in the Stanley area. Virtually all the art galleries are on the Hong Kong side, and the Fringe Club and other performing arts venues (other than the Cultural Centre) are also on the Hong Kong side. My issue with the Kowloon side is that I think Mongkok is a longish trip to get over to these areas, and it will become old after a while doing that trip 2 or more times a day. I feel the same about Kowloon, even though the ride is shorter (but the touts are worse).

So for me, in a nutshell it comes down to this: unless you have a harbour view room on the Kowloon side, I would not stay on the Kowloon side. If a view is really important to you (and it is to me in many instances, and there is nothing wrong with that) then take a harbour view room in TST. (I think even Mongkok hotel rooms which promise a view may be a bit obscured in too many cases, TST is waterfront and nothing in the way.) Otherwise, I would take the Hong Kong side over anything on the Kowloon side. And remember that even with a harbour view room, you will end up spending a good bit of time on the Hong Kong side anyway.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 06:12 AM
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Just stayed at the Metropark Causeway Bay. For us we debated between it and the YMCA Kowloon b/c prices were similar.
We loved the Metropark and would do it again.
Great location just a few minutes from the very efficient HK metro.
Our room had a nice view of the Bay.
Rooftop pool had incredible view.

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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 10:49 AM
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I've said it many times and will do so again. Get the best hotel for your money on the dates you want. All those areas are fine and convenient and interesting. And only a few subway stops from each other.
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Old Jul 25th, 2008, 03:56 AM
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That is all great information. Thanks for the details Cicerone! I am hoping to come in October or early November. How many days do you think is good for a visit?
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Old Nov 5th, 2008, 09:23 AM
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