Friday, January 14, 2011

Hong Kong: Must-See Kowloon Peninsula

While the Kowloon area is heavily residential, a lot of tourist attractions can be found in Tsim Sha Tsui.  Shopping, sightseeing, museums, heritage parks, restaurants, hotels… this place has it all.  Tsim Sha Tsui is easily one of the more prosperous areas in Hong Kong.  Canton Road alone has almost all the major luxury brands lined up and well-represented.

I am the characteristic Filipino tourist whose primary objective when visiting other countries is to find the best deals, sights are secondary priorities.  C is the archetypal glutton gourmand – scouring the finest dining options everywhere we go.  It is then our greatest karma to have kids who are captivated with exhibits, and practically anything else put on display.   

Tsim Shat Tsui caters to my family’s varied interest.  I know my kids adore TST because of the Science Museum.  While I find the district irresistible because of Harbour City.  You would understand that C appreciates the fact that Din Tai Fung, one of his fave restos, is just right across one of my preferred shopping complex.

Hong Kong Science Museum
Without asking my kids, I can tell you right off the bat this is their favorite spot in the whole of Hong Kong.The kids were spellbound by this interactive museum which features hundreds of exciting hands-on exhibits that cover almost every aspect of science:  light, sound, motion, electricity, solar energy, magnets, etc.  

B marvels at how the energy from moving air can make the ball seemingly fly...
DC3 airliner perched from the ceiling. A replica of an ancient Chinese war ship
 J calls this the hamster treadmill...
During our visit, the Museum had a special exhibit of the works of Leonardo daVinci.  I know him as a painter; I did not know that he is also one of the greatest inventors of mankind.  His innovative mind and technical genius is on exhibit at the Museum's Marvellous Inventions exhibition.
More than 50 machines and interactive models have been constructed from the Renaissance artist's drawings and notes, ranging from war machines and aviation to hydraulics and civil machines. 
His artistic genius is not overlooked either, with 16 replicas of the painter's most famous works such as Mona Lisa and The Last Supper also on display.
Right after we exit the da Vinci hall, R hurriedly pulls C’s hand, dragging him excitedly…
There is a small exhibit area dedicated to dinosaurs.  

B in front of an inter-active learning screen about dinosaurs excavated in China
Interactive learning center for electricity and magnetism...
The World of Mirrors is a fun exhibit that incorporates mirrors set up in unique ways.  The kids were in stitches as they saw their reflections in a way they have never seen before.

There is a hall in the ground floor level that is filled with interesting puzzles that test spatial relations skills, logical reasoning and numerical ability.  
There are different levels of difficulty to accommodate visitors of all ages, and hints are provided should you find yourself in a stalemate.
But just between you and me, I really think this is meant for the entertainment of all the TIRED DADS...
I have been consciously pushing my kids to have a natural fascination for the world around them.  As a parent I want to build in them curiousity about constellations, habitats, science, inventions… Happy would be not be a word I'd use to express my feelings at how the marvelled at the exhibit.  I am beyond happy!   Nonetheless, C and I did not expect to spend 5 hours as seeming hapless witnesses to their rabid absorption.  5 hours?  Exag na di ba?   I remember finishing the Smithsonian’s Space and Science Museum in an hour, and the National Archives a little bit longer.  I do not linger more than necessary on each exhibit.  Tsk! :)
I tell you, after the first three hours, it was a reversal of roles as I hear C asking, more like begging actually, the kids if we could wrap up the visit already.  5 hours!  I dread bringing them to the Smithsonian!!!

When the kids decided that they have had enough, we all came out of the museum with various reasons for the smiles on our faces –  but all of us none the worse for wear.

Address:  2 Science Museum Raod, Tsim Sha Tsui East.   
Tickets:  Tickets cost HK$ 25 for an adult and HK$ 12.5 for a children and seniors
Phenomenal Tip: 
~ Go on a Wednesday, admission to ALL museums is FREE.
~ If your schedule doesn't allow a Wednesday visit AND if you are planning to visit all the four museums (Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Space Museum, Hong Kong Science Museum, and Hong Kong Heritage Museum), buy the museum pass for HK$30 valid for one week; it will save you HK$35.  

Hong Kong Space Museum
Space Museum is relatively small museum which shows a static exhibit of the basic history of space flight.  It also has interactive exhibits, allowing you to fly a hang glider, work a space motion system, and simulate walking on the moon. The museum has a planetarium attached that shows movies projected onto the planetarium roof.  

My kids left the museum having a better understanding of the mystery of the heavenly bodies.  Although, I can honestly say that this museum is better appreciated by kids 10 years old and up.  I am ashamed to admit that R (and myself) used one of the viewing sessions to catch up on some zzzz's. 

Address:  10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Tickets:  HK$ 10 for an adult and HK$ 5 for a senior
Phenomenal Tip: 
~ Go on a Wednesday, admission to ALL museums is FREE.
~ If your schedule doesn't allow a Wednesday visit AND if you are planning to visit all the four museums ( Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Space Museum, Hong Kong Science Museum, and Hong Kong Heritage Museum), buy the museum pass for HK$30 valid for one week; it will save you HK$35.  

Kowloon Waterfront and Star Ferry
The Kowloon Waterfront offers splendid views of the Hong Kong island shore and skyline. The view is similar to what you would see on the other side of Victoria harbor, on the Hong Kong side.  

Canton Road and Harbour City
Canton Road is THE place to max out your Platinum credit card.  Home to designer brands such as Burburry, Hermes, D & G, Prada, Louis Viutton, and the likes.

Harbour City, located along Canton Road, is the Hong Kong equivalent of our own Megamall.  It would be helpful to pick-up one of the in-house maps, as it is easy to get lost in the nearly 800 shops stretched over three kilometers long. It has a pleasant mix of mid-price stores and luxury brands.
Address:  Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Just as we were rounding up the corner of Canton Rd., we saw 1881 Heritage. It is a beautifully refurbished historical site that has been turned into a refined and elegant place for upscale brands, restaurants and a hotel. 

With its well-designed Victorian buildings, double decker carousel, giant snowglobes and open space, it is a nice place to take photos. In fact, when we visited, there was a pre-nuptial photo session going-on right beside the banyan tree.

Address:  1881 Heritage, Salisbury Road, TST, Kowloon
Tickets:  free

Due to H&M's affordability and  its unavailability in Manila, I consider this one of the major attractions in HK.  hahaha!  The Silvercord branch is biggest next to the one in Central, I think.  Clothes shopping is not really ideal during Christmas, considering they are selling winter fashion.  However, there is a superb collection of accessories at very wallet-friendly prices. 

30 Canton Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

68 Queen's Road Central
Central, Hong Kong

Mong Kok
Mong Kok is popular for consumer electronics and computers.  To be clear, it is not an ideal destination for a family with kids.  So what are WE doing here?

As can be expected from my family, we sniffed our way in the middle of Mong Kong through our noses searching for Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.  While there, we passed by several street markets.

This is actually a good place to stock up on Chinese ingredients for your own pantry, should you feel the urgent need to replicate the fine dishes you tasted in HK as soon as you get home. 
Up next:  the Lantau Island (Disneyland and Citygate outlet)

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