If you’re looking for some photo inspiration for an upcoming trip to Hong Kong, check out my Kowloon Instagram Guide for all my favourite spots…
Kowloon Instagram Guide
If I had to compare Hong Kong with a genre of music, I think that I would go with classic rock. It’s bold and brash. It’s chaotic. There are gritty undertones. Hong Kong’s ridiculous array of photo opportunities is a drawn out, seemingly never ending guitar solo: yes, I’m impressed, but now you are just showing off. Not that I’m complaining. During my 2018 trip I took nearly 4,000 photographs. I just couldn’t help myself. 😂
After covering Hong Kong Island in my previous photo guide, for my second (and final) part, I have created a Kowloon Instagram Guide. In comparison to Hong Kong Island, I found Kowloon to be grittier and have a more authentic feel (well, at least what I imagined to be more authentic).
As with my first guide, I won’t be covering off the super popular tourist attractions. If you want to read about (and find directions to) the incredibly photogenic 10,000 Buddhas monastery, Chi Li Nunnery or Nan Lian Garden, have a read of my 10 free things to do article.
1. Colourful Chung Hoi Estate
A big shout out to the two old gentlemen who saw me wandering around with a lost look on my face. They knew exactly what I was looking for and kindly showed me the way.
The Chung Hoi Estate is one of the oldest public housing estates in Hong Kong. It’s name literally translates to ‘rainbow estate’. – and for good reason – the multicoloured buildings create some wonderful photograph opportunities. In the centre of the estate is a multi-storey car park. Climb to the top for the killer shot: brightly painted basketball courts backdropped by the colourful facades of the residential blocks.
With its pallete of colours, palm trees and leading lines, it’s no wonder that Chung Hoi Estate has become one of the the most Instagrammable spots in Hong Kong. It is super popular with locals and visitors alike. I went along at about 11:30am on my first morning in HK and it was heaving: exercising residents, amateur photographers, wannabe models and a film crew. You name it.
If you are looking for a quieter photo, head down early in the morning. When I returned at 7:30am, aside from a handful of residents going through their morning exercise routines, I had the place to myself.
Chung Hoi Estate Getting there: hop off the MTR at Choi Hung (exit C3). See that big multicoloured building? The car park is around the other side.
2. Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Located at the southwest tip of Tsim Sha Tsui is the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. It’s a big brute of a building. Depending on your architectural preferences, the building itself is either an eyesore or a brilliantly brutal masterpiece. I’m in the former camp: brutalist architecture isn’t really my thing. However, when I got up close I discovered its hidden beauty – never judge a book by its (in this case, undoubtedly ugly) cover. At street level, the building is flanked by a series of diagonal pillars which create a walkway around the exterior. I loved the contrast of light and shadow created by these pillars, particulalry in the early evening. A black and white edit really emphasised the effect.
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Getting there: the centre is in close proximity to both the Tsim Sha Tsui and East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR stops (exit L6 for both). If you are heading across from Hong Kong Island on the Star Ferry, it’s next to the pier.
3. China Hong Kong City
China Hong Kong City made for some of my favourite Hong Kong photos. From street level it doesn’t look like much: a dated shopping mall. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Head inside and take the escalators up to the upper-levels. The interior is maze-like so look for or ask for directions to the Royal Pacific Hotel. Head outside and look up.
It’s also a cracking location for sunset, as I discovered on my penultimate night in Hong Kong. The gold buildings face west, lining up with the sun as it dips towards the horizon. On this particular evening, I was lucky enough to be treated to a gloriously golden glow.
China Hong Kong City Getting there: the buildings are located to the west of Kowloon Park, a short walk from either the Tsim Sha Tsui (exit A1) or Austin (exit F) MTR stations.
4. Tsim Sha Tsui Fire Station
Pretty much next door to China Hong Kong City, slightly to the north, is the Tsim Sha Tsui fire station. I loved the simple composition of the red concertina doors against the plain, whitewashed building.
5. The Goldfish Market
No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a recce around the markets in Mongkok. The goldfish market was my favourite. The vertical grid of plastic pouches. The cornucopia of colours. The excited pointing and chatter of young children. The nostalgic grins of their parents and other people passing by. It creates a wonderful sensory experience. The photo opportunities weren’t half bad either…
Goldfish Market Getting there: the market is midway between Prince Edward and Mong Kok stops on the MTR. Head south-east from Prince Edward (exit B1) or north-east from Mong Kok (exit B3).
6. The Mong Kok Buses
When wandering the streets of Kowloon, I couldn’t help but notice the red-topped minibuses. There are certain roads where they congregate, idling; a herd of wild machines. Taking a ride on these buses is certainly a wild experience: the ride is cheap, the drivers go fast, and they are prone to collisions.
Anyway, back to topic. One of the roads on which you’ll find the red minibuses is only a hop, skip and a jump east from the goldfish market.
Look for Tung Choi Street, the stretch between the busy Mong Kok road and Fife Street. For the best views, head north to Monk Kok Road and search out the raised pedestrian walkways. From here, look south towards Fife Street…
7. Chungking Mansions
If you are familiar with the Chung King Mansions, you’ll know of its notoriety. When I visited Hong Kong for the first time in 2016, my friends and I were not aware of its seedy reputation and we ended up booking accommodation in in the building. But that’s a different story (and possibly deserving a blog post unto itself. Watch this space…).
So where was I? Oh yes, photography. Out front of Chung King Mansions is a busy pedestrian crossing. I spent a bit of time during rush hour attempting to capture the hustle and bustle of of the evening commute. For an elevated viewpoint, over to the iSquare Mall. The upper floors, outside the Starbucks in particular, offer some pretty cool vantage points.
Chungking Mansions Getting there: take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui. Chungking Mansions are over the road from exit E.
8. The Jockey Club Innovation Tower
When I first saw the futuristic, sweeping lines of the Jockey Club Innovation Tower a large grin spread across my face. The building itself is part of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, but its clean, sleek exterior could easily be mistaken for that of a spacecraft. Fittingly, the building houses the school of design. I’m always on the look out for interesting architecture and the fluid appearance of this Zaha Hadid designed building certainly caught my eye.
But don’t restrict your admiring glances to the building’s exterior. The interior (especially the walkways, balconies and steps) offers a selection of interesting angles, lines and shapes.
9. The Hong Kong Skyline
Yes, I know, the skyline is on Hong Kong Island. But you gotta come over to Kowloon to admire it in all of its glory. The Kowloon public pier, which sits between the Avenue of Stars and the Star Ferry Terminal, offers a great vantage point of the skyline, particularly in the evening.
Kowloon Public Pier Getting there: the pier to directly east of the Kowloon Star Ferry pier. The closest MTR stop is Tsim Sha Tsui (exit L6).
10. The neon signs of Kowloon
I loved exploring Kowloon after dark. It’s a melting pot of cheap food, cheap hotels, foot palaces and neon signs. Star on Nathan Road, one of the main arteries which runs north to south. From here, branch out and explore the area between Jordan and Prince Edward and be rewarded with glowing neon greatness. Kowloon is also a wonderful place to eat; there are countless restaurants and cafes. For some food inspiration, check out my tastes of Hong Kong article.
11. Temple Street Night Market
As an amateur photographer I find myself spending a disproportionate amount of time on top of car parks, looking for cool shots. Yeah, we photographers are a cool bunch. Anywho, you’ll no doubt be visiting the market on Temple Street at some point during your stay. If you do, head north until you reach the Yaumatei multi-storey carpark. From the upper floors you will be treated to a spectacular view of the night market: a veritable artery of light running through the darkness.
Yaumatei carpark building Getting there: the area surrounding Mongkok’s MTR station is particularly interesting
So that’s my Kowloon Instagram guide. If you want some inspiration for Hong Kong Island, click here. So, which do you prefer – HK Island or Kowloon? Which of the above locations is your favourite? Are there any other spots that you would recommend checking out when exploring Kowloon?