Category: Hong Kong History

Feb 27

Step-by-Step Guide to Hong Kong Victoria Peak

A journey to Hong Kong is incomplete without a trip to Victoria Peak, one of the most popular tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Standing at 552 metres above sea level, Victoria Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong island, offering a breathtaking awe-inspiring view of Hong Kong. In this travel guide, we share with you some interesting stories on Victoria Peak, how to get there, as well as our step-by-step guide for the best (and free) view from the top! 

History of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong

Did you know that Victoria Peak has a few Chinese names? They are Tai Ping Shan, which refers to the Mountain of Great Peace, and Tse Ki Shan, which stands for the Mountain of the Hoisted Flag.

Before the Opium War, Hong Kong was haunted by pirates. These pirates would raise their flag of skull and skeleton on the Victoria Peak and demand merchant ships to surrender large amount of treasure. Hence, the locals refer to Victoria Peak as the Mountain of the Hoisted Flag, Tse Ki Shan. The most famous pirate was known as Cheung Po Tsai. Eventually, Cheung Po Tsai worked hand-in-hand with the Qing Dynasty and brought peace to the area. As a result, gone were the days when pirate flags were hoisted on Victoria Peak. The official Chinese name of Victoria Peak became the Mountain of Great Peace, Tai Ping Shan.

Victoria Peak is also known as Mount Austin. Today, we named it after Queen Victoria. This goes back to Hong Kong’s history, when the First Opium War started in 1840. The war finally ended in August 1842, with the signing of China’s first unequal treaty, the Treaty of Nanking. In essence, the Qing government ceded Hong Kong island to the British, which was under reign of Queen Victoria.

Back then, British colonies developed hill-stations, wherever possible, as a refuge from the lowland heat and the tropical diseases that claimed so many lives. In spite of its small size, Hong Kong was no exception. Victoria Peak used to be a natural signalling post for incoming cargo ships in the 19th Century. In time, the more privileged early residents, such as our governors, found the Peak District to be the perfect retreat from Hong Kong summer heat.

How to Get to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong

Today, Victoria Peak is world-famous for offering fabulous panoramic views of Hong Kong. There are many ways to get to Victoria Peak.

By the Peak Tram: The most popular option is to catch the Peak Tram from the Lower Terminus. The Peak Tram operates from 7am to 12 midnight and it takes only seven minutes to get to the top. Provided that the waiting line is short, this is the quickest way to get to Victoria Peak.

More often than not, the queue for Peak Tram at the Lower Terminus is terribly long, sometimes up to 2 hours! This is partially because travel agents with big tour groups typically have priority access to the Peak Tram. Consequently, the wait becomes frustrating. Our tip is to give the upward tram ride a miss and use the Peak Tram for the return trip instead. The waiting line for Peak Tram at the Upper Terminus is usually shorter, as most of these big tour groups would head back to the city by coach buses.

Alternatively, try taking a taxi or a bus to Victoria Peak!

By Taxi: Taxi drivers should go strictly by the meter in Hong Kong. A taxi ride from Central to Victoria Peak takes around 20 minutes and the taxi fare is around HK$100.

By Bus 15 from Central Bus Terminus: If you are up for an adventure, we suggest taking Bus 15 from Central Bus Terminus. Many locals adore this option in part due to the scenic and thrilling bus ride. Here are the details:

To begin, take the MTR to Central Station. Once you get to Central Station, head for Exit A. Next, look across and you’ll find a bus interchange on street level. That’s where you’ll find Bus 15!

Central Bus Terminus - Victoria Peak Hong Kong

Right outside Central Station – Exit A, take the upward escalator and cross the foot bridge. Thereafter, keep a lookout for the Central Bus Terminus sign.

Central Station - Exit A - Hong-Kong - Victoria Peak

In due time, you’ll find yourself at the junction shown below. Turn right straightaway and you will find an escalator that leads to the Central Bus Terminus. Don’t miss it!

Central Bus Terminus - Victoria Peak Hong Kong 2

At this instance, make your way down to Central Bus Terminus.

Central Bus Terminus - Victoria Peak Hong Kong 3

Now, look for Bus 15. On average, there are buses every 10-15 minutes. At the moment, the fare is HK$9.80 for Adults and HK$4.90 for Child or Senior. You can pay with your Octopus card by simply scanning the card as you board the bus. Otherwise, please prepare exact fare because no change will be given. For the purpose of having the best view during the bus ride, we suggest heading up to the Upper Deck and grab the front row seat on the left side. Another key point to remember, please buckle up your seat belts. The bus moves crazily fast!

Bus 15 Victoria Peak - Hong Kong

Generally speaking and depending on the traffic, the bus ride takes around 40 minutes. Don’t worry about missing a stop because Victoria Peak is the terminus station. As such, once the bus driver switches off the engine, you have arrived at Victoria Peak. Time to alight!

Step-by-Step Guide to the Best (and Free) Viewing Spot at Victoria Peak

At Victoria Peak, you’ll notice a gigantic structure, which looks like a bowl and a pair of chopsticks to most Chinese. That is the Peak Tower, where you will find Madame Tussaud’s Museum, Upper Terminus of Peak Tram (where you can buy tickets for the Peak Tram ride back to the Lower Terminus, or simply use your Octopus card!) and Sky Terrace 428.

Standing at 428 metres above sea level, Sky Terrace 428 is the highest 360 degrees viewing terrace in town. You’ll need to purchase a ticket to enter Sky Terrace 428. For more information on ticket prices, please refer to The Peak.

Alternatively, we say, take a short 15-minutes walk and head straight to our SECRET SPOT! In our opinion, this spot offers a much more magnificent view of Hong Kong’s charming skyline and the best part? It’s free of charge!

Ready?

Firstly, head left to find this tiny path, Lugard Road.

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Sky Terrace 428
Victoria Peak Hong Kong Hong Kong Trail Lugard Road
Lugard Road. You are on the right track!

Victoria Peak - Hong Kong Trail - Lugard

The tracks are well-paved and perfect for an easy stroll. For this reason, this scenic path is a popular trail for joggers who love a quick getaway from the buzz of the city.

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Lugard Road

From here on, follow the path. There’s no need for any deviation.

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Lugard Road 2

Continue to stay on the right lane. Keep going!

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Lugard Road 3

Similarly, keep right. At this point, you are only a few minutes away!

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Lugard Road Peak Circle

In due time, you’ll arrive at this spot where it seems to be THE place. Well… Not yet! Remember, we want you to have the best view from Victoria Peak. With this in mind, walk further up!

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Lugard Road Peak Circle 2

Here we are! There is no obstruction, but just a sight to behold!

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Skyline Lugard Road Peak Circle

An awesome view of Western Hong Kong from Victoria Peak. Take as much pictures as you wish!

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Skyline Lugard Road Peak Circle 2

Our charming Victoria Harbour.

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Skyline Lugard Road Peak Circle 3

How about a Panorama shot?

Victoria Peak Hong Kong

We hope you have enjoyed this step-by-step guide to Victoria Peak. For more local insights or tips and tricks to maximise your time in Hong Kong, book a Big Foot Tour with us today. We offer 3 kinds of private tours (Real Hong Kong Tour, Hong Kong Food Tour, Hong Kong Private Tour), each of which comes with many great opportunities to explore the city like a local. Check us out now!

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Feb 14

Travel Guide to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a little off the beaten tourist trail as it is located on a steep hillside. When you make your way uphill, thank your lucky stars that you weren’t part of the construction team. Work began on the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery project in 1949. The monastery was the brainchild of the venerable Reverend Yuet Kai. Together with his disciples, they carried all the building materials up to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery personally by hand!

There are about 12,800 statues of Buddhas at the monastery and each has a different posture. If you’re wondering about the discrepancy between the number of Buddhas and the monastery’s name, there’s a simple explanation. In Cantonese, the phrase for ten thousand really means “a large number”. So, the name is not a mistake. We’d suggest you count them, but only after you catch your breath post climbing all those steps!

10000 Buddha Monastery Hong Kong

History of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Reverend Yuet Kai’s story is unusual, to say the least. Born into a wealthy family, he studied philosophy at a well-known university in China. At age 19, Reverend Yuet Kai converted to Buddhism. His religious zeal knew no bounds. To demonstrate the depth of his faith, he cut off two fingers on his left hand as well as a piece of flesh – which was the size of his palm – from his chest! Thereafter, he burnt them in order to light 48 lanterns as an offering to the Buddha. By the time the idea for the monastery was conceived, Reverend Yuet Kai was an old man. Nonetheless, he joined his disciples in carrying those materials up the hillside!

Eight long years later, the exterior building work was finished. Subsequently, it took another decade before the rest was done. Reverend Yuet Kai died, aged 87, in 1965. Following his wishes, eight months on, his disciples removed his body from the coffin. Reverend Yuet Kai’s body was in almost perfect condition, just as he had predicted! The disciples then embalmed the body with Chinese lacquer and gold leaves. To this day, the immortal body of Reverend Yuet Kai occupies a prominent position in the main hall of the monastery where devotees can come to pay their respects.

Step-by-Step Guide to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

There’s no dispute that the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is worth a visit, but it can be tricky to find. For this reason, follow our step-by-step photo guide and you won’t get lost. Be prepared for quite a climb though. There are a lot of steps! However everything has a silver lining and the climb is going to put some tourists off – meaning there’ll be less of a crowd to share it with. Here’s where you need to go.

Firstly, take the MTR to Sha Tin Station. You need to take the East Rail Line. Don’t confuse this station with Sha Tin Wai Station on the Ma On Shan Line! When you arrive at Sha Tin Station, take Exit B, labelled Grand Central Plaza.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 1

Secondly, make a left and aim for the ramp. Alternatively, you can follow the signage for taxis and pedestrians.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 2

Thirdly, follow the pedestrian path for a short distance. At this point, you are still heading in the general direction of Grand Central Plaza.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 3

Next, bear left and cut through these village houses.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 4

Afterward, you’ll walk past these stalls selling paper offerings, incense sticks and fruits for worshiping.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 5

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 7

Shortly after, you’ll notice this pathway on the left marked with a cluster of signs. Follow the path and you’ll find a white sign for Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. This means you are on the right track!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 8

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 9

This is a close-up of that same sign.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 10

From here on, keep heading straight. The path is lined with a metal fence – the hillside to your left and the village to your right.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 11

Continue straight on. At this point, you’ll pass more buildings and a few turn offs, but don’t deviate.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 12

Similarly, keep right; you don’t need to go up the steps.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 13

Thereafter, head straight and you’ll find yourself walking past the public toilets. You’re steadily making your way uphill towards the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Keep going!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 14

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 16

Walk past this small red gate. Keep right.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 17

Keep climbing and go past this culvert.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 18

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 19

Remember to keep heading in the general direction of the trees.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 20

The path’s long but well maintained. Here, bear right and follow the path, aiming for the yellow sign in the background.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 21

Keep following that yellow sign!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 22

Soon you’ll arrive at the monastery. You’ll know you’re almost there when you see a huge golden Buddha statue to the left of a series of steps.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 23

Go up these steps, which as you ascend, are lined with more golden Arhat statues.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 24

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 25

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 26

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 27

Hurray! Finally, you have arrived at Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery; it’s red with golden adornment. This is the main area, where you’ll find those 12,800 Buddha statues on the walls, each with different posture. But we’re not done yet – there’s more!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 28

Head right, skirting around the building where you will find the brown sign. It leads to other sections of the monastery, such as the Amitabha Hall, Jade Emperor Hall and Tai Sui Gallery.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 29

There are now three routes to choose from. First and foremost, take the lane on the far left to visit the Jade Emperor Hall, Amitabha Hall, Avalokitesvara House, Cundi House, Ksitigarbha House, Sprinkler Guanyin, YueXi Pavilion and Naga-puspa Court. The middle lane brings you to Tai Sui Gallery while the far right lane will bring you back to the city.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 30

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 31

This is the path to look for when you make your way back to the Tai Sui Gallery – the middle lane of the three.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 32

When you arrive at this junction, you are at the end of the Tai Sui Gallery. Follow the lane where the people are in the photo and you’ll find yourself in the right direction to get back to the city.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 33

Ready to head back to the city? More life size Arhat statues await on your journey home!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 34

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 35

Finally, you can see the city. Watch out for that Sheung Wo Che Road sign. The Sha Tin MTR station is just north east of this picture.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Hong Kong Walking Tour Guide Step 36

We hope you will have fun exploring the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery! The opening hours are from 9am to 5pm everyday (except on days with heavy rain, or with typhoon signal 8 or above).

For an in-depth tour of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery or if you are interested in one of our private walking tours of Hong Kong, visit our Big Foot Tour website today!

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Jan 09

The History of Egg Tarts

Hong Kong’s egg tarts pack a whole lot of history into just a couple of bites. These flavoursome pastries owe their existence to both the Portuguese Pastéis de Belém and the British custard tart. They represent a fusion of culture and cuisine that is uniquely Hong Kong.

We begin our culinary journey in 19th century Portugal, in the Jerónimos Monastery in the Lisbon district of Belém. The monks were in the habit of baking tiny custard tarts. A mix of sugar, flour and egg yolk caramelised in the oven to create their distinctive appearance and delicious taste. A few decades later, a small factory opened next door and the recipe was handed down from generation to generation. Then, as now, queues formed around the block. Locals and visitors alike were keen to savour the sweet creamy filling and rich crumbly pastry. From 1557 to 1999, Macau was a Portuguese colony. It was no surprise that egg tarts leaped from Europe to Asia too.

Hong Kong egg tarts image - Hong Kong Travel Guide

Fast forward to the 1940s and 1950s, there was an influx of immigration into nearby Hong Kong from mainland China. Many migrants came from nearby Guangzhou, a populous city to the north east of Hong Kong, where egg tarts were already popular. Europeans had settled in the area since the time of the First Opium war, siting their opium warehouses in Guangzhou. As settlers are prone to do, they brought with them their own cuisine. Bakeries and cafes commonly unveiled special dishes and new inventions in an attempt to win new custom. It’s generally thought that egg tarts were one such item.

Known locally as dan tat, the egg tart found in Guangzhou consisted of a shortcrust pastry base, made with lard rather than butter. Sometimes, puff pastry was used, which many people say is a more authentic Guangzhou ingredient. Inside, the filling was a rich egg custard, glossy in appearance and silky smooth on the tongue. It drew from both Portuguese and British tarts, though it wasn’t a match for either. There were variations too: coconut tarts, chocolate tarts, green tea tarts, ginger tarts and even bird’s nest tarts. However, nothing could quite equal the classic egg tart.

Influenced by its own colonial heritage, as in Guangzhou, the Hong Kong tart fused the creamy texture of the Pastéis de Belém with a British custard tart. The Hong Kong version combined the best characteristics of both tarts to make something approaching perfection. Bakers ditched the nutmeg and served the tart hot rather than cold. Egg tarts started to appear in teahouses – known as cha chaan tengs – as accompaniment to tea. Western influence was de rigueur and the pastry aimed at a wider audience.

Freshly baked Hong Kong egg tarts image - Hong Kong Travel Guide

Where to go for Hong Kong Egg Tarts

One of the best places to try Hong Kong egg tarts is Tai Cheong Bakery on Lyndhurst Road in Central. The original bakery opened in 1954. This popular chain has a string of branches across Hong Kong. Among them, they produce over 30,000 tarts every single day!

Hong Kong egg tarts image - Tai Chong Bakery - Hong Kong Travel Guide

There are a plethora of places in Hong Kong serving egg tarts – they even appear on the menu at KFC! The Hoover Cake Shop in Kowloon, located at the corner of Nga Tsin Wai and Fuk Lo Tsun Roads, also wins plenty of plaudits amongst egg tart connoisseurs. Don’t expect a seat – it’s takeaway only – but do expect to wait in line before the hot, sweet tarts make it into your hands.

If you’re not planning a side trip to Macau but can’t bear the thought of missing out on one of the Portuguese-style Pastéis de Belém, then you’ll find top Macanese bakery Lord Stow at The Excelsior at Causeway Bay.

The egg tart was famously a favourite of the last British governor to Hong Kong, Chris Patten. Of course, he’s long gone, but fortunately for visitors to this iconic melting pot city, the pastries remain. Bon appétit!


Love what you’ve read? At Big Foot Tour, we love to introduce you to authentic Hong Kong food. There’s so much to choose from – egg tarts, Dim Sum, Wonton Noodles, or exotic options such as Snake Soup and Turtle Jelly. Join us on our private Hong Kong Food Tour today! Unlike a typical group tour,  we customize your itinerary around your food preferences and sense of adventure. You determine what, how much and how fast you eat! For more details, visit Big Foot Tour.

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May 08

Hong Kong Guide: MTR Station Names

Hong Kong has one of the most efficient MTR system in the world. For example, you can easily make your way to Mong Kok station for our famous Ladies Market. Alternatively, travel to Kowloon Station for a panoramic view of Hong Kong from our tallest building, ICC. If you like to, you will find yourself at magnificent 10,000 Buddhas Monastery when you alight Sha Tin Station.

But, wait a minute, did you know:

Mongkok means “Prosperous Corner”, Kowloon refers to “Nine Dragons” and Sha Tin means “Sandfield?”

If you are keen to find out more, here’s a literal translation of all of our station names by Justin Moe:

Hong Kong MTR Stations map - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong Tours

 

Watch these clips below (5 parts) which document the birth of our MTR system!

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Sep 24

Hong Kong Guide: Kowloon Walled City

I have a confession to make. Many years ago, I visited Kowloon Walled City Park for the first time and thought it would offered me nothing more than a stroll in a beautiful garden. I was not looking forward to the trip, but merely tagging along with my friends. Compared to the streets across, where old buildings and memories of Kai Tak Airport remain, Kowloon Walled City Park seemed to be a place without much character.

Admittedly, I had not read up on Kowloon Walled City’s history prior to the visit. I barely knew that following British’s occupation of Hong Kong Island, China had built a big granite wall around its military base to defend itself against Britain. That was it.

That day, I took a walk around the park and saw a few historical remnants, including the Old South Gate, granite plaques with the Chinese characters for ‘South Gate” and “Kowloon Walled City”, a drainage ditch and old cannons. I wondered in my head if this was the Government’s best way to tell the story of Kowloon Walled City.

Hong Kong Guide - Kowloon Walled City Remnants- Big Foot Tour

Hong Kong Guide - Kowloon Walled City - Big Foot Tour

Then I saw a model, made to scale, which depicted the old Kowloon Walled City before it was demolished in year 1994. A few steps away was a small exhibition hall that shared the history and daily lives of residents of the walled city.

Hong Kong Guide - Kowloon Walled City Model - Big Foot Tour

Wasn’t it an old Chinese Fort? Why were there tall buildings? Undeniably, I could not synchronized the flow of events with my then-knowledge of Hong Kong. I was missing a big part of Hong Kong history. To make matter worse, it was difficult to visualize how the scenic park today used to be the place where high-rise tenements mushroomed.

The flood of questions left me perplexed. I went home hurriedly and did my research online. Plenty of articles, images and videos later, I leaned back on my chair and took a deep breath. I was in total disbelief.

Hong Kong Guide - Kowloon Walled City Top View - Big Foot Tour

History of Kowloon Walled City

The Kowloon Walled City used to be a Chinese fort which later became an enclave when Britain leased New Territories. That said, neither China nor Britain governed the politically-sensitive area. As such, squatters grew, especially when Chinese refugees crossed the border and settled in Hong Kong. It did not take long before the walled city became one of the darkest place on earth.

By year 1987, 33,000 people lived within its 6.5-acre (0.03 km2; 0.01 sq mi) borders. There were at least 300 interconnected high-rise building, none built with the expertise of an architect. In fact, some houses were only 4 squared metres. The crazily dense area also meant that it was difficult for sunlight to reach most of the residents. There was also a lack of water supply and proper sewage system. Crimes were common and the area was particularly notorious for the presence of triads, gamblers, prostitutes, drug dealers and unlicensed dentists.

Nonetheless, the residents built a close and peaceful community. They had a life of their own, which was very different from the rest of Hong Kong. Within the Kowloon Walled City, there were schools, temples, dentists, restaurants, nursery, factories and production facilities. There was also an informal but extensive network of staircases and passageways, such that one could move around the entire city without ever touching solid ground.

Quite frankly, I did not know how to feel about these findings. Random thoughts went through my mind, dwelling particularly on the strong survival skills of these people. Despite poor living conditions, these people lived on. What gave them the strength?

Perhaps, as how one ex-resident sums it up brilliantly, “People who lived there were always loyal to each other. In the Walled City, the sunshine always followed the rain.”

Kowloon Walled City Articles

To find out more, these articles are worth reading:

Kowloon Walled City Videos

The videos below help to put to words into perspective.

2/4 – Kowloon Walled City Documentary:

3/4 – Kowloon Walled City Documentary:

4/4 – Kowloon Walled City Documentary:

How to get to Kowloon Walled City

  • Take the MTR to Lok Fu Station, Exit B, and then take a taxi to Tung Tau Tsuen Road; or
  • Take Bus 1 from the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier Terminus and alight at Tung Tau Tsuen Road (opposite to the park)

Best time to visit Kowloon Walled City

  • 10am to 6pm (please note that the exhibition room closes on every Wednesday)

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