Pic: Bernard Spragg. NZ used under CC

Sham Shui Po

Sham Shui Po is a gritty, old-fashioned neighbourhood on Kowloon side definitely worth exploring. With a distinct personality and lots of bustling markets, it’s business as usual every day. But you won’t find any touristy items around here—if you need cheap souvenirs, go to Ladies Market or Temple Street. This is strictly local.

Sham Shui Po has its own vibe, from the classic architecture of its curved buildings to the fast-disappearing pawn shops, tenements, and tong lau shophouses. You’ll quickly notice this area is financially distressed, but what some call urban decay, photographers would call picture-worthy.

Wandering around this area is a good way to see true local life in Hong Kong, one that seems quite removed from the glitz and glamour of Central or Tsim Sha Tsui.

What to see and do in Sham Shui Po

The daily Flea Market on Apliu Street is one of the busiest areas, right outside the Sham Shui Po MTR Station. You’ll find most of the stalls are selling electronic goods, such as cameras, batteries, torches, phones, and second-hand kitchen items such as blenders and rice cookers.

For specific items, go into the Golden Computer Arcade, a claustrophobic computer centre with tiny shops packed to the ceiling.

Photo by iStock.com/estherpoon

Nearby on Kweilin Street, if you take the time to poke through the tiny stalls and baskets set out on the sidewalk, you can find some really interesting old antiques. Your fingers will get dusty, but it’s worth it to find lion-head door knockers, brass statues, old beads, and other interesting bric-a-brac.

Sham Shui Po is also famous for being a craft lover’s dream, with an entire district dedicated to beads, material, headbands, lace, and sewing tools. Crafty people could spend hours going from shop to shop, looking at the incredible array of goods. Check out our Craft Lover’s Guide to Sham Shui Po Shopping about how to navigate this area.

Photo by Christy Choi

For some really cheap fashion, head to the wholesalers area on Cheung Sha Wan Road, but be aware that some of the shops may not only sell you only one.

There’s also an ancient and little-known burial site in Sham Shui Po which was only unearthed by accident in 1955. The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum on Tonkin Street is believed to have been built some time between AD 25-220 and is open to the public.

What to eat and drink in Sham Shui Po

There’s cheap eats galore in Sham Shui Po, though it may be hard to find an English menu.

Street food Sham Shui Po
Photo by Hong Kong Tourism Board

A good place to start, however, would be the Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan, considered one of the best dim sum joints in Hong Kong. This humble hole-in-the-wall restaurant describes itself as ‘the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant in the world’ and as a result often has a line up, but it’s worth the wait.

Thai Chui has not only excellent Thai curries but also Hainan chicken rice, and it will be easy to order from the expansive picture menu in this little shop.

Lau Sum Kee Noodle has been around for more than 60 years and still makes its noodles by hand, using a bamboo pole. This classic eatery is known for its wonton noodle soup, or fried noodle dishes, and is very easy on the wallet.

For those with a sweet tooth, Heart’s Dessert not only has a chocolate fountain and bottomless tea, but also Asian-style desserts such as coconut and mango puddings, and ice cream and waffles. The truly brave will try the durian pudding!

Where to stay in Sham Shui Po

As Sham Shui Po is predominantly a residential/commercial area, there isn’t a lot of choice in terms of hotels.

However, an excellent and unique choice is to stay at the Mei Ho House Youth Hostel, run by the Hong Kong Youth Hostel Association. The historic Mei Ho House was once a tenement which housed more than 50,000 people, and also houses a museum. The hostel rooms are decorated in nostalgic themes, and has a retro style cafe, plus a great outdoor terrace. You can choose from dorm rooms to private twin rooms, too.

Photo by Wing1990hk used under CC

The Minimal Hotel Culture is a popular 3-star hotel on Apliu Street, close to the MTR station, and has slightly bigger rooms than its nearest comparable, Metroplace Boutique Hotel.