The busy streets of Yau Ma Tei are constantly flowing with people, with a number of popular markets and also some very historic areas.
With Mong Kok to the north and Tsim Sha Tsui to the south, you’re bound to find yourself in Yau Ma Tei at some point, especially if you’re cruising through the Temple Street Night Market, which runs from Jordan into Yau Ma Tei.
But don’t wait until night time to wander its streets – there’s lots to see and do during the day, with excellent shopping opportunities to be had, and a huge choice of things to eat.
What to see and do in Yau Ma Tei
Temple Street Night Market is of course one of the top attractions in all of Hong Kong. You can never get bored at Temple Street, with block after block of street vendors, and everything under the sun for sale, from clothing to souvenirs to art.
The Tin Hau Temple is what gave Temple Street its name, believed to date back to around 1864. In front of the temple is a public square and on the sidewalk you might be surprised to find a little cluster of stalls dedicated to ‘adult toys’. Around the temple you’ll also find people singing karaoke or Cantonese opera, and a number of fortune tellers, some of whom will provide their service in English.
Chinese jade is the most popular stone for good luck amulets and jewelry, and the Jade Market is an interesting place to shop for it. (Note: the Jade Market is only open during the day, and is not a night market). However, with hundreds of stalls and aggressive vendors, it’s difficult to know if what you’re buying is the real thing. Always bargain hard!
A lesser known attraction is the historic wholesale fruit market, also known as Gwo Laan. It’s an interesting place to wander through, to see the hustle and bustle of commerce that has gone on for more than 100 years. The market is still in the original building, and you can spot some signs that have been hanging up there since before World War II.
Opposite the fruit market is another piece of the past, the Neo-classic Yau Ma Tei Theatre. This was once the biggest cinema in Kowloon, but towards the end of its life became a hot spot for seedy adult films. Now revitalised, the theatre hosts a number of free events, such as classical Chinese music, and Cantonese opera. Right next door is another historic building, the Red Brick House.
What to eat and drink in Yau Ma Tei
While in Yau Ma Tei, try out a local favourite, clay pot rice. Small clay pots are filled with rice, and typically sausage or chicken, and roasted on an open flame. Two popular spots are Hing Kee Clay Pot Rice located on Temple Street, and Four Seasons Clay Pot rice, one street over on Arthur Street. Don’t expect much in terms of decorations, but once you get comfy on the small plastic stools you’ll be fine.
You’ve got lots of choice for dim sum, but Kung Fu Dim Sum and Hei Wan Dim Sum Specialist, both on Portland Street, are a solid choice, with English menus and very affordable prices.
MUM’s NOT HOME is a cute and quirky cafe on Shanghai Street, with comfy couches, yummy cakes, and friendly staff.
Temple Street itself has loads of restaurants to choose from and a wide range of cuisines, but you will notice quite a lot of Thai, Vietnamese, and Nepalese. On big intersections you’ll find outdoor eateries with tanks full of live seafood waiting to be cooked.
To really rise above it, grab a sunset cocktail at the Horizonte Lounge, on the 29th floor of Hotel Madera. With an impressive view of Kowloon and Victoria Harbour, this rooftop bar is a true hidden gem of Yau Ma Tei.
Where to stay in Yau Ma Tei
If you’re really on a tight budget, Yesinn @ YMT is a popular choice for the hostel crowd, being right in the middle of things and having really low room rates, especially for their dormitory rooms.
A good step up, however, is the M1 Hotel. It’s also got a prime location right by Yau Ma Tei MTR station, it’s very affordable, and breakfast is included. As it’s less than 10 years old, the rooms and decor in this boutique are clean and modern.
The Salvation Army Booth Lodge is an excellent 3-star hotel right by Tin Hau Temple. They have complimentary breakfast, somewhat spacious rooms (by Hong Kong standards), and can provide airport transfers too. Guests have given this hotel a very high rating for its cleanliness.
Nearby is the Silka Seaview, a one-minute walk from Temple Street and the Tin Hau Temple, making it a very convenient place to rest your head.
If you dig rooftop pools, then it’s worth paying a bit more to stay at the newly renovated Eaton HK, which has a great outdoor pool and a fitness centre, plus a bar to lounge in and relax when you can’t take the endless pulse of the city anymore.