24 hours above the streets of Mongkok
Hong Kong's most crowded neighborhood is a warren of little-known music venues, alternative art galleries and unusual restaurants. The only catch? They're all upstairs. Here's how you can spend 24 hours above Mongkok.
3pm: Chill out
Start your upstairs adventure with a drink and an afternoon snack at Full Cup, Mongkok's coolest upstairs cafe. Spanning three floors, each one with different decor, the cafe is a hangout for creative types who savor the chilled-out atmosphere and cute fourth floor terrace. Food is half-priced in the afternoon -- our pick is an iced chocolate banana coffee with a pizza.
4-6/F, Hanway Commercial Building, 36 Dundas Street, tel +852 2771 7775
5pm: Art above your head
Hop north to C&G Artpartment, an alternative art space three stories above Sai Yeung Choi Street. Founded in 2006 by husband-and-wife team Cheng Yee-man (better known as Ah Gum) and Clara Cheung, the Art-partment gives Kowloon a much-needed outlet for conceptual art that challenges Hong Kong's established order. Past exhibitions have included a dialog between artists and Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang and an exhibition in 2008 that looked at the role of greed in the global financial collapse. In between exhibitions, Cheng and Cheung run afternoon art workshops for children and adults.
3/F, 222 Sai Yeung Choi St South, tel +852 2390 9332 www.candg-artpartment.com
6pm: BBQ in the sky
We've written about it before, but Mongkok BBQ is good enough to mention twice. Several stories above Soy Street, the roof of an old tenement building has been transformed into a country-style barbecue garden, with five BBQ pits, a buffet of Hong Kong-style treats (fish balls, chicken wings, scallops) and fridges full of endless tea, soft drinks and beer. The "secret" has spread, so make a reservation, especially on weekends.
29 Soy Street, tel +852 6693 8700
9pm: Tong Saam
Part of Mongkok's allure is that there's always more to it than meets the eye. From the outside, the old, crumbling shophouse at Shanghai Street looks like it houses a pawn shop, a few apartments and not much else. If you know the right people, though -- or more accurately, are friends with the right Facebook friends -- you'll discover that the third floor has quietly become a venue for great parties, art, poetry and indie music shows. Check Tong Saam's Facebook page to get the latest on what's happening.
11pm: Backyard drinks
Mongkok isn't all about hush-hush art spaces and rooftop BBQs. The Langham Place Hotel's newly opened outdoor lounge the Backyard adds a touch of refinement to the area's nightlife. Set four stories up from buzzing Shanghai Street, the Backyard is a 6,000-square-foot oasis of wicker lounge chairs, a waterfall and more greenery than a typical Hong Kong park. The drinks aren't cheap -- don't expect much change when you hand over that HK$100 -- but with an outdoor space this big in a setting this rare, who's complaining?
4/F, Langham Place Hotel, 555 Shanghai Street, tel +852 3552 3388 hongkong.langhamplacehotels.com
1am: Late-night mahjong
There's no shortage of things to do in Mongkok after midnight, be it drinking, singing or other things we can't write about here. But one of the most quintessentially Hong Kong activities is mahjong, and for an intimate all-night mahjong session with some friends, head up to the upper floors of the Golden Era Plaza, where several clubs offer private mahjong rooms. If your mahjong skills aren't up to snuff, head downstairs to one of the many karaoke lounges.
Golden Era Plaza 39-55 Sai Yee Street
11am: Rooftop swimming
Rise and shine! There's no better way to collect your senses after last night's debauchery than with a dip in the Metropark Hotel Kowloon's heated rooftop pool. For a bit more indulgence (and nearly double the room rates), the Langham Place Hotel has an even swankier rooftop pool: there's an underwater sound system, an on-site masseuse and an unparalleled view of Mongkok.
Metropark Hotel Kowloon, 75 Waterloo Road, tel +852 2761 1711 hongkonghotel.metroparkhotelkowloon.com
Langham Place Hotel, 555 Shanghai Street, tel +852 3552 3388 hongkong.langhamplacehotels.com
2pm: Hiking... in Mongkok?
Mongkok might be crowded but you don't have to go far to escape. Just beyond the Flower Market, next to the Tai Hang Tung playing fields, is a gorgeous hill with a variety of dirt walking trails. The hill is popular with elderly people from the surrounding area who go there to play mahjong, listen to Cantonese opera and sit in the woods. It's just rustic enough to trick you into thinking you've left the city entirely -- that is, until you catch a glimpse of Langham Place through the trees.