Hong Kong: Where NOT to go

Stan Sweeney
More of a tiny theme park, staff at Hong Kong Disneyland. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
More of a tiny theme park, staff at Hong Kong Disneyland
“Even with the surrounding streets closed to traffic, the volume of foot traffic is way beyond scary — even for people who are used to busy Hong Kong street life.”
Stan Sweeney
Hong Kong

Don't waste your time when you're on holiday in Hong Kong. Find out the over-hyped spots to avoid (and where to go instead).

A mousy experience

Disneyland has not quite become the tourist magnet the Hong Kong Government thought it would be. You should think of it less as a Disneyland, and more of a tiny theme park that is a long way from anywhere and with only one good ride. Walt Disney would not have been pleased.

For a theme park with real, all-ages fun, get to Ocean Park on Hong Kong Island, instead. Here you'll find world-class rides, wild animals (including its two famous pandas, Ying Ying and Le Le) and a seriously good cable-car ride that will take you in and out of the park, over a mountain with bright blue sea on both sides below.

Shopping hell: part one

Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is to be avoided at all costs, based on the irritation factor it's sure to incite, alone. That is, unless your idea of a good time is to spend 20 minutes fighting your way through a neon-lit footpath filled with dodgy sharks flogging cheap suits and knock-off watches, past windows of electronic goods — without price tags. Oh, and don't forget the traffic fumes from the four-lane main road. This part of town makes its living off the phrase "A sucker is born every minute."

If it's cheap (but good) electronics you're after, then plug yourself into the Golden Computer Shopping Centre in Sham Shui Po (46-152 Fuk Wa Street), only 10 minutes further up Nathan Road. If it ain't there, it probably doesn't exist. And if you're on Hong Kong Island then you'll find the same offerings at Wan Chai Computer Centre (130 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai), just outside MTR Exit A4.

Road to nowhere

The "new" Ngong Ping Cable Car has been walking the high wire of controversy since it opened in 2006, then closed because one of its (unmanned) cars fell off the wire, and then reopened again a few months later. Seriously, would you trust it? While its final 5.7km-long journey eventually leads to the picture-worthy Big Buddha, the start point is actually near the airport. This means a visit requires a 40-minute taxi ride from Central or a 25-minute train ride to Tung Chung just to get started. Booorrring.

Instead, take Ferry No 6 to Mui Wo (25 minutes; it's the same ferry that takes you to Cheung Sha Beach) and jump in a taxi. The local island life you'll witness is a world away from traditional Hong Kong, and on the way there you'll also pass a big white building with world-class views — that's one of the local "Club Feds".

Shopping hell: part two

Causeway Bay is a not-to-be-missed shopping experience, thanks to its mix of high-end and up-and-coming designers and shopping centres. But avoid Saturdays and Sundays when it becomes the most crowded spot on Earth and a world-class pain in the butt. Even with the surrounding streets closed to traffic, the volume of foot traffic is way beyond scary — even for people who are used to busy Hong Kong street life. Nevertheless, Causeway Bay is a must-do — but only midweek, and only during daylight hours.

Got any more places to avoid? Have your say using the comments form below.

Next: Near the beaten track

User comments
I have been to HK nth times and I was not touted at Nathan Rd!. That is one of the reason I go there every now and then. Dim Sum, Beef brisket is very good. So is shopping. Yes it can be crowded but there is no hustling as i can remember. Going when its cool provides you with pleasant temperate climate and charm of city that is always alluring. Go to HK with an open mind...I did.
Yes, it is a small park, but I agree with SingSing - short queues and really great staff, very reasonable prices. Love it! And there are a lot of new rides opening up this year.
Absolutely agree about Ocean Park with their different rides. For shopping - Ladies Market was amazing as long as you know how to bargain you can get different accessories and souvenirs at a really good price. Also got some really great pearl jewelry off of www.love-my-pearls.com when visiting Mui Wo.
I don't understand why some people are so misleading in their statements... I have been to Hong Kong and stayed for 4 weeks, the place is just fab and I'm going back this August... As for people saying that some places are dirty and smelly, well what the hell do you expect, some places have been left behind times, which I might say adds to the attraction... Slowly, most of the asian countries will lose their own self, such a pity the western society is having such an impact.. Learning by visiting such places is just fantastic...good a grip...enjoy life and look at the positives not the negatives...
Im not sure what Suzie and jess are on about, Shenzhen and the Lowu shopping centre is absoultley amazing! Sounds like their a little bit precious!
Yes, it is small but the place is nice and the staff are friendly. Most important of all , in most plays, you no need to wait for long time. That is great !!!! As compare to Tokyo, it is just waste of time for everyone standing for an hour and play for a few minutes game. Our family will come again in May this year and will stay in the hotel for 2 nights.
We hated shenzen and will never go back there. Never before in my life have we been to a more disgusting, dirty stinking place in my life where the people are that desperate to sell you stuff you actually feel in danger at times. At one stage we had people literally hanging off my husbands arm begging him to buy. Horrible place and would not recommend anyone go there!!
^^I think she was referring to the fact you should AVOID the cable car as it is dangerous? So the route you are suggesting is exactly what she was saying to avoid... Shenzen is great, what person in their right mind would go to shenzen with someone without being fore warned of any dangers associated with the place. Its like going on holiday to europe and not knowing about bag snatchers. As for the people that follow you, be firm with them, tell them where to go. Shenzen is a great place, full of good bargains and most of all fun. As for it being dirty? Its just as dirty as the rest of Hong kong, why think of it any different.
Please do not go to Shen Zhen.....PLEASE. If you are seeking bargains and want to do something different please do not be lured to this day trip from Hong Kong, most travel agents try and add this to packages but it is a mistake trust me. It can be very dangerous and you have to watch your handbag, (one of our tour companions had hers snatched right off her arm!) and generally they take you to a supersized, multileveled market place. Yes there are cheap items but it is not worth the traumatic experience of being followed by hawkers around the entire complex...literally like lost puppies following you home. The whole day is exhausting and the travel is not worth the result. Stick to hong kong, the people are lovely, its a colourful atmosphere and there is a range of choices and although no where in the world is safe....it definatly feels like the right choice!
Lohu Commercial City is a convenient spot situated opposite the border crossing (LoHu MTR - take the light rail service from Hung Hom in Kowloon). Alternatively, the streets and malls around the Dongmen district are very popular. Sun Plaza Mall offers significant discounts on designer clothing. As for electronics, be wary of knock-offs and defective products. Head to the SEG computer market in Huaqiang Bei Lu.