Yau Ma Tei is this neighbourhood of Hong-Kong, squeezed between Mong Kok (旺角) in the north and Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀) in the south which are shopping districts quite popular among travellers.
You may argue that pretty much every all the neighbourhoods of Hong-Kong and Kowloon are “shopping districts” and you’re probably right.
Mong Kok (旺角) has its “Lady’s market” on Tung Choi street and much more in this area east of Nathan road and delimited by Argyle Street in the north and Dundas street in the south.
The south Asian touts near Chungking Mansion will remind you that Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀) is the right place to find “copy watch, copy handbag my friend” or “tailor for you my friend” and if you want the real stuff, you can head over to the Harbour center, but avoid week-ends if you are not accustomed to queue to get into Hermes or Louis Vuitton.
So, Yau Ma Tei, which by the way means “Oil Sesame Field” is famous for its night market at Temple Street. (Oh yes, virtually any part of Hong-Kong is good for shopping).
Beyond after-dark shopping, Yau Ma Tei has things for you that will stimulate your brain : Cantonese opera, two-century old temple, UNSECO-listed intangible heritage, trendy coffee place …
Cantonese Opera at the Yau Ma Tei Theater
If you are looking for a genuine experience of Cantonese culture, dropping by the Yau Ma Tei theater for an opera will make your bucket list for sure. Also, the Cantonese Opera (粤剧) made the list of UNESCO world intangible heritage.
You have no clue about Cantonese opera? Don’t worry. The staff will give you a synopsis in English so that you may have some kind of understanding of what you see on the stage. If you are bored after the first or second act, you can go shopping at the Temple Street night market, it’s just two blocks south.
How to get there
Yau Ma Tei Station, Exit B2. Walk straight to Shanghai Street, cross Waterloo Road and keep walking west to Reclamation Street. It’s the building on your left.
Coffee and books at Kubrick Cafe
Kubrick Cafe is more than just a coffee shop, it is also a bookstore with books in English and Chinese about art, poetry, literature, history, politics, political science and philosophy.
Most of the books are in Chinese language, but look carefully, you may find that unsuspected, titles in English hard to find in regular book shops.
Right next to Kubrick Cafe, you will find the Broadway movie theater which shows mostly indie movies. Kubrick Cafe is the ideal place to brush up your Chinese and read a translation of Orwell while you wait for that movie from that obscure soon-to-be-famous (maybe) local film producer.
How to get there
At Yaumatei station, take exit C. Turn right and walk to the end of Man Ming Lane (文明里) until Reclamation street. Turn left into reclamation street and take the first street – Tung Kun Street – on your right. Kubrick Cafe is located in the Prosperous Garden Estate, on your left, after a 7 Eleven.
Pray the goddess of seafarer at Tin Hou Temple
Chinese folk religion is brilliant in complexity. In addition to the gods and immortals who made it into the pantheon, there are local gods and goddesses like Tin Hou (天后) who are worshiped in specific regions only.
Built during the Qing dynasty in 1800, this temple dedicated to Tin Hou (天后), the goddess of the seafarer and fishermen, was enlarged in 1864. Tin Hou (天后) is a popular goddess in southern China and she has one hundred temples scattered throughout Hong Kong and outlying islands.
Tin Hou temples are usually situated by the sea; Yau Ma Tei’s was no exception, but with massive land reclamation, it has become the only temple dedicated to the goddess of the seafarer in an urban environment.
How to get there
At Yaumatei station, take exit C. Turn right and walk to the end of Arthur street. Tin Hou Temple is on Public square, next to Nathan Road. In the evening, it is where the Temple Street night market starts / ends.
A cup of herbal tea
Herbal tea stores are easy to recognize : the herbal tea is brewing in ceramic pots and signs explain what the tea is good for (from quenching thirst to relieving headaches). If you don’t read Chinese and need help, check my previous post I wrote about herbal tea. Scroll down, there is a glossary at the end.
There are lots of herbal tea shops in Yau Ma Tei where you can drink herbal tea (hot or cold), there is one right in front the Yau Ma Tei theatre at the corner of Waterloo and Shanghai Street and another, next to Yau Ma Tei station exit C, near the corner of Arthur Street and Man Ming Lane.