This week’s field trip found us taking in the sights and sounds of Yuen Po Street Bird Garden and Flower Market in Prince Edward, Kowloon. The field trippers were: two thirty-somethings confronted by a damp, grey Saturday morning that in their pre-parenting days would’ve sent them scuttling straight back towards the duvet clutching hot mugs of tea, and a rather more raring-to-go 2.5 year old boy, Noah.
So, after some general faffing about, a discussion with said toddler about whether clothes should really be mandatory (I argued for, and thankfully won), and a 20-minute bus ride on the 171 from Causeway Bay, we found ourselves in the unchartered territory of Prince Edward, Kowloon (I know after living here for two years we really should leave Hong Kong Island more!). A quick google maps consultation, and a 5-minute walk along Prince Edward Road West onto Sai Yee Street brought us to the start of Flower Market Road. Our expedition thus began in earnest, soaking in the vibrant colours and opulent smells of the city’s most popular flora and fauna hub.
I suppose what had delayed our visit to this area of Mongkok for so long was the thought that it would be that hectic, crowded and stressful side of Hong Kong I had always imagined in my head before moving here. This coupled with walking around with an energetic and strong -willed toddler, and all the particular delights that in itself could bring, really didn’t sound like a winning morning. Rather happily though, there wasn’t even a hint of Bladerunner-esque crowds, and in fact, the market wasn’t really a “market” at all, but rather a collection of colourful and fragrant shops brimming with cut flowers, plants and spiralling bamboo that at various points overflowed onto the pavement. All rather genteel.
Now, it’s at this point I would love to be able to regal you with Latin names and detailed information about the origins of various plants species, but I’m afraid, in this, I am quite hopeless (as testament to this I have just managed to kill the egg cress heads we were growing for Easter) – so I hope it is suffice to say that the flowers were all quite lovely. Noah is just at the point where he enjoys practising his colours, so he happily spent some time spotting all the “ellow” then “bue” flowers, and he also just loved smelling all the herbs as well as rummaging through the boxes of fake vegetables.
And as a little added bonus, at the beginning of the market was a small playground and exercise area, which allowed him the opportunity to run off some toddler steam for 10 minutes (perhaps this would’ve been a slightly bigger hit, if the slide hadn’t been wet from the earlier rain, or I had thought to bring a towel!).
As we neared the end of the market road, this time we didn’t need our smart phones to tell us that we were approaching our next destination, as the cacophony of bird song reassured us that Yuen Po Street Bird Garden must be straight ahead. This traditional Chinese-style garden is quite a strange but rather fascinating place, full of men airing their sweet, colourful caged birds and stalls selling beautifully crafted cages and other bird-related paraphernalia (including bags of live crickets, which I must admit was a bigger hit with my toddler than with me!).
Although Noah isn’t a big wildlife fan (he would rather play with a puzzle than a puppy), he did enjoy looking at the birds and the creepy crawlies and again pointing out all the different colours. He was probably most overjoyed, however, by the little wooden bird his daddy bought him for $10, complete with flappy wings!
After a good 20 minutes of watching and listening to song birds, we exited the garden north onto Boundary Street, and with the honed peripheral vision that only parents possess, we spotted that most rare of Hong Kong sights – a swing! A short detour over a footbridge to the other side of the road, brought us to the surprisingly open and breezy Fa Hui Park. Fortuitously, by this point the sun had broken through, and so Noah could make the most of the various slides, swings and ride-ons that the playground has to offer.
The park also had a good amount of space to blow bubbles, ride a scooter or kick a ball about (we will definitely remember to bring these next time!) and provided us with a somewhat surprising and welcome end to our outing. At the back of the playground, written fittingly in flowers, were the words ‘I Love Hong Kong’ – a sentiment with which it was hard to disagree.
It’s an interesting and economical morning out for both parents and toddlers, and with the playgrounds at both the beginning and end, this is a doable trip even with an active little tike in tow. If you fancy picking up some flowers or plants enroute, there are plenty of choices at good prices (well, for Hong Kong anyhow). As I couldn’t face the hassle of carrying a bouquet of flowers around all morning, I opted for a chubby little (purple!) chilli plant; a steal at $15. Also, if your appetite for adventure isn’t sated, the Goldfish Market is also within walking distance.
The playgrounds aren’t huge, so don’t expect a full day out, rather a good morning option (I’m guessing it might get pretty busy by the afternoon). Also, I know that this is in part a reflection of my very British sensibilities, but I did find the sight of all the song birds in cages a little sad – although they were obviously well looked after and cherished by their owners.
If you are hungry:
The pleasingly named Café Hay Fever offers a rather beautiful and welcome respite in the Flower Market. Tucked away in the equally charming Hay Fever Floral and Gifts shop near the end of the road, the cafe serves hot and iced coffees, organic and fair trade teas, bottled drinks and smoothies, along with light snacks and cakes. And if that hasn’t already convinced you that this is just all too achingly lovely, when I enquired whether they had any highchairs, the manager Martin immediately promised that they would go to IKEA that very day to buy one (and I don’t think for a second that he wasn’t being completely serious).
For lunch we went to One Dim Sum, a Michelin Star all-day dim sum restaurant on the corner of Tung Choi Street and Playing Field Road, a 5-minute walk from the market back towards Prince Edward MTR. The food was delicious and excellent value ($130 for all three of us), but we did have a daunting 40-minute wait for a table (cue smartphone and Peppa Pig to the rescue!), so I would advise that you get there early, as they don’t take reservations. There are also no toilets, so if you’re with a toilet training toddler, you might want to use the facilities in the Bird Garden or at Boundary Street Sports Centre before you arrive.
We also spied a good-sized Pacific Coffee just on Prince Edward Road West, moments from the Flower Market, for grabbing a quick coffee or snack on your way there, or coming home.
If you are driving (potentially a smart move if you want to stock up on plants), you can find some very limited parking in Mongkok Stadium, next to the Flower Market. Otherwise, you can go to Grand Century Place and walk over.
If you are travelling by MTR, take exit B1 from Prince Edward. Alternatively, jump on one of the many buses that drop you on Arran Street, Nathan Road or at Prince Edward MTR bus stop itself, such as the 102 (from Island East), 104 (from Kennedy Town, through Central) and 171 (from Ap Lei Chau, outbound through Causeway Bay) .
Hong Kong Flower Market, Flower Market Road, Prince Edward, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, Yuen Po Street, Prince Edward, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Café Hay Fever, G/f, 62-64 Flower Market Road, Prince Edward, Kowloon, Hong Kong; Open 9am-7pm daily, closed Wednesdays
One Dim Sum, Shop 1 & 2, G/F, Kenwood Mansion, 15 Playing Field Road, Prince Edward, Hong Kong