Wondering where to live in Hong Kong? It’s always good to talk to the neighbours! In our regular Street Talk feature, we get the inside scoop from residents of different areas. Here, we chat to British expat Rhian Widdowson about what it’s like living in Yau Ma Tei.
Where are you from? Chesterfield, England
What’s your occupation? Studio Manger and Dance Teacher at Academy of Dance.
Where do you live? I live in Yau Ma Tei with my boyfriend and Pickles the dog.
How long have you been here? I’ve lived in Hong Kong for over four years now after being sure I would just be here for a year! I started off living in Sai Kung for a few months and then made the move to Kowloon, and I’ve never looked back!
Why Yau Ma Tei? I love being in the heart of the city, amongst the noise and neon lights. I also love the convenience of travelling around Hong Kong from YMT. Also, because the dance studio I work in is in Shek Mun (Sha Tin) – and also because I don’t mind a few drinks and a brunch on the island – it makes the perfect in-the-middle spot.
Jordan is technically my closest MTR station, so I’m only two stops from Hong Kong Island. I love it when HK Islanders ask why I live so far away on the “dark side” and I can tell them it takes me 10 minutes to get there!
Describe your lifestyle in Yau Ma Tei? My YMT lifestyle is exactly how it should be in Kowloon: chaotic and busy but still with enough space to kick back and relax. I love going for dinner in TST and going to a dance class even after teaching dance all day; but I’m equally happy staying at home and snuggling my dog pickles. It’s surprisingly quiet, even though I live near Nathan Road.
When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is… The Curry Leaf restaurant. It has super-friendly staff and they not only do great curries, but they also take in my very important ASOS orders when I’m at work; what more could you want!
Closest store? My closest shop is a pharmacy, but my favourite shop is 1 of a KIND. It’s a thrift store run by Impact HK where the proceeds all go to supporting the homeless in Hong Kong. They also sell excellent coffee, apparently. (I’m a devout tea drinker but my boyfriend says it’s the best he’s had in HK.)
Your street would make the perfect backdrop for a remake of… Actually, there are often films being shot on and around our street, but sadly I’ve never been asked to join… yet!
How are the neighbours? They’re friendly enough and generally keep themselves to themselves.
The unofficial uniform of your street is: My unofficial uniform of the street is wearing my pyjamas or my boyfriend’s clothes to walk Pickles.
A mandatory stop for guests is: I’m walking distance from the night delights of Temple Street Market – including plates of clams and tacky T-shirts. You can listen to the questionable outdoor karaoke, get your fortune read and also get scammed if you don’t know how to bargain! I also always take visitors to Qi – Nine Dragons. Incredible food and views, and no one ever leaves disappointed. (I highly recommend the sugar-glazed beef.)
Date night – what and where? Date night usually includes food and also now Pickles (of course) so it has to be a restaurant that welcomes him too! My favourite at the moment is Yakitori, a Japanese restaurant that does loads of different, delicious – and some very odd – small plates.
Best thing for kids in your area? For my fur-baby Pickles, West Kowloon Park is a great place! Pet-friendly restaurants, amazing views, open spaces and other dogs to make friends with. I think children are allowed there too.
You’d swap houses in a second with… Anyone with a house next to the ocean. Being next to the water just makes me instantly happy, so get in touch for a weekend house swap!
Favourite places in your area? I love walking to the TST waterfront. Any bad day can be solved by coming here and reminding yourself how amazing Hong Kong is! My other favourite places are the many dance studios in the area so I can keep learning as a dancer! Terrible Baby is a great rooftop bar too (when it’s not over crowded by island-bubble expats being dangerous for the day in Kowloon – you know who you are, ha ha!).
Strangest thing you’ve seen in your area? Kowloon I would say has a reasonable amount of strange things going on… but most probably my area has the highest of any in Hong Kong – think people cutting their toenails in public or shouting while walking backwards!
Guiltiest pleasure in your area? Pici, every time. There’s really no need for how much pasta, bread and wine I consume at this place (even when I tell myself each time that, after a day of teaching dance, I deserve it)! I also love to get my nails done and have a good nose round the shops at the Argyle Centre in Mong Kok; we Brits love a bargain
What would you never change about your area: The authenticity, I love feeling like I live in the midst of Hong Kong. However, I would change all the aircons so they never dripped on me again!
Best thing about living in your area? How diverse it is. You can in two minutes go from a spacious outdoor area to a bustling market. You will also never stop discovering new places! The best thing you can do is walk around without a plan and just see what you find. There are so many little gems. The “dark side” really is the best side!
Do you love your neighbourhood? Share it with others – just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Street Talk” in the subject line. Include your name and street, and we’ll be in touch
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.