Famous for its cruise ship 'shopping mall' (it's not really a shopping centre, but we'll get to that), Whampoa is one of the largest private housing estates in Hong Kong.
'But why the heck would I want to go see a boring housing estate?'. Well, Whampoa not your regular housing estate.
To paint you a better picture, let me toss out some numbers: 88 highrises, 12 complexes, 8 shopping arcades (feels like a lot more), 3 supermarkets, a movie theatre, bowling alley, karaoke, hundreds (300, if you really want to know) of shops & restaurants + 1 cruise ship.
As you can see, there is something for everyone at Whampoa. Even for the travelers like me, who aren't interested in shopping or in spending money on anything nonalcoholic, Whampoa still has plenty to offer.
Back in my day (which is like, last year), we'd have to walk 20 long sweat-drenched minutes from Hung Hom to get into this place. With the expansion of the MTR green line, getting into Whampoa today is as simple as twiddling your thumbs for a few more stops.
Ready to journey into the Wonder Worlds of Whampoa?
Smack centre in the middle of Whampoa is the attraction you came all the way to see -- me. Just kidding. It's the cruise ship.
Aptly named The Whampoa, this 360 foot long replica is not just for looks! It is a real 'shopping mall' you can enter and explore. Don't get too excited though. The reason I keep typing those freakin' quotations is because there's actually only one store inside -- Aeon Style (Japanese department store).
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's unlikely you'll do much shopping at Aeon. Not only is this location smaller than its counterparts, their products are also weirdly pricey. Aeon mostly exists to cater to Whampoa's Japanese residents, who comprise roughly 13% of the entire local Japanese community. But hey, since you're there, you might as well take a look.
The Whampoa used to house a Mos Burger (also Japanese, see the trend?) and a gaming arcade, both of which are now gone (sad face). The only remaining businesses are the Metro Radio station and a Chinese restaurant on the 2nd floor.
As for why anyone would go through the trouble of designing a literally shipshape building, it is because the entire Whampoa estate is built atop an old shipyard.
Built in 1863, the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock was once one of the largest docks in Asia. This is also how Whampoa got its strange name, as the owners ran another shipyard in Whampoa (now Huangpu), a city in Guangzhou.
However, Whampoa Dock became impractical over time due to land reclamation -- the process of creating new land by filling a body of water. Once upon a time, Whampoa was connected to Hung Hom Bay. If that name doesn't sound ring a bell, it's because Hung Hom Bay no longer exists either. By 1996, Hung Hom Bay was completely destroyedreclaimed to make way for Hung Hom and parts of Tsim Sha Tsui.
Whampoa Dock was used extensively for over a century -- even surviving a World War II Japanese bombardment -- until 1985, when it began its transformation into what you see today.
Who knew there'd be so much history behind a fake ship?
The Whampoa: 10 Shung King Street, Hung Hom Getting There: Whampoa MTR exit D
Hung Hom Promenade
If you think viewing the Victoria Harbour is an activity exclusive to Tsim Sha Tsui, then you're in for a surprise. For a quieter -- but just as excellent -- waterfront experience, I give you Hung Hom Promenade.
Opened in 2011, the Hung Hom promenade extends the existing walkway from Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade and Star Avenue aaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way east to Laguna Verde (another private estate, very boring though). The entire 4 kilometer trek takes approximately one hour and is definitely worth doing. On a cooler day, at least.
Along the way, you'll come across the mostly-abandoned Hung Hom Ferry Pier. This pier used to provide transit to Central and Wanchai. These lines were axed, unfortunately, after Star Ferry reported record revenue losses. Today, New World First Ferry still has ferries operating in the area, but only to North Point. Why anyone would need to ferry specifically between Whampoa and North Point is kind of beyond me.
American Pool - Pinball
Contrary to common sense, American Pool (美國寶) is not a swimming pool/pool hall/burger joint, but a gaming arcade. In fact, it's probably my favorite arcade in Hong Kong. They have a healthy selection of games and their prices are super reasonable. It also earns bonus brownie points for being across the street from a 7-Eleven.
There must be some pinball machines tucked away inside a dingy bar somewhere. Louis Koo probably owns a couple. But as far as I know, American Pool is theonly place in Hong Kong with pinball available to the public.
They have not one, not two, but four whole pinball machines. Since no one else ever plays pinball (apparently, I'm a weirdo), you'll never have to wait in line. American Pool is run by a pinball supplier, which is why these machines exist and are always kept in working order.
Each 3-ball game costs $4 HKD. Not too shabby.
American Pool: 13 Man Tai Street, Hung Hom Getting There: Whampoa MTR exit A
Treasure World, Home World, and Amazing World may sound an awful lot like bad green-screens out of a cheap sci-fi, but in reality, they are earthly shopping centres. Along with Pebbles World, Fashion World, Screen World, Deli Place (why is it not Deli World?), and The Whampoa, they form the massive chunk of land that is The Wonder Worlds of Whampoa (*cue doves and confetti cannons*).
Here's a brief glimpse at what's hiding within each World:
Amazing World: Not actually amazing, unless you have a thing for banks and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. There's some nice eateries though, like Cafe de Coral, Tsui Wah, and Nam Kee Noodle (which is apparently singular, not plural)
Deli Place: Part of me felt cheated when I learned Deli Place is not indeed a giant sandwich-making assembly line. You'll find restaurants and bars, including an Outback Steakhouse
Fashion World: H&M, Uniqlo, and Haagen-Dazs. What more can one ask for?
Home World: Everything to do with furniture and nothing to do with the classic videogame
Pebbles World: I assume the name derives from the fact that there's a ton of childhood learning programs here. Kind of like one step at a time, and each step is on a pebble sorta thing? I don't know, man.
Screen World: This is where you buy windows. Just kidding. It's a movie theatre
Treasure World: Not a prequel to Disney's Treasure Planet. Tons of kid stuff here, like Toys R'Us and the amazing Jumping Gym (an arcade for kids)
The Whampoa: This is a test. If you can't name what's inside then it means you've obviously skimmed my article, ya jerk 🙁
At the end of the day, I would argue that Whampoa is better for the sight-seeing than the shopping. Crazy, I know. For a more local experience, you might want to skip Whampoa and instead check out the street markets of Sham Shui Po and Prince Edward. But for those who don't mind generic department stores and the chill of air-con, these Worlds can easily suck up your entire day.
As a housing estate -- let alone one of the biggest -- Whampoa obviously has tons and tons of options when it comes to food. Sixty-two options, if my counting skills are to be trusted.
American, Japanese, Chinese, McDonald's, KFC, desserts, expensive, and inexpensive. Whatever you feel like, you'll find it inside the figurative walls of Whampoa (provided you're willing to walk a lot).
With that said, Whampoa does have a great place for bubble waffles.
Mammy Pancake is a 2016 Michelin-recommended (recommended, not starred) snack shop specializing in flavored bubble waffles.
Before you freak out, I should also tell you that the Whampoa location is not the one that won the hearts of the Michelin inspectors. The original Mammy Pancake resides in TST. Nonetheless, Mammy's bubble waffles are still pretty darn good. God, I'm a terrible salesman.
Anyway, what separates Mammy Pancake from the competition is their use of fresh ingredients and a menu of rotating flavors. Always available are the local favorites, including sesame, chocolate, and green tea. Seasonally, you'll find specials such as sweet potato and chestnut.
And if you ever feel like destroying someone's week for no good reason other than to satisfy your inner evil, there's also the Fear Factor-inspired flavors like salted seaweed, cheese or -- god forbid -- pork floss & cheese (*shivers).
Original flavor egg waffles costs $15HKD, with some flavors costing up to $28.
Mammy Pancake: 36 Man Tai Street, Hung Hom Getting There: Whampoa MTR exit A
Did anything in this guide surprise you? Is Whampoa still a boring housing estate? Let us know what you think below!