The side of Hong Kong that tourists rarely see

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The Fuk Wa street in Sham Shui Po is known for offering wholesale goods that range from clothing and accessories for women to various kinds of home accessories. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Hong Kong is widely known for its towering glass buildings that house billion-dollar companies, luxury retail stores that line alleyways and curved back streets, a state of the art metro system, and a theme park known as the happiest place on earth.

“Most tourists would go to Victoria Peak or maybe theme parks like Disneyland or Ocean Park,” says Fred Cheng, a Hong Kong local who has been a tour guide in the city for over a decade now. “Very seldom in the past that people would go to Sham Shui Po.”

Sham Shui Po, a district in Kowloon Island that used to be a strictly residential area of low-income communities, is a substrata of Hong Kong that is free from the glazed perception of the British colony. The buildings in this district are made of worn out pastel-colored walls outfitted with the protruding back of air conditioners; the streets reek of a scent that arises from a mix of fresh produce, deep-fried flour, and metallic, rust-like odor; and every turn in the area has the clacking noise of traffic lights and the pneumatic sound of buses stopping.

It’s not the most ideal place for travellers looking for luxury dining or fancy cocktail parties, but if you’re one to clamor for “authentic travel,” for seeing the “real” place for all its unadorned glory, Sham Shui Po will give you just that.

“[Tourists are] getting a little bit tired of the main attractions,” adds Cheng. “So they like to go to discover this local style of living.”

Here is what awaits you at Sham Shui Po.

2 (4).jpg The district is known to house fabric shops that are mainly around Nam Cheong Street. Photo by JL JAVIER

3 (4).jpg Street food in Sham Shui Po is a must-try — from grilled large intestines (their version of isaw) to sesame-covered rice balls. Photo by JL JAVIER

4 (1).jpg This type of restaurant, called cha chaan teng, is a common sight in Sham Shui Po. They normally serve tea, coffee, macaroni soup, and spam. Photo by JL JAVIER

5 (2).jpg Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong sells soybean products that are created through traditional Chinese methods. Their specialities include the tofu pudding, soy milk, and fermented bean curd. Photo by JL JAVIER

6 (2).jpg There are noodle stalls in Sham Shui Po that let customers choose which toppings to put on a bowl; much like our turo-turo culture in the Philippines. Photo by JL JAVIER

7.jpg Cha chaan teng restaurants are usually family-owned businesses that have been passed on from generation to generation. Photo by JL JAVIER

8 (1).jpg An old woman vendor at one of the streets at Sham Shui Po. Photo by JL JAVIER

9 (1).jpg This shop is located at Cheung Sha Wan Road, along with other clothing stores that sell wholesale fashion items. Photo by JL JAVIER

10 (1).jpg Here are some Hong Kong locals queuing for a seat at a restaurant. Photo by JL JAVIER

11 (2).jpg Similar to other street markets in Hong Kong, there is also a wide range of items (such as this toy stall) that are sold in Sham Shui Po, which are often more affordable than other districts. Photo by JL JAVIER

12 (2).jpg Batik dresses and tops sold at one of the stalls at Fuk Wa street. Photo by JL JAVIER

13 (3).jpg Stalls at the street markets usually open at 11 a.m. until midnight, or sometimes until 2 a.m. Here you can see vendors waiting for the clock to strike 11. Photo by JL JAVIER

14 (2).jpg If you want to take some time off from the densely populated streets of Sham Shui Po, Garden Hill is a 90.6-meter high mountain that people go to to view the sunset overlooking the district. Photo by JL JAVIER

15 (1).jpg The view of Sham Shui Po from Garden Hill. Photo by JL JAVIER