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Tuesday 7 August 2012

Ribbons, Roses, Parrots & Goldfish: Market Hopping in Hong Kong

If you decided you were going to open a shop selling goldfish you'd probably think that the worst place to set up shop would be on a street full of goldfish shops. Hong Kong however doesn't seem to follow this logic. Shops and stallholders gather in neatly categorised sections around Hong Kong providing us with a one stop spot for all our goldfish/ floral/ dried seafood needs.

Whether you want peonies or pearls, fighting fish or fabric, there's a market in Hong Kong that has all the choice you'd ever want and more. Fancy stacking your wrists with jade bangles? Head to the Jade Market. On the look out for a beckoning lucky cat? Take a wander around Temple Street Market. "Lewis Vuitton" handbags more your thing? There's a stall willing to take your cash in exchange for a "genuine one-off" at the Ladies' Market.

When I want to stock up on armfuls of lilies and fashion DIY supplies, I sharpen my elbows, get my haggle on and head out to the markets. Even if I'm not looking for a retail fix (unusual admittedly), the markets are one of my favourite places to head with my camera. Always bustling and crowded this is where locals and tourists alike can be found jostling for the best buys. Noisy, dirty and gritty you feel worlds away from the clinical, luxury brand stuffed shopping malls.

Last weekend I headed out for a bit of a wander armed with my trusty Nikon and a couple of hundred dollars. Here's my tour of a couple of my favourite markets in photos.

Starting out on the hunt for bits and bobs for some new season wardrobe DIY, I caught the MTR up to Sham Shui Po where I bypassed the streets packed with electronics stalls and headed for the fabric and haberdashery shops.

Laden down with ribbons, studs and gems, I ducked into a fabric shop to look for offcuts of chiffon but the shopowner was far too busy at the back of the store intently concentrating on a game of Mahjong (a very popular Chinese game which is a bit like dominoes crossed with Rummy).

After winding back through stalls looped with coils of electric cabling, jumbles of chains and radios that look old enough to have been called 'wirelesses' by their original owners, I hopped back on the MTR for one stop to Prince Edward, gateway to a host of different markets.  First stop, the flower market, an area packed with shops and stalls selling every conceivable variety of plant and flower. 

As the riot of colourful trays of orchids and lotus flowers come to an end, you come to Yeun Po Street Bird Garden. Rows of stalls selling birds, bamboo cages and other avian knick-knacks are surrounded by alcoves where bird owners come to 'walk' their pets, let them enjoy the fresh air and sing. Gaggles of old men gather on benches while their birds hang beside them twittering away in their cages.

Doubling back on myself, I wandered back through the flower market picking up three bunches of lillies for HK$100 (about £8) and grabbing a well-deserved iced-coffee. Next stop, Fa Yuen Street Market - much more of a mish mash of stalls selling everything from Hello Kitty watches to heaps of Dragonfruit. Late on a Saturday afternoon this bustling strip of Mong Kok was packed with shoppers but a little group of men had found space to set up a couple of stools and a table for a spot of impromptu Yum Cha.

Wielding my lilies, I cut through the crowds bartering over t-shirts and battled on to the Goldfish Market. Here the streets are lined with shop after shop selling a veritable Great Barrier Reef of fish. Shoals of thumnail-sized, cobalt blue tropical fish dart around aquarium tanks next to racks of water-filled plastic bags from which shy looking Nemos gaze out at you. Symbols of good luck and the perfect pet for the typically shoe-boxed sized flats of Hong Kong, goldfish are very popular here and this is one of the busiest corners of Mong Kok.

Tired and all shopped-out I dragged my weary feet and slightly battered lilies back to Mong Kok MTR station where a very welcome air-conditioned carriage whisked me back to Central. 

The perfect afternoon of shutter-bugging and shopping.

1 comment

  1. Every picture on your blog is like a chocolate sundae for my eyes.