Hong Kong Market Tour: Delicious, Dubious, and Disgusting

Crucified Lizards in Hong Kong Market

The Hong Kong markets are a shopper’s paradise. And while the Kowloon district is famous for their abundance and variety of markets, the best markets in Hong Kong are across the harbor, on Hong Kong Island. In fact, they are perfect for non-shoppers because tourists who don’t hate the hassle of cramming gifts into suitcases, can instead fill their camera cards with memories and stuff their bellies with food.


The Best Most Disgusting Hong Kong Market: Dried Seafood Market


Dry Fish Market Hong Kong


On Bonham Strand West and Wing Lok Street, all the shops sell one thing–dried seafood. Inside, white sacks or cardboard boxes are filled to the brim with yellowed chunks of scallop, desiccated shark fins, corpses of sea horses, and crusty dried sea cucumbers. Some shops even sell crucified lizards and bags of starfish. It’s a tough sight to stomach and for some an olfactory nightmare. In the middle of one block, a hundred meters from any escape, my wife looked ready to have a panic attack from the inescapable odor.


It’s not just the goods that are of interest at this Hong Kong market; it’s the employees and mangers, too. During summer mornings, bare-chested men fill pushcarts and struggle up the hot slopes to the south, while the managers–who look more like bookies waiting to land the big fish rather than dried fish wholesalers–sit at desks, smoking cigarettes and burning up calculators with quick moving fingers.


The Best Street Food in Hong Kong: The Stanley Street Food Carts


Hong Kong’s food carts look as if a restaurant owner had decided to remodel the kitchen and then tossed the beat up burners, refrigerators, and preparation tables out onto the street. That’s what you’ll find on Stanley Street. Half a dozen food carts operate like a busy hive as lunching businessmen, shirtless porters, and college-aged gourmands occupy flimsy plastic stools beside the carts’ roaring burners. Try the Shing Kee food cart, a sixty-year-old institution. Behind the piles of buckets and bowls that extend into the alleyway, watch the activity of the chef and his assistants before chowing down on tender noodles, great beer, and cheap protein.


Stanley Street Food Cart


The Best Odd Hong Kong Market: Cat Street Market


Mao Books in Hong Kong at the Cat Street Market


On the west side of the city, on a street formally called Lascar Row, you’ll find the Cat Street Market, which features curio and antique dealers. Some entrepreneurs run presentable shops, others are hoarders. Whether organized or chaotic, dealers have little regard for theme. Garfield clocks sit next to corpulent Buddhas. At one shop you can purchase faded statues of Winnie the Pooh, pictures of naked white women, or Bruce Lee playing cards. “Get your tea pots or your Lady Gaga collectibles,” one of the junk dealers could easily shout, as both were on offer from one stand. But the highlight of the market is all things Mao: Plastic-covered pocket-sized books, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, are sold at nearly every stall, as are hundreds of porcelain busts of the former communist leader (placed beside Confucius or Buddha for the sake of juxtaposition and Lenin, Stalin, or Che for some communist diversity).


Cat Street


The Best Hong Kong Market for Fish, Produce, and Meat


Hong Kong Market Pigs Feet


At these Hong Kong markets you’ll find elderly women selling fruit, sitting beside butchers spraying blood. But these meat vendors could also easily shed their murderous aprons and pass for relaxed beach-goers, since they butcher in flip flops and shorts. There are plenty of beautiful cuts hanging from hooks, but you’ll be sure to focus your camera on pinkish-gray cow tongues dangling beside pig legs that could use a shave or the buckets overflowing with bent chicken feet. At the fish monger’s stand, still living fish constantly flop from the trays onto the sidewalk. The only things not jumping are the frogs crammed by the hundreds into cages and bags. You can find this kind of market just a few blocks east of the Cat Street Market, at the intersection of Graham and Gage Street, or a few blocks west of Times Square, on Bowrington Road.


Hong Kong Market for Meat


A Note on Kowloon’s Markets


Kowloon is a shopoholics dream. Canton Street is for the high-end buyer. The other markets are a bargain-hunters heaven. However, be warned, most of these shopping experiences consist of the same vendor or store selling the exact same good as the salesman beside them and the monotony is often mind-boggling. For instance, at the Jade Market, each vendor sells the same jade pendants, Buddhas, and stones. At the Ladies Market, you’ll find shirts, hats, iPhone accessories and then shirts, hats, and more iPhone accessories and then more… The Night Market on Temple Street is a bit more exciting than the Ladies Market because there are restaurants that come alive after sunset, but essentially, the same goods are being hawked as the ones found in the Ladies Market. The Goldfish Market is a few blocks of pet stores and the Flower Market is a strip of flower shops. The only interesting market in Kowloon is the Bird Market, which as you’ve guessed is filled with birds. Here the cacophony is maddening and watching crickets bounce around in bagged nets, women sort through boxes of worms, and a macabre pecking order unfold is a grotesque experience. As some birds are crammed into cages like hens in a factory farm, you’ll feel like you’re close to contracting bird flu in this Hong Kong market.


Bird Market in Hong Kong


Posted on by Noah Lederman in Asia, Somewhere

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