So what makes me return to Hong Kong? The skyscrapers? The shopping malls? The people? Well, the main reason is to experience the epic madness of its markets!
During my time in Hong Kong, I have explored Central, Kowloon, and Mongkok, and have seen markets selling everything from trinkets and bracelets to live birds! These markets are frequented by the elder generations and the lower-income residents of the country, and as such is a great way for backpackers like myself to see the “real Hong Kong”! They are also a great place to find some local food, either in the day or night!
In Hong Kong, more than in other countries of the region, there are important distinguishing features between its various markets: a dry market is known to sell dry good and durable goods such as clothes and souvenirs. A wet market, however, is where fresh meat and fish are sold, and this livestock is often killed in front of the paying customer. In the days gone by, wet markets used to even sell live mammals and reptiles, but since the 2003 SARS epidemic in Southern China, it is much more rare to see this nowadays. That said, there are many bird markets still in operation in Hong Kong, especially in the Mongkok area.
You can find almost anything in Hong Kong’s markets, but you had better be prepared to endure the maddening crowds from sunrise to sunset. I have since experienced Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, and I presumed it would be similar, although to be perfectly honest, it was – though still crazily busy – much more refined and organised than the many markets I visited in Hong Kong. But if street food is your thing, you will find some nice snacks around Hong Kong’s markets, including the awesome Portuguese egg tarts, the lotus leaf-clad lo mai gai, and the famous Cantonese sausage known as lap cheong. I tried them all, and unsurprisingly I loved them all!
Arguably the most famous market in Hong Kong (certainly that I know of) is the one on “Cat Street”. Although I don’t know its true name, this market is known to be both a tourist hotbed and a place where the locals in Hong Kong come in the hope of finding lost treasure among its millions of antiques! This area is known as “Cat Street” because of the swathes of stray cats that come out at night adorn the streets in the hope scavenging for scraps of food! And NO – I didn’t see any cats (well, not real ones, anyway).
My picks for the most interesting markets in Hong Kong are:
1. “Cat Street” Market
2. Temple Street Night Market
3. Yuen Po Street Bird Market
It’s all very well sightseeing on the open top bus around Central, watching the Symphony of Lights on the Harbour, and riding the ancient Peak Tram up to the roof of Hong Kong, but to truly even begin to understand a country with as much history as Hong Kong you need to take time out and have a look around a few of these amazing markets, even if you don’t plan on buying anything!