Shop until you drop – that’s a holiday in Hong Kong for you.
But don’t just head straight for the air-conditioned shopping malls populated by international luxury brands and high-street stores. You’ll get much more of a taste for the place if you hit up the Hong Kong markets. And we’re not just talking about food. From markets filled with the songs of tweeting birds, to one with rows upon rows of goldfish floating in plastic bags, and another dedicated to that age-old Chinese green gemstone, jade — all this and much more abounds down Hong Kong’s narrow streets, lined with rickety stalls filled with things you never knew you needed.
Temple Street Night Market
This is a firm favourite on the tourist trail, and there are definitely some gems to be found in amongst the tourist tat at this night market, which starts ramping up from around 6 p.m. daily. Aside from the souvenirs – which include everything from rice bowls and silk pajamas to “copy watches”, DVDs and even sex toys – there are Chinese opera singers who take to the streets to entertain, and a range of street-side cafes where you can enjoy all sorts of Asian cuisine, washed down with a local Tsingtao beer, as you take in the buzz of the market late into the night.
Down the road from Temple Street Night Market, but open instead during daylight hours, the jade market is a covered warren of stalls selling everything from China’s much-loved ornamental green stone to pearls, precious gems and antique items. Search hard and bargain harder to get your hands on fabulous jewellery pieces, unusual trinkets and great gifts for the girls back home.
Tung Po at North Point’s Cooked Food Market
Anthony Bourdain raved when he ate with Chef Robbie at his characterful seafood restaurant Tung Po in North Point’s Java Road Cooked Food Market. It’s authentic Hong Kong dining, in the vein of the age-old dai pai dong, yet found indoors, with plastic stools and paper table cloth-covered tables. Signature dishes include the squid ink spaghetti, sand storm chicken and razor clams, as well as other fresh seafood items and local Cantonese dishes, all enjoyed with bowls filled with beer and, if you’re lucky, ’80s tunes pumped from the back room as Robbie gets down to a moonwalk. A bigger group means a greater variety of dishes as food is served family style.
Beautiful orchids, potted plants and mixed bouquets populate the stalls of Prince Edward’s Flower Market Road. Teeming in the run-up to Chinese New Year when people are in the market for auspicious flora to see in the year ahead, it’s filled with bright colours, and fragrant scents of the flowers emanating from the multitude of plants, seeds, bulbs, bouquets, bonsai trees, cacti and more.
Locals congregate here in the morning, birdcages in hand. It’s a meeting point for those taking their birds for a walk. Locals hang their birds in cages from trees close to the market, then catch up with neighbours while the birds tweet the time away, happy to be out of the house. Beautifully made cages (as well as their future inhabitants) and other related items are all on offer at this cacophonic market.
This is a quieter, yet still lively market. Goldfish and other exotic sea creatures swim around in clear plastic bags strung up side by side on racks, waiting to be taken home and added to the aquariums of local Hong Kongers. Thought to bring good luck, the goggle-eyed goldfish are popular purchases on Mong Kok’s Tung Choi Street North, though many other tropical fish are also for sale.
Located on the south side of Hong Kong island, this traditional open-air market (one of Hong Kong’s best known), invites you to spend a morning sifting through its stalls for everything from linen, ski wear and beach gear, to tourist souvenirs, electronics, jewellery and handbags. There are even a number of art galleries should you wish to purchase a more substantial reminder of your trip. Shopping encourages an appetite, so don’t miss out on an al fresco lunch at one of the many pubs and restaurants along the seafront promenade, where you can look out across the water to Hong Kong’s outlying islands.
Not just for the girls, but named for the huge amount of ladies apparel and accessories on offer, the Ladies Market features items like watches, bags, home ware and trinkets as well as many of the souvenirs found at other Hong Kong markets. Be prepared for some chaos: The market has a great atmosphere, but haggling is essential!
Found in residential areas in Hong Kong, wet markets take you back in time to how locals used to, and in many cases, still do shop. Pop into one of these markets to get the real flavour of Hong Kong. Visitors will find squawking chickens, flapping fish fresh from the sea, local, seasonal fruit and vegetables – particularly tropical varieties, some organically produced, all under those atmospheric red lamps — a throwback to classic Cantonese movies and photographs of old Hong Kong.