Being a North American, the traditional food and produce market is a mostly foreign concept. Most of us in North America drive once a week to the supermarket for our food. In Vancouver, I guess we’re lucky enough to have places like the Granville Island Public Market and various farmers markets that introduce supermarket shoppers to the traditional market.
Hong Kong is full of old street markets. Although most of them are no longer truly on the street. Most of them have been moved into large multi-story buildings. The name street market still adorns most of the entrances, but it’s a “vertical street of sorts”
I happened to walk past a couple of street markets on Hong Kong Island. There was the Central Market which is almost completely surrounded by office buildings nowadays. At one time, it was probably in the middle of a lot of residential buildings. It was one of the first “wet markets”. Today, the market is no longer a market, it’s simply part of the pedestrian landscape as office workers make their way to and fro in Central. I wonder if this market is facing the same redevelopment pressures that the Old Wan Chai Market has.
Further west in Sai Wan, there is the Sai Ying Pun Market. This market is still active and is 7 storeys tall. This is what the locals call a “wet goods market.” Seafood and produce can be found on the lower floors. Meat starts to become available as I headed up the escalators. The top floor had been vacated,though. The signs above were marked “poultry.” There have been recent cases of the avian flu and fresh live chicken is no longer allowed to be sold in Hong Kong. Only frozen chicken is available. Today, though, the cleaners were in scrubbing all the poultry stalls.
I hope the Hong Kong government got a deal on all these red bowl lamps. There’s a lot of them all over this market.
As you can tell, though, there was plenty of fish and produce to be bought. The locals probably come here to buy food for the meal of the day. If you’ve ever seen a Hong Kong refrigerator, then you’ll know it’s only about 5 feet tall. So there’s not much space to chill or freeze a lot of food. Buying groceries is more or less a daily activity for most in Hong Kong. Either that or go out to every night which is also for very common for Hong Kong.
There was also plenty of other unidentifiable and identifiable wet goods. In the picture below, I can tell you that there’s beef tripe in the upper left hand corner and squid in the lower left hand corner. I’m not sure about everything else.
On the Kowloon side, I found myself in another market at Lei Yue Mun Plaza just above the Yau Tong MTR Station. We were on our way to the nearby cemetery and needed flowers. The one florist in the area happened to be buried deep inside the market. It offered a chance for me to literally snap a few photos. There was very little in terms of composition going on here. Just snap and go.
Back in Tai Po in the New Territories, I did manage to find a real street market on the street with stalls out in the open. The nearby train station borrows its name from the nearby Tai Po Market. This butcher had plenty of ribs for sale out in the open. Again, not a sign of chicken, duck or goose anywhere. The avian flu had Hong Kong spooked and the authorities weren’t going to chance anything after having experienced the awful SARS outbreak in 2003.
If you are visiting Hong Kong and happen upon a street market, I think it’s worth just to stick your head in and take a look around. Chances are that you won’t buy anything. However, you get to walk through a place that locals really visit on a daily basis. It’s the kind of slice of life experience I love to partake in wherever I travel.