Hong Kong evokes the image of tall skyscrapers standing next to a bay on the South China Sea. What you remember is the iconic view with tall steel and glass buildings. Let me take you at the base of these tall buildings. In the streets here, there are bustling bazaars – selling all kinds of things in these Hong Kong Street Markets.
These street markets are a microcosm of life in Hong Kong. If you sit back and observe, you see the sellers and buyers interacting, you see the negotiations being done and an agreement is reached. You see the products locals buy and the products tourists buy.
Like Delhi Bazaars in good old days, markets here usually sell one product or a set of related products. For finding everything in one place, there are supermarkets and modern shopping malls.
Street Markets in Kowloon – Hong Kong Shopping
Kowloon side is home to many kinds of street markets.
Ladies Market Hong Kong – The Most Popular Street Market
This favorite market for tourists, as the name suggests, is of special interest for women. You can find small little things that women use in creative boxes and forms. There are all kinds of touristy stuff like ‘I Love HK’ T-shirts, Chinese tea sets, fridge magnets, and general Knick Knacks. The Ladies Market is also known for its fake copies of big brands.
The items sold here are not the best quality ones but then they are cheap and affordable.
Negotiate hard. On average, you should pay about 50% of the price first quoted.
What to Buy – T-Shirts, Fashion Products, Fridge Magnets, Luggage Tags, Manicure Kits, Chinese Porcelain, Chinese Dresses
Where – Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon
When – 12 Noon to late night
Flower Market – Loveliest of the Street Markets
I have seen flower markets in Bangkok and in almost all Indian cities. I am used to walking through piles of flowers – with men and women sorting them, packing them and tying them. And I expected something similar in the Flower Market here too. I was in for a surprise. Flower market in Kowloon is a retail market. You have lovely shops and boutiques selling flowers, plants, and succulents. The arrangement of flowers can be admired as much as flowers and plants.
Well, flowers always bring a smile on your face, but it was lovely to see people buy small pots for their balconies. There are many exotic plants and flowers all around – including all kinds of Orchids.
Well, Chinese believe flowers and plants bring in good luck. They buy a lot of them around Chinese New Year.
What to Buy – As a tourist, nothing much. Maybe some flowers for your local friends.
Where – Flower Market Road, Prince Edward, Kowloon
When – Throughout the day
The Bird Market is not easy to visit. It is painful to see the small colorful birds in small cages. It is a nicely designed small market. You pass through a small bird garden whose walls are painted with beautiful birds.
I took a quick walk and I was ready to hit the next market.
I am told if you sit around, you can see some men making the birds sing. But I only saw men playing cards while the birds jumped within the limits of their cages.
What to Buy – Nothing I guess
Where – Yuen Po Street, Prince Edward, Kowloon
When – Throughout the day
Gold Fish Market
Gold Fish Market would be my top recommendation for street markets of Hong Kong. Why? Because you would have probably seen anything like this. It is called the Gold Fish market but you get all kinds of pets here.
Gold Fish are considered lucky as per Chinese Feng Shui. Even I used to have them in my Bangalore home. I walked through the Gold Fish market with curiosity – there were Goldfishes of all sizes. The smallest ones were being sold in plastic pouches while the big ones had specially designed fish tanks for themselves.
There were cats and rabbits in small glass boxes up for sale.
It is an interesting market to walk along.
What to Buy – As a tourist, nothing but a gift for local friends
Where – Tung Choi Street – Mong Kok, Kowloon
When – All day long
Jade Market – Best Market to Buy Curios
This is a market for those who love colored stones. Although Jade is the most popular stone sold here, you do find other popular semi-precious stones like Rose Quartz.
What is interesting about Jade Market is the variety of forms in which you can buy the stone. You can buy Jade in the form of jewelry – bangles, earrings, pendants. There is as carved animals – they will tell you an animal corresponding to your year of birth. Jade sticks with auspicious Chinese symbols on them are very popular. There are Chinese Good Luck Charms that are a perfect gift from China for your loved ones.
There is something to suit every budget. I bought a pair of Jade earrings.
Chinese believe Jade brings in good health & long life. Traditionally, Jade is the first thing that a newborn in China receives from grandparents is a Jade Amulet. They are then regularly gifted among the Chinese.
What to Buy – Jade Accessories, Jade Souvenirs
Where – Jade Street or Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
When – All through the Day. Market closes around 6 PM
Temple Street Night Market – Most Popular Night Street Market
Not too far from Jade street is the famous night market of Temple street. As the other markets prepare to close down, the temple street night market starts opening up. This market is not very different from the Ladies market.
I wanted to pick up the game of Mah-jong from here but we could not agree on a price.
What to buy – Traditional Chinese Games, Knick-Knacks
Where – Temple Street, Kowloon
When – After 7 PM
Ap Liu Street Market for Electronics
This is a market dedicated to old and new electronic items. I am told you can never make out the fake and real products here.
I liked the memory sticks in curious shapes and sizes here.
Where – near Sham Shui Po MTR Station
What – Any electronic item you need
When – Noon to Late Night
Street Markets in Hong Kong Island
Stanley Market – The Most Charming Market
Stanley market is becoming too touristy’ – said my friend who lives in Stanley village and was taking me around the market. I would say, this is still the most charming Hong Kong Street Market.
To visit Stanley Market, you need to take a bus to Stanley Village. After a lovely 45-minute ride that takes you from city to village, the bus will drop you right in front of Stanley Market. It is not a crowded market and you can peacefully walk around.
Notice the various contemporary art studios displaying their works. At Stanley market, I discovered the needlework on white home linen. White on white work with a combination of cutwork and needlework is fascinating. You can buy bed covers, cushion covers or just small embroidered bags. I did not see these in any other market.
We met an artisan who would engrave your name on a Jade stick in 20 minutes or so – you have a choice of English or Chinese Name.
What to Buy – Needlework Home Linen, Contemporary Art Works, Your Name Stamps
Where – Stanley Village
When – All through the day
Cat Street Antique Market – The Funkiest Street Markets
Most old cities have an antique market. The Hong Kong one is called Cat Street – though officially the name is Lower and Upper Lascar Row, located very close to the famous Ladder street or Man Mo Temple.
Now you can never be sure what is real antique and what is fake. I saw interesting old porcelain, stone statues, metal sculptures, old watches, old coins, and many other interesting things. Walking through Cat Street is like time travel. When you walk in this narrow street which sounds more like a back alley, you are totally surrounded by antique stuff – you wonder if this how the old city looked like.
I saw some old Abacus in wood – wonder if they still use them to teach counting in school.
Cat Street is a great market for those who love to collect antiques.
What to Buy – Anything that you take a fancy to
Where – Junction of Ladder Street and Hollywood Road
When – All through the day
Pottinger Street / Stanley Street Market – The Costume Market
This is a market that is located on an incline connecting Hollywood Road to Queens Road Central. You literally walk on the 45 degrees of incline to explore this market. On both sides, you would see colorful wigs and face masks hanging.
Well, this is Hong Kong’s Street market for costumes & the street is called Pottinger Street.
What to Buy – Costumes for your next party
Where – Right in the business district
When – Throughout the Day
Besides these, there are regular Wet Markets to explore in any neighborhood. Chinese Herbal Markets are another attraction, but you must have a local person to help you converse and understand the herbs. There are temple markets outside every temple that primarily sell charms and the offerings for the temple.
Some Thumb Rules for Shopping in Hong Kong Street Markets:
Always Bargain. Pay what you feel is the right price for the product not what is being asked for.
Markets are crowded, so keep your stuff safe around you.
Most street markets here deal in cash only. Credit cards or Octopus cards do not work.
At Ladies Market, a couple of shopkeepers almost grabbed me when I tried to move ahead. They would not let me go till I buy. They did not mean harm but I was uncomfortable. Maintain your distance.
Enjoy Shopping in Hong Kong Street Markets!