To market, to market
Ah, a sunny, warm (70/20) day off! With the clock ticking down on my time in Hong Kong, what better way to spend it than visiting a selection of the city’s famous themed markets?
I grabbed my purse and headed out for the Kowloon side, crossing the harbour underground on the MTR (subway). My trusty guidebook in hand, I made my way to Mong Kok, a working class neighbourhood just south of the border between Kowloon and the New Territories.
My walk took me along Boundary Road, past Mong Kok Stadium to a small lane. Suddenly, I heard twittering and tweeting. I’d found the bird market!
Themed markets in Hong Kong come in more than one variety: stores selling one type of product clustered together; outdoor stalls along a pedestrian thoroughfare; or a covered are with booths featuring a particular product. The bird market comprises small shops that sell pet birds and all the items needed to care for them: cages, feed, water bowls, perches, etc.
In fact, Hong Kong birds live a luxury lifestyle. No wire cages or plastic water dishes for these tweetie pies; no, no! They sip and sup from china bowls and flit around in lovely bamboo cages. Quite lovely, actually, to see them appreciated!
I walked the lane and marvelled at the varieties of birds on offer: parrots, budgies, cockatoos, and a host of other small birds I couldn’t name. There were some baby parrots whose heads still had baby fuzz rather than feathers – so adorable. However, they knew how to squawk with the best of them already!
One of the shops specialized in bird treats: live grasshoppers. They were packaged in plastic punctured with holes and lined with grass and twigs. I think I might stick to bird seed if I were an owner.
Not only is the bird market home to bird sellers, it has a parklike area attached where bird owners can come with their own birds, sit and visit. No need for birds – or owners, for that matter – to be lonely!
The lane from the bird market leads almost directly to the next point of interest: the flower market. This, too, is actually a collection of shops that specialize in flower, with some more like gardening stores, others focusing on cut flowers and still others focusing on a category of plant, such as orchids or succulents. The merchandise spills out onto the sidewalk, so the browser is barraged by a flood of colour: purple, yellow and white orchids; tubs of cut carnations, birds of paradise, anthurium and bamboo; hyacinth bulbs ready to burst into fragrant bloom; and for the holidays, pot after pot of poinsettias. Impossible to walk away empty-handed – and I didn’t!
A few blocks away, across a busy Prince Edward Street, is the goldfish market. I have fond childhood memories of carnivals and fairs at local synagogues and churches where there were goldfish to be won as prizes. You aimed a ping pong ball at a goldfish bowl, and if it landed, you were awarded a goldfish swimming in a plastic bag full of water that was held gingerly on the drive home.
I hadn’t seen such bags in years – until today! There, along the street full of aquarium stores, were the plastic bags of my childhood, but they weren’t as staid. No, it wasn’t simply goldfish that were available, but guppies, crabs, angelfish and others. Inside the shops, larger fish and tanks were for sale, but there’s nothing to attract a sidewalk crowd like a wall full of koi!
Since I’d been wandering for quite a while already, I decided to pass on the ladies’ clothing market. I’ve been to some outdoor clothing markets on Hong Kong Island, and I was more interested in the next destination: the jade market.
En route, however, I happened upon a Tin Hau Temple that beckoned, so I wandered in to inhale the incense and enjoy the altar piled with the usual offerings of fruit. Tin Hau is the Empress of the Seas and is a goddess of great import to fishermen and sailors.
After cutting down a side street that took me past a tempting selection of stores selling cooking utensils and industrial-size pots, I found the tin-covered roof that marked the jade market. Inside the building were dozens of booths selling jade items from minuscule to large: earrings, bracelets and pendants, as well as decorative carvings in shades from white to dark green. Tour books warn the buyer to beware, as much of the stock is likely jadite or worse, but for cheap and cheerful, it’s fine. Of course, I couldn’t leave without a few bracelets and a happy young saleswoman! What’s a trip to HK without some lucky jade?
Some sunshine, some shopping, some new neighbourhoods to explore: all in all, a lovely day off.