Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hong Kong Markets

Dried pig haunches?  Anyone?  The streets around our hotel, in Hong Kong, were filled with curious dried things.  Nominally, we were in the dried seafood market, but the items certainly weren’t limited to the sea.
These chicken legs were still being dried—at least we assume that was the intent.  Jumping topics completely, we didn’t eat a lot of meat here.  The vegetarian options were diverse and tasty.  And of limited lethality.
The business pictured below trades fat.  It’s their core competency.  We’d love to have seen their mission statement.  They were not alone in specialization; a nearby business specialized in selling bird nests; it was not a small operation.
Walking past storefront after store front, with their stock spilling out onto the streets in boxes, we got a sense of the sheer quantities of goods funneling through Hong Kong.  One store would have hundreds of boxes full of dried turtles, and it was only one of many stores on that one street selling them.  The next street had more, and the next.  And these were all wholesale shops—they were not selling individual turtles, bird nests, shark fins, etc., they were selling them in volume.  Each morning, they’d be counting and sorting new deliveries, and each night as we walked back past, you could see the dent that buyers had made.  We’ve all heard about depleting the oceans of fish, but it finally struck us in a visceral way, here in the street markets.  We might not have been as sensitive to this before we visited the Galapagos.
This store also had a horse bezoar (there’s an interesting anecdote about testing them against poison in the 16th century on that Wikipedia link) you can see it in the picture below, all the way to the left, where you can see the reflection of a car in the glass.
In addition to the dried seafood markets, which smelled about how you would imagine dried seafood markets to smell, there were all kinds of other markets (and smells—not all bad).  The Cat Street market sold all kinds of antiques, although at this point it was taken up by more trinkets and junk than actual antiques. It was a fun place to wander through, however.
The Graham Street market is another one we visited, which according to Wikipedia, has been operating for 160 years.  Everything there was fresh and spotless.
Even the meat and fish market stalls had no odor to them. It was an enjoyable place to stroll around and just see what was for sale, and what was being bought.
The last market we went to on our trip to Hong Kong was the Temple Street night market, which is on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong.  This market was one of the most fun, packed to the gills with people and everyone looking for a bargain.
There were plenty of food options too, including many places you could get the local delicacy—chili crab, as well as other seafood.  And of course, we had to visit the Coconut Master for a coconut shake. It was yummy.
Most of what was available for purchase in this market was clothes, shoes, sunglasses, headphones for some reason, USB drives in all shapes, knock-off purses and luggage, that sort of thing. It was fun to join the throng and browse, but you had to be careful not to touch anything or ask “how much?” until you were ready to buy.  But, this was true throughout Asia. One of the places we visited was a really interesting tea shop that sold different cakes of pu-erh tea. They really wanted us to buy something after we drank the sample tea. But given our limited luggage space, we had to shake our heads and move on.
Hong Kong isn’t the only city for markets (every city in Asia had some version of all these markets) but the markets in Hong Kong, if not the cheapest, were some of the most interesting and varied markets we visited in all of our travels through Asia.