The small, brightly lit booth is adorned
with Chinese calligraphy and signs of the zodiac. A fortune teller
sits at his table, deep in concentration while his customers, a
young couple, wait anxiously. Softly stroking the long strands of
his wispy beard, the seer predicts their future, perhaps good
career prospects or whether their decision to buy a new house is a
There are many
kinds of fortune telling on offer: tarot cards, palmistry, reading
of facial muscles. Visitors can even have a parrot predict their
It's a scene
replicated across Hong Kong; the fortune teller is just one of many
operating in the city's busy, nighttime markets.
The bustling night
markets -- and daytime ones, too -- typify life in Hong Kong.
They're scenes of incredible activity and energy for the city's 7
million inhabitants, not to mention a vast number of
It might seem to
the casual observer that every Hong Kong native is born with a
shopping gene, since the city's myriad retail outlets -- from huge,
glitzy malls to the street markets and the smallest mom-and-pop
shops -- are always jam-packed and sales are brisk. (A word of
caution: Hong Kong is no longer the cheap shopping destination it
When they are not
shopping, Hong Kongers seem to be eating. The scope of eateries is
vast, ranging from high-class restaurants in top hotels to roadside
stalls where locals grab a snack before dashing off for more
Much has been made
of mainland China's transition to capitalism, but Hong Kong, under
British rule until 1997, has always had a market economy --
literally. Much of the city's trade, not to mention wheeling and
dealing, has traditionally taken place at its open-air
In the bird market
on Yuen Po Street in the Mong Kok district of Kowloon, home to many
of the city's most famous street markets,
avian aficionados who maintain the Chinese tradition of keeping
small, caged songbirds wander among the 70-odd stalls in search of
specimens with superior chirping qualities. Retired men in
particular often gather on this garden-like street to discuss the
affairs of the day while indulging this ancient passion.
All matter of
bird-related paraphernalia is available at the Yuen Po market, from
the most intricately carved wooden cages to bags of live
grasshoppers, a favorite songbird snack.
The bird market is
generally open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily.
Just around the
corner, at the Flower Market in Mong Kok, boxes of blossoms from
mainland China -- where labor costs are lower -- are constantly
being unloaded from trucks.
Hong Kong residents
descend on this market, open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., not only for
flowers but for its bounty of bamboo, which is said to bring good
Peddling more good
fortune, the Goldfish Market holds sway on nearby Tung Choi Street.
Hong Kong residents maintain that a goldfish bowl properly
positioned in the home ensures positive vibes, according to the
concepts of feng shui.
Market, open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., is a colorful distraction,
with its storefronts covered with rows of clear, plastic bags full
of multihued goldfish, fighting betas and other aquarium
A bit farther up
Tung Choi Street lies the Ladies' Market, an amazing five to six
blocks of towering market stalls that are assembled and
disassembled each day.
Here, the vendors
specialize in inexpensive women's wear and accessories, but
menswear, kids' clothes and toys are also available.
the Ladies Market near Fa Yuen Street are Mong Kok's electronics
and sportswear markets. Although referred to as such, these are
less markets than retail districts of somewhat pricey shops selling
the aforementioned goods.
When shopping in
electronics and jewelry shops in particular, look for the Quality
Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme insignia in the window. It signifies
the shop has been certified as legitimate by the Hong Kong Tourism
Other parts of
Kowloon and Hong Kong offer street market delights, as well. Our
friend the fortune teller holds court at the Temple Street Night
Market in Yau Ma Tei.
In contrast to Tung
Choi Street in Mong Kok, Temple Street is noted for men's wear and
masculine accessories -- hence its other moniker, the Men's Street
In addition to the
haphazard haberdashery, the Temple Street Night Market, which opens
around 4 p.m. but kicks into high gear after sunset, is awash with
vendors hawking everything and anything, from CDs and DVDs to
hardware and luggage, until 11 p.m.
The Temple Street
Night Market is also noted for its food stalls, serving fresh
seafood and hotpot dishes. Fortune-tellers gather at the Yau Ma Tei
end of the market alongside amateur Chinese opera performers and
Yau Ma Tei is also
home to the Jade Market, a covered bazaar flanked with traditional
Chinese gates and packed with some 450 vendors peddling jade in all
forms as well as other souvenirs that are often kitschy. Chinese
tradition holds that jade wards off evil spirits and protects
travelers from harm.
There's also a
series of jade shops nearby on so-called Jade Street, which is the
portion of Canton Road lying between Kansu Street and Jordan Road.
The market is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Flea market fans
should consider heading to the Sham Shui Po neighborhood, where
they can prowl the stalls of the Apliu Street Flea Market for
antiques, coins and used electronics.
Farther afield, in
Stanley on the southern shore of Hong Kong Island proper, Stanley
Market's old fishing lanes feature vendors selling Chinese artwork,
silk collectibles and curios. The market runs from 9 a.m. to 7
To sample a
traditional Hong Kong seafood market, travelers can head to Tai O
Fishing Village on Lantau Island.
The fishing lanes
of Tai O, famous for its canals lined by rickety houses on stilts,
are packed with open-air stalls filled with fresh and dried
seafood, including oddities such as whole shark carcasses. It's got
to be seen, and smelled, to be believed.
Visit the Hong Kong
Tourism Board's Web site at www.discoverhongkong.com/usa. Or call the HKTB at
(212) 421-3382 in New York, (415) 781-4587 in San Francisco or
(310) 208-4582 in Los Angeles.
contact Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].