Hong Kong Stories and Tips

Street Markets of Kowloon

Mini-buses Photo, Hong Kong, China

It felt like we were advancing through levels of street markets in Mong Kok like Super Mario advances through game stages. Once you hit the Ladies Market at the corner of Dundas and Tung Choi Road, you’ll plunge into a veritable canyon of stalls that pretty much stretches all the way up to the old Kowloon–China border. No guidebook that I’ve read successfully conveys what an incredible experience it is to wander these streets, even if you aren’t intent on making lots of purchases. It’s pretty hard not to, though—the prices are just ridiculous.

Make Mong Kok your first stop in Kowloon, and once you’re ready to check out the markets, go ahead and start at the Ladies Market. With stalls lining both sides of the already narrow street, we were immediately swept up into the action, unprepared for the sensory overload that seemed to increase the deeper you ventured in. Bags, toys, clothing, clocks, wristbands, towels, shoes—the merchandise offered here was like a "what’s what" of products available in the 21st century.

The Ladies Market ends at Argyle Street, but just a few short blocks up begins the Goldfish Market. On our first visit up here, we didn’t understand why this market held that name. We didn’t see any goldfish—but then, the Ladies Market didn’t cater to women, so we chalked it up as having symbolic meaning. We found more of the same bargains and interesting knick-knacks along Fa Yuen Street, and afterwards headed for the Flower Market. It was on my second visit, however, that I discovered the street next to Fa Yuen; this is where you’ll find store after store peddling all kinds of exotic fish. You could put together a pretty hip-looking aquarium if you bought your residents here.

Feeling a little worn down from all the activity in the markets and the accompanying humidity, we soldiered on up Sai Yee Street and walked through the Flower Market. Together, the flowers freshened the air like a thousand cans of Wizard, and it would have smelled even better if it hadn’t been located across the street from Mong Kok Stadium and a sewer emanating the worst stench ever.

You’ll hear birds chirping as you walk past the Flower Market, and right around the way you’ll hit the Bird Market. We didn’t spend too much time going from stall to stall. We just relaxed on some steps, guzzling water and listening to old men jabbering back and forth with the soothing sound of the birds in the background. This is actually in a pretty neat little area, and it’s surely worth a visit.

Back down in Yau Ma Tei are the other major markets of Kowloon. The much-ballyhooed Temple Street Night Market isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as far as what’s being sold, but maybe we were just spoiled by Mong Kok earlier in the day. You’ll see a lot of dollar store-type stuff here—batteries, flashlights, hats—but there are also a few booths stocked with rarities, such as a Chairman Mao–era wristwatch. Still, with all the paper lanterns lit up and a small park breaking up the area, this market is quite charming.

One other thing about the Temple Street Night Market that you won’t read in a guidebook: this street/area might as well be the site of the Porn Market too. Nowhere else in the city will you find this many porn stores all clustered together in one area. So if you’re hunting for some rare issue of "Asian Girls Gone Wild" from 1998 (you get the idea), this is the place to go.

You’ll find the Jade Market close by too. We didn’t go through it the first day, but I did take a quick look on my second visit. One thing’s for sure—there is a lot of jade here. Going south on Reclamation Street, you’ll also hit a lively produce market, and we discovered yet another street market in the area as well—it was a lot like the ones in Mong Kok.

Don’t forget that there are stores lining these streets too, behind the stalls. It’s easy to miss them, but we found a lot of great deals on sneakers and clothes at a few of these places. What else can I say? Working these street markets was completely amazing. You can’t say you’ve visited Hong Kong until you’ve gone over to Kowloon to see what I mean.

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