This summer I had the unbelievable opportunity to visit the city of Hong Kong, China. What made the experience even more memorable was being able to take my ten-year-old daughter. She is an adventure-seeker, like me, so it was an easy sell despite the 19 hours we would spend on the plane. Within two weeks of finding out we were going, my daughter and I had booked our flights, packed our bags, and prepared to be awed by the world we would soon encounter.
Learning to Barter
Hong Kong is full of so many wonderful treasures and sights, and one of my favorite memories was walking around and shopping in all the local markets. With a population of almost 8 million people, Hong Kong offers some of the best shopping opportunities from the ultra high-end to inexpensive trinkets and souvenirs. My daughter and I were staying at a hotel located in Mong Kok on the Kowloon Peninsula. This area of Hong Kong plays host to some of the best-known street markets in the city. Our first night, we experienced the famous Ladies Market, which was bustling with shoppers well into the late night hours. Stall after stall lined the narrow streets, selling anything from luggage to jewelry, and of course purses resembling certain designer labels. Here is where I experienced my first taste of bargaining with the locals. Most everyone spoke English, thankfully, and the more you bargained with the vendors, the better response you received. Better bargaining led to fun gifts to take home to the family! My daughter even got in the game and bargained herself a pretty decent deal on a few specialty souvenirs.
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Not Your Typical Grocery Shopping
The next market we conquered was one of the “wet markets” found around the city. Wet Markets are where locals go to buy their groceries. In the States, we are accustomed to going inside a large, well-lit building which houses everything we need to stock our kitchens and households. But the one-stop-shopping concept is completely different in Hong Kong. Our eyes were opened in
fascination as we passed various store fronts which sold everything from locally grown vegetables, some I had never laid eyes on before in my life, to household cleaning supplies. Other shops dealt solely with meats, chickens, or seafood items. And when you shop the wet markets in Hong Kong, you only buy what you need for the next few meals because everything is fresh. Even the eggs are sitting out, unrefrigerated, because they were most likely gathered that morning. It was a foodie’s dream to meander down the aisles and see spices, dried goods, fruits, and vegetables to tempt anyone’s palate.
The next market on our shopping adventure was the one and only Jade Market. Here you could purchase various kinds of Jade, from the deepest of greens to the earthy reds of what locals called “ancient jade.” Again, my daughter and I found ourselves bargaining and negotiating our way down the aisles, finding the most unique pieces for the best prices possible. The Jade Market, also located in Mong Kok, takes up two entire blocks, and the outside appearance is deceiving. You think at first you are walking into a run-down metal and wood building only to discover the rows and rows of various items for sale, many of which were beautifully hand-carved masterpieces by the booth owners themselves. It is a must-see if you visit Hong Kong, because here you can get exquisite, one-of-a-kind pieces while also emerging yourself fully in the culture.
The Many Markets of Hong Kong
Our final day of shopping in Hong Kong found us at two places, which were in two totally different locations. PMQ, a modernist building located in Hong Kong’s “SOHO” district, once housed police quarters for married officers and their families. It is now using those rooms as individual storefronts. Local artists from around the Hong Kong area sell their pieces, which range from custom-made handbags and jewelry to tasteful varieties of tea leaves. If you want something unique and one-of-a-kind, the PMQ market needs to be on your to-do list. The close of our Hong Kong shopping adventure took place at the Temple Street Night Market. This market is also located on Kowloon and is one of the more well-known street markets in this area. Like the Ladies Market we visited a few evenings before, this market also sold many of the same items, but what makes this one so famous are the food vendors that set up shop here. Some families have been offering their cuisines to patrons for generations. The sights, sounds, and smells we encountered at the Temple Street Market truly resembled the culture and heritage of Hong Kong.
It’s easy to get accustomed to shopping in air-conditioned malls and shopping centers, but the luxury and convenience of those type of stores lack the individuality and character of the markets in Hong Kong. One of the best things about traveling is finding ways to immerse yourself in the culture, and visiting the markets in Hong Kong is a great way to achieve this. I hope one day you get to enjoy the same experiences my daughter and I did this summer.