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The Best Old-School Street Markets in Hong Kong

by Tiffany Wan

A street market stall in Hong Kong
The market scene in Hong Kong. Photo by Dave.See / Flickr.

Tiffany Wan of Wanderlab Designs wants to preserve the experience of visiting Hong Kong markets, which are threatened by changes in land use, and has created a poster series that pays tribute to the city's unique commercial energy. She's funding it with a Kickstarter campaign that ends Monday, October 27, Hong Kong time. Here, she recommends the best markets to visit to experience Hong Kong's hustle and bustle.

HONG KONG – As a designer, I'm always on the hunt for inspiration. And whenever I travel, I hit the markets. My favorite place to wander and indulge in local food, culture, and heritage, they bring a glimpse of old culture to modern cities. These are five of my favorite markets in Hong Kong.

GRAHAM STREET MARKET

Graham Street, Central (between Queens Road Central and Hollywood Road)

What's to love: More than 140 years old, Graham Street Market is Hong Kong Island's oldest open-air market. Vendors crowd into a narrow, pedestrian-only street, leaving no room for vehicles. Keep your eye out for traditionally made snacks and desserts. My favorite is bowl pudding made of brown sugar, flour, and red bean. Dried noodles and decorative lanterns make good local gifts to take home. Come for fresh produce like watercress, Chinese kale, and winter melon, or homemade tofu. Sit down for a snack at Lan Fong Yuen 開飯喇 (2 Gage St.) just off Graham Street. The Hong Kong staple is the only spot where you can sit on a stoop and enjoy a drink. Try the milk-tea and French toast.

Good to know: Go before it's gone. The market is currently undergoing redevelopment by Hong Kong's Urban Renewal Authority, which has been introducing new shops, offices, and hotels by pushing out old shops on Graham Street, Peel Street, and Gage Street since 2013. Make time for Kung Lee (60 Hollywood Road) at the corner of Graham Street, the official start of the market, for fresh sugar cane juice, and for Leaf Dessert (2 Elgin Street), a one-minute walk west on Hollywood Road (an extension to the market), where you'll find delicious Chinese mochi treats filled with peanut crumbs.

Lan Fong Yuen at Graham Street Market

The line at Lan Fong Yuen at Graham Street Market. Photo by Emily Orpin / Flickr.

BUSINESS CARD MARKET

Man Wah Lane, Sheung Wan

What's to love: If you left your business cards at home or ran out, you can make more in just a day or two on the street that was once the hub of Hong Kong's print business. Get a Chinese chop (a stone-engraved seal) custom-made for a unique souvenir. Or head to the fresh fruit juice stalls for a drink, the perfect thirst quencher for your city walk.

Good to know: Shops are open during the week. Most stalls close for the weekend.

TRADITIONAL REMEDIES MARKET

Wing Lok Street, Des Voeux Road West, and Ko Shing Street

What's to love: Ginseng and Bird's Nest Street, Dried Seafood Street, and Herbal Medicine Street — the tourist names for the offical street names listed above — make up a neighborhood of small streets selling delicacies and remedies. Traditional Chinese medicine is still very popular with the local population, and this is where they come to shop. Go for exotic goods like dried abalone, starfish, and shark fin. Kai Fat Food Company (126 Wing Lok St.) sells a nice selection of teas and affordable tea wares.

Good to know: Go during weekday working hours, and be careful of movers and trolleys hustling down the street with goods and inventory.

YUEN PO STREET BIRD GARDEN AND FLOWER MARKET

Yuen Po Street, Prince Edward, Kowloon

What's to love: The traditional Chinese-style garden is a rare find in Hong Kong. Local men come to socialize with their birds. Stalls sell beautifully crafted bamboo cages and exotic birds. Stroll through the park and to listen to birds sing.

Good to know: Go early in the morning to see locals feeding birds live crickets and grasshoppers with chopsticks. Outside the garden is the adjacent flower market, which is most lively and festive during Chinese New Year.

Yuen Po Bird Garden

The sights and sounds of Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. Photo by Michael Elleray / Flickr.

TAI PO MARKET

Tai Po Market Complex, New Territories

What's to love: The best local food in Hong Kong. For generations, Tai Po Market has been a trading post for local farmers. The busy market building has fresh meat and fish on the ground floor, fruits and vegetables one level up, and, above that, a large food court with many inexpensive, street food-like restaurants.

Good to know: A square with dozens of local shops and restaurants is outside the complex. Yat Lock BBQ Restaurant (5 Tai Ming Lane, Po Wah Building, Block A, GF) has delicious Chinese roast and BBQ meats. The nearby Railway Museum is small, but very informative and great for history buffs and children alike.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

Fathom's Guide to Hong Kong

Tiffany Wan is a food obsessed explorer, designer, and packrat. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She travels for unique cultural experiences and wanderlust-inspired souvenirs.

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