With a full week in Hong Kong and after a fun day out at Ocean Park the day before, we had some more sightseeing on the program with Kowloon side in focus for the next day. We took the metro from Wai Chan to Prince Edward station on the Kowloon side of the Hong Kong harbour. From there it is a short walk to the famous Flower Market Road. We found the street to be lined with shops and stalls filled with fragrant and colourful flowers and potted plants. There was everything on sale from tulips, to roses to expensive and rare orchids. Some of the flower heads were individually wrapped in foam to protect them from being damaged by transport. They reminded us of the carefully packed fruit we had seen on our trips to Japan. I thought about buying a bunch of flowers but then again I would be carrying it around with me all day long so contented myself with looking. Jerome liked the look of the decorative bamboo plants and the decorations for the New Years Celebrations as well.
At the end of this street is the entrance to the Yuen Po Bird Garden. Seeing the birds in their elaborately carved cages, made from teak or bamboo always make Jerome sad. He would like to buy the whole lot and set them free…as it seems a shame to keep birds in tiny cages in the local tradition however beautiful the cage. We could see old man seated in their stalls, reading newspaper or chatting to each other. There was no client in sight when we were there, it is believe that these birds bring good fortune to the keeper, which is why they are still a popular feature in many households throughout the country. Walking past these tiny cages we could see that some of the birds were bright yellow, while the feathers of others were a more subdued hue. They definitely sang melancholy melodies as we moved on.
Having left both the bird and flower market behind we walked back into the direction of the metro station. We turned left into busy Tung Choi Street and after passing a few bike shops we were immediately immersed in the many shops selling goldfish – the goldfish market is also famous and a fascinating place for children (of all ages!).
Lined along the walls of the stores we could see rows upon rows of plastic bags with live fish inside. The sight of these poor creatures was even more depressing in a way than the birds in their cages. Some of the bigger fish had barely enough room to turn around and swim in the bag. There were thousands of them…Who would buy all these fish? Surely not every household in Hong Kong has an aquarium? Some of the fish were obviously goldfish but there were other more exotic and weirdly shaped fish for sale too and some of the rarer varieties demanded extortionate prices. Few of the shops actually had the fish in aquariums or tanks, like you would find in the fish shops in western countries. We walked along the road and discovered that some even sold other animals beside fish, there were turtles, some albino frogs and even cats and dogs for sale. Most children will probably love the sight of all these animals, it is a bit like being in a zoo, where all the animals on show are for sale. However, Jerome has always had a sensitive heart, cares for all living things and does not like any animal cruelty and he was trying to rush us to move on at times.
We left this somewhat sad part of the market behind and strolled along the busy road of downtown Mong Kok famous for its many different markets and a popular shopping destination for locals. A few blocks further down the road, we arrived at the next street market, Tung Choi, also known as the “Ladies Market”. There we found stall after stall crammed onto the street, most of them selling cheap clothing and bags, but also a selection of other tat from toys to household items. Some of the items very distinctively copied of famous designer items. The quality was according to the low price tags and we dismissed any efforts of the shopkeepers to try and sell us anything.
Jerome did find a little stall with a large selection of Rubic’s cubes in all sizes and shapes. He had recently been interested in trying to solve the original cube, with a little bit of help and hints from Chris. It seemed more like Chris was actually the one taking the cubes off the table and trying to see how they might work. My brain has never been able to process the functioning of the toy and I wandered off to look t some of the other stalls. Chris was very interested in the different versions on show as he had solved the original without any hints or instructions when he was a teenager and it first came out. In the end the boys bought two unusual cubes and I got some cute umbrellas, which are in a hard plastic case and look like Japanese dolls. If you plan on buying anything at these markets always try to haggle the prices down a bit as they usually ask for much more than they are in other shops at first.
Tung Choi street ends at a hospital, straight behind is King’s Park, which is a great spot for a pause of the hectic streets of Kowloon and a very welcome break for kids of all ages to let of steam. Smaller children will enjoy the playgrounds.
Instead of going to the park we walked east along Dundas Road and then turned towards the Yau Ma Tei fruit market on Reclamation Street. The market was still how I remembered it from our first visit a few years before, the stalls selling delicious fruit in the crumbling building. On one roof nature had already taken over and we could see a tree growing from its wall. I always enjoyed watching the locals here, buying and selling their fruit. Some older woman sat on the pavement with their selection of goods, probably grown in their own gardens. We watched some older men play Mah Jong, the famous Chinese tile game, which we as a family like to play on weekends sometimes. The men, cigarettes casually in the corner of their mouths, played much faster than us. Despite their chatter they appeared to be absolutely engrossed in the game and not taking any notice of the happenings around them.
Find out where we went afterwards in my next post, coming up soon…