Going to Visit Helen's Family
People have a lot of vision of Hong Kong -
center, super dense city, city of shopping. For my girlfriend,
Hong Kong was simply home and she still has a lot of family
there. For two weeks I tagged along a visit.
Kong is all about markets. Space is at such a premium in Hong
Kong that people generally don't have the option to "stock up" or buy
in large quantities so there are grocery and dry goods markets repeated
all over the city. Hong Kong has a massive population in a small
area so specialized markets have formed and the competition has driven
further specialization. A few of my favorites:
Having a dog as a pet is pretty unreasonable in
small apartments with
no grass parks. Having a bird is quite possible.
Apparently, in an older era, retired men would walk around with their
caged birds and rest in this park. The bird market now takes up
much of the space but there were still the odd person chatting with a
caged bird beside him.
Gold Fish Market
Don't like birds? How about a fish?
Fish are much smaller
investment but this Hong Kong market is actually quite a bit larger
than the bird market. Fish are displayed in plastic bags (take
one down and to the cashier) and most stores have vast tanks full of
We watched as stores received new shipments - large boxes with a single
bag inside holding hundreds of fish. These bags are removed and
slid across the floor of the store until they get to the large tanks of
a similar stock. This is a large numbers business.
Turtles were also quite popular. I think they are similarly low
maintenance, but you can buy accessories (plastic palm trees) for your
These occur all over Hong Kong, especially in
denser or older parts of
the city. Most of these markets open around lunch and stay open
well into the evening. Each stall is specialized (Tofu, fruits,
vegetables, fresh fish) but the same type of stall may be seen more
than once in a city block (especially fruit).
There are a few constants. The red lights over the produce seem
to be common Hong Kong wide. You often see Compact Florescent
Lights under the shades but by no means a rule.
The products in each stall is in general competitive. Unlike our
supermarkets where you have made an investment to go this big box store
and the next big box store is 15 minutes away, here if you don't like
the look of the banana's, you walk 4 meters to the next vendor and
check his selection. Prices vary, but not widely.
selection, seafood far and away dominates. Chicken and Pork
is next most common (most often cooked) with beef a distant last.
I didn't see much else but because the meat is generally cut up and
hung, it's possible I was looking at goat and didn't realize
it. The selection of seafood was often a function of how
far you were from the ocean but not always.
Produce selection was fantastic. We accompanied Helen's
grandfather on one minor purchasing run and I was impressed to see that
after he purchased some larger produce (bok choi or something) he was
given a bunch of green onions - free. This kind of "thanks for
your business" seems to be common.
Cooked food is similarly competitive. It's common to see
the same types of restaurants stacked up next to each other, each
roughly with the same number of clients. There is definitely some
destination restaurants - we even saw the odd line up at lunch time,
for the most part, everything is busy or closed.
Food in restaurants is dominated by seafood. People in Hong Kong
like their meat so eating Vegetarian is certainly a challenge.
We visited a family favorite Dim Sum place a number of times in our
trip but I didn't bother to take pictures because Dim Sum is common in
Vancouver and the menu items are very similar between the two
cities. It's sea food that really stands out as different.
On the vegeratian side, I had a few new things. Cook lettuce is
rare in Vancouver here - it's pretty common in Hong Kong. The
deserts in Hong Kong also stand out. While these kinds of deserts
can be found in Vancouver (especially the night market in Richmond)
they are particularly dramatic in Hong Kong.
There are two types of street food - legitimate
retail offering food
you can take away (the vast majority) and hawkers selling food from
mobile stores that move to find customers and avoid enforcement.
Hawkers are now quite rare so finding them is actually quite a treat.
Helen's Mom quite enjoys fresh roasted
chestnuts. These chestnuts are roasted in a fire heated work and
have a sweet coating. You get a small bag full (and often another
bag for the shells) and you crack them open yourself and eat the
steaming hot contents. The Hawkers aren't keen on you taking
there photos because they aren't really supposed to be doing this.
more conventional retail food is common all over Hong Kong. It's
often deep fried and almost all of it has fish or meat in it.
Helen's stinky tofu (stinky in a way they can't make it in Vancouver)
is so bad you can smell it from half a block away. The tofu is
almost green. Apparently it's fantastic.
Mai Po Marshes
When you think of Hong Kong, you rarely think of
city does actually have a few wildlife areas and of the hightlights is
the Mai Po Marshes. These marshes on the Northern border of Hong
Kong used to be shrimp farms but have been retired for conservation
purposes. The area is now an important stop over place for
migratory birds and one of the few areas that wildlife comes first.
The park has open houses on Saturdays and we booked ourselves a
tour. We were lucky that our tour coincided with a low tide so we
got a pretty good bird viewing of the mud flats. If you are a
local, you can get permits to enter this area outside of a group and
take photos at your leisure but this is too much to organize for a
Dolphin Watching Tour
Another one of those "Found on the internet"
things, I wanted to see
think pink dolphins. We booked ahead of time (the tours go three
days a week) and we got to the hotel downtown to await our
pickup. We were whisked out to near the airport and when we got
the boat, Helen commented it didn't feel like Hong Kong any more -
almost everyone was a white westerner or Japanese. The tour was
run bilingual - English, Japanese.
We toured the harbour looking for dolphins and
when they were spotted, we slowly followed.Lantau
When you arrive at the international airport in
Hong Kong, the first
island you visit (after the airport which is on a man made island) is
Lantau Island. While Lantau seems like just a prelude to Hong
Kong proper, it actually has a few attractions that make it a good
destination. One day we took the MTR to central and then hopped
a ferry to visit Lantau. Our first destination was the Po Lin
Monastery and the Giant
Buddha - Tian Tan Buddha.
We had vegetarian lunch in the restaurant at the monistary and then
went for the walk up the 268 steps to the Buddha. It was a very
bright day (not great for photography) but seeing such a large piece of
metal up close is quite impressive. There is a museum inside (no
photos) with some really nice pieces of art that have been donated to
go with the buddha.
Lantau Island - Tai O
There is also a large bell inside. More so than other parts of
Hong Kong, here I felt a connection with China. There were a
number of donations specifically from the Chineese government and there
were a lot of mainland chineese around.
Our second destination on Lantau was Tai O, a
small fishing community
on the western side of the island. When you get off the bus
you are funneled into the market and the small retail area. Fish
markets here are terrific (most things are
sold live) and Helen's mom were quite disappointed when we
didn't have anything we need to take home with us.
Walking past the market you come to the older village area. This
place is pretty quite. This village is still hanging
onto it's traditional labour (fishing) and accommodations (houses on
stilts over the mud banks) but you don't get the feeling it's going to
last much longer.
Walking around the village you would
often see trays of food left out drying.
It seems that seafood that doesn't get sold immediately in the market
gets dried and
sold as dried products.
If you had only one day in Hong Kong, going to
visit the peak in
Central would probably be one of the things you would do. We
didn't visit the peak until quite late in our trip because we were
hoping for a day of rain to wash away (or at least reduce) the air
Hong Kong is down stream from China and while Hong Kong does generate
pollution, much of it's pollution is inherited from upstream
This smog over the city is constant and sunsets happen well before the
sun hits the horizon because the pollution is so thick.
That said, the visit to central and the peak is well worth it.
The light shows put on each night by the buildings that dominate the
skyline isn't coordinated but it is dramatic.
For a day trip we decided to go to Shek
Helen's Mom used to
swim here when she was younger and we had our swimming stuff with us
(in Hong Kong) so why not? The water was quite nice (even though
it's late fall here) and the beach (which in the summer would be
covered in people) was pretty open.
For a day trip we decided to go out to Lamma
Island. We took the ferry from central to Yung Shue
Wan on the North Western end of the island.
From there, there is a nice walk down and across the island. You
pass by beaches, rise over the peak and then come down into a bay on
the eastern side of the island. We picked a pretty warm day so we
were happy to buy a popsicle on the top of the island.
When you get down into the far bay you
find Sok Kwu Wan - a smaller town filled with seafood
restaurants. After a bit searching we had a very enjoyable lunch
while looking over the harbour. We concluded the day with a nice
ferry ride back to Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island and then a bus ride
Tags: Hong Kong(55), market(17), fish(13), seafood(13), bird(10), street food(7)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > Hong Kong
The pictures taken are excellent!!
Very very nice pictures
Thursday, August 21st, 2008 at 09:35:44
what is the adress of the Gold Fish Market??
Can you help??
Sunday, September 28th, 2008 at 03:15:15
The Gold fish market is in Mongkok, which is on the mainland side (not Hong Kong Island). It's on Tung Choi Street (says my guide book), but it kind of spills out from the street. If you find the ladies street, you need to go North. The Prince Edward MTR station is closest.
Amazing pics, thanks for giving me a temporary elixir for curing my nostalgia. Hopefully, I'll back to hk this X'mas...
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 at 10:04:56
Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 01:16:19 Edit
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