Header image courtesy of Fashila Kanakka
Though it’s an ever-expanding financial hub in the South China Sea, Hong Kong sure knows how to balance its heritage with its urban hustle. Juxtapositions of the old sitting beside the new pave your way into storytelling through images, no words needed. Evident from Tin Hau temples frozen in time and traditional cuisine in local restaurants to even the elderly basking in the morning sunshine with some early tai chi, it’s more than easy to stay tuned into Hong Kong’s history and culture. Along with this, another strikingly unique feature of Hong Kong has got to be its bustling street markets—local vendors selling all things ranging from quirky souvenirs and clothing to dried seafood.
Hong Kong’s street markets are incredibly photogenic, to say the least (see for yourself in the photos below!), and it’s never a crime to act like a tourist in your own city. Grab your DSLR or film camera—even your smartphone will do!—and be a flâneur or flâneuse this season by exploring these underrated gems (whilst maybe providing some business to local vendors, too). Here’s your go-to guide on the most photogenic street markets in Hong Kong.
During the Qing dynasty, a row of five adjacent Tin Hau temples was built in Yau Ma Tei right in the vicinity of this busy flea market, hence its name of “Temple Street.” Located right in the heart of Jordan in Kowloon, the enormous red shrine at the entrance already gives you a traditional feel.
Temple Street Market is home to not only numerous vendors’ stalls but also to some lip-smacking restaurants. Road-side dining on Temple Street offers snacks, traditional Chinese cuisines, and fresh seafood. There are also a number of Nepalese restaurants to go to for mouth-watering momos and samosa chaat! Additionally, Temple Street has been widely featured in locally produced films and television series, often depicted as a scene of crime drama. An aerial shot of Temple Street’s night view might even land you an award in photography!
Take your street photography to the next level at Xiqu Centre at Austin Road. Just opposite of Xiqu Centre lies the West Kowloon High-Speed Railway Station—this new infrastructure has a Sky Corridor and Sightseeing Deck with lots of greenery and one can catch views of the Victoria Harbour (which we never tire of).
During the Ming and Qing dynasties, this very street belonged to a village in Mong Kok and was used to grow flowers, hence the name “Fa Yuen Street,” which translates to “Garden Street.” Located between Boundary Street and Dundas Street in Mong Kok, the best view of this market has to be from the overhead footbridge that links to Moko in Mong Kok East. Among the 50 stalls, most predominantly sell clothing for men, women, and children. Fa Yuen Street Market also holds the name “Sneaker Street,” given the great bargain for sportswear and sports gear.
A little tip: Gloomy days, when rainwater lines the streets with reflections, adds more character to street photography. The hues of the colourful roofs of the shops look more vibrant, and the market is not overflowing with people during rain, which gives you great opportunities to pick a specific angle and shoot without getting in the way of others (and vice versa).
Once you set foot on photographing the picturesque streets of Hong Kong, there’s no stopping! You can walk to the Flower Market to capture the essence of natural beauty in a wide variety of colours. Yuen Po Street Bird Park also lies in close proximity to Moko, where you get to both marvel and take pictures of exotic birds.
Of course, Sham Shui Po had to be included in this list. Fuk Wing Street Market is also known as “Toy Street” for having line after line of toy stores and stationery stores. Entertaining children and adults alike, this is where you can find toy replicas of KMB buses, taxis, minibuses, and trams—very nostalgic to adults who grew up playing with these! During this time of the year, the shops’ entrances showcase their range of Christmas decorations and artificial Christmas trees, too. Tinsels, bells, and shimmery snowflake décor instantly brighten the street. And of course, during Chinese New Year, the shops transform into a sea of red decorations!
Apliu Street nearby sells numerous electronic goods and it’s almost impossible to not see this area crowded with folks. There are tempting bargains for phone accessories, lights, vintage typewriters, and home appliances. Also, if you feel like taking a hike, climb up Garden Hill to take photos of Sham Shui Po from a different perspective.
Though the street is called Upper Lascar Row, it’s more commonly referred to as Cat Street amongst locals. Why this peculiar name? Well, back in the 1920s, a lot of stolen goods were believed to be sold here; in Cantonese, “rat” refers to stolen goods and its consumers are referred to as “cats.”
Don’t worry, this doesn’t happen in Hong Kong anymore! What you can find on Cat Street nowadays are shops selling jade, terracotta warrior statues, Mao statues, crystals, and precious stone bracelets. Bear in mind that other products, like wooden bowls and wooden chess pieces, are not bonafide antiques so it’s advisable to avoid spending too much money if you’re planning to be thrifty.
Just across Upper Lascar Row lies the mystic Man Mo Temple, dedicated to literature god Man Tai and martial god Mo Tai, it is the largest Man Mo temple in Hong Kong. While photographers often shoot the beauty of this sacred site, it is advised to remain respectful and be mindful to not obstruct worshippers. Afterwards, be sure to photograph the plethora of street art and murals littered all around Sheung Wan.
Chun Yeung Street Market is iconic amongst Hong Kong street markets as it has our beloved “Ding Ding” going through it—much like the Maeklong Railway Market in Bangkok, where a train runs through every now and then! North Point is an area in the Eastern District that is lined with old buildings, some of which have been replaced as new residential areas. What remains unaltered is how good North Point looks in pictures! It’s almost as if you’re capturing a postcard-worthy image to send to friends living in other parts of the world. At Chun Yeung Street Market, market-goers can buy clothing, bags, fruits, vegetables, and meat (quite a range, yes).
You can hop on the tram and explore the nearby vicinities of North Point, Fortress Hill, and Quarry Bay, or venture farther if you please. King’s Road has endless shops, cafés, and restaurants! Also, Hung Hom is just an eight-minute ferry ride away from North Point Ferry Pier (and it’s a great place to get fresh seafood, too).