Shopping should be fun, and Hong Kong’s markets and themed shopping streets are exactly that
As a rule of thumb, Hong Kong’s marts tend to open mid-morning and then close late-evening on a daily basis. The exception is Kam Tin Flea Market which only runs at weekends and on public holidays.
Bargaining is pretty much de rigeur. If you want to buy something, ask the price, offer a (reasonable) fraction, then meet in the middle. Walking off in a supposed huff helps lower the price towards the end of this intriguing piece of street theatre.
Pickpockets can spot you a marathon away; don’t flash your cash, and keep whatever you contain it in well guarded, especially when you are trying on clothes.
I’ve included the relevant MTR or bus connections by each mart. All you need do now is grab a wad of cash and set off around these – the best markets and shopping streets in Hong Kong.
No question about it, I’d say that Stanley market (Bus 6, 6A, 6X, 66 or 260) is best for ambience; you can dawdle around the alleyways and then drop down by the seaside for lunch. The shops are roughly arranged in a T-shaped layout, with the elongated cross-piece running parallel to the shore. Rugby shirts of the world, Chinoiserie, copy artworks, sports shoes, mementos and souvenirs – they’re all here. Highly-salaried bureaucrats’ efforts to modernise Stanley (ie totally negate the market’s character) happily remain on the drawing board.
The Lanes – Li Yuen streets East and West – between Des Voeux and Queen’s roads in Central – have as good a selection of clothes and knick-knacks as anywhere in town. My cousin and her husband did all their Christmas shopping here in one fell swoop when they came to visit. Note that, as well as the stalls and street-level shops, there are a number of other outlets on the higher floors. Central MTR, exit C.
In Yau Ma Tei, Temple Street Night Market (Jordan MTR, exit A; 4pm kick-off daily) tends to lack quality – its offerings are very much mass market, with a lot of gadgets and luggage on offer. It’s more a spectacle than somewhere to do any serious shopping.
Further north, Tung Choi Street (Mong Kong MTR) hosts both Ladies’ Market (which could well be renamed Unisex) and the Goldfish Market – traditionally viewed as lucky, and about the only sort of pet many Hong Kongers have room to house.
Running parallel to Tung Choi, Fa Yuen Street is a grand parade of sportswear outlets. For electronics, and also – slightly bizarrely – cosmetics, try Sai Yeung Choi Street South, which is only a few minutes’ walk away. Similar geekery – including second-hand stuff as well as antique watches and old coins – is on show at Ap Liu Street Flea Market in Sham Shui Po (MTR exit C2).
Jardine’s Crescent in Causeway Bay (MTR exit F) is perhaps the least enticing market on Hong Kong Island: it’s crowded even by Hong Kong standards, and the clothing and accessories on show not instantly buyable. So it's worth seeing, but not worth going to see.
There are two sides to the Jade Market (Yau Ma Tei MTR, exit C): it’s a wholesale mart, with trading accomplished via tic-tac type hand signals. And there’s the retail side; you really need to know what you’re doing if you’re forking out large sums. And if what you fancy seems rather cheap, chances are it’s not jade.
Tai Yuen Street in Wan Chai (MTR exit A3) is somewhere that would appeal to seven-year-olds of all ages. It’s stacked with toys and games, including good old-fashioned stuff like hula hoops as well as Buzz Lightyear and his ilk.
The Kam Tin Flea Market (Saturday and Sunday only) is a direct descendant of the Gurkha Market that used to take place in Sek Kong, the former UK military base up the valley. When the Brits (and their Gurkha soldiers, and all their families) marched home in 1997, the flea market, in search of a new customer base, moved down the road to the forecourt of Kam Sheung Road station.
If you come out here (about 40 minutes by train from Central), it’s worth taking in the Sum Ngai Brass Factory (2477 7202; www.sumngaibrass.com) which is only a few minutes’ walk away and also does porcelain, lampshades and cloisonné. The adjacent Red Brick House is an indoor mart – open only at weekends – with a similar intriguing jumble of odds and ends to the Flea Market.
Finally, the Flower Market and Yuen Po Street Bird Garden (Prince Edward MTR, exit B) are more or less next to each other. They’re both highly picturesque, the latter especially so as proud owners come here to hang their pets’ cages in the open air and listen to their singing. There’s a range of avian paraphernalia on sale, such as cages.