The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Shopping at the wet market in Hong Kong

I think that the most local scene in Hong Kong can be found at the wet market. It really doesn't get any more local than the wet market, complete with the grumpy vendors, the Chinese-only signs using the "catty" weight system, and getting jostled by the locals running their usual shopping errands. It is entirely possible and not at all unusual for an expat in HK to never experience that kind of shopping during their years here in HK; truly, it can be quite intimidating for a non-Chinese speaker to do their grocery shopping here. And here I am writing as one of those non-Chinese speaking expats who does most of their day-to-day grocery shopping inside a sparkling clean, air-conditioned and aesthetically pleasing supermarket with easy-to-read English signage and clearly labelled organic produce.

I remember my last visit to a nearby wet market - I'd gone with my parents who have pretty good Chinese and bartering skills. It was an interesting experience, but the wet market is not a place I would venture on my own, hence the reason why almost a year had passed before I made a second visit. Last weekend I had someone bring me to the wet markets on Reclamation Street because she'd told me I could get fresh fish that were much cheaper than from the supermarket. Although this person is not a local nor does she speak Chinese, she's lived here long enough to know where to go to get the good stuff and how the wet market pricing works (although there were still some confusion when I tried to get clarification on just how much one 'catty' is in terms of kilograms or pounds). We purchased a few things - I was able to use my very limited Mandarin ability and very good pointing skills - and I was pretty thrilled when it all worked out to be about half the cost of what it would have been at the supermarket. I do have major trust issues with Chinese produce (as do many people), so I shan't be making very frequent trips to the wet market. Nonetheless, if you want a cultural experience in Hong Kong, check out one of the lesser known wet markets. Here are some shots I took after realising I'd brought along my camera after all.

The outdoor street market scene with loads of fresh vegetable produce and dried fish and seafood:

Beautiful-looking fruits for cheap sale. Unfortunately I didn't buy any because I had no way of finding out where these fruits originated from (the dodgy Chinese food practices I hear often in the news have made me wary):

The Indoor Market was only a little less busy with less flies than the market outside. I was told by my informant that the vegetables sold inside here are organic, but I cannot verify that as a fact.:

The fish and seafood inside the indoor market were either alive in water tanks or on ice, and the fish monger will clean and gut your fish too:

A cage of live frogs for sale! I can only guess as to how these amphibians are prepared, cooked and eaten:

Yau Ma Tei Market
Along Reclamation Street
Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
Hong Kong
(The indoor market is located at the end of the market by the junction with Kansu Street.)

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