While tourists flock to Hong Kong’s popular Ladies Market and Jordan night market, and for good reason, it can be shoulder-to-shoulder navigation with lower prices found elsewhere.
In any city in the world, the more tourists who flock to a particular market, the higher the prices are driven, and the more cutthroat the sellers become.
The solution? Go where the locals shop. In Hong Kong, this is simple. Just a few MTR train stops north of Mong Kok and Jordan is the working-class neighbourhood of Sham Shui Po.
The markets here are still crowded, spanning several streets that flank Sham Shui Po station and flowing off into adjacent alleyways. The difference? They’re packed with locals, so the prices and atmosphere are vastly different.
Everything for sale on the streets of Sham Shui Po is cheaper as you’re mostly paying local, rather than tourist prices. The lack of travellers also fosters a gentler, hassle-free environment.
Smiles are readily exchanged between vendors and customers, even amid robust bartering. Many of the stalls are family businesses, often with members of several generations perched behind the counter.
Unlike at Hong Kong’s tourist markets, many items on the streets here have price tags. But don’t be shy about trying to negotiate a lower price. Such endeavours are expected and welcomed by the typically relaxed and amiable sellers.
The Cheung Sha Wan street market is particularly lively. Stretching for several hundred metres directly above the Sham Shui Po MTR station, it is renowned as a wholesale fashion market.
Its street stalls and brick-and-mortar stores also offer cut-price retail sales, but if you purchase four or more items from one outlet, the value can be brilliant.
Women’s clothing is particularly plentiful and ranges from basic options such as T-shirts and shorts for as low as AUD$2 each, up to luxurious jackets, suits and jumpers.
Tall or portly men will be delighted by the many permanent shops which specialise in oversized garments, which are notoriously hard to come by in Asia. Sizes range up to 6XL for business shirts, polo tops, jumpers and jackets. They are more expensive than the smaller men’s clothing sold in the street stalls, but still more affordable than similar items in Australia.
The fashion in Sham Shui Po varies depending on the season. Winter clothing is especially good value, with thick men’s and women’s parkas costing as little as AUD$12-15 each. Light rain jackets are readily found for AUD$5.
The styles range considerably, with traditional Chinese garments offered up alongside Western options. You can complete your outfit by visiting one of the many stalls that specialise in accessories. Leather belts, suede handbags, shiny watches, gleaming jewellery and trendy sunglasses hang from every angle.
Those less interested in fashion and more intent on flying home with some new gadgets can head one block across to the parallel Apliu Street. This electronics flea market has a startling range of products.
Memory cards, DVDs, CDs, remote controls, phone accessories, batteries, SIM cards, headphones, stereo systems, USBs, surveillance devices, children’s toys and software are plentiful and cheap. Among the new items are second-hand phones and sound systems.
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If you’re seeking higher-end items, peel away from the market into the Golden Computer Arcade on the corner of Fuk Wa and Yen Chow streets. This multi-storey centre is crammed with dozens of small shops which variously sell laptops, tablets, digital cameras, computer parts, TVs and stereo equipment.
While Sham Shui Po once had a reputation as a haven for dodgy electronics salesmen, this arcade is considered a trustworthy marketplace where the brand items are genuine, not knock-offs.
Laden with bags full of bargains, venture into one of Sham Shui Po’s many alleys and backstreets to sate your appetite. Here, quaint tea houses rub shoulders with aromatic bakeries, bargain BBQ pork restaurants, noodle soup carts and dim sum restaurants. The prices are low, but the quality of the meals most definitely is not.
And for a true food experience, head a few blocks past the south end of the markets to the renowned Tim Ho Wan dim sum restaurant. Famed as one of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, Tim Ho Wan has two main branches in Hong Kong.
The other is next to the central piers on Hong Kong Island, one of the busiest areas in the city, and accordingly is swamped with customers, some of whom line up for more than an hour.
You may still need to queue at the Sham Shui Po branch, but you’ll be spared the manic crowds. Any waiting time will be offset by the exquisite taste and crumbly texture of Tim Ho Wan’s famous baked BBQ pork buns, a basket of which will set you back around AUD$10.
Finish off your frenetic day of shopping and eating in Sham Shui Po with some local culture at the towering Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, a former factory that is now home to art galleries, installations and studios.
More than 100 artists and groups use the colossal space for drama, dance and music performances and to display sculptures, paintings, glass art, photography and ceramics.
Entry to the centre is free and visitors are welcome to roam from floor to floor, inspecting the rotating exhibitions, or even watching the resident artists create their next piece.
Compared with many of the ultra-serious galleries of downtown Hong Kong, the JCCAC has a decidedly relaxed, hippy-artist vibe that’s welcoming to the casual art appreciator.
In this way, it is reflective of Sham Shui Po itself, which offers similar attractions to Hong Kong’s tourist zones without the usual drawbacks.
- Cheung Sha Wan Road market is open Monday to Friday, and Sundays, from about 9am to 6pm. On Saturday it closes in the early afternoon.
- Apliu Street market kicks into gear about noon but also stays open longer, typically until about 9pm.
- Tim Ho Wan does not take reservations. To avoid lining up for too long, visit on a weekday and avoid visiting during the peak mealtimes.
Hong Kong Island markets
- Cat Street Markets – popular for antiques – Cnr Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Road, Sheung Wan
- Chun Yeung Street – food wet markets – Chun Yeung Street, North Point
- Dried Seafood Street and Tonic Food Street – Seafood, Chinese cooking and traditional tonics – Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island
- Gough Street – for designer homeware – Gough Street, Sheung Wan
- Jardine’s Crescent – popular street market – Jardine’s Crescent, Causeway Bay
- Ko Shing Street – Chinese medicine – Ko Shing Street, Sheung Wan
- Li Yuen Street East and West – clothing and accessories – Li Yuen Streets East and West, Central
- Stanley Market – brand name clothing, jewellery, knick-knacks – Stanley New Street and Stanley Market Road, Stanley
- Tai Yuen Street – toys – Tai Yuen Street, Wan Chai
- Apliu Street Flea Market – electronics – Apliu Street, Sham Shui Po
- Bird Garden – birds and bird-care accessories – Yuen Po Street, Prince Edward
- Cheung Sha Wan Road – fashion and accessories – Cheung Sha Wan Road, Sham Shui Po
- Flower Market – exotic blooms – Flower Market Road, Prince Edward
- Gold Fish Market – aquarium fish – Tung Choi Street North, Mong Kok
- Granville Road – fashion and accessories – Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
- Jade Market & Jade Street – jade objects – Junction of Kansu Street and Battery Street, Yau Ma Tei
- Ladies Market – fashion and accessories – Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok
- Shanghai Street – kitchenware – Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei
- Sneakers Street – sports shoe and sportswear – Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok
- Temple Street Night Market – trinkets, electronics, jade, jewellery – Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei
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