OK, something of an anathema here. We are NOT going to be “discovering” Wan Chai Road per se – only an interesting section of the road, namely the Wan Chai market.
From Central, Wan Chai Road actually starts off on Queen’s Road East. Heading north, Wan Chai Road does something of a dog leg elbow turn to the right as it intersects with Johnston Road. From here, what is often considered as the real Wan Chai Road, it heads across to Causeway Bay where it ends at Canal Road.
With Queen’s Road East behind you and at turn just after the Rottonjee Hospital Road, Wan Chai Road narrows down quite considerably until it meets Johnston Road. It is in this area that you will find the Wan Chai market. At around the junction of Tai Wo Street, there’s a beginning of an alley that cuts back to Spring Garden Lane. In essence, this is the Wan Chai market proper – with two other alleys leading up to Johnston Road. These alley-ways are peppered with stalls and hole-in-the-wall shops selling fresh produce, dried foods and a whole range of other merchandise and personal services. In amongst the shops and stalls are several shops or chan-tengs, dai-paai-dongs and mobile carts selling some of Hong Kong’s favourite snacks foods.
Here, we’ll take you on a little tour as we head out to explore this section of Wan Chai Road.
This picture was taken around the Chinese New Year period. Here customers crowd around a stall selling candies, nuts and treats that, later, will be handed out as gifts and used to fill bowls around the home over this period.
What would a home be without a few traditional gold trinkets. Again, gifts on sale over the Chinese New Period. Usually, gold leaf over plaster, many of these trinkets represent historical and mythological character – all being auspicious and purveyors of good luck, health and wealth. Some of the figurines are also representations of the Chinese astrological characters – 2015 being the year of the wooden Goat.
Candies, candies and more candies. There’s something to recognise here and this is indicative of an open market in Hong Kong and elsewhere across Asia, the market is a living thing. It a place where people get out and about, a place to socialise, a place to catch up on the events of the day be this to gossip or to air and exchange views. This is where people live.
The main thing about these markets, this is where people come to shop for their next meal, for fresh produce, their vegetables, their fruit and for their snacks. A typical abode in Hong Kong is small. There are statics to be found somewhere about the typical size of a Hong Kong dwelling. But, let’s put it this way, there is usually not space enough to do a weekly shop where refrigerators and freezers are required as well as a 4 ring stove and an oven. Usually there’s a rice cooker, a two ring gas cooker and, that’s about it.
Fresh vegetables are a must. It’s always surprised me, that the quality of the produce here is always top notch. Some of the supplies are “local” – in the sense that they are grown in Hong Kong, usually on small holdings in the New Territories. But, much of the supplies here come from the China mainland.
If it’s not fresh produce you’re after, there are always the cooked food shops. Here you can get cuts of “cha-siu” [BBQ pork], roast pork, roast goose or steamed chicken. Depending on your order, there’s also rice and gravy.
Fresh fish is a must. One of the unique things about Hong Kong fresh produce or “wet” markets is that much of the fish supply is still alive. I mean, you cannot much more “fresh” than that. But, if you want fresh food, this is it. In fresh produce markets in other parts of the world, one is left asking when seeing some of the quality of the merchandise on sale. Fish packed in ice is one thing. But, how long has it been there? With fish nearly alive, there’s no question about how “fresh” it might be.
Much the same can be said about the meat supply – the fresher the better. Most butchers in these markets can judge their turnover. Pork carcasses and sides of beef are supplied early in the morning and, by the evening, not much is left. But, this varies. Butchery in this part of the world – referring to Asia in general – is often quite different to say in Europe, north America and other western countries. Cuts of dressed meat are preferred – as in chops, T-bone steaks and the like.
No meal would ever be complete without a helping of fruit. Again, much of this fruit is imported – as is much of Hong Kong’s food. The largest supplier is China but food is sourced from all over the world – other parts of Asia, the USA, the Middle East, South Africa and elsewhere.
But, there’s always something else to be had in Wan Chai market – as in the shoe shop. Further along the road, there’s a stationary shop, another shop selling foods and goods from Thailand, a barber shop and more.
Tinker, tailor and the candle stick maker. Well, in this case, the watchmaker repairing watches. Well, since most are electronic, battery replacement seems to be the mainstay of their trade.
And then, there’s the “ukay-ukay” store. “Ukay-ukay” is actually a term “imported” from the Philippines – as a reference to the sale of used and.or second-hand clothing. Not always but, usually. These clothing stores are also a “relic” of Hong Kong’s past – this as the garment centre of the world. No more as this trade and industry have moved up north and west to Vietnam, Thailand and beyond. But. everyone seems to be on the look out for a bargain and this is the place to come.
Did you learn anything from this little tour? Feel free to comment below. If you’re interested, more pictures featuring Wan Chai Road can be found at this photo gallery link – Wan Cha
This post, “Discovering Wan Chai” is another blog post in the “Hong Kong street guides” series. If you like what you’ve found here, feel free to check out the other post in this series – I don’t think you will be disappointed.
FEATURED WORK: Rogan’s work is featured on the following websites:
You can find out more about Rogan and why he does what he does here on his ‘Artist’s Statement’ page.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Most of the images taken here were with a Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujifilm X-T2 capture devices and a FUJINON XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS lens.