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On Walkabout In: Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Prior Posting: Historic Buildings of Central Hong Kong

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Continuing my tour around Hong Kong my wife and I decided to go check out the markets located on the west side of Hong Kong island which is known locally as the neighborhood of Sheung Wan:

Sheung Wan is historically known to the people of Hong Kong as the location where the first British colonists arrived and began construction of what would one day become one of the world’s great cities.  There is little of this colonial history left in this neighborhood because it has long been replaced with a variety markets that cater both to foreign and local tastes.  The market most well known for catering to tourists is the Western Market which is housed in one of Hong Kong’s oldest market buildings:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

The building that currently houses the market was first constructed in 1906 as a Harbor Office.  However, land reclamation over the ensuing decades found the Harbor Office far from any harbor and was thus eventually transfromed into a food market.  In 1988 it once again transformed into its current configuration as a market that caters to tourists.  The market is easy for tourists to get to because the tram stops right in front of this hard to miss building.  My wife and I walked inside the marketplace and to be honest we were not all that impressed:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

The place was definitely touristy with its imitation British soldiers and phone booths:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

But, what really got us was the smallness of the market and how overpriced everything was compared to other areas in Hong Kong.  I guess we are so used to the giagantic markets that we have seen in Seoul that this just really fails to compare.  The market had a few restaurants, food stalls, tourist stores, and a whole lot of clothing booths:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

The coolest store I thought in the market was this military store filled with mostly knick knacks from the Chinese military:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

The guy who ran this store had models of just about every piece of Chinese military equipment you can imagine.  He even had Chines military uniforms for sale with matching model AK-47s’ to go with them:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

If you want models of Chinese hand guns he has those too, though I wouldn’t recommend tourists buying these and trying to bring them back in your luggage though:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

The most curious thing I saw for sale in the store though had to be the model of George Bush standing on the head of Saddam Hussein:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Why that was for sale in the store, I have no idea.  A toy model glorifying President Bush was not something I expected to see in Hong Kong of all places.  However, from the handful of conversations I had with English speaking Chinese residents in Hong Kong not one of them had a bad thing to say about President Bush.  In fact many of them were actually quite happy that he attended the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.  From my experience it seemed that people had an indifferent to some what positive opinion of President Bush.  This is just a perception I received from my limited talks with Chinese residents, but it would be interesting to hear what long time expat residents of Hong Kong have to say about the Chinese views on President Bush.

Anyway we spent about an hour in the market building with most of my time consumed at the military store and my wife browsing through the clothing stores.  After finishing up at the market we then made the short walk to Sheung Wan’s wholesale food market that filled with various shop catering to the city’s many restaurants.  Of course plenty of sea food can be seen for sale at the wholesale market:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

This market is supposed to be the best place to purchase shark fins to make shark fin soup from.  The market also has many stores that sells a variety of wholesal herbs and ginseng for Hong Kong’s many restaurants and stores:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

These stores were not unlike something you would see in Namdaemun Market in Seoul.  However, here is something I have never seen in Namdaemun and that is deer antlers:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

There were a handful of stores that specialized in selling deer antlers.  A guy I was talking to at my hotel was telling me Sheung Wan is also the place if you know the right contacts to purchase many illegal animal products such as tiger bones or bear bladders.  However, I saw nothing of the sort while visiting the market myself.

However, something that I did see that made feel like I was walking around Namdaemun was the amount of stores that sold Korean ginseng:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

It wasn’t just in Sheung Wan that I saw Korean ginseng for sale.  Just about any store in Hong Kong that specialized in selling herbs or ginseng would have Korean ginseng for sale:

Picture from Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

This market with its various seafood, ginseng, herbal, and various other stores was much more interesting then the Western Market.  This market had more of an Asian feel to it, but if you have been to markets in Korea you won’t be all that impressed.  The major markets in Korea are definitely larger and better then ones I saw in Hong Kong, but the markets in Hong Kong were still fun visit though in order get that authentic Chinese marketplace experience.

After finishing our walkaround the Sheung Wan wholesale market, my wife and I decided it was time to go to Hollywood, but not the Hollywood your are thinking of.

Next Posting: Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road

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