Temple Street Night Market
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Temple Street Night Markets are an absolute institution in Hong Kong and the last remaining night flea market in town. Spending a few hours lost in its chaotic embrace is not only a feast for all the senses but an activity no visitor should ever miss. Everything is for sale here, from cheap haute couture knock-offs, to gorgeous souvenir trinkets and totally useless dust collectors, this market has something for everyone. Come to shop till you drop, eat questionable concoctions, ogle at the flamboyant street performers and soak up the atmosphere, and you’ll be one step closer to understanding why Hong Kong is often rated the most vibrant city in Asia.
How it All StartedAs with all historic marketplaces, Temple Street Night Market began as a consequence of the street being the most popular meeting place back in the early 1900s. Traders, sellers and food stalls began to appear in the 1920s, to satisfy the needs of temple-going folks. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the markets were recognised for their importance, and after some discussion about developing the area for real estate, it was decided that a section would be designated for street sellers.
Over 500 separate plots were set aside for traders and an agreement made to allow them to set up their businesses nightly, in 1975. It was then that street performers, fortune tellers and alternative medicine practitioners also joined in the fun, completing the very comprehensive shopping experience we see today.
Temple Street Night Market burst into the tourist scene in the 1980s and has, quite literally, never looked back. If you don’t mind a bit of close, personal contact with locals and tourists alike, then you’ll surely enjoy this crazy Hong Kong shopping, dining and people-watching experience.
What Goodies You’ll FindYou name it, you’ll find it. The Night Markets are favoured by frugal travellers as they are known for offering the cheapest prices in town. Be warned, however, that you’ll have to work hard at bartering the initially inflated asking prices. All part of the fun! On average, you should not pay more than 50% of the asked price.
Electronics, clothing; shoes, bags; household appliances, furniture, jewelry and even antiques are strewn across tables and on floor-tarps all over the place and if you think you may be able to see it all in one go, you’ll be quite disappointed. There are no set rows (or any other kind of order for that matter) so the best approach here is to dive right in and get hopelessly lost.
Foodies will be enticed by smells of sautéed chilli crabs, roasted ducks, rice clay pots and a myriad of fried, fresh fish. Hygiene levels are somewhat sketchy but if you’re adventurous and not too squeamish then you can definitely feast to your heart’s content.
The Seedy Side of Hong KongThe Temple Street Night Markets are an eye opener for more than one reason. Pick-pockets, prostitutes and a plethora of sex toys are out in force here, making these markets perhaps not the most family-friendly attraction in town. Nevertheless, if it’s a true picture of Hong Kong you’re after, the good, the bad and the ugly, then you may find it a culturally enlightening experience indeed. Hang on tight to your bags and come with a tolerant and open mind and you’ll have a great night out.
Well-traveled adventurers may find these markets a little on the touristy side, noting the lack of truly authentic food and wares on offer. Yet even they will admit that there are some gorgeous goods to be found, although you’ll have to look behind the stalls selling ubiquitous knick-knacks and head for the stores down the side alleys. Quality gear and even fantastic artwork can be found with just a little effort.
Insider’s TipsIt’s wise to note that there seems to be a conspiracy with taxi drivers in Hong Kong, as most refuse to pick passengers up from the markets. To this end, and considering you’ll have to walk a few blocks away to catch a cab, don’t wait until you’re completely exhausted to leave.
Stall owners start putting up their wares on show from 2PM onwards, and although you will definitely miss the flare and ambiance of a night time visit, this is actually the best time to visit if you like to shop with relative ease.
If you’ve ever wanted your cards read, or your astrology chart done, then this would have to be one of the most atmospheric places to indulge in either one. There are dozens upon dozens of fortune-teller stands, with many enlightened beings speaking English perfectly.
How to Get ThereEasily accessible from anywhere in Hong Kong, the market-side of Temple Street is a short walk away from both the Jordan and Yau Ma Tei MTR stations.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Jan 23, 2015