On the Market: The Ladies’ Market, Hong Kong
we travel to Hong Kong with blogger Sophie Gallagher of Fashion Nomads. She is all too familiar with the perils of combining fashion and traveling and on this trip investigates the lesser-known aspects of the city to uncover the perfect market shopping experience.
We had been in Hong Kong for two days already. Having seen all the tourist sights and taken photographs at Victoria Peak, the Star Ferry, and the Symphony of Lights), I still did not feel as if I knew Hong Kong at all. As far as I was concerned when surrounded by Skyscrapers, HSBC banks, and Pizza Express we could have been in any city in the world, least of all in China. It was only when we made the crossing to Kowloon Island and the Ladies’ Market that I truly started to understand this city. This is where all the people had been living and this was the Asian counterpart to the very European city that stood on Hong Kong Island.
The best way to get to the market is via public transport. The underground metro system in Hong Kong is undoubtedly one of the best in the world. With rules against eating and drinking, the MTRis are kept in amazing condition, so this is nothing to be afraid of. Getting a taxi to the market would be incredibly costly and take about three times longer. Take the MTR to Mong Kok Station and leave from Exit 2. Then walk along Nelson Street for two blocks to Tung Choi Street where you will find the market.
When you arrive it can be somewhat overwhelming, the crowds, the stalls, the noise, and something that pictures can never capture the smells. There are over 100 stalls that line the edges of the road for a mile. By law, there is meant to be enough of a gap for a fire engine to move through, but this is definitely not the case. In every inch of space, there are endless handbags, watches, and clothes. These are generally all designer fakes so caution has to be taken when picking what you are purchasing.
On my own trip, I managed to buy a Mulberry purse and a chiffon Alexander McQueen scarf at less than 40 pounds sterling for both items combined. At home, this would have cost over 400. These items are mostly of great quality and almost indistinguishable from genuine goods.
Firstly ensure you check the quality of the item. The best way to do this is to check the inner lining and stitching. Do not be afraid to pick products up unless there are signs indicating otherwise, but any stallholder wanting to secure a sale should be fine with you doing so unless, of course, the product is evidently faulty. If in doubt, walk the length of the market and shop around before making your selection. The sellers are always guaranteed to have a supply of stock held back and will do their best to search around for whatever you are requesting.
Note that sellers can sometimes be very forward, towards what we might consider aggressive, moving into your personal space. They will be persistent if they think they may get a sale out of you. When discussing prices, do not take the first price offered as they see Westerners coming a mile away and triple the price they would ask of any other customer. So even when it may seem cheap compared to prices at home, always haggle. Using a calculator back and forth, sellers will initially ask the price you are willing to pay and will go from there. One note of caution, be aware of sellers inviting you further into the back of their shop to look at other goods. These situations could become dangerous if you are moved away from the bustle of the market, so take care.
When you are feeling a little hungry there are a wide variety of options including established restaurants such as Mcdonald's and Starbucks. Or there is street food, which is likely to be a tastier, cheaper, and healthier alternative.
Even if you are not buying, the Ladies’ Market in Hong Kong is a one-off opportunity to come into contact with the people of Hong Kong and should not be missed. Shopping in local neighborhoods is a great way to experience the culture and everyday life in whatever country you are visiting.
How to get there:
You can find more of Sophie’s fashion and travel musings on Twitter and on her website Fashion Nomads.