Thursday, March 3, 2016

Come to the Supermarket (in old Wan Chai)

Dear Readers, as you know, I love smells, sounds, colors, and activity of produce/meat markets. You may recall I wrote about the Asan Chowk in Kathmandu in 2011 and the amazing Thiri Mingler in Rangoon in 2014. The Wan Chai market (Chinese: 灣仔街市) in Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island, is a similar sensory overload. Hong Kong is a much more modern city, so the Wan Chai market is less earthy than the Chowk or the Thiri Mingler, but there is still plenty to see, smell, and sample.
The Wan Chai area is crowded, streets are narrow, and towering apartments and office buildings loom up over the streets. But this is where thousands of families come to shop for groceries. The Wan Chai wet market itself was built in 1937 and was in use for 6 decades. The market has been moved to a new building, while the 1937 building has been converted to a galleria with smart shops.
Wander about through the crowds, and enjoy the views. Find the fish mongers. I can't identify these morsels, but am sure I ate some of them already cooked. From Cole Porter's Aladdin:

They have: sunflow'r cakes, moonbeam cakes,
Gizzard cakes, lizard cakes,

Pickled eels, pickle snakes,

Fit for any king,

You don't want fish or eels? Well, how about a chicken? You can even meet her first, and make friends.
Ah ha, you are a carnivore. Plenty of vendors to supply your needs. I did not see a snake vendor, but I am sure they exist.
A well-lit ground floor area had numerous vegetable and fish vendors.
If you need more protein in your diet, here is a good source.
Dried herbs? Anything you want is available.
Incense is another popular product. People buy incense before they go to temples or cemeteries. The bundles in the lower photograph are used to ask for wealth blessings in temples. The Chinese characters on the packages, 旺財, mean prosperity.
This is a Chinese dried goods store. The bottles mostly contain dried sea food: abalone, scallop, fish stomach (fish maw), sea urchins, shrimp, cuttle fish, conch, kelp, and more. They are all delicious when cooked properly and are good for you (of course). The tan flat objects hanging from the ceilings are fish maw. My Hong Kong friend said the total value of the products in this photograph represents millions of HK$.
Finally, if you overindulged, a dispensary can probably sell you some bicarbonate.
When we were in town in October of 2014, street protests, known as the Umbrella Revolution, were still ongoing. This is in front of the Sogo Department Store on Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay. The bus and tram routes were disrupted for months, and local merchants lost business because their shops were blocked or their customers were frightened. Conditions were pretty calm when we were there, but there was significant violence later in the year.

Hong Kong is fun but maybe a bit overwhelming if you are not used to major urban areas. This was my first visit to HK since 1958 - yes, I'm that old. My friends Irene and Philip were gracious and generous hosts.

Photographs taken with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera or Nexus 4 phone.

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