After a full day of fun at Disney (read this and this), Mike, Eric, Paula, and I got a little tired… but not too tired for fish and shopping! That’s a weird combination, but not in a place in Mong Kok called Tung Choi Street, which is home to the Goldfish Market and the Ladies’ Market.
See, Mike and Eric are fervent fishkeepers. They clean and maintain their aquariums the way a guy would keep his car handsome and shiny. They go beyond the usual goldfish, flowerhorns, and clown fish (more popularly known as “Nemo”) and take care of more exotic swimmers like bichirs from Africa and gulper catfish. Hence, upon finding out about this magical place called “Goldfish Market,” which is a street full of different kinds of fish and fish-related items, they got really excited and said, “This is OUR kind of Disneyland!”
The Goldfish Market (also known as “Tung Choi Street North”) is a street lined with dozens and dozens of aquarium shops, and is a haven for fish enthusiasts. Mong Kok is already energetic and vibrant on its own but the bright colors of the aquariums and fishes add to its brilliance. When Mike and Eric found the Goldfish Market, they looked like kids that have been let loose in a giant candy store!
Rows of sparkling, swimming fish kept in clear plastic bags hung outside the stores arouse the curiosity and interest of passersby, whether they are fish fanatics or not. I found it a little sad, though, that they’re kept in these small plastic bags instead of in a big tank where they can wade freely and comfortably.
Some people might regard the goldfish as stupid sea creatures because of the myth that they only have a 3-second memory, hence the expression that one has “the mind of a goldfish” or “the memory of a goldfish.” However, in Hong Kong, the goldfish has a much better reputation. Feng shui experts believe that an aquarium containing gold fish brings good luck to one’s home, so the Chinese keep these good luck charms in their home.
If you’re not too giddy about goldfish, don’t let the street name “Goldfish Market” discourage you from stopping by this aquatic nirvana because aside from goldfish, here, you can also find a variety of fish, including small tropical fish in every color.
Even if you’re not really buying any fish (and the vendors know it so expect some dirty looks), the bags of fish at the Goldfish Market are still worth checking out if you’re in the area. It’s even better to go at night because the colors of the fish really pop.
And speaking of colors, I was really mesmerized by this rainbow of pretty fishies.
Unfortunately, the truth behind their artificial color is not so pretty. These kinds of fish are called “painted fish” and one of the most common ways to “paint” a fish is by injecting it with a fluorescent dye with a syringe. And as if one injection isn’t painful enough, these poor babies are injected with color multiple times. Some fish are just a little bit luckier because instead of being jabbed with a needle, they are only dipped in dye, which is less painful. If you’re curious about the many ways to introduce color to fish, read this.
For aquarium architects or anyone who loves beautifying their tanks, the Goldfish Market also sells a number of aquascaping accessories such as colored sand, rocks, seaweed, filters, thermometers, and whatnot. Fish should be able to live in a snazzy crib too! They also sell fish food and medicine such as aquarium salt, which Mike got.
And if you need a break from the fish, you can also spot other animals in the Goldfish Market such as this group of cute baby turtles…
…or these balls of fluff!
Whether you’re fascinated with fish or just an animal lover in general, a side trip to the Goldfish Market is a fun way to explore the bustling streets of Mong Kok. Mike and Eric were in pet paradise and they wanted to bring a couple of fish back home!
Meanwhile, Paula and I promised ourselves that we would save our money and fight the temptation to go shopping. But when we found ourselves in the Ladies’ Market, one of the most well-known street markets in Hong Kong, our very low E.Q. betrayed us, and we ended up buying things we said we wouldn’t buy. With numerous stalls of clothes, shoes, and other interesting finds, it was like Disneyland all over again for us!
The Ladies’ Market, also known as “Ladies’ Street,” is a street market that sells pretty much everything a lady can’t live without — bags, clothes, shoes, make-up, jewelry, hair accessories, mobile phone cases, and more. But what about the men? Guys need not feel out of place here because even though the place is called “Ladies’ Market,” there are stalls that sell items for men like apparel, electronics, sporting accessories, souvenirs, and of course, food!
The Ladies’ Market is literally a market –a street market. It’s a block packed with peddlers and hundreds of stalls. The crowds, the noise, the smells, and the scads of merchandise can be overpowering. It’s not as posh as Canton Road but if you’re looking for affordable goods, this is a bargain hunter’s haven! The items are cheap and even cheaper if you know how to “name your price.” We’ll get to that later. For now, here are just some of the items that they have for sale. I did not get to take a lot of photos because the market was already about to close when we arrived and also because I was too busy drooling over the goods to even take photos.
If you are going to the Ladies’ Market, I only have one advice for you. It’s a simple advice but it’s very, very crucial: HAGGLE. Let me give you some very useful tips in hammering out a deal in the Ladies’ Market:
- When you ask the vendor how much an item costs, never settle for the first price she is offering. Instead, ask for a 50% discount. 50% may sound a little too much, and this may give the salesperson a slight heart attack, but trust me, you’ll want to start from there and then negotiate on what’s fair for both of you. (And by “fair,” I mean still a lot lower than the original price).
- Don’t be afraid to walk away if they don’t give it to you for the price you want. As soon as you turn away, they will call you back and run after you, then call your bluff. And if they don’t, there’s a huge chance that you’ll find the same item three stalls down the road.
- No matter how gorgeous that pair of shoes looks, don’t look too impressed. You don’t want to give them the impression that you want it so bad that you’re willing to say “Here! Take my money and go! Just give me those shoes!” Act cool and win this.
- Try to get on the hawkers’ good side by calling them “pengyou” (pang-yaw). It means “friend” in Mandarin.
Do understand that the more you haggle, the more they will hate you, and they will have no qualms about making you feel their vexation. They may yell at you or utter profanities in Mandarin or Cantonese, and are probably calling you a cheap bastard in their native language. Just let them. You already got what you wanted. The least you can do is let them b*tch about you.
Also, you may be culture shocked by their forcefulness. If you show even just a bit of interest in their merchandise, they will stop at nothing to persuade you to buy it. Even if you’re “just looking,” they will really pressure you into making a purchase. And once you ask how much an item is, and you refuse to buy it, they will not take “no” for an answer. Some would even grab your arm and hold on to you until you give in. I had to rescue Paula from one lady who wouldn’t let go of her!
Despite the brusqueness of the Ladies’ Market, overall, it’s still an ideal place to go shopping. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it there, and get it for a really low price. Ladies who love to shop can lose track of time here as they check out all those closet must-haves and other cool finds. I was able to buy a trench coat, a top, a pair of combat boots, a bag, and some Hong Kong magnets from the Ladies’ Market, and I love them all! If I had more time, I would have gone back there and spent an entire afternoon there!
Aside from the Goldfish Market and Ladies’ Market, other points of interest in the Mong Kok area are the Fa Yuen Street Market, Bird Market and Garden, and Flower Market. Check those out if you have time to go around.
How to get there: (Option A) MTR Prince Edward Station, Exit B2. Walk east along Prince Edward Road West until you reach the market.
(Option B) MTR Mong Kok East Station, Exit C. Walk to Sai Yee Street via the footbridge and follow the signs.
Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday, 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM (Some shops close at 10:00 PM)
How to get there: MTR Mong Kok Station, Exit E2. Walk along Nelson Street for two blocks.
Bus 1, 1A, 2, 6 or 9 from Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier and get off at Nelson Street station
Operating Hours: No set time but most stalls open at noon and close from 10:00 PM to 12:00 MN
*Operating Hours taken from Discover Hong Kong (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/)
Photos from Mike Smith / Miguel Lazatin and me.