There’s no better place to experience the vibrant and fast-beating pulse of Hong Kong than in its liveliest district, Mong Kok. Take a walk through its maze of bustling streets to discover some of the city’s best markets, street food and souvenir shopping.
In the local Cantonese language, Mong Kok means ‘busy corner’. Indeed, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s among the most densely populated places on Earth. Mong Kok is everything you expect Hong Kong to be – a sensory feast of neon-lit streets, excellent street food, shopping opportunities and a never-ending sea of people and activity. Visiting the area’s bustling markets is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Mong Kok.
Something of a cross between the Argyle Centre and Ladies’ Market, Fa Yuen Street is a calmer shopping experience than many of Mong Kok’s frenetic markets. Small boutiques line the street and stalls congregate in the middle, selling mostly clothes, but also brightly coloured fruit and vegetables at the street’s southern end. For serious shoppers interested in snagging the best bargains, it might be worth checking out the prices here, as well as at the Argyle Centre, before making any purchases.
Venture to Mong Kok’s lively Ladies’ Market and prepare to do some of the best bargain shopping of your life. Located in the heart of Mong Kok, on Tung Choi Street, it’s popular for knock-offs, inexpensive clothes and accessories. The name derives from its history of selling predominantly ladies’ clothing back in the 70s, but nowadays you will find a wide variety of men’s clothing, too, and just about every kind of merchandise, from household items to electronic gadgets and toys.
With fresh flowers galore, often at a fraction of the cost of larger commercial florists, Mong Kok’s Flower Market is worth visiting, both for the bargain prices and the sensational floral scents wafting through the air. The variety of exotic blooms is hard to beat, with flowers flown in from all over the world. The market gets particularly busy in the days leading up to Chinese New Year, when it’s traditional to buy flowers that attract good luck and fortune.
Located right next to the Flower Market, the Bird Market is one of the few places where you can find traces of a once hugely popular pastime – keeping songbirds. A time-honoured Chinese hobby that is now dying out, this tradition sees birds with melodic voices kept in delicate wooden cages. Also known as the Yuen Po Bird Garden, the Bird Market is a popular spot for local men to gather with other bird enthusiasts, with their feathered friends in tow.
The stores on the southern part of Fa Yuen Street sell almost exclusively sneakers – welcome to Hong Kong’s acclaimed Sneaker Street. Adidas, Skechers, Nike and all the other big names in the sportswear world can be found here, selling shoes shoulder to shoulder. Tourists and locals alike come here to hunt for the latest sneaker styles and to explore the upstairs shops that sell a range of sports merchandise, from basketball jerseys to workout gear.
This one-of-a-kind market at the northern end of Tung Choi Street sells, for mere pennies, seemingly endless rows of brightly coloured fish packed into plastic pouches. Why the demand? Goldfish are believed to bring good luck. Besides fish, you can also find a host of other animals, including kittens, puppies, turtles, snakes and spiders. It’s almost like a free trip to the zoo.
Though not, strictly speaking, a market, the Argyle Centre is a crucial part of any Mong Kok shopping itinerary. Situated close to the B2 exit of the Mong Kok MTR station, this is one of the best places to buy cheap and fashionable clothing and accessories. Three of its four floors have an identical layout and are positively crammed with stalls (most of which don’t have a name), making it easy to get lost inside. Don’t give up, though – given that many shops sell similar merchandise, the best way to shop here is simply to browse and compare prices and quality.
A trip to Temple Street Night Market should be high on your list of things to do in Hong Kong. A hive of traders, street performers and fortune tellers gathers nightly from 6pm to 11pm to form this lively and vibrant market. It’s a great spot for tourists to experience local culture and traditional crafts, as well as buying souvenirs, including antiques, jade, clothing, tea-ware and electronic gadgets.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Matthew Keegan.