The perennial Temple Street market

The perennial Temple Street market

Exploring the staying power of Hong Kong's most disreputable market

For me, Temple Street market epitomizes Hong Kong and it does so in more ways than Hong Kong would ever like to admit. The market is a jumble of carts offering anything from sex toys, vintage pornography to cheap knock-offs as well as street karaoke and fortune tellers of questionable repute, all somehow managing to co-exist, even becoming a unique whole.

As I meander through the open-air market on a typical weekend, I see that street hawkers still share the crowded streets with decades-old restaurants cooking clay-pot rice, but many are now selling trendy accessories for iPods, smart phones and digital SLRs. I pass by fortune tellers reading palms and analyzing feng shui, but some are also reading tarot cards to young clients.

Public nightclubs are entertaining with amateur performances of the same old Cantonese opera tunes and English oldies that they have been singing since anyone can remember. However, when a busload of mainland tourists get dropped off at the market, the singers launch into Mando-pop songs. I push ahead to a collection of knock-off paintings, but instead of featuring Van Gogh, Picasso and Warhol, it is the work of popular Chinese artists that are on display.

Just as I begin to think that Temple Street market is all about pandering to Chinese tourists, I overhear a hawker speaking not-so-bad English to two blonde girls who stop at his cart of sex toys.

Temple Street market has withstood the test of time, handover, SARS and recession because of its willingness to adapt -- a quintessential Hong Kong characteristic.

Getting there

Take the MTR to Jordan and take exit A. Turn right into Jordan Road and walk three blocks to Temple Street. The market is open from around 4pm till midnight.