Want to get a good dose of grassroots Hong Kong character? Skip the supermarket and hit up the wet market. You'll save money on food while getting the best quality meat and produce. Wet markets are known as such because they sell meat and fish, which require frequent floor washing. Once such an integral part of Hong Kong life, wet markets are now becoming cultural relics and tourist attractions. They have long been a feature of Hong Kong life. Fortunately, i was able to make a quick stop to see samples during my trip in February.
Traditionally, wet markets are so called because they are hosed down every day, washing out all the dirt, scraps, blood, and guts from each day’s transactions. They’re often open-air, but some also have a covered section, and others are entirely housed inside a building. Although they’re not as common as they used to be, thankfully, Hong Kong still has a number of wet markets in various neighbourhoods. One of the oldest wet markets in Hong Kong is in Central, on Graham Street between Queen’s Road and Hollywood Road. The Graham Street Market is not just a place of heritage and history, it is also a space of modern everyday life in this global city.
我在香港路过一个不起眼的小巷, 看见里面人头遄动, 密集的店铺一直延伸到巷子的尽头, 走进去才知, 这边是香港有着百年历史的著名的露天市场, 嘉咸街. 嘉咸街位于全港的心脏地带中环, 是香港最古老的传统街市. 香港, 正是因为亦雅亦俗的风格, 才让人更加迷恋.
无论你怎么想象香港, 它首先是一座活色生香的城市, 不仅仅拥有中环商业大厦的匆匆忙忙, 尖沙咀广东道上的游人如织, 还有它在露天街市中才显露出来的市井生气. 而这样的市井生气就在香港中心中环区域存在着, 存在于嘉咸街上. 这条中环的街市区最主要的街道, 也是香港最古老的露天市集, 街市上有旧时的铁皮小屋卖饰品鲜花, 沿途还有街边小贩, 在这里你会觉得熟悉而陌生, 熟悉的是商贩们的吆喝, 陌生的是它井然的秩序. 嘉咸街属露天市集, 于1840 年建成, 已有百多年历史, 是香港古老的露天市集之一. 嘉咸街两旁满佈售卖乾湿货的小贩摊档, 货品的种类繁多, 有粮油杂货, 蔬菜瓜果, 鲜鱼虾蟹, 新鲜冰鲜的猪肉等, 价廉物美, 是厨师们的购物天堂.
香港开埠逾多年, 星转斗移, 当年景物几乎随时代湮没. 在中环闹市一隅, "活古迹” 却保存至今, 其历史比港岛电车轨更悠久. 有 “活古迹” 之称, 只因它仍发挥当年的功效, 亦保留最地道的香港情怀, 它就是历史悠久的嘉咸街露天市集. 可是久经沧桑屹立不到的市集, 如今再受时代巨轮挤压, 存亡也只差一线. 过去的近年里, 传来了嘉咸街即将拆迁的消息, 这一传统街市未来的命运如何, 人们正在观望着.
市区重建局计划在嘉咸街市集一带大举清拆原有的低密度楼宇, 兴建四幢建于四层平台商场上的高楼大厦, 包括住宅楼, 酒店及商场, 影响范围包括嘉咸街. 自2005年起, 这项为期超过六年的拆建工程将摧毁有150年历史的嘉咸街市集, 彻底破坏这个老街区的历史氛围及现有的活力. 香港岛中环, 寸土寸金, 高楼林立, 掩映着一条寻常的老街, 在拆除重建的日子里, 它越发显得不再寻常, 这就是嘉咸街, 固守着传统韵味却又如风中残烛的街.
当年开埠伊始的港岛, 平地匮乏, 陆续到来的人们被迫倚着山地聚居, 于是便有了嘉咸街, 有了不可或缺的市集. 沿街砌盖起西风东渐的唐楼, 高可三四层, 青砖黑瓦, 前铺后屋, 很是适宜临街开铺经营. 街道, 楼房就着山形地势蜿蜒辟建, 街市自然因应着斜斜逐层拾阶而上, 摊档紧挨着镶嵌其间, 招牌凌空横出无数, 一眼望去, 难以尽头.
Graham Street Market isn’t always a pleasant place. It’s often dirty, noisy and crowded. You’ve probably been glared at for bumping into someone’s grocery bags. You may have probably been yelled at by a vendor or two for scoffing at a price. But the little market in the middle of Central, right beside the Mid-Levels escalator, is an authentic and lively testament to the real Hong Kong. The modest sized market provides fresh, affordable produce to residents across Hong Kong. Everything from meat to vegetables to dried seafood, Chinese medicine and incense. The diversity that one currently see on Graham Street is what makes it so popular. The city’s oldest market has fought and lived for more than 170 years in a rapidly developing city but it might not survive the Hong Kong's Urban Renewal Authority. Even before Hong Kong became a British colony there was a bazaar on this site, selling provisions to the ships arriving in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Urban Renewal Authority (URA) is a quasi-governmental, profit-making body, formed in Year 2001 to promote and undertake urban regeneration. In 2007, the URA announced plans to demolish the old tong laus (tenement buildings built in late 19th century to the 1960s in Hong Kong) Graham and Peel Streets, in the process, tearing down the Graham Street Market. In its place, there would be four high-rises: two residential blocks, one office building and one hotel. The construction will start 2015 and targeted completion in 2021. After local activists put up a fight, the authority promised to clear one area first (total 3 planned areas), and build a two-story wet market complex to rehouse affected shop owners, before starting work on the other two sites.
You can look out for the signature red lamps (see photo above) that have become an icon of Hong Kong wet markets. Market traders use these red lights as they cast a warm glow onto fruits, meats and vegetables and enhance their visible appeal.
街不宽, 铺亦不大, 商贩们习惯于将货物堆放在门前, 彼此相对着占道摆卖. 摊档顶端又撑起了帆布或铁篷遮阳, 空间切割无序, 显狭小逼仄. 头上仅现一线天, 虽是露天售卖, 大晴天也需借助灯泡照明, 街心只存一米地, 三两人并肩走立马挡了道, 撞上人流高峰, 只得摩肩接踵蠕动着前移.
Six years later, there’s still no sign of the agreed new wet market and the URA is taking action regardless, they’ve sent vendors eviction letters and made known fresh details that suggest most of the stall owners will have no help from the URA in finding a new home on the redeveloped Graham Street. The three areas are in uproar. With Graham Street going the way of Central Market in 2003, the neighborhood won’t even have a market at all. The new wet market has been sold as the key feature that will conserve Graham Street, but it seems to be failing before construction has even begun.
走访市集内的商贩, 无人能道出个中关键. 从他们口中听到的, 除了叫卖声外, 便是向路过的街坊问候, 或是和邻近店铺东主, 职员聊天说笑, 偶尔谈及旧区重建问题. 街上沿途有不少街边卖湿货的小商贩, 包括卖鲜鱼虾蟹的, 粮油杂货, 有新鲜的, 也有冻肉, 保留着过去香港人的生活面貌及纯朴的一面.
嘉咸街的进口蔬菜来自世界各地, 可与高档超市平分秋色, 吸引大量外国捧场客. 尽管是传统的露天街市, 但商贩们未随意丢弃垃圾, 这里有着生机勃勃的商品, 却意外没有难闻的街市味. 逛嘉咸街逛的生活二字, 不妨亲切地同卖菜的阿姨微笑, 卖肉的大叔寒暄, 他们做的多为街坊生意, 所以卖的货品不敢不好.
徜徉其间, 目不暇接, 似乎习以为常的物什到了这里却成了久违的景观. 市井小民在乎的是淘宝般的乐趣, 你来我去的讨价还价, 即便未遂己愿也有一分惬意. 倘使一时少了几块钱, 也可日后再补, 而小贩们也得以赚取点蝇头薄利维持生计. 些许脏乱和喧嚣, 些许恋旧和人情, 而又不乏生气与魅力或许恰是嘉咸街最为诱人的所在.
I know wet markets can make people uneasy and for the most part, I love wet markets. They are full of color and life and there’s no better way to experience local culture than to head to a market in the morning. If you live in a place that has a nearby wet market, just think how convenient and how much more fun and personal; it would be to walk down the block and get fresh groceries every day from individuals you’ve gotten to know and trust.
I find it difficult to envisage how the new "wet market" can be of any interest for a tourist wanting to experience the many sides of Hong Kong, as gritty and dirty as they can be. Graham Street Market may not be pretty at times, but it's genuine and vibrant. The real Hong Kong, a real outdoor wet market, not the URA's version of it. Instead of just renovating the buildings, like how it's being done in most places in the world, the URA instead tears down most of the ones built in the 50s and 60s, keeps the facade of the pre-war buildings and fills in the rest with hotels, luxurious apartments that are not catered to the existing residents of that area, but for richer class with more consumer power.
The market will be replaced with a design that will incorporate some of the older buildings on the street, thereby addressing what the government understands as historic preservation; the retention of buildings but not the life-ways that were contained within those buildings. The activities of the street will be sanitised and oriented away from the current demographic to facilitate the further selling of luxury goods to a largely Chinese tourist groups (high end luxury stores are now about as ubiquitous in Hong Kong as Starbucks are in most other world cities). And while this apparent strategy of pursuing and accommodating the tourist practices of the mainland Chinese tourist seems to be the priority of the Hong Kong government, no one is asking what will happen to the city when the economy in China slows? Will the city become a space of empty shopping malls where there was once a vibrant and engaged cosmopolitan community?
看看拿着爱马仕买菜的港人, 也许才会真正体味到香港的活力, 它俗亦可, 雅亦可, 它尽量让所有人在某些时刻, 某些街道找回最纯朴的一面.
The activities at Graham Street have been part of Hong Kong Street life for over 170 years. This street market has survived Japanese occupation and previous rounds of urban development, but that is about to change. The market traders are being evicted and building clearance has begun (as evidenced in the photograph). In one fell swoop, the street life that calls forth community, memory and a way of life will shortly be erased from the landscape. One has to wonder what is the mentality that allows for this sort of urban erasure and consider the depth of what is lost.
走进这一带的古街旧巷, 有百年的杂货铺, 传统的面厂, 露天的大排档, 策划辛亥革命的百子里. 时光一下子, 像是倒回昔日的香港. 摊贩和街坊的互动, 买卖时相互招呼问候, 这不正是我们缺乏和更应该要珍惜的吗?
Things aren’t looking good. Vendors spend most of their days attending to their businesses, and most remain confused about the URA’s plans and decisions. Some vendors have already received extra compensation from the authority and will start packing their bags starting from March this year. The writing’s on the wall.
When i was wondering why there is no visible protest going on, as indeed when walking through it looks as though business is progressing as usual. I guess there is so much protest in Hong Kong around on so many issues that this is just one more thing that gets ignored. Also, while some politicians are sympathetic to the market and mindful of the longer term loss to the city that its demise will bring, because of the ways that people live their lives very locally, it is not a cause for concern for those ordinary Hong Kongers who do not spend time or live in this part of Hong Kong.
Indeed, why should someone who lives in Sham Shui Po in poverty or even the comparatively well off middle-class family who lives near The Peak and has little need to ever come to central care what happens in a area of Hong Kong largely viewed as a space and playground for wealthy Expatriates? For the protest to gain a critical mass, it needs to resonate beyond the scale of the very local and strike a cord with a larger constituency than those who live in work in the area.
Hong Kong’s oldest continuously-operating street market, Graham Street has been around for over 170 years, but its days are numbered. Until then, you can still enjoy the most atmospheric market in Hong Kong, with dozens of vendors lining the narrow streets just uphill from the Central office district. The Graham Street Market will be sorely missed. It is a small oasis of traditional Hong Kong that is readily accessible to visitors and residents alike.
现时嘉咸街市集内的东西, 大都是“新”的, 肉鱼蔬果等商品固然是新的, 排档本身也新漆上绿油. 只见部分排档下, 那铺路用的长形大麻石, 才是百年前的古物. 逾150年来, 维系市集的关键, 不是一条街道, 也不是一堆铺位, 而是一代接一代, 不断更生的小区邻里关系. 2005年港府决定重建嘉咸街, 卑利街一带, 区内已有三分一地盘被拆卸平整, 一批居民已迁走. 居民离开, 动摇了嘉咸街市集的根基. 重建后, 维系香港最古老市集的独特人情味, 还能保留多少?
随着时代不断变迁, 嘉咸街发展计划事在必行. 虽然政府不断推出措施协助商贩们搬迁, 但这片拥有百多年历史的乐土, 发展过后仍能保存以往的韵味吗？
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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