The Ladies Market is one of the several iconic tourist traps of Hong Kong. Every person to ever visit Hong Kong since the 80’s has most likely taken a walk through the Ladies Market.
What does the Ladies Market have?
It’s not what its name suggests. Back in the day, the street used to sell mainly ladies garments. The government thought it would be better to regulate it as it was becoming quite popular and busy. Thus it was dubbed the Ladies Market. It now houses all the nick-nacks you could possibly want. From clothes for your pooch to fake LV bags. From kids clothes to fake Disney products. From tourist T-shirts to fake Rolexes. Okay you get the idea.
Tung Choi Street
The Ladies Market is on Tung Choi Street and aside from the centre part of the street which makes the market, the street itself has restaurants and shops lining both sides of the street that many tourists never see.
Because of how the market area is constructed, you can spend your whole time getting visual stimulus overload from the enormity of all of the things lining every booth from the ground to about 15 feet up. Also, the market is about 5 good blocks long, stretching from Argyle Street to Dundas Street. While a lot of the booths sell about the same type of goods and you will soon realise that you saw that same ‘I heart HK’ at about 10 booths already and there is still much market laid out in front of you.
Coming to Life!
It’s quite amazing how the market is erected everyday. Legally, the street can not be closed off to cars until 12:00noon. So, all the poles and tarps that make the structure of the market are laid out on the street strategically in a manner that when the signal is given to start erecting this giant erector set, they get it done quickly. In a matter of about 20 minutes you can witness the entire market take it’s shape. They then start to bring in the inventory in separate wheeled containers. The market is then broken down in an opposite manner come about 11something p.m. as the street needs to be open again by 12:00midnight.
I often just go early to watch how they build the market. It is truly quite amazing how the various street markets in Hong Kong are constructed in a similar fashion. Built up and torn down every day. Massive amounts of inventory take out and set up to be taken down that evening.
Tips for market shopping
I know everyone always tells you to never pay the asking price for things in Asia. It is true though. Even if you just haggle enough to get a few HKD off of your price then you will be given a market shopping approval by the sales person. Keeping in mind that really all of the stuff on the market isn’t really anything that you need and it is all inexpensive for the most part. So, don’t haggle too much! Most importantly, never buy anything right away. As I mentioned, there are a lot of booths selling the same thing. If you see it and buy it right away you risk seeing it somewhere else for a better price. Even just see what starting price they throw out at you first and feel out the sales person’s personality. Do they seem nice and kind of playful to engage with some banter? Or are they giving off the attitude that tells you that they really don’t want to be bothered with you? They don’t really value the customer very much in a way. They see so many people everyday as it is a tourist area that the money will come either from you or the next person that is already ready with money in his hands or looks like they will pay any amount just as long as they can get that fake antique looking Chinese fan.
The walk off. The ‘walk off’ is a great strategy. You haggle a bit and then politely say, ‘No, thank you!’ and walk off. Most likely if you haggled to a price that seemed reasonable to the sales girl but she just didn’t want to give in because she wanted to see if you’d break first, will chase you down the street saying ‘Ok, Ok’. You will smile and you will feel victorious. It’s a good feeling too. You haggled $2 off of that Angry Bird change purse that you’re going to give your niece only to leave it in your suitcase or something and never end up giving it to her.
Lastly, the market can be fun in my opinion. As a date night, this is a great place to have some fun. Walk through the market and see everything that is there and when you’re tired of walking, jump into one of the many cafes that are on the street and relax or have a dinner at one of the many restaurants. I recommend Bonnie’s Thai Restaurant. Take some pictures for your Facebook page for the world to see. It’s a fun place. Don’t feel compelled to buy anything and just soak up the atmosphere. It is crowded almost all of the time so keep that in mind and don’t let it bother you. There is much fun to be had here.