Hong Kong: Gage Street

April 25th, 2011
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Walking through Central Hong Kong, it was easy to forget that I was 8,000 miles from home. There were skyscrapers and office buildings this way, hi-rise condos that way, Westerners abounded and English was everywhere. Central certainly didn’t have any of the challenges of Saigon or even Tokyo in navigation or communication. I enjoyed exploring the area a lot, but it almost felt like cheating.
Then we took a turn off from under the Mid-Level escalators and found ourselves on Gage Street and found ourselves somewhere else, entirely.


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Where western bars and restaurants were only blocks away, we suddenly felt like we were really in China. Gage Street and some intersecting alleyways hold one of the big wet markets on Hong Kong Island. It’s where locals find meats and produce and all sorts of foods and ingredients. I’m told they’re called wet markets because at the end of the day, the street gets hosed down to wash off all the drippings and detritus that run off the stalls all day.
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Markets are always my favorite place to go wherever I travel. It’s where you see the truth in a place. It goes beyond the restaurants and sights and shows you what people are taking home with them.
Clearly, given my fascination with butchery, I was most interested in the meat market stalls everywhere. They had everything on display. Everything. Ram’s heads and pig faces jockeyed for attention with the usual cuts of shoulders and legs and loins. Customers went to each stall, told the butcher what they wanted and he’d reach up, grab a section and chop a cut off for them. I love that. Nothing was shrink-wrapped or placed in styrofoam. Everyone understood that the meat they were buying was a part of a larger animal once and wasn’t squeamish about it. That was probably best demonstrated by the stall with a horse’s tail on display, dangling from his wall to let customers know what kind of meat he was selling.
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If I’d had more time in Hong Kong, I’d have loved to shop through the market and cook a meal or two using the ingredients available – although maybe not the horse. I’m not sure if I could get past my own cultural enough limitations for that.

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