HONG KONG — A small girl presses her nose up against a large aquarium filled with tropical fish and a giant koi (goldfish) rushes the glass. The youngster recoils, leaps to her feet and erupts in childish laughter.
“Mommy, mommy, the fish kissed me,” says the excited child.
“That’s good,” says the mother. “That means you’ll have good luck for the rest of the day.”
The shop is one of many gathered along Tung Choi St., better known as the Goldfish Market, in Hong Kong’s bustling Mong Kok District.
In front of each shop hangs lots of plastic bags with one or two fish inside gasping for breath. They don’t stay there long. Local believers of Feng Shui subscribe to the theory that the goldfish bring their homes good luck and the colourful creatures are quickly snapped up.
Above: The goldfish are placed in plastic bags and displayed in large windows.
The shops sell all types of tropical fish and many command top dollar.
I make the mistake of tapping the aquarium glass in one shop and a stern shopkeeper draws my attention to an English sign that reads “do not disturb the fish.”
Goldfish Market St. also features lots of pet stores selling dogs, cats and reptiles, antique shops and many famous local seafood restaurants, which is why it’s always crowded with tourists.
Some fear the Goldfish Market will disappear in Hong Kong’s never ending redevelopment, and in recent years animal rights activists have complained that threatened or endangered species are being sold in the shops.
The Goldfish Market is also close to two other local attractions — the Flower Market and Bird Market.
Mong Kok, which means “crowded corner” in Cantonese, is true to its name — it’s one of the busiest and most exciting districts in Hong Kong and features some of the city’s most famous streets, like:
• Fa Yuen St., a.k.a. Sneakers St. because of its many shoe shops featuring disocunted athletic brands like Nike, Adidas and New Balance.
Left: Goldfish vendors are aplenty in Kowloon. Right: Hongkongers believe the fish are lucky.
• Sai Yeung Choi, a pedestrian shopping street that is known locally for its cosmetics. It, along with neighbouring Dundas St., Fa Yuen St. and the aptly named Soy St., are renowned for their food stalls where local treats like stinky tofu, fish balls and siu main have been perfected over the decades.
• Argyle and Bute have become outdoor art museums thanks to local and international graffiti artists who turn buildings into concrete canvases with their creative works.
Mong Kok is also home to some of the city’s largest shopping malls, like the trendy 15-storey Langham Place and its electronics counterpart, the Mongkok Computer Centre. The latter is home to 70 stores selling every electronic gadget imaginable.
One thing is for sure, once you visit Goldfish St. and the rest of Mong Kok, you’ll be hooked forever.
JUST THE FACTS
• Goldfish St. is located north of Bute St. and is easily accessible from the Mong Kok ETR station.
• The shops Goldfish St. open around 11 a.m. in the morning.