I am a lover of small boutique shops, especially ones right on the street. When I have nothing specific to buy, I love browsing through street markets – be they in Hong Kong, Mumbai or any other part of the world. I don’t particularly love shopping, but if I do shop it’s always the knick-knacks from the street market that I find so hard to resist! As a child, my mother used to take me to all kinds of markets and street stalls around Mumbai and all the interesting and colourful things in these shops always fascinated me. These days I’ll take Central’s Li Yuen streets, Jardine’s Bazaar in Causeway Bay or my absolute favourite Wanchai street market over the swanky shops of Pacific Place or IFC any day!
I can browse endlessly through rows and rows of small shops selling anything from antiques to ordinary stationery, accessories, clothes, bags, shoes or even the Chinese dried foodstuffs they sell in Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun. I was recently walking down Queens Road West, browsing the small shops which were selling all kinds of dry pulses and seafood – most of which I couldn’t begin to recognise. Some looked like starfish, some types of seaweed, some were black flower-shaped things and many more I had no clue about!
The reason behind my close scrutiny of these shops and their produce was because I was looking for dried shrimp. We have a mini fishpond (if you can call it that!) on the podium level of our building, and my younger son and I like to go and feed the fish there sometimes. We normally take some bread for them, and they are quite responsive to our presence and come towards us as if to say hello, or maybe thank you. While they do eat our bread, the other day I saw a neighbour feeding something else to them, causing a fish frenzy as they competed to grab a bite of this tasty snack, which turned out to be dried shrimp, hence my search.
Unfortunately with my very limited Cantonese my search was not successful, so I just continued walking, browsing a handbag shop, debating a waist pouch for my morning jog; through a stationery shop considering some calligraphy pens; through a Chinese lantern shop and a cane furniture shop. Ever the mum, I finally ended up empty-handed except for a couple of pairs of socks for the boys – No wonder my mum hates going shopping with me!
I thought I should take a photograph of our fishpond for this post, so imagine my surprise when I found a new notice saying ‘Do Not Feed The Fish!’ with a little drawing at the bottom of a hand feeding a fish with a big cross on top just to ensure that everybody understands. Guess my dried shrimp hunting can come to an end (although my wandering definitely won’t!)