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Hong Kong’s Best Wet Markets: Bowrington Road

So fresh it’s moving at Hong Kong Island’s finest

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Butcher at Bowrington Road Market, Hong Kong

Related Post: Check out my post Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre, Wan Chai to read about one of the best eating experiences in Hong Kong.

City of contrasts

Nestled in the shadow of Times Square on the edge of Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district, Bowrington Road wet market encapsulates the contradictory nature of this city of contrasts.

While Causeway Bay’s commercial frenzy goes on across the way, Bowrington Road gives a glimpse of a city that manages to resist the modernising influences and development of the urban mess around it. It offers a taste, smell, sight and sound of Hong Kong as it has been since its early days, with a clamour of a different kind.

Located off Canal Road on the border between Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, Bowrington Road was named after the 4th Governor of Hong Kong John Bowring, under whose governorship the land around eastern Wan Chai was first developed.

Previously, there had been nothing more than the estuary of the Wong Nai Chung river flowing through Happy Valley to distinguish the area until Bowring turned the river into a canal during the latter part of the 1850s and lent his name to it. The area around the canal became known as Bowring City or Bowrington and rapidly became one of Hong Kong island’s major areas of development in the early 20th century.

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The market sums up Hong Kong’s many contrasts perfectly

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Where the primary colour is most definitely red

After the canal came Bowrington Bridge, built in 1861, carrying one of the early Hong Kong tramlines along what is now Hennessey Road. The bridge lasted until the 1920s before the canal was covered and the bridge removed during the further development of Wan Chai. All that survives now is the Bowrington name and the bloody spectacle of the market.

And bloody it most certainly is. Like most Hong Kong wet markets, Bowrington Road is a sensory excess of noise, lights, people and peculiar smells, where the primary colour is definitely red. There are butcher shops with their red wares hanging; carcases strewn over chopping blocks ready for the knife. There are seafood stalls with a variety of fish, crabs and shellfish you would barely think possible, all of it as fresh as you can get without catching it yourself and eating it live off your line.

Indeed, most prospective purchases are so fresh as to be available for selection and prompt butchering while the customer waits. Fish are the main recipients of this swift slaughter-to-order, with scales scattered, bellies sliced and innards left pulsating, before finally having some kind of belated coup de grâce administered or else thrown gutted and bleeding onto a deathbed of reddening ice until bought. It’s enough to turn the first-time, supermarket-shopping Western the wrong side of queasy.

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It is a sensory excess of noise, lights, people and peculiar smells

close-up of fish being filleted on chopping board, Hong Kong wet market

On the block at Bowrington Road Wet Market

More than gore

But Bowrington Road market deals in more than just gore. There are fruit and vegetable stalls selling anything the discerning chef could ever want to throw in his wok. There’s an indoor market as well as the outdoor market. There are even seafood restaurants at street level and Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre on the top floor of the indoor market, where cheap is the price, delicious the food, and raucous the atmosphere. And it’s this that really makes Bowrington Road wet market stand out.

If you’re not familiar with the Hong Kong phenomenon that is the Cooked Food Centre, think large hall packed with polythene-covered garden furniture and multiple kitchens serving no-nonsense, tasty local food to their noisy and appreciative customers.

If you are looking to eat, choose the Cooked Food Centre over the restaurants on the road. It’s cheaper, the portions more generous, and the food much nicer. The first restaurant you encounter upon entering is the pick of those inside. It’s the one with the pink table covers and serves the best roast chicken in Hong Kong.

Enter via the staircase on the Bowrington Road side of the building or the lift at the bottom. Opening hours of Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre are 6am to 2am, seven days a week. The pink table cover restaurant is open evenings until closing.

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The market is also one of the few that stays open late into the evening

How to get Bowrington Road Market

Bowrington Road Market is located right in the thick of things on the edge of Wanchai/Causeway Bay just off Hennessey Road. As such, it can be easily accessed in any number of ways.

MTR: Causeway Bay Station, exit A – Times Square

Tram/Bus: Times Square/Canal Road stops

Check out the map here.

Related Post: Check out my post Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre, Wan Chai to read about one of the best eating experiences in Hong Kong.

Get involved: Is Bowrington Road Hong Kong’s best wet market? What do you think? Let us know your own favourites in the comments below?

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… which may be too late for some

Wet Market Fish, Hong Kong

Wet Market Fish, Hong Kong

2 comments

  1. Really good and interesting reportage!
    I’ll be in Honk Kong in one month, for sure I’ll go there!

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