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Rainy Day Chic: Hong Kong in the Rain

The art of staying dry at Hong Kong’s very wet wet markets


Wet Market chic at Bowrington Road, Wan Chai

If you’re anything like me, then being the moderately observant type, you can’t help but have noticed that the weather hasn’t exactly been sunshiningly lovely of late. In fact, by my rough guestamatics, it’s been about twelve days since we last had a day where it didn’t piss it down incessantly from morning through to still-raining night.

Ordinarily in Hong Kong, rainy season means riding-out a typhoon or two then dealing with the fallout from the several near-misses that will swing in off the South China Sea each year. There will be showers and storms as the outer rainbands of rogue cyclones pass by. But these are usually of the brief and dramatic variety –  the thirty minute deluges liable to give you a two second soaking if you’re fool enough not to pack an umbrella that innocuous-looking morning. This year, however, there’s been little of the usual Hong Kong rainy season theatrics. There’s been little lightning, no typhoons, no red or black rain storms, just heavy shower followed by heavy shower, interspersed with the occasional dose of heavy shower.

Hong Kong though isn’t likely to let a little rain – however persistent – slow it down for more than a minute or two. There are things to sell, money to be made and hard-work to be done, no more so than in the city’s wet markets, where these last two weeks the name has never seemed more apt.

In a city used to summer rain, you learn how to adapt and get on with things. An umbrella is the most obvious first line of defence. But while this is fine if you’ve got one, what if you haven’t? And what if an umbrella is simply impractical for the two-handed task you’re employed in?

In the first instance, it seems improvisation is key. Newspapers, towels and plastic bags seem to be the go-to head-covering items. But I’d argue their effectiveness is somewhat limited in the event of a full-scale downpour. There are also, as can be seen, varying degrees of stylishness with which the improv method can be used – from the vagrant-casual plastic bag on head, to pirate-style fishmonger badass. As for the situation in which you need to stay dry but remain fully and two-handedly functional, there really is no substitute for the umbrella hat.

The king of rainy day headgear, the umbrella hat is the ultimate in stay-dry chic. “Want the full coverage of an umbrella but with the convenience of a hat? UMBRELLA HAT!” I hadn’t thought such a perfect synthesis of practicality and ridiculousness existed until I came to Hong Kong. Now nothing could surprise me ever again. Twin your umbrella hat with a fetching burgundy raincoat, accessorize with an iron trolley or a hosepipe, and your king or queen of the wet market status is more or less assured.

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