Wandering The Night Market: Temple Street, HK

Welcome to day five in Hong Kong.

Today we made our way to campus early, determined to make it in time for the New Student Inauguration Ceremony, our first official HKU event. As the pro navigators we have come to be, we made it to the correct building with almost 40 minutes to spare.

And then we stopped. In front of us stood a line-up (or, as they call it here, a ‘queue’) of about 300 people, all dressed exactly the same.

Every single person wore black and white business suits. The men wore crisp, white shirts and black jackets, the women wore white collars and conservative, black skirts. And there we stood, in our sweaty t-shirts and jean shorts.

We looked horribly out of place, but no where had we seen any mention of formal wear required for this event. So, sheepishly, we joined the line, hoping they would ignore the stupid exchange students who weren’t aware of the customary black and white attire.

The queue started filing into the Lee Shau Kee Grand Hall, but just as we got to the door two student volunteers started gesturing to our outfits and whispering in Cantonese. I tried to ignore them and keep walking, hoping their innate Hong Kong politeness would prevent them from speaking out, but no such luck. They quietly pulled us aside and apologetically informed us that only black and white formal wear was allowed in the Hall.

Instead, we were allowed to view the Convocation by video from another room. It was a strange yet fascinating ceremony, despite being banished to the reject room. The stark differences of culture here were evident in every facet of the show, from the puffy, velvet hats to the way speakers are introduced (“Mr. Hor, PLEASE.”) The ceremony left me excited to be a part of HKU.

That night we hopped on the bus to Kowloon, headed for the famed Temple Street Night Market.

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My guide book described Temple Street as Hong Kong’s liveliest night market, awash with fortune tellers and cheap treasures, and bustling with energy every night. It wasn’t as busy as we expected (and I unfortunately didn’t encounter any fortune tellers), but that magical night market feeling was definitely there.

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I love the warm glow of lights, the strange infusion of smells, the jumble of stalls chalk full of random knick knacks, most of them completely useless.

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We wandered up and down the narrow stall-lined streets, enjoying the ridiculous t-shirts and knock-off purses. We sat to eat at an outdoor restaurant and savoured the overpriced but delicious spicy pork and braised tofu.

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We took the bus back home and I tumbled into bed, electric with the market lights and smells and excited for our next Hong Kong adventure.

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