ultramarinus – beyond the sea

YEN CHOW STREET HAWKER BAZAAR (欽州街小販市場), Sham Shui Po ( 深水埗), Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, redevelopment of an old neighborhood is often a controversial matter, especially when it involves eviction of existing occupants, or replacing an old neighborhood with new residential towers and shopping malls.  In recent years there has been public concerns regarding the anticipated relocation of the vendors at Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar in Sham Shui Po.

Opening its doors since the 1970s at the intersection of Yen Chow Street and Lai Chi Kok Road, the specialized textile bazaar has been a popular destination for fabric seekers from fashion design students to amateur seamstress throughout the city.  The bazaar stalls are laid out in a grid pattern, under patches of roof covering consisted of corrugated metal and nylon sheets.  A visit to the bazaar is like a treasure hunt that involves meandering through narrow aisles and flipping through piles of colourful fabrics, bags of buttons and rolls of ribbons at each 3m x 3m vendor stall.  The bazaar is chaotic, cramped, dark, and can be stuffy in humid summer days.  Despite its resemblance to a shanty town , the bazaar does not deter anyone who determines to hunt for prizable fabrics and accessories in affordable prices, and to enjoy a disappearing shopping culture that emphasizes human interactions.  It is the type of old school shopping experience in which friendly and long-lasting relationship between returned customers and vendors can be built up over time.

The unique atmosphere, unpretentious setting, and sense of community of the Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar belong to a disappearing Hong Kong.  In a city shaped mostly by retail franchises and real estate developers, and where retail streets and shopping centres are looking more repetitive as ever, small independent businesses and grassroots communities are becoming more vulnerable and helpless in the rapid process of urban development.

1From outside, Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar looks like a shabby village built at a city park.

2Once inside, the chaotic bazaar is a treasure trove for many.

3Fabrics and accessories are piled up high along both sides of narrow aisles.

4Some vendors own multiple stalls.  In many occasions, customers would need to call the owner over from another corner of the bazaar.

5After forty years, a number of the existing trees have become permanent features in the bazaar.

6Each stall has its unique arrangement and textile selection.

7Some stalls even offer sewing service.

8One may wonder how the vendor can keep track of his or her merchandises from the piles of items at the stall.

9Apart from fabrics, ribbons are also popular.

10And so as buttons of different colours and styles.

11Encouraging messages written by customers and supporters for the bazaar vendors are pinned up at a stall.

12Big banner urging for establishing an official textile market at the current location is hung at the bazaar entrance.

13A supporting banner made of fabric strips is also hung at the exterior fence along Lai Chi Kok Road.

14Photos showing the vendor community expressing their unity and determination to fight for their own survival at the current site, in protest to the government’s relocation proposal of the bazaar.

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