On our way downhill from Suleymaniye Mosque, we passed by an area full of hardware and toy shops. Then we found ourselves arrived at the famous Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. Since establishment in 1455, the Grand Bazaar has been the most popular shopping venue in Ottoman Constantinople. With 91 million annual visitors in 2014, the Grand Bazaar remains as one of the most visited tourist attractions in Istanbul. We spent over an hour in this gigantic covered market (over 50 covered shopping streets). Most shops were selling tourist souvenirs, t-shirts, pottery, jewelries, etc. It was interesting to wander around the maze-like bazaar, a shopping arcade that predates modern shopping centres for several centuries. Similar to all tourist shopping areas in the world, it was impossible to find one-of-a-kind merchandise there. We left the bazaar empty handed.
Several blocks north the Grand Bazaar stands the equally vibrant Spice Bazaar. Also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar was established in 1660 and has served as the main spice market of Istanbul ever since. Today, the Spice Bazaar has become quite touristy, with souvenir shops mingled with shops selling spices, nuts, sweets and Turkish delights.
The Grand Bazaar is a huge maze of shopping arcade network where tourists may find joy to get lost in.
Today, most shops in the Grand Bazaar are catered for tourists.
Signage in the Grand Bazaar may help tourists to orient themselves if they are familiar with the street names of the neighborhood.
The warm lighting from the shops and the indirect sunlight from the celestial windows make visitors to easily lose track of time in the Grand Bazaar.
In the area near the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, all sort of street vendors and small shops can be found. Gözleme flatbread is a common street food in Istanbul. It is a traditional food made with Turkish yufka dough cooked over a round metal hot dome.
Gözleme is somewhat crispy outside and soft inside. It is simple and delicious.
At the crossroads between Asia and Europe, Turkey has long been a trading hub in the midst of caravan routes. In the past, spices were among the most important commodities in international trading.
Spices have played an important role in Turkish cuisine.
Built in 1660, the Spice Bazaar is one one of the most popular covered market in Istanbul.
Perhaps because of the aroma, colours, and vibrant interactions between vendors and customers, we found the Spice Bazaar much more interesting than the Grand Bazaar.
It is full of surprises in the Spice Bazaar.
Smoking shisha with a traditional hookah water pipe has become a must do activity for tourists in Istanbul. In the Spice Bazaar or Grand Bazaar, it is easy to find a water pipe.
In the area around the Spice Bazaar, streets are lined with shops selling different merchandises from hardware to toys.
There are several famous mosques worth noting near the Spice Bazaar. Built in 1564 by the famous imperial architect Mimar Sinan, Rüstem Pasha Mosque is well known for its Iznik tiles in the interior.
Outside Rüstem Pasha Mosque, street vendors lined along the small lane.
We were attracted by the busy street scenes near Rüstem Pasha Mosque.
Situated near Galata Bridge, the Yeni Camii, or New Mosque, is another iconic building in Fatih.
Completed in 1665, the Yeni Camii is another great place to admire traditional Iznik tiles.
At the hotel driveway, we were welcomed by the host of Hotel Ladakh Greens with white khata scarfs. After many hours of traveling, we were more than happy to check in our hotel room, our temporary home for the next six consecutive nights. After a cup of refreshment tea, we decided to take some rest at the hotel. At about 10:30, the sky cleared up and the sun had long been up. WiFi Internet wasn’t working at the hotel. We put on our shoes and couldn’t wait any longer but to go out and explore Leh. Heading out the hotel’s poplar-lined driveway, our aim was to walk to the town centre to visit its main bazaar. At the high altitude, the sun was bright and strong. The temperature was warmer than we thought. We walked slowly along Fort Road towards town centre. Under the brutal late morning sun, we felt dry and tired, partly because of the red-eye flight, partly because of a slight reaction from the high altitude, and partly because of the arid and dusty environment of Leh.
For about 15 minutes we passed by many souvenir shops and hotels along Fort Road, until reaching a crowded restaurant near town centre then we realized that we were a little hungry. We stepped in the popular Gesmo Restaurant and decided to grab a bite before continuing our walk to the bazaar. The restaurant was fully packed. Fortunately at the first table by the entrance sat Sophia, a Spanish tourist who invited us to share the table by the window with her. A young lawyer from Spain, Sophia came to India for volunteer work at Dharamsala. She had already volunteering and traveling alone in the country for two months. While she was almost done with Leh and almost ready to move on to somewhere else, we two newcomers were delighted to gain some travel tips from Sophia. We had a good time chatting about traveling in India and Spain. At the same time, we had our first thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup).
After lunch, we came across Dzomsa, an interesting shop near the main bazaar. Right by the entrance stood two water containers for tourists to refill their water bottles. Local treats like apricot and seabuck berry juices were particularly popular. Other than drinks, dried fruits, tea leaves, spices, nuts, apricot kernel oil, and other handcrafts were also on the shelves. From Dzomsa it was only a short walk to the main bazaar, the lively commercial centre of Leh. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the main bazaar offers everything from souvenirs to local produce. Unfortunately much of the market street was under extensive road paving work when we were there. At some spots, walking in the main bazaar was like wandering in a dusty construction site. It was just our first day in Leh. We were in no rush to check out every single shop in the bazaar. We took our time wandering in the town centre, absorbing the atmosphere of the busy market scene.
Outside of our hotel gate, Lower Tukcha Road was a sleepy lane with local homes and hotel complexes.
Intersection at Lower Tukcha Road and Fort Road which connects to the town centre of Leh. There is no proper street sign so the little grocery store with a distinguishable wooden storefront became the landmark for us for direction.
From our hotel to the town centre, it was about 15-minute walk. Under the bright afternoon sun, the unpaved road turned golden. It was soft and pleasant to walk on until a cloud of swirling dust rose from the dirt road when motorcycles and cars drove by. Under the harsh sun, every pedestrian preferred to walk under the shade.
As approaching the town centre, we had a better view of the earth-tone Leh Palace and the red and white Namgyal Tsemo Gompa prominently standing on the rocky hill.
Before arriving at the main bazaar, we stopped by Gesmo Restaurant for lunch. According to the guidebooks, Gesmo Restaurant had always been a local favorite. When we arrived there, the restaurant was fully packed with locals and travelers. We met a Spanish traveler, Sophia, who invited us to share a table by the window with her. Sophia had been traveling in this country for over a month. She shared stories of the travel and we shared our upcoming travel plan. We were happy to start off the day with a pleasant chat with like-mind people sharing the same passion and curiosity for traveling the world.
Near the main bazaar, small food and drink shop Dzomsa is a delightful stop for juices of local fruits, organic snacks and spices, and souvenirs. Right by the entrance of the store were two larger water urns filled with portable water. With less than 8 rupees, visitors could refill their water bottle. It was a great environmental alternative to bottled water. There were also two large buckets collecting plastic bottles and used batteries.
It was hot and dry outside. We took a little rest in the store and tried the most popular juice in town, apricot juice (left) and seabuck berry juice (right). For unknown reasons, we always presumed that the orange, thicker one would be the apricot juice and the one with the grape juice colour would be the seabuck berries juice. When we asked the storekeeper, we were told that it was actually the other way around.
The store was simple with wooden shelves along the wall displaying the store staples such as mint tea, home-made jam, dried fruits, crunchy roasted apricot kernels, the precious saffron spice etc. We were happy to have found this store.
The main bazaar were getting a facelift. Paving work and renovation of different scale were underway everywhere, especially the area near the main mosque Jama Masjid. Winter in Leh is extremely cold with heavy snow, so construction work can only be done in the short summer months.
Tourists and locals walking by one of the buildings along the main bazaar.
Colourful prayer flags could be seen all over the market area.
Looking at Jama Masjid’s end of the main bazaar with Leh Palace at the background.
Local shopkeeper under the shade.
Local farmers took various kinds of seasonal vegetables for sell in the bazaar.
A passerby in the main bazaar.
The main bazaar was a great place for people watching.
Many buildings around the bazaar were under construction or renovation.
The young street performer walked by and caught many people’s attention.
The Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels around a stupa near the bazaar.
Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels around a stupa near the bazaar.
Leh is like an oasis in a desert. Looking beyond cars and houses are bare mountains surrounding the city, reminding us of the harsh climate of this arid region.
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Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi
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.
From outside, Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar looks like a shabby village built at a city park.
Once inside, the chaotic bazaar is a treasure trove for many.
Fabrics and accessories are piled up high along both sides of narrow aisles.
Some vendors own multiple stalls. In many occasions, customers would need to call the owner over from another corner of the bazaar.
After forty years, a number of the existing trees have become permanent features in the bazaar.
Each stall has its unique arrangement and textile selection.
Some stalls even offer sewing service.
One may wonder how the vendor can keep track of his or her merchandises from the piles of items at the stall.
Apart from fabrics, ribbons are also popular.
And so as buttons of different colours and styles.
Encouraging messages written by customers and supporters for the bazaar vendors are pinned up at a stall.
Big banner urging for establishing an official textile market at the current location is hung at the bazaar entrance.
A supporting banner made of fabric strips is also hung at the exterior fence along Lai Chi Kok Road.
Photos 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.