Hasn't the Haiphong Road Temporary Market Been There Forever?
Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
What’s going on with the Haiphong Road Temporary Market? I walk past it all the time in Tsim Sha Tsui and it looks like it’s been there forever. – Market Mark
In Hong Kong terms, it pretty much has been there forever.
Haiphong Road is one of the few places in Hong Kong not named for a Chinese or British place or person. It actually takes its name from the northern Vietnamese port of Hai Phong, which once had close commercial ties to the area. Originally called Elgin Road, the avenue was renamed in 1909 to prevent confusion with the street in SoHo. (Other name changes in TST at the same time included Chater Street becoming Peking Road, Des Voeux Road turning into Chatham Road, and Robinson Road switching to Nathan Road).
As for the Haiphong Road Temporary Market—it’s even less temporary than you might have thought. It was created in 1978 to house hawkers displaced by the redevelopment of Canton Road, making it the oldest temporary market in the city.
The hawkers were squeezed into the awkward triangular space created by the construction of the Kowloon Park Drive flyover, and asked to wait it out until more suitable accommodation could be found. But a purpose-built building never appeared and the site is difficult to develop, thanks to the flyover overhead. And so the market continued and continues to this day, still temporary 37 years after it was set up.
Despite its ad-hoc nature, the Haiphong Road market is as permanent a part of Tsim Sha Tsui life as Chungking Mansions itself. The market serves the needs of TST, and so it’s home to a large number of halal butchers catering to the area’s substantial Muslim population. Meanwhile, the cooked food center portion of the market offers some of the city’s best eats. Tak Fat Beef Ball (390 Haiphong Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2376-1179) is rightly famed for its firm, bouncy beef balls, flavored with a touch of mandarin peel and served in vivid orange bowls. A meal in the cooked food center is a loud, sweaty, uproarious and delicious tradition that’s here to stay—as temporary at the market itself.