Buttons and beads and ribbons! Oh my!

November 17, 2014 by in Shops, Sightseeing tags:

Sham Shui Po beads


One of the things I love most about Hong Kong is that it is a city of extreme contrasts. Nowhere do you see it more than in retail. What’s your pleasure: international designer boutiques, tiny mom and pop stores, or street market stalls? Hong Kong offers it all and sometimes even in the same city block.


But if you are looking to experience authentic old-school shopping streets in a working class neighborhood with stores that make you wonder “how can they possibly stay in business?”, then look no further than Sham Shui Po in Kowloon. Just take the MTR to the Sham Shui Po station and walk out the A2 exit towards Apliu Street and wander to your heart’s content.


There’s a wet market for food, an electronics market, toys, clothing, and stores after stores of fabric and fashion accessories. My daughter, so used to the one-stop craft stores in the US, gets a kick out of visiting these tiny stores that only sell beads, or ribbons, or buttons. Need an umbrella? There’s a store for that too.


What can the kids learn from Sham Shui Po?
My 5th grade son recently went on a field trip to a mall as part of his social studies unit on economics, and I think a visit to Sham Shui Po could have served them just as well for sparking discussions about economics:

  • Where do most of these products come from?
  • How do these prices compare to what we would probably pay in the US, and why is there a difference?
  • Which do you think is a better business model: the small specialty stores in Sham Shui Po or big one-stop craft stores in the US?

There’s nothing like seeing niche-specific commerce thriving in real life!


Other resources
Time Out Hong Kong has a great post listing out their favorite shops. Personally I think the Golden Shopping Centre is a good building for electronics and I like the bead and ribbon shops on Apliu and Yu Chau streets.

Illustrated map of Sham Shui Po

Time Out Hong Kong’s illustrated map of Sham Shui Po


Sham Shui Po also has some fun neighborhood eateries where you can eat like a local. If you need some inspiration, check out Carlos Douh’s latest Youtube video teaching the Cantonese slang phrase “mou dak ding.” He uses Sham Shui Po as the backdrop and it’s a fun 2 minutes to listen to his Cantonese and to watch his interaction with the vendors.


About the Author:
Mamie has three kids, ages 13, 12 and 10, and a cardboard Xmas tree that they assemble in hotel rooms in different countries every year. When she isn't busy researching new destinations for the tree, she loves impromptu family activities, from board games to art jams to kitchen experiments.

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