Daily, from the late afternoon until the early hours of the following morning, the streets surrounding the wholesale fruit market in the old district of Yau Ma Tei are transformed. Large containers arrive from just-unloaded ships or across the mainland border. Teams of workmen quickly unload the contents onto pallets that are trundled on trolleys through the streets, with cars and minibuses weaving in between. The newly arrived fruit is temporarily held in the market’s warehouses or on roadsides before being distributed throughout Hong Kong to independent fruit vendors, restaurants, suppliers and other outlets.
The historic market is a labyrinth of alleys linking small wholesale businesses, including a row of 1930s shophouses converted into a warehouse. The site’s heritage extends onto the streets, as the physicality of loading and unloading under darkness amid moving, torch-like car headlights has a timeless, gothic ambience.
However, all this could go; the Hong Kong government has just announced the future removal of the market and its conversion into a place “for tourists” – no doubt, the business plan will involve high-price and/or tacky restaurants, bars and shops. Again, faux heritage replaces the efficiently functioning real.
Photo: John Batten