Category Archives: wan chai market

What is a Cantonese wet shave? Find out at Oi Kwan Barbers

Despite being a resident, it’s fun to view daily life through a tourist lens. It never gets boring.

Spring Garden Lane for example, looks a little different every day and the mood of the street also varies according to the hour of the day. It’s tidal. The ebb of people heading towards Queens Road East for work in the morning and the flow back to the MTR station at 5pm. The smokers and queues at the Hong Kong Jockey Club branch on Saturdays, the queue for Kam Fung during breakfast and lunch hour seven days a week.


On a bright November afternoon last year, I happened to be strolling down Spring Garden Lane and saw a film crew right outside Oi Kwan’s barber shop. Most people wouldn’t even notice this hole in the wall. The barber shop occupies a narrow space between a florist and a very busy local restaurant. The reason why I noticed it at all is because I have an interest in barber shops. Well, ever since SW asked me to find one for him in Singapore many moons ago. The where can I get a good shave question just had to be answered.

If you did a search for shaves in Hong Kong, you’ll probably find the most famous and classiest one in the Mandarin Oriental hotel where the barber also offers waxing and pedicure services (hey, guys only). Then you’ll get the hipster barbers in Central up by Soho where guys sport instagrammable haircuts and a couple of tattoos on each arm and an earring. Some will offer you a glass of whiskey or brandy to get you in the meditative mood. To go to these, you’d either have to be rich or trendy, probably both.

Not so at Oi Kwan. This little barber shop that started in the 1960’s seats three and there are no luxury bells and whistles. Goodness, there isn’t even a door.

Oi Kwan Barbers closed on Wednesday
Shop is closed, all boarded up
It’s well lit and open on weekdays for hair cuts and shaves. You get your hair washed by sticking your head over a sink and a rudimentary shower hose douses you with water. Check out this review from a customer. 

This little old barber shop has survived despite the gentrification of Wan Chai and has opened a branch at the Comix Home Base in Mallory Street.

Mallory Street entrance, Oi Kwan Barbers
I think it’s pretty funny that it took them half a century to open a branch, but that’s the way opportunities show up. They just launched this new branch on the 30th of March 2017. From the looks of it on the FB page, it’s a bit more upmarket and swanky, I’m sure the prices will reflect it too.


Perhaps this is to compete with all the swanky barbers in Central…


Their write up (above pic) tells you a bit more although the translation is a little dodgy. Just in case you can’t read it in the picture, I’ve typed it up here.

Living in history and a living history- best describes Oi Kwan barbers Hong Kong and China.

We walked with Hong Kong’s growth, reminded ourselves the treasure the prosperity earned through hardships.

In Spring Garden Lane where the ceiling fan turns slowly, the old radio gives its broken sound and the cut-throat razor gives you a gentle stroke, you recline on the chair, close your eyes, forget Hong Kong’s hot humid weather, forget the crowded alleys…. hold a old comic book and immerse yourself in this street corner… and 50 years passed.

Our fathers came from war shaken 1950’s China as most of the Hong Kong populations, started this little workshop. Enduring the hard times, Oi Kwan served generations to generations, from the neonates to their grandfathers, they all walked from this little alley with a refreshing and neat look.

Succeeding our fathers, we stood fast against the economic bubble of Hong Kong.

You can check them out if you need a shave in Wan Chai.

Customer getting a hair cut at Oi Kwan Barbers

Read more about its current owner Mark Lau here.

Rat despatch 

**Visually disturbing images in this entry **

One can only imagine the life that goes on in the back alleys and sewers of any major city. Even the supermarket’s storage areas are popular with cockroaches and get distributed throughout the city daily in the vans that send card board boxes to homes. I’m sure that’s how the cockroaches got into my home. It has taken a lot of effort to eradicate them… and yet we never know when we’ll see those feelers waving at us on the kitchen counter top again.

Hustle bustle of Stone Nullah Lane, Wanchai market

The Wan Chai outdoor market was just beginning to get going at around 8.30am, just as I was returning from an errand. Walking down Stone Nullah Lane, it was all the usual hustle bustle of early shoppers and shopkeepers setting up stalls for the day.

Just as I walked by the fresh fish shop, some litter lying at the side of the street caught my eye. 


In a similar fashion to the quick rewind in movies, I walked backwards for a closer look.


There were dead rats stuck in glue traps, dumped in a polystyrene box alongside oranges waiting for the trash collectors or pest control perhaps.

Hmm. Those glue traps really are effective. Where can you get some if you find yourself in a situation where you need to rid your house of rats?

Buy your pest control products in Wan chai market

This is the stall to head to. It’s roughly opposite the Thai vegetable and herb shop on Cross Street. He’s got something for the usual suspects. Termites, ants, cockroaches and rats.

Wanchai market for all your chinese lunar new year purchases

The Chinese lunar new year brings a shopping bonanza to Wan chai market. Everyday no matter the weather, people turn up in droves to look at home decorations and the latest lunar new year fashion. It is tradition to wear new clothes during the new year period, and this extends to underwear and home furnishings. Yup, you can get almost anything in the “Chinese new year red”.

Here are some photos to show you what it’s like.


First up, underwear. If you fancy a bit of gold “fuk“( pronounced foook meaning wealth and luck), well, you’re in luck. Go superman.


Next up, red socks, stockings and slippers. It’s a bit chilly and these red footwear and accessories might get you a few compliments. 


The stalls selling kids traditional clothing get a lot of attention. Lots of mommies just have to stop and browse. You’ll see lots of kids in traditional garb walking around, schools are asking kids to come in festive attire.


Brighten up your interior and sofa with red cushions? Lots of cushions getting lots of attention.


Red ribbons for your own designs.

All sorts of hanging items.

If you’re looking for lanterns for your doorway, hit Tai Yuen street.

This stall selling cute roosters can be found along Cross street


This is the seasonal stall. Usually a hat shop, they convert fully to CNY decorative items for the 3 week season.


If you’re looking for festive snack trays, you’ll find them at the household shops along Wan Chai road.


I was wondering why this bakery had developed a mass following, people were hogging the pavement. Everyone was waiting for 5pm when discounts apply to all the baked goods.

These baked puff snacks in particular seemed to be getting a lot of attention.

All this lasts until Chinese New Year which is on the 28th of January. Many stall owners will be on vacation for two weeks after that, visiting relatives in China or just taking a break. Everything gets a little pricier during this time, but as chinese people say, it’s only once a year!

Let’s not forget the goodies for the table, red melon nuts and gold chocolates.

Kang Kee Fresh noodle shop in Wan Chai market

My friend JC lives in Kowloon but I have since convinced her to do her dinner grocery shopping in Wan Chai. Usually on Mondays and Thursdays when we meet, she’ll come with me through the market to pick up her vegetables, meat and some condiments for dinner.

On Monday, she asked me where she could buy good freshly made skins for dumplings. 

“Ah”, I said. “You can get them from Kang Kee.”

JC said she didn’t know where it was but could I take her next time? JC, this post is for you.

Kang Kee is a fresh noodle institution. 

Every morning, trucks with heavy sacks of flour show up, guys load them onto their backs to carry it into the store. In the back of the store, machines get going and a fine layer of flour dust covers the entire shop and surrounding floor area. 


They make all the popular shapes of fresh noodles. Flat ones, Fat ones, skinny ones, white ones, yellow ones, mouse tail ones. They also sell Chee Cheung fun if you’re inclined to eat it at home instead of at a dim sum restaurant. You can also get the dried noodles in fancy flavours, crab, abalone, scallop etc.


There’s also the variety in skins. Square ones, round ones, big ones, small ones, you can pretty much wrap whatever morsels in these. The great thing is that the fresh noodles are smooth and do not require preservative. The dumpling and spring roll skins also made fresh lack the distinctive chemical taste that I find in frozen supermarket versions.


I usually buy spring roll skin and popiah skin from here. It’s freshly made and you’ll need to get there before two if you need it in quantity. It sells out pretty fast. Alternatively place your order the day before.


Everything is sold by weight except the dried noodles which have already been pre-weighed and sell by the piece. 


You can also pick up manufactured packets of pasta, vermicelli and various sauces here. 

I’ll be taking JC there personally but you contact me for a tour of the wan chai market or find Kang Kee here: