Guided by Scent

I follow the most literal interpretation of Toucan Sam's words to find my first breakfast in Hong Kong.

For those who aren't familiar, Toucan Sam is the cartoon mascot for Fruit Loops, a fruit flavored (I know, gross) cereal. His catchphrase is "Follow your nose!"*

With nostrils open

My hotel is near a few different food markets. Before I can step into one the scents are already wafting at me in full force, the fans inside forcing air out. Some scents are delectable, some vaguely remind me of food, and others that are so pungent that I lose a bit of my appetite.

The stalls selling dried meats and fish mount the most aggressive assaults on my nose.

An open air market that specializes in raw meats and fish.

Today's catch.

The readily edibles (the stuff tourists like you and I care about), the egg puffs, roasted chestnuts, stinky tofu, and squid tentacles, contribute to this olfactoric cacophony. They're sold from every block and corner.

A woman roasts chestnuts over a burner.

Alleyway restaurateurs prepare stir fried dishes.

Just as ubiquitous are the fresh fruits and produce shops and stands that splash the streets with color. To locate one, I simply set my nose to search for the scent of durian.


More peculiar to Hong Kong is the scent of incense. The occasional shopkeeper will burn them and by virtue of ritual, Buddhist temples and their visitors will keep them burning throughout the day filling the air with a haze of white smoke.

I walk into every temple I pass to take in the ambiance and gain some respite from the bustle outside. On most days I end up going home with my clothes smelling of incense. The half hour segments I take throughout the day trying to photograph light as it filters through thickening wisps of incense smoke add up.

A sidewalk shrine near Yau Ma Tei community rest garden.

Incense hangs at Tin Hua Temple.

Red candles and incense burn at Man Mo Temple.


My smelly tour of Hong Kong ends in Mongkok where past a few more fishy smelling markets is a scent oasis that springs daily on Flower Market Road. If I close my eyes I'd think that I'm in a botanical garden with the sweet smell of blossoms in the air. Really, they're from all of the lovely floral arrangements, bonsais, greens, and lucky bamboo.

Boquets on Flower Market Road.