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Hong Pong: A Guide to Hong Kong’s Bad Smells

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Ellie Kate

There is a lot to love about Hong Kong – the food, the sights, the shopping. At first glance, this shiny city is the epitome of sophistication. But as you begin your enamoured relationship, HK might just gift you something you least expect – a bouquet of unique smells.

I’m going to level with you. There are some things in Hong Kong that are, well – gloriously smelly.

Pee-yew! Here’s a guide to some of Hong Kong’s smelliest attractions:



There is no disputing the powerful pong that emanates from this fruit. Some even liken it to “rotten, mushy onions” or “turpentine and onion garnished with a gym sock”. This unassuming fruit has actually been banned on Singaporean subways because of its smell. It looks like the picture and you’re likely to walk past it in markets around Hong Kong. If you can get passed the smell, you will be rewarded by a taste that is actually delightfully custardy.


Abercrombie and Fitch


 If the blatant sexism and poor mood lighting hasn’t put you off, maybe the smell will. You can be a exiting the adjacent Marks & Spencer or even a kilometre away and still be hit by a wall of their ‘signature scent’ which dominates the Central area. Ok, so it doesn’t smell like a sewer and in fairness a few people actually do like it, but it reminds me of school in the 90s – body mists and sprays galore. Sugar-coated in horror.


Stinky Tofu


With notes of old socks, off blue cheese and rotting garbage this tofu sure does smell funky. Its permeating presence is hard to get away from, as food vendors, restaurants and food stalls, sell it across the city. The reason for its stink is down to how the tofu is produced. It’s fermented in a brine of fermented milk, vegetables, fish and meat. The tofu does taste delicious and is usually served fried alongside some sweet chilli sauce. We dare you to dig in, it’s a beloved street food classic!

Traditional Chinese Medicine Stores

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During your time in HK you’re bound to walk past by one of these old, yellow-lighted shops and be hit by a peculiar, acrid smell. Upon closer inspection, you will see the walls and tables decked out with a variety of earthy coloured, dried and preserved plant and animal goods – all used for their health benefits in treating a variety of ailments. In fact, Chinese herbal medicine is over 5,000 years old and ranks as one of the oldest healthcare systems in the world. The distinctive and iconic smell gives these stores their character, so lean in and have a look around.

The Wet Markets


Take a stroll down one of these markets on Bowrington Road in Wan Chai or Graham Street in Central  and it won’t just be your eyes that enjoy a feast of sensory stimulation. Amongst the vegetable stalls and clothing vendors, lies a scent that rises off the fresh, red meats hanging up and glistening fresh fish on slabs of ice. Take a moment to watch these meats be chopped and sliced by vendors who have been doing it for generations – and maybe pick yourself something out for dinner.

There will be dozens of others that we haven’t listed, but we can guarantee you’re in for a smorgasbord of stimulating smells. Hong Kong’s even more exciting when you follow your nose.

Ellie Kate

Ellie Kate is one half of  The Quick Word Company , a creative copywriting and content creation studio in Hong Kong. Born and raised in Hong Kong she lives and breathes every corner of this awesome city.