NEIGHBOURHOOD

Aside from the stone slabs that are paved on the road uphill, one distinctive characteristic of Pottinger Street are the green tin hawker stalls that line along the two sides of the street, selling knicks-knacks and eclectic items for decades.

Although there has been a lack of official documents describing its origin, these hawker stalls, known locally as the pai-dongs, were first seen before World War II in Hong Kong. Aerial photos of Pottinger Street taken in June 1949 documented the first sighting of hawker stalls along Pottinger Street after the war, and these stalls have become a fixture of the street ever since. Originally selling small, homeware items or providing services like pot mending and tailoring for the convenience of the nearby residents, today, many of these stalls have swapped trades to sell holiday costumes, hair accessories and handicrafts.

These fixed stalls, compared to the typical temporary stalls or trolleys that hawkers more commonly used, provided storage of the merchandise. They had fixed locations, but the set up itself is like assembling and dissembling a robot every day. Originally made by wood, the stalls were all set up within the original legal limit of two metres by three metres, although recent regulations relaxed the size to three metres to four metres, and the hawkers now use tin and iron rather than wood to extend the lifespan of the stall. Today there are more than 2,000 stalls found in Hong Kong.

But why the green? Official documents show that there is no government requirement to paint the stalls in any colour, but it is believed that hawkers from 40 years ago decided to paint a unified colour to show a more orderly presence to the public amid the increased prosecution of illegal hawking. A small decision to make back then has created one of the most iconic features unique to Hong Kong, unique to Pottinger Street today.