Our curiosity was on overload. The traditional Chinese medicine shops lining several streets in the Sheung Wan area were unlike anything we’d seen before. Most were no larger than some people’s walk-in closets. Nonetheless, each establishment was jam-packed with exotic herbs, plants, fungi, plus an assortment of body parts from God-only-knows what sea creatures, animals and insects.
We popped in one store that was so meticulously arranged that it could’ve been part of a movie set. The two of us were dying to ask the manager about the contents of his various canisters and packages. Which ailments did they cure? What was the typical dose? Were the items crunchy or gooey? Did they taste salty, sweet or bland? And what are those puffed-up dried blobs suspended from the rafters? Do you ever have to dust them?
Unfortunately, the skinny man spoke no English and our Chinese was limited to ni hao (hello) and xiè xie (thank you). So, all we could do was stand and stare with wonder and fascination.