My curiosity was on overload. The traditional Chinese medicine shops lining several streets in the Sheung Wan district were unlike anything I’d seen before. Most were no larger than some people’s walk-in closets. However, 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 into one store that was so meticulously arranged that it could’ve been part of a movie set. I was dying to ask the shopkeeper about the contents of his various canisters, jars and packages. Which ailments did they cure? What was a typical dose? Were the items crunchy, gooey or slimy? 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 slender man spoke no English and my Chinese was limited to ni hao (hello) and xiè xie (thank you). So, all I could do was stand and stare with wonder and fascination.