A quick and dirty guide to Hong Kong bargain shopping
Hong Kong is a city renown for high finance, bare knuckle banking and cut throat commerce, but nothing comes close to its reputation for retail. Roderick Eime rolls up his sleeves for a free market melee.
Ever since the Portuguese started trading with indigenous Chinese as far back as the 15th Century in nearby Macau, this special region of China has been a hotbed of haggle. The British routed the 19th Century Qing Dynasty Chinese in the Opium Wars and secured a long-term foothold on the continent gaining them access to the rich trade in spices, silk and ceramics. The players and the politics may have changed, but the game remains the same.
The apparent genteel art of retail now replaces much of the steamy dockside banter of years gone by, but in truth, the quest for goods and trinkets at the right price is still very much alive in the high-rise malls and chrome, marble and glass gallerias of the 21st Century.
Even though Hong Kong may no longer enjoy that reputation for the cheapest electronic and consumer goods, you can still enjoy an authentic and genuine Hong Kong bargain shopping experience and gather a pile of brand name booty and flash souvenirs without breaking the bank.
For a non-stop experience of local, urban Chinese commercial lifestyles, look no farther than Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok - the heart of the Kowloon Peninsula. Within these two neighbourhoods are side streets and alleys that are home to one of Hong Kong's liveliest street spectacles. Here is the bustling shopping hub of Hong Kong that everyone knows and remembers. At night, the shops are open until nearly midnight and haggling and browsing under the blaze of hundreds of neon lights is its own experience. Walking through Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok is great fun. You'll love the ambience and the great deals you can get on souvenirs, clothing, electronic goods and much more.
Queen’s Road Central has several English high street shops, Marks & Spencer, H&M, Esprit. All have fairly reasonable prices. Visit Sasa for skin care and perfume, it’s tax free so cheaper than duty free.
At the lower end are the “Lanes” in Central and the markets of Mongkok where tops are from A$2.50 and sandals from A$5. Also the “lookalike” watches, handbags and wallets.
Nathan Road is home to tailors and electronics, whereas Admiralty, Wanchai and Causeway Bay are for boutique shops and clothing outlets. Tsim Sha Tsui at the southern end of Kowloon is a great location for hardcore haggling and serious bargain hunting.
Hong Kong's authentic "Chinatown" District is the thriving Western, a hive of shophouses, exotic markets and steep "ladder" lanes. This is where modern Hong Kong started, mushrooming around Possession Street where the victorious British first raised the Union Jack in 1841.
Also don’t miss; Stanley Market for silk garments, sportswear, art and Chinese costume jewellery. Edwardian Western Market for fabrics and handicrafts.
But all the worldly advice, guides and how-to’s can never replace the advice of locals. Here are a few true insider tips from those who really know.
Daisy, late-20s, is a Hong Kong native living in Sydney and working in the travel media industry.
“If you plan your shopping trip around sale time, you can save 50 per cent or more off the top shelf brand names and still get them a full season ahead of Australia. Sales are generally mid- and end of year and the best location is the 3-in-1 retail centre of Harbour City, Gateway and Ocean Terminal in Kowloon. All the stores are easily accessed. You may also try the IFC Mall (near Four Seasons Hotel) on Hong Kong Island, but the layout there is a bit confusing and makes shopping tiring.”
Tip: Hong Kong’s annual Shopping Festival (yes, true!) is typically throughout July and August when it’s a bit too hot and sticky outside. During this time expect to see such drawcards as the Chinese Medicine Expo, Luxury Timepiece Exhibition, Hong Kong Beauty & Make-up Carnival and Diamond Expo.
Craig, mid-40s, is an Adelaide-born airline pilot and social golfer now flying for Dragonair and living in Hong Kong.
“It’s always handy for me to pop into the new outlet mall in Tung Chung near the airport. It’s the first such retail mall in Hong Kong and all the brands I like are there such as Callaway, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Bally, Calvin Klein, Espirit, Laura Ashley, Body Shop, Samsonite, Benetton and more. Great for gifts and Christmas shopping – even to treat yourself!”
Helen is an experienced travel industry professional born in Hong Kong, now living in Australia.
“The locals will head to the Causeway area where they can buy clothes, shoes and electronics at fixed prices. It’s a no-nonsense shopping experience when you want to get what you need at reasonable prices. If I have time or want to show friends, I always take them through Pottinger Street or Lynhurst Terrace to see the amazing antique prints and artwork.”
Felicity is an Australian-born publishing executive who has lived in Hong Kong for nearly eight years.
“The two Li Yuen Street alleys in Queen’s Road Central are everything I expected fun and frantic Hong Kong shopping to be. There are clothes, handbags and traditional outfits all very reasonably priced and you can still enjoy some good-natured haggling too. It’s perfect for bargain gift shopping.”
Miryana has a senior role in the Honk Kong Tourist Board and admits to being a high fashion follower.
“Not everyone can shop like Ivana Trump, so I look for high quality, cutting-edge design at fair prices. Hong Kong has a wonderfully vibrant community of young designers who can be found in the Island Beverley Centre in Causeway Bay. One problem is most clothes are designed for the petit Asian figure!”
Time for Bite?
All that shopping will make you hungry. So where can you grab a quick snack or a full-blown Cantonese meal?
The choice of restaurants in Hong Kong is overwhelming – there are over 9,000. You can choose any number of ethnic flavours and standards from world-class five star Michelin to delightful and authentic street vendors. Depending on how adventurous you are, you can make your visit to Hong Kong a complete culinary experience.
Just like shopping and retail, Hong Kong’s dining options are divided into districts. Although it is still possible to obtain a range of foods in any one district, each has become famous for particular styles and regional menus:
• Causeway Bay serves traditional Hong Kong fare in abundance
• Lan Kwai Fong and Soho serve cosmopolitan dishes
• Stanley features alfresco with an international flavour
• In Kowloon you’ll find reasonably priced and authentic Chinese
• Lei Yue Mun, Sai Kung and Lamma Island serve fresh seafood treats
• Hung Hom has numerous specialty restaurants for a great choice under one roof
Tip: For a great resource on dining in Hong Kong, get HK Magazine’s annual Restaurant Guide, Hong Kong’s most respected independent dining guide.
Hong Kong Tourist Board: www.discoverhongkong.com
Unofficial Guide: www.12hk.com
Frommers: www.frommers.com > Destinations > Hong Kong
HK$ Hong Kong Dollar
HK$8.00 = (about) US$1.00