The top five shopping spots in the Kong.
Recently here at Mint Mocha Musings we brought you The Big 5: Transport Yourself into Hong Kong’s Heartland, a list of those can’t miss sights, when you’re making that flying visit into the frenetic fusion where east meets west.
Let’s face it, we all like to have the insider’s lowdown before we visit a new city and if we live in Hong Kong and are having visitors, it’s a god send!
As you may know, Mint Mocha Musings is (in the near future) moving to China! (And hopefully, you’ll come with me (virtually of course.)
So as my parting gift – this month, ladies and gents, it’s about the true essence of Hong Kong.
Yep! We’re going shopping!
All you self-confessed shop’oholics out there, grab your most fashionable walking shoes and arm yourself with a serious pair of bag-carrying biceps.
First time in the world’s shopping capital? It’s game on.
Having paced the streets for a good few years now, sniffing out the best spots for some serious retail therapy, I’m going to narrow it down to those five areas worth trekking to, especially if you’re on a tight schedule in the mighty Kong.
#1 CENTRAL – Like it or not, you just can’t miss an excursion to downtown Central. This is undoubtedly Hong Kong’s hub and even if you don’t pick up anything in your travels, it’s certainly worth a look for the sheer frenzy-factor alone.
Warning: it’s crowded, so prepare to make like a bull in a China shop and charge! (Either that or get swallowed up in the madness.) From luxurious designer digs like LV, Coach and Prada, to the ancient lane ways, bearing cheap and cheerful trinkets, there’s something for everyone here, you just have to look.
The Landmark Shopping Mall on the corner of D’aguilar Street/Queens Road is where you’ll find a myriad of glamorous high-end shop fronts like Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, Armani and Jimmy Choo as well as Asia’s only Harvey Nichols. Opposite is the famous Abercrombie & Fitch standing statuesque with its red velvet carpet, glitzy chandeliers and booming tunes.
Up a little further, in much the same vicinity you’ll find flagship retailers like Marks and Spencer, Cotton On, Gap, Top Shop and most recently the city’s biggest and brightest Zara! There’s also a very suave Shanghai Tang just off Queens Road in Duddell St. If you’re after a quality Chinese suit, dress or handbag to remind you of those oriental days in the fragrant harbour, this sophisticated store is the place to be. Further down, you’ll find quintessential Hong Kong. Li Yuen Street West and Li Yuen Street East, known as The Lanes are markets selling everything from Chinese dresses, kid’s clothes, silks, handbags and trinkets, at very reasonable prices.
If you’re up for a walk, keep trekking along Queens Road to Sheung Wan, where you’ll find a smorgasbord of dried food shops stocking all sorts of weird and wonderful treats, including dried abalone, black moss and snakeskin – essential items for the traditional Chinese kitchen!
There’s also Cat Street, which has nothing to do with our furry friends, but instead houses plenty of souvenirs (including much-treasured Ming Dynasty furniture). There are also plenty of charming little cafes springing up along Tai Ping Shan Street, if you need to relax and regroup before the next retail round!
Head further up the hill, either on foot (heels not advised) or take the Central-Mid Levels escalator (this is the world’s longest outdoor escalator by the way) and stop off in Soho for a host of cute boutiques, galleries and historic antique shops. Here you’ll find that something extra special and out of the ordinary. It’s thirsty work but don’t worry, there’s a plethora of cafes and restaurants beckoning you to take a pit stop. Stay on until early evening and soak up the lively Soho/LKF outdoor bar atmosphere. Watch as the city really wakes up!
#2 CAUSEWAY BAY – It’s shopping mania and if you haven’t keeled over yet from all the excitement, jump on one of the city’s oldest modes of transport, the double decker tram or for a slightly quicker arrival (depending on traffic) take a red cab and head to Hong Kong’s New York city equivalent, Times Square!
With 16 floors, you’ll find it heaving with everything from high end to high street fashion.
But if you feel like you’ve seen it all before, don’t despair – head over to the city’s biggest department store, Japanese retailer SOGO. A mere 13 floors, SOGO sells everything from beauty to fashion, as well as electrical goods. Don’t forget to stop in Forever 21 on the way past, this clothing store is worthy of a good browse with endless racks bringing catwalk fashion prices to the affordability of high street! (Don’t miss the top floor for a treasure chest of accessories.)
For some more market action, it’s worth scooting through the narrow and crowded Jardine’s Bazaar, just in case there’s a teeny tiny stall holding a bargain with your name on it. Don’t be afraid to venture into some of the smaller shopping malls in Causeway Bay either – it’s here you’ll find all sorts of quirky fashion pieces.
#3 STANLEY MARKETS – First time to Hong Kong (even second or third) you really can’t miss Stanley Markets. Away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, this quaint village is a scenic ride (via cab or bus) that winds along Hong Kong’s stunning south coast.
Here, you’ll find everything from local trinkets and oriental souvenirs to galleries boasting paintings of all things ‘Hong Kong,’ handbags (two for one ladies), linen, costume jewellery, sneakers, kids toys (big and small) and kids clothes, plus men’s clothing in larger sizes. Keep your eyes peeled because you might also come across some genuine designer brands on display as imperfect seconds or factory surplus stock! NB: Most stores do allow bartering for your bargain, but beware – prices are not as low as other Hong Kong markets.
The best bit, after you’ve huffed and puffed your way through the narrow lane ways, treat yourself to lunch or dinner alfresco style. Perch yourself on a seat along the picturesque promenade at one of the many western style restaurants. Exhale and cast your eye across the beautiful bay. You’re in Hong Kong!
#4 MONGKOK LADIES MARKETS – Got a taste for the local market scene? Then, my friends, the famed Ladies Markets are not to be missed.
Open every day of the year, except the first day of Chinese New Year, this is officially the world’s most crowded and prosperous corner!
Located on Hong Kong’s Kowloon side, take the MTR or a taxi where you can spend at least an hour roaming this one kilometre stretch of stalls that are literally overflowing with more hand bags, iPad cases, children’s dress-up costumes, cheap jewellery, travel goods and denim than you can poke a stick at!
Here, bartering is in full force, so you can haggle to your heart’s content. The rule of thumb is to go down to a quarter of the cost and if need be, double it so you end up paying around fifty per cent. Bear in mind if you’re one of the first customers of the day, you’re considered ‘lucky’ and might be in line for a cheaper price. Don’t forget, much of Hong Kong sleeps until noon and these markets don’t really liven up until around 2pm.
If your bargain seems to good too be true, relax, there’s every chance it is. The busiest corner of the world is home to a lot of counterfeit goods. (You can check out my previous post ‘Counterfeit Craze’ here.) With everything produced in China, it’s shipped over the border and sold at rock-bottom prices. In other words you get what you pay for. It’s all in the name of good fun though! Right?!
While you’re there, adjacent to the markets, you’ll find Sneaker Street and Sim City. Sneaker Street is loaded with shops carrying the obvious. Sim City is an electronic lover’s paradise, with computers, accessories, software and cameras lining the shelves… and all of reputable quality, I might add. (Trust me on this, I even brought my husband’s birthday present here!)
Still cashed up? The day’s not over yet – walk under the subway across Nathan Road and you’ll find Langham Place – with more than 200 shops, including an entire floor dedicated to shoes and another one purely to cosmetics, shoppers, how can you go wrong! It also sporting a very busy H & M with Esprit and Gap just a hop, skip and a jump across the road.
All this shopping making you a bit famished? Don’t be afraid to try the city’s famous Dai Pai Dongs or street food stalls. You might be surprised at just how tasty fish balls, congee and milk tea are (not to mention dirt cheap)! More money to shop with right!
#TSIM SHA TSUI – Locally known as TST, on Kowloon side – you can catch the iconic Star Ferry from Hong Kong Island. Here you’ll find everything in one block (albeit a rather big one). Harbour City Shopping Centre is (naturally) packed with your regular designer digs (you’re in Hong Kong remember) including Manolo Blahnik, Hermes and Chanel.
Upstairs Zara and Nine West flank swanky cafes along with a range of shops perhaps a little more unique to Hong Kong. Walk right through to the end and you’ll find yourself in Ocean Terminal. This is mainly for the little people. Kid’s clothes galore in every shape and size (warning: they may be for the small person, but many are still designer digs, and come at a designer price!). There’s a rather GI-normous Toys R Us, that you may never, ever escape once you enter.
If you can, from here, it’s worth a walk up Canton Road for a spot of gold jewellery shopping (and plenty of people watching) or start the trek along busy Nathan Road, which is filled with nail salons, tailors, more jewellers, cosmetics and quite simply, most things imaginable. Don’t mind the local hawkers trying to sell you copy watches and bags, they really are pretty harmless!
Phew! So, from me to you, that’s one way of shopping till you drop in the mighty Kong!
If you have the time and want to get a bit more local with your shopping experience, this post here, Word on the Street might just satisfy your curiosity.