Shopping in Hong Kong: Tax-free treats in the neon metropolis
Shopping is practically a religion in Hong Kong, where futuristic glass-and-chrome malls and lively street markets are like temples for the consumer masses. And it’s all tax free! Pick up a Hello Kitty watch for your niece and find the perfect jade chopsticks for your boss. Or forget the gifts and treat yourself to some funky Asian art instead. Just remember that the essence of Hong Kong shopping is haggling. So loosen those inhibitions and start practising your new mantra: ‘What’s your best price?’
Street markets are Hong Kong’s lifeblood. Cat Street Market, set on a quaint little alleyway in Central, is the place to find kitsch souvenirs and local handicrafts. Sharpen your bargaining skills to secure a Chairman Mao teapot or 1930s-style Cantonese film poster from wily stallholders. There's a more stylish vibe at seaside Stanley Market. Here, you’ll find framed Chinese calligraphy and faux-leather handbags so convincing you wouldn't be surprised if they mooed at you.
The fun doesn't stop when the sun goes down either. You’ll find some of your favourite Hong Kong shopping experiences after dark, when noisy street markets come alive to the cacophany of hawkers selling their wares. Temple Street Night Market is a sensory explosion of sights, sounds and smells crammed into five raucous blocks between Jordan and Mong Kok. Bare light bulbs dazzle over stalls stacked high with embroidered Chinese slippers, knock-off DVDs, Nepalese chunky jewellery and silk ties. Adding to the bedlam, Cantonese opera ‘buskers’ and traditional fortune-tellers ply their trades down the nearby alleyways.
A feast for fashionistas
From Armani and Prada to funky local creations, enjoy a wardrobe revamp Hong Kong-style whatever your budget. Granville Road in Tsim Sha Tsui will set bargain-hunting pulses racing. It's jam-packed with tiny, no-nonsense factory outlets and sample sales – think designer denim with a button missing and a zero slashed from the price tag. Bling up your new outfit with flamboyant costume jewellery from the nearby stalls.
DNA Galleria in Tsim Sha Tsui is the place for edgy designs by Hong Kong's up-and-coming fashion designers. Shop for silk-screened t-shirts and gilet-style jackets, one-off jade jewellery creations, and hand-sewn leather messenger bags. There's also a hip selection of kooky Japanese gear.
Fashion follower or trend-setter? Whatever your thing, try Causeway Bay, a rabbit-warren of streets crammed with quirky fashion boutiques. Then brave the crowds at 'vertical' Times Square Mall, or pause for traditional Chinese cake in the slick Sogo department store. No need for clock-watching here – most Hong Kong stores stay open ‘til 10pm.
Traditional Hong Kong
Hong Kong's bright lights might be the in-your-face attraction, but scratch the surface of this neon metropolis and you'll find a charming old-school city still plying traditional trades. The brave and bold can venture a taste of bygone Hong Kong at traditional Chinese medicine shops in Sheung Wan's Ko Shing Street. Go on, try the ground-up deer antlers or (gulp!) snakes’ blood, said to extend life expectancy. If it all gets too much, calm your frayed nerves with a ginseng tea.
Hollywood Road is home to smart Asian art and antique shops, your stop for Javanese hand-carved tables and hand-painted Chinese porcelain vases. Or find traditional Hong Kong souvenirs with a contemporary twist (day-glo Buddha statues anyone?) at the über-chic Goods of Desire.
This might not be the most obvious – or convenient – souvenir to take home, but locals just love the wall-to-wall aquariums at crowded Goldfish Market. After all, dazzling tropical fish sold in plastic bags are believed to bring good luck in Chinese culture.