Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hong Kong still a retail heaven

14.05.06By Rose Pearson
Is your idea of paradise a day shopping for designer labels in a glitzy, multi-storey mall? Or hunting for treasure in tiny side-streets? Or bartering for knock-off bargains in crowded markets? Then welcome to the shopaholics' mecca - Hong Kong. For years, this former British outpost has been famed for its shopping, and no wonder. Not only is this Southeast Asian city easy to reach with direct flights from New Zealand daily, but from the moment you land you're assured of a stress-free holiday (as long as your credit card can keep up). With sensible shoes, my credit card twitching to be used and a suitcase ready to be filled, I hit the busy streets of Hong Kong. It couldn't be easier, as all streets signs are in English, the public transport system is easy to navigate and there's an amazing variety of areas to visit - from the colonial Hong Kong Island, to busy Lantau (where the new airport and Disneyland are), and the bargain areas of Kowloon and the New Territories. While it's relatively simple to shop in Hong Kong, here are some guidelines to ease your way through retail heaven: Quality Tourism Services (QTS) scheme: This is organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board to help visitors find shops and restaurants they can trust. Those displaying the QTS certificate pass stringent annual assessments. Know your product: Make sure you know what you want in terms of model, features, price, accessories and warranty (such as terms and geographical coverage), especially on electronic goods. Avoid "bait and switch": Some merchants display uncertain prices or request a deposit on a product only to claim later that only an inferior or more expensive product is available. Shop at outlets where prices are clearly displayed. It's also a good idea to compare prices before buying. Inspect your products: Check them before paying and make sure you have all the accessories. Re-check the product before you leave the store. Shop around: In the markets, don't buy the first item you see. Look around as stalls further into the market, away from the main drag, can offer better deals. Just say no: Markets can be intense with huge pressure to buy. If you don't want an item, just say no and walk away. I made the mistake of being obviously keen on a knock-off handbag and was chased through crowded Ladies' Market by a saleswoman screaming ever-decreasing sale prices for "my" bag. No, I didn't buy it. Be prepared: Pack sensible walking shoes and take plenty of bags. Try placing a smaller suitcase inside a larger one so you have two bags to fill. HONG KONG ISLAND This picturesque place has eight defined shopping areas. Central: If you prefer the high end of shopping and are seeking couture clothes and expensive cosmetic lines, then head here. The Landmark, Galleria, Prince's Building, Alexandra House and IFC are upmarket malls with designer shops and exclusive brands. You'll find knock-off stalls in The Lanes, between Queen's Rd, and Des Voeux Rd. The market - with watches, luggage, shoes and such like - is open daily from 10am to 7pm. Western District: The Western Market is a short stroll from Central and is situated in a renovated Edwardian building on the corner of Connaught Rd and Morrison St. It sells Chinese handicrafts and fabrics. Nearby areas have small shops selling Chinese medicine, just don't look too closely at some of the jars on display. Admiralty: This area is famous for its brand-name luxury goods. Try the Pacific Place Mall which is connected to the Admiralty MTR Station. Wan Chai: The historical streets here boast an amazing range of shopping. On Queen's Rd East you'll find Chinese furniture shops which can arrange to have your purchases sent home. Spring Garden Lane is great for export-quality clothes at good prices. Causeway Bay: This area is known as "Little Japan" because of the major Japanese stores specialising in electrical goods. Check out Times Square, Caroline Centre, World Trade Centre, Lee Gardens, Lee Theatre Plaza, Fashion Island and Island Beverley. Tai Koo Shing: Near Quarry Bay, this houses one of Hong Kong's largest purpose-built shopping complexes, Cityplaza, which has an ice rink and an enormous range of shops. Ap Lei Chau: There are bargains galore in this district near Aberdeen. Horizon Plaza, in Ap Lei Chau, has furniture and clothing factory outlets. Stanley: For high-end souvenirs try this famous coastal area. Stanley Market has many stalls and lanes selling Chinese paintings and handicrafts and is open 10am-6pm daily. KOWLOON For a picturesque trip, take the Star Ferry from Central to the Mainland China area of Hong Kong that's well-known for its street hawkers ("Want to buy a Rolex?") and markets. Tsim Sha Tsui: This area has department stores, shopping centres and factory outlets along Granville Rd and the famous Nathan Rd, where the hawkers hang out. Yau Ma Tei: Home of the Temple Street Night Market, this part of Kowloon features neon light displays. Mong Kok: No visit to Hong Kong is complete without a trip to Ladies' Market. This day-long street market is jam-packed with stalls selling every manner of knock-off. But beware, you won't find Lady-like behaviour here - and be prepared to barter. Hung Hom: For an unusual shopping destination, try the inland cruise ship the Whampoa, which is "moored" on the site of a former dry dock. This 110m boat-shaped entertainment centre houses cinemas, shops and clubs. Also well worth a visit is Hung Hom's Factory District that sells clothes and jewellery. Sham Shui Po: For electronic gadgets try this area, especially Apliu St, while Kowloon Tong is one of Hong Kong's newest shopping malls with retail outlets, restaurants, an ice rink and an 11-screen multiplex cinema. NEW TERRITORIES Tsing Yi: Close to the international airport, and ideal for transit passengers, is Maritime Square with more than 200 shops, themed restaurants and a cinema. * * *NEED TO KNOW... Getting there: Air New Zealand currently has a Hong Kong package including five nights' accommodation at the InterContinental Grand Stanford, a complimentary spa treatment and an additional 15kg baggage allowance for $1769 plus costs of $35. This is an internet-only price. For details go to Retail: Promotions and late-night dining options abound during the Hong Kong Shopping Festival (June 24-August 31). Getting around: The Octopus Card gets you onto all major public transport including the MTR (underground trains), ferries and trams, and is accepted at many stores and restaurants. They cost HK$150 (NZ$30) for adults (HK$50 refund when you return it) and HK$70 (NZ$14) for kids (also HK$50 refund). Top them up at MTR stations.


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