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Shopping destinations in China. The inside track
Aside from food, we Singaporeans love shopping for a good deal. So, let us take you on a bargain hunt, finding some of the coolest places to shop in Hong-Kong, Beijing and Shenzhen.
Shopping in Hong-Kong. Getting there and what to buy
Apliu Street market and adjacent shops is a mecca for vintage and new electronic equipment, audio equipment and communication products. It’s cheaper than the Tsim Sha Tsui area as it is further out on the MRT. For those into anything from 35mm point-and-shooters to well-preserved rangefinders, you will love rummaging round here!
Get there: Sham Shui Po MTR station. Open noon to midnight (Kowloon side).
Specialising in women’s clothes, handbags and Korean hair accessories, you might decide to leave your husband or boyfriend in the hotel when you visit Jardine's Crescent. With food and flower stalls, this market is a lot less hassle than the Ladies Market; it is also tucked between designer shopping malls and department stores selling luxury brands so you can kill two birds with one stone! Don’t forget to haggle.
Get there: Causeway Bay MTR - Exit -F. Open 11am to 9.30pm (HK island side).
Hollywood Road is full of vintage stores and is the place to go for Chinese-style furniture, scroll paintings/calligraphy, porcelain, antique electric fans, phonographs, watches, pens, and lighters. Plus, gold, silver, jewellery, and lacquer works from Asian countries. The street got its name from the holly lining the street in the past and was part of old Hong Kong town.
Get there: Hollywood Road is in Shuang Wan (Sheung Wan Station MTR) on HK island side.
Nearby is Lascar Road antique street market. Generally considered lower quality than the goods on Hollywood Road, but a great place for poking around and trying to spot a collector's item.
- Dressing up
Even if a dressing up outfit is not on your list, Pottinger Street, Central is a fascinating area to wander round. Check out the stalls on either side of the uneven granite steps (now a rarity in HK) selling wigs, feather boas, animal masks and any number of character costumes you’ve always wanted! Also known as the Stone Slabs Street by the locals, it was named after the first Governor of Hong Kong, Henry Pottinger.
Get there: Walk from Central MRT exit C. Open 11am (HK island side).
Shopping in Shenzhen. Getting there and what to buy
If you are in Hong Kong, you can easily plan a day for some bargain shopping in Shenzhen. It’s the first city across the HK border in China so take your passport. The good news is that Singapore passports holders don’t need a visa.
After being declared the first Special Economic Zone by the Chinese government, Shenzhen transformed from sleepy market town to the fastest growing city in the world in the 1990s and 2000s.
Shenzhen, why go?
Shenzhen has been described as one of the best shopping experiences, mainly because of the huge variety of goods available and the buzz around the place. Try to avoid taking children or non-sympathetic shopping partners!
And don’t go there for high-end designer labels, they are cheaper in HK itself. Shenzhen is a place where fakes rule and bargains abound. Hunt for watches, handbags, clothes, shoes, audio-visual products, souvenirs, curtains, fabrics. When you have had enough, relax with a massage, pedicure and some great local food, all under one roof.
Where to shop
If you only have one day, head straight for the Luohu Commercial City, a five storey shopping centre with small outlets just across the bridge as you arrive, it adjoins Shenzhen Railway Station and Lu Wu Station.
It opens from around 10.30am, so to avoid the queues at the visa office (if you need a visa) leave HK around 8am.
Getting there – from Hong Kong
This depends on where you start from in HK; head for Sheung Shui MTR station (HK side) where you catch a train to Lo Wu (also known as LuoHu), which is at the border. If there are just two of you take the MTR to Sheung Shui, anymore more it may be just as cheap to take a taxi to Sheung Shui.
At Lo Wu follow the signs or crowds to customs. If you have a Singapore passport, you don’t need a visa to get into Shenzhen.
Other passports you will need to check the latest information as things change. US passport holders cannot get a visa at the border and will need to organise this in HK.
Payment for a visa depends on what passport you hold and must be paid in renminbi (Chinese currency).
What to buy in Shenzhen
Anything and everything is available, from running shoes, handbags, jewellery, audio-visual equipment, even ski wear. But some of the very best buys include:
- Tailored clothes – head for the fifth floor of the Luohu Commercial City when you arrive and bring clothes you want to be copied. The whole floor is dedicated to reams of fabrics and tailoring shops. Have a look round and see who is busy or ask other shoppers. Lots of Hong Kongers and expats shop here so tap into their local knowledge. Give your tailor a couple of days to make up your piece; it will be less rushed, and they will arrange for delivery to your hotel in HK.
- Prescription glasses – these are very cheap and good quality. There are many opticians to choose from. They will make your glasses up within hours - head here first and get your order in.
- Tea – stock up on your favourites. Teapots make great gifts and souvenirs.
- Bags and Watches – make sure to inspect for quality before you buy.
Extra Tip. Take an ‘Aunty’ trolley. You will get tired and probably buy more than you want to carry.
How to bargain
Some traders can be quite aggressive and pester you (Missy, Missy will be a phase you’ll become familiar with!). Be polite and smile, don’t make eye contact and walk on if you are not interested.
Bargain hard with a smile and pay only what you think is a fair price. On some items expect to bargain down more than 60%. If you go too low, traders just won’t sell, but always smile and laugh while you are bargaining, this will get you a better deal.
Take plenty of cash and be careful with it. You can pay by card (commission may be charged) but cash is best; use HK dollars or go to an ATM near the shopping centre and take out renminbi (Chinese currency).
Our favourite bit
If the trader doesn’t have your size or colour, they will literally go up into the roof of their shop or outlet, disappear for a bit and re-emerge with the desired item. You have to admire that commercial spirit!
Head for Laurel Restaurant on the fifth or top floor. Delicious food - Peking duck comes highly recommended and is very reasonable. Go for an early lunch to avoid long queues later.
Shopping in Beijing – Where to go and what to buy
China is a manufacturing powerhouse. If you can’t find what you are looking for in Beijing, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself as a serious shopper!
Beijing is the world’s third most populous city and, as China’s capital, anything and everything is available here.
Shopping in Beijing without breaking the bank.
HongQiao Pearl Market
This is a good place to start your bargain shopping and sells far more than just pearls. You will also find silk goods, handbags, cameras, Chinese art, ornaments and clothes. This is a popular market with tourists and locals alike, and haggling is a must. Be careful of the quality of goods, especially if you buy pearls. Behind the main building is the HongQiao Toy Market. Most traders speak English.
Getting there: Subway Line 5. Station: Tiantan Dongmen exit A
Panjiayuan Antique Market
This is an absolute must. The largest and most vibrant market in Beijing selling antiques, curios, collectables, porcelain, furniture, jade, jewels, books, propaganda posters, calligraphies and stamps. We defy anyone to leave here empty handed! Traders from the Hui, Miao, Korean, and Manchu minorities also gather here making this place as diverse in people as it is in goods.
Open 8:30am - 4.30pm
The stores in the market are open every day while the street stalls just open at the weekend.
Getting there: Address: No.200, west of Panjiayuan Bridge, Chaoyang District.
Beijing Glasses City
A unique little street that resembles a place of a pilgrimage for four-eyed people! Bring your glasses with you, and they can copy or read your prescription. If you don’t have your glasses, have your eyes tested and wait while your glasses are made up. Be prepared to haggle.
Open daily 9am - 6pm
Getting there: Subway line 10. Station: Panjiayuan exit A, approximately 4 minutes walk to Beijing Glasses City.
For something different head for the northern area of Yabaolu, sometimes unofficially known as Russian town, just north of Ritan Park. Here Russian traders from Siberia sell clothing and accessories and specialise in leather goods. Window shop further south where there are some surreal shops sell full-length furs to mainly Russian clientele.
Open daily 9.30am - 7pm subway Line 2
Getting there: Station: Chaoyangmen exit B, approximately 8 minutes walk to Alien's Street Market / Russian Market.
If you are looking for contemporary art, you can't miss 798 Art District located in the Dashanzi area to the northeast of central Beijing. Originally a factory area built by the East Germans, nowadays artists and cultural organisations have developed open art spaces, galleries, studios, design companies and bars. This is a hip area that celebrates its proletarian roots with massive, quirky open-air sculptures. Spend a good few hours wandering around and soaking in the industrial turned artistic atmosphere.
Getting there: Address; 798 Art District is located at 2 Jiuxianqiao Rd, Chaoyang Qu, Beijing.
Word of warning
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