As I flick through my copy of The World Of Suzie Wong I try to imagine Hong Kong in the 50’s and 60’s – a busy harbour full of half-starved coolies pulling rickshaws; racial segregation; a place where Chinese peasant girls turn tricks for pocket change and those horrible English colonialists run the show.
I am fortunate never to never have known this Hong Kong: rickshaws are but a distant memory, the working girls of Wan Chai are now mostly imported from South America or Thailand. Foreigner or not, “customer service” as we know it is a foreign concept in this town. I’ve never felt any different from the locals, although I do earn more than the average HK dweller (I have no idea how one gets by in this town for 8,000 or 9,000 HKD per month!)
One thing I have found to be unchanged is the abundance of cheap shops.
Ohhh the shops!
If you don’t know where to look, this is NOT a cheap place to shop, well it’s cheaper than Tokyo or Sydney but not remarkable. – but I do know. I start in Wan Chai – I have been buying my cashmere in Spring Garden Lane for years. It is 70% less than what I would pay in Europe. If you walk along Johnston Road you can find shops such as Super Sample and Sample King and about 5 or 6 other stores – great places to find jeans, men’s trousers, formal dresses and casual tops for 19 -89 HKD. They aren’t rubbish, either: these are all leftovers from Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Victoria Secrets and Land’s End factories.Most of the store have a rack (or a cardboard box) full of kid’s clothes with prices from 10 HKD. I got a Helly Hansen skirt for 49 HKD, a Raplph Lauren Denim Jacket for 89 HKD and a BCBG Max Azria top for 59 HKD.The Spring Garden Lane shops have plenty of cashmere and I always get something nice for around 200 HKD. There are cheaper places in Kowloon but I like the quality and the size range of the clothing in Wan Chai. If you are in Kowloon anyway and have the day to spare it’s worth checking the outlets online and going for a visit – I know there’s Nike, Adidas and Esprit outlet as well as childrens clothes and leather goods.
I hear rumours of a Shanghai Tang OUTLET in Terminal 2 of the AIRPORT but I’ll have to see it before I believe it. I got there too late at night to check it out, so if anyone has any news…
I always, ALWAYS pop into at least one of the Dickson Warehouse shops whenever I’m in Hong Kong – if you have time, there is always an amazing steal to be found. In the past I’ve got Miss Sixty skirts and trakkies, Sisley handbags, and Replay sunglasses all for 60% of the retail value or less.
My next favourite place is a little further out – Citygate in Tung Chung. It’s a proper, posh shopping mall but a spending spree here won’t break the bank, as the items are priced at 30 – 70% off the retail price – Esprit and Ralph Lauren have items starting at about 50 HKD but I think I spent more than that at places like Vivienne Tam and Calvin Klein, still – they were all still very cheap. I just can’t do with paying retail prices – not after discovering Hong Kong!
No shopping trip to Hong Kong is complete without afternoon tea. This is what Hong Kong does best – you can have Yum Cha in the Chinese style at the famous Luk Yu Tea House at 24 Stanley Street or traditional scones and tea (just like at home but really posh) at the Landmark Mandarin, which is best to reserve. I love them both, so I alternate. The Peninsula is the oldest and most famous place for high tea and such a beautiful hotel, if you are shopping in Kowloon it’s the place to go. Personally, I prefer it to the selection at the Mandarin.
If you are spending your money on shopping rather than living it up, the Metropark and Empire hotels in Wan Chai are central, clean and comfortable. I recommend that you check whether or not they have any construction going on before you stay because it can get noisy when you are trying to sleep in.
I stayed at Sohotel in Central, which was ok: teeny, tiny rooms (the second smallest I’ve ever seen) with almost no service but everything you’d need in a room and the cafe downstairs next to the hotel has fabulous breakfasts, much better than the hotel’s cafe. It’s clean and close to the wet markets and the Central shops.The internet in the lobby is free but the taxi drivers have trouble finding the place, even with the hotel card with a map. I prefer Wan Chai.
There are so many good places to eat in Hong Kong, so I won’t bother listing them – just wonder around Soho or Causeway Bay if you’re looking for authentic Chinese. I love all the bars and nightclubs too (no time to list them all, but don’t miss Wan Chai’s Lockhart and Jaffe Rds or the Lan Kwai Fong district in Central)