A March 2005 trip
to Hong Kong by MichaelJM
Quote: Shopping seems to be a local obsession. We decided to follow the local trend & enjoy the shopping experience. Barter everywhere - there are real bargains to be had!
Attraction | "The Malls of Hong Kong"
The Ocean Centre covers a massive area and is helpfully divided into specialty shopping areas – the only problem is finding the goods you want, but once located, it’s really easy to check out the competition. I’d certainly recommend this mall for photographic equipment, as within a few yards, there are half a dozen camera shops (including Broadway), all reputable and all willing to negotiate prices to beat their competitors. Price up individual items and don’t rush into securing your goods until absolutely sure you’ve been given the best price. I tried the old trick of shrugging my shoulders, expressing my horror at the high price, and then walking off. I was called back twice with a much better offer before parting with my Visa card. Anything you want you can find here, and there’s a very efficient HSBC Bank on the premises if you need to access some cash.
Architecturally, Langham Place is supreme, and although we didn’t buy here, the viewing experience made the trip worthwhile. At night it looks sensational, with the massive office tower at its side dwarfing the other shops in the vicinity. Head for the Ozone up the escalator and watch for the views. We’d spotted the artificial sky from a distance, and now we’d take on the whole magical effect. As we proceeded up the escalator, it began to dawn on us that Langham Place had been designed to create a restful atmosphere conducive to "taking your time" and enjoying the shopping experience (which the local inhabitants seem to do). Not only is the view inside this shopping centre spectacular, but it also offers some great glimpses of Hong Kong cityscape.
On the 13 levels, you’ll find all types of shops retail items: jewellery, electronics, beauty care, shoes, casual wear, and high fashion. There are toy shops, gift shops, and department stores, and you’ll find specialty food stores, coffee shops and restaurants, cinemas, and bars. In short, it’s a shopping town on its own!
On Hong Kong Island, near the ferry terminal for Lama Island, we found the exclusive shopping mall IFC. However, its floor space is such that when we exited, we discovered that it was only a 5-minute walk away from the Star Ferry terminal. It’s a light, roomy building with numerous designer labels retailing from here, including Stella McCartney. The design of the centre is modern and inventive, with sky views through the skyline of the airy atrium. In total, there are over 200 shops in the centre, and if you fancy it, you can view the whole of the city from the 88th floor. Periodically, there are live music performances within the mall. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but the ones we spotted seemed a little overpriced.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 16, 2005
Attraction | "The Flower and Bird Markets"
The flower market was first on our itinerary, and I was absolutely amazed at the number of shops and sheer volume of flowers and houseplants on sale. The colourful displays were immaculately presented, with not a wilting flower or browning leaf in sight. Often, the shop displays spilled onto the pavement, and with the pressing number of pedestrians, we had to be on alert for protruding branches or small but often heavy plant pots.
There were shops with special bonsai sections, more varieties of orchid than I could ever imagine, and flowers so large that it was hard to imagine the vase that would accommodate them. This market was sensationally sensuous, and the sweet smells were often intoxicating. People were heavily laden with their purchases, and although the prices seemed cheap to us, when we analysed it, they were relatively expensive. But we supposed that because most of the people in Hong Kong live in apartments, this was their only real opportunity to bring the outside into their living environment.
At the end of the flower market, on Yuen Po Street, is the small bird market. Although I’m not quite scared of these creatures, I can’t pretend to enjoy their ferociously flapping wings. Normally, I try to avoid them, but on this occasion, I was determined to visit this place. A short uphill walk to a not-too-well signposted market took us within earshot of the frantic chirpings and crude stalls of the bird market. Plastic sheeting created a little protection from the elements, and all manner of small birds with bright plumages tweeted from their cages. The larger parrots and macaws were proudly placed on perches outside the stalls in an effort to entice punters to purchase. They certainly attracted a crowd, but I guess that was more to do with the amazing colours and people’s insistence on trying to engage these birds in conversation. For once, I avoided the catch phrase, "Who’s a pretty boy?"
Also here, you can buy handmade wooden birdcages. If you don’t want to buy, it’s just fascinating to watch the local craftsmen making these ornate residences. They come in a variety of colours, and again, the cage builders can be watched adding these final touches. At one point, I was quite tempted to buy one as an ornamental hanging, but sanity intervened, reminding me that they were fairly delicate items.
As I wandered around this small market, I became aware that I was actually walking, without panicking, very close to un-caged birds. Does that mean my phobia is almost cured?
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 17, 2005
North of the stadium in Mung Kok
Attraction | "Reclamation Street"
There were numerous open stalls or primitive cafés where you could buy simple noodle or rice dishes - the Chinese equivalent of "fast food". These seemed very popular with the locals, but although they were exceptionally clean, we didn’t really fancy them. There were some fairly strange smells coming from the cooking areas – somewhat off-putting for someone with olfactory intact.
The meat stalls lined Reclamation Road, and in the road, temporary daytime stalls had been set up selling fruit and vegetables. As usual with Chinese food markets, the produce seemed incredibly fresh, and it seemed as if great care had been given in ensuring that the food was colour co-ordinated. This made for a bright and colourful display in this traffic-free zone. When I say traffic-free, I mean there were no cars, but be warned that bikes can catch you unawares, as they weave at great speed down the street and between the stalls. They are silent in their approach, and it seems as if the assumption is that pedestrians have 360° vision.
The range of meats is vast and appears to be fresh and in good condition. But I was slightly unnerved by the strange cuts of meat and the barbaric way it was presented. Some cuts of meat we did recognise, but often it looked as if the cleaver had been used totally randomly to prepare the animal for public consumption. Meat surrounded severed bones, and it was clear that legs had just been chopped into. Splinters of bone clung to the meat, and I’m sure it would have been perilous to try eating some of the butchered joints. Large livers laid on the porcelain slabs, waiting to be hacked off when requested.
There were live chickens awaiting their destinies in small cages and fish swimming in open tanks. Evidence of their fate was to be seen too in the heart of the shop, as hundreds of chickens' feet were piled up in containers, or the dissected bodies of fish lay on slabs with their vital organs still pulsating. Dried and smoked flesh was hung from ceilings or stacked on open shelves, most of it completely unrecognisable. A goat’s head was displayed "centre stage" on a butcher’s block, surrounded by a meagre selection of other meat, with trays of meat resting on the pavement edge. Now, the latter cannot be healthy.
Reclamation Street is not the most orderly of markets that we’ve visited, but it is a busy, thriving market which provides most of the meat for the people of Hong Kong. It’s certainly worth a visit to take in the ambience and feel the local culture.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 18, 2005
Attraction | "Jade, Ladies, and Stanley"
At the top of Reclamation Street is Kowloon’s Jade indoor market. It’s open every day between 10am and 4pm, and there are hundreds of stalls in a couple of large hanger-like buildings. I have no knowledge of what makes a good Jade piece, and I was surprised at the range of colours that was available for sale. The classic green looked, on occasions, to be too green to be real, and I believe that you need to know jade before buying anything of any value here. I may be inherently suspicious, but there are no guarantees accompanying your purchases. But if you like it and the negotiated price, then the Jade Market is the right place to be. The variety of items is amazing, and generally we were able to pick up the goods and inspect them without too much hassle. On one stall, a woman showed us how to test that the jade item was real and rubbed a "look-a-like" bangle with a coin – it was marked, but the real bangle was untouched when the same process was followed.
Over the other side of the water on the south side of Hong Kong Island is the incredibly popular Stanley Market. It’s open every day (10am–6:30pm) and seems to act like a magnet for tourists. I’d recommend a trip there but strongly suggest that you can buy cheaper elsewhere. The journey there, however, is interesting in itself – a bus trip over the central hills of Hong Kong Island gives some super views, although the bus’s suspension could have been a little improved on.
The stallholders were prepared to haggle, but because they "major in tourists", were fairly inflexible with their prices. The narrow covered-in-walkway was flanked by heavily burdened semi-permanent market shops, and the number of people pressing their way round the market was immense. What was very different to other markets was that there were a large number of stalls selling pottery. We were very tempted with a pretty "lazy Susan", but in the end, we reckoned it would push us over the weight restriction on our return flight. It really felt like Stanley was aimed at tourists, and there were souvenirs aplenty.
Not far from the market are pleasant beaches and a fascinating small temple. In the temple square, local bands regularly play, and people just hung round, appreciating the atmosphere.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 19, 2005
South Side Hong Kong
852 2807 6543
The first time we came to this Market it was gone 11pm, and the place was heaving with customers. We joined this bustling throng in search of a bargain. And there was plenty to choose from, as this is market covers a large area. It’s basically a linear market, with a couple of cul-de-sacs terminating in a large loop around Temple Street.
The lower end of the market is where we concentrated our efforts as here we found cheap designer watches, which were virtually disposable at five for 100HKD and a great Chairman Mao clockwork watch for 20HKD. All had to be bargained for, but the negotiation really was not that tough, it just made the transaction a bit more fun. This market is renown for ladies evening bags and there was a whole range from beaded to tapestry, sequined to miniscule clutch bags. The prices started high but with a bit of persistence we managed to negotiate a purchase with a two-thirds reduction.
My wife was in her element as this was pashmina heaven and there were loads of silk garments. I got carried away with the purchase of ties, but the prices were so cheap it really didn’t matter if I only wore them a couple of times. There was ample opportunity to buy cheap CDs and DVDs, although I’m sure that the DVDs were all illegal copies (at five for 100HKD, these stalls were fairly busy).
Progressing up the street, we were met with the pungent smell of the street food stalls selling savoury pancakes, fish balls, seafood kebabs, and a range of unspecified meat. These were extremely popular, even as we approached the bewitching hour.
At this road junction, I’d recommend you take a right turn (to the left are cheap pirated goods, tacky toys, and a range of sex aids and pornography), because this will take you to the interactive part of the market. It’s here that you may be lucky enough to see street performers (we didn’t!), but one side of this road is lined with local fortune-tellers and soothsayers. We had offers to read our faces, our palms, and our heads; to play the tarot cards; to allow a caged bird to assist in defining our destiny; even to have our handwriting analysed. It’s a fascinating part of the market, and everyone seems take it really seriously (with the exception of me!). Most of the consultants looked the part, and I’m sure they modelled themselves on the romanticised image of the fortune-telling Oriental.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 20, 2005
Temple Street Night Market
+852 2807 6543 (HK T