The stores listed here are just a few of the thousands upon thousands in the SAR. For more listings, check HKTB's website, www.discoverhongkong.com/qts, for a list of its member shops.
Antiques & Collectibles
Several of the Chinese-product stores also stock antiques, especially porcelain. Additionally, some hotel shopping arcades have shops specializing in antiques, as does Harbour City shopping mall. Antiques buffs should also inquire at HKTB whether international auctioneers Christie's or Sotheby's are holding sales for antiques in Hong Kong.
The most famous area for antiques and chinoiserie, however, is around Hollywood Road and Cat Street, both above the Central District on Hong Kong Island. This area gained fame in the 1950s following the 1949 revolution in China (which flooded the market with family possessions). Hollywood Road twists along for a little more than .8km (1/2 mile), with shops selling original and reproduction Qing and Ming dynasty Chinese furniture, original prints, scrolls, porcelain, clay figurines, silver, and rosewood and black-wood furniture, as well as fakes, reproductions, and curios. Near the western end is Upper Lascar Row, popularly known as Cat Street, where sidewalk vendors sell snuff bottles, curios, and odds and ends, as well as reproductions and souvenir items (Mao watches, alarm clocks, and statues are perennial favorites). At the eastern end of Hollywood Road, near Pottinger Street, is a cluster of chic antiques shops displaying furniture and blue-and-white porcelain, including goods from neighboring Asian countries such as Korean chests and Japanese hibachi. If you're a real antiques collector, I suggest you simply walk through the dozens of shops on and around Hollywood Road. Most are open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5 or 6pm; some are open Sunday as well.
Another good shopping stop is Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing St., Ap Lei Chau, an island connected to Aberdeen by bridge. This huge warehouse has more than a dozen shops selling antiques, including furniture, trays, baskets, and decorative art (take bus no. 590 from Exchange Square in Central to Ap Lei Chau).
Don't expect cheap prices, however. In the past few years, suddenly wealthy mainlanders have flooded the buying market, pushing prices for antiques through the roof, while dealers have been holding back supplies in the hopes of even higher prices in the future. But the main thing to keep in mind when buying antiques in Hong Kong is that they may not be antique at all. In many instances, it's obvious you're buying a reproduction, simply because of the price or because 20 items just like it are sitting in the stall next door, and you may not care simply because you like it. For serious shopping, however, if you cannot tell the difference between originals and reproductions, you're better off shopping for the real thing at one of the HKTB member stores, which display HKTB's gold circle and calligraphy logo. Be sure to ask whether an antique has been repaired or restored, as this can affect its value. An antique Chinese chair, for example, may be repaired so much that only half its original wood remains.
If the piece is quite expensive, ask that it be tested. (The most important rule is to shop with reputable dealers when buying expensive pieces. And make sure that if the test turns out negative, the shop will pay for the test. As you can see, this process takes time, money, and effort.) Wood, for example, can be tested using carbon-14 dating, while ceramics can be tested with the Oxford Test. The authenticity of bronze, jade, glass, and stone can also be determined through testing. If you're purchasing anything more than 100 years old, request a Certificate of Antiquity detailing its age and origin, along with a receipt detailing your purchase. Although it's illegal to smuggle antiques out of mainland China, many smuggled items do in fact end up in Hong Kong, where it is legal to then sell, buy, and own them. Needless to say, this has caused friction between China and Hong Kong, especially when international auction houses have sold well-documented smuggled Chinese antiques.
A global mania for art from mainland China has led to a gallery boom in Hong Kong; and many of these galleries also include contemporary work from other Asian countries in their collections. For art lovers with not such deep pockets, Picture This (www.picturethiscollection.com), with two locations in Central at 9 Queen's Rd. Central, on the sixth floor (tel. 852/2525 2820), and shop 212 of the Prince's Building at 10 Chater Rd. (tel. 852/2525 2803), sells vintage posters (including original travel and movie posters), antique maps, photographs of old Hong Kong and China, contemporary photography, and other memorabilia from both China and the West. Below are some pricier options.
Hong Kong is a good place to shop for Chinese, Indian, Persian, and other types of carpets and rugs. Additionally, the locally made Tai Ping carpets are famous the world over, produced with virgin wool imported from New Zealand.
For imported carpets from India and the Middle East, several specialty shops are in the Hollywood Road and Wyndham Street areas in Central.
The Chinese Carpet Centre, in Shop LO21 on the ground floor of the New World Centre at 18-24 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui (tel. 852/2730 7230; www.cccrugs.com.hk; MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui), stocks more than 100,000 Chinese carpets, mostly handmade of silk, wool, or cotton but also machine-made acrylic, from modern to classical designs.
For Tai Ping carpets, a conveniently located showroom is in Shop 213 of the Prince's Building, a small high-end mall next to the Mandarin Hotel at 10 Chater Rd., Central (tel. 852/2522 7138; www.taipingcarpets.com; MTR: Central). If you don't see what you like, you can have one custom-designed, specifying the color, thickness, and direction of the weave. It takes about 3 months to make a carpet; the company will ship it to you.
For one-stop shopping, head to Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing St., Ap Lei Chau, warehouse of mostly furniture and accessory shops, including more than a dozen stores selling Persian, hand-knotted Oriental, and other rugs (bus: M590 from Exchange Square in Central to Ap Lei Chau, on the south side of Hong Kong Island, near Aberdeen). Most shops are open daily from about 10am to 6 or 7pm.
Chinaware, a fine, translucent earthenware, was first brought from China to Europe by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Its name was subsequently shortened to "china," and Hong Kong remains one of the best places in the world to shop for both antique (mainly from the Manchu/Qing dynasty, 1644-1912) and contemporary Chinese porcelain. Traditional motifs include bamboo, flowers, dragons, carp, and cranes, which adorn everything from dinner plates to vases, lamps, and jars. Also popular is translucent porcelain with a rice grain design. And, of course, European and Japanese china is also available in Hong Kong, including Meissen, Wedgwood, and Noritake.
Probably the best place to begin looking for Chinese porcelain is at one of the Chinese-product stores. In addition, malls and shopping centers like Pacific Place in Admiralty, Times Square in Causeway Bay, and Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui also have porcelain shops. Nowadays, contemporary china is generally both dishwasher- and microwave-safe.
Chinese Craft Emporiums
In addition to the shops listed here, which specialize in traditional and contemporary arts, crafts, clothing, souvenirs, and gift items from China, many souvenir shops in Stanley Market (located on the southern end of Hong Kong Island) carry china, embroidered linens, figurines, chopsticks, and other Chinese imports. Other markets with Chinese souvenirs include Li Yuen Street East and West in Central and the Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon.
Shopping for Souvenir Foodstuffs & Teas
Both Chinese Arts and Crafts and Yue Hwa sell Chinese teas and herbs, but for a bigger selection, head to city'super, which can only be described as a giant food department store, filled with every foodstuff you can imagine (and many more you cannot). Not only does it have the usual food items, drinks, and condiments, but it also imports foodstuffs found nowhere else in Hong Kong, like packages of Japanese curry rice, dried squid, and biscuits from England. It also has a good selection of Chinese teas, including so-called blossom teas, with buds that open like a flower when you pour hot water over them (a great gift for tea drinkers back home). You'll find the largest city'super in Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui (tel. 852/2375 8222; MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui), with smaller outlets at Times Square, Causeway Bay (tel. 852/2506 2888; MTR: Causeway Bay), and ifc mall, Central (tel. 852/2234 7128; MTR: Central or Hong Kong). For international foodstuffs as well as organic and fair trade products, head to Three Sixty.
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that the SAR has a great many department stores. Wing On and Lane Crawford, two upmarket local chains, offer a nice selection of clothing, accessories, and local and imported designer fashions, gift items, and cosmetics. Japanese and English department stores are also quite popular.
Because Hong Kong has no import duty or sales tax and because the latest models are often on sale here months before they're available in other countries, shopping for electronic goods has long been a popular tourist pastime. Prices, however, have increased for electronic products in recent years, so if you're interested in buying a digital camera, camcorder, MP3 player, computer, mobile phone, or other electronic product, do your homework first. Check prices at home before coming to Hong Kong to make sure that what you want to buy here is really a bargain. Then, head to Tsim Sha Tsui for the many shops along Nathan Road and surrounding streets, to malls, and to dedicated electronics shopping centers. Compare prices first, and to be on the safe side, shop only in stores that are members of HKTB and skip those that do not have price tags. Otherwise, you may end up buying a discontinued model at inflated prices. Fortress (www.fortress.com.hk) is a big-name chain offering cameras, computers, cellphones, home appliances, and other electronic and electric goods, with locations throughout Hong Kong, including major shopping malls and tourist areas. Convenient outlets are Shop no. 333A, Harbour City (tel. 852/3101 1413; MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui); 14-16 Hankow Rd. (tel. 852/2311 2318; MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui); Melbourne Plaza, 33 Queen's Rd. Central, Central (tel. 852/2121 1077; MTR: Central); and Times Square, 1 Matheson St., Causeway Bay (tel. 852/2506 0031; MTR: Causeway Bay).
For computers and software, try dedicated malls such as Star Computer City, which has a handful of stores on the second floor of the Star House across from the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry terminal at 3 Salisbury Rd., or the Computer & Digital Mall, located on the 10th and 11th floors of the Windsor House, 311 Gloucester Rd. in Causeway Bay, with more than a dozen shops. Times Square, a mall in Causeway Bay, has computer and camera stores on its seventh and eighth floors, including Fortress and Broadway, another chain you can trust. In any case, whatever you buy, be sure to inspect every piece of equipment before leaving the store (do not assume what's inside a box matches the picture on the outside and check to make sure instructions are in English), make sure equipment works and that its voltage is compatible with yours at home, and obtain warranties and receipts. For computers, look for complete packages that offer computer, printer, scanner, and software at competitive prices, and be sure that the loaded software is in English.
A fun place for adventuresome shoppers and browsers is Apliu Street (beside Cheung Sha Wan MTR Station and parallel to Cheung Sha Wan Rd.), which functions as a street market for secondhand electronic goods and a hodgepodge of junk, including fishing poles, pots and pans, walking sticks, flashlights, and more. The market, which caters almost exclusively to locals with nary a tourist in sight, is open Monday to Friday from about 11am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 11pm. You need to know your goods here and must bargain fiercely. Don't neglect the many stores behind the vendors, selling new and used cellphones, watches, and more.
According to the HKTB, Hong Kong has more jewelry stores per square mile than any other city in the world. Gems are imported duty-free from all over the world, and Hong Kong is reputedly the world's fourth-largest trading center for diamonds. Gold jewelry, both imported and locally made, is required by law to carry a stamp stating the accurate gold content.
Jade, of course, remains the most popular item of jewelry for both visitors and Chinese. It's believed to protect wearers against illness and ward off bad luck. The two categories of jade are jadeite and nephrite. Jadeite (also called Burmese jade) is generally white to apple green in color, although it also comes in hues of brown, red, orange, yellow, and even lavender. It may be mottled, but the most expensive variety is a translucent emerald green. Nephrite, which is less expensive, is usually a dark green or off-white. True jade is so hard that supposedly even a knife leaves no scratch; inferior jade is often injected with artificial coloring. Unless you know your jade, your best bet is to shop in one of the Chinese-product stores, listed earlier in this chapter under "Chinese Craft Emporiums," or at one of 30-some Chow Tai Fook shops, one of Hong Kong's best-known purveyors of jade, gold, and diamond jewelry, including one at 64 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui (tel. 852/2368 8232; www.chowtaifook.com; MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui). For less expensive pieces and souvenirs, visit the Jade Market.
Pearls, almost all of which are cultured, are also popular among shoppers in Hong Kong. Both sea- and freshwater pearls in all shapes, sizes, colors, and lusters can be found for sale in Hong Kong. For inexpensive strands, check the vendors at the Jade Market. Many shops along Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui also retail pearls.
Opals, most of which are mined in Australia but cut in Hong Kong, are also popular buys. Prices vary depending on quality, with black opals the most expensive and white the most common. To get an idea of prices, stop by the Opal Mine, 92 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui (tel. 852/2721 9933; MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui), which operates its own mine in Australia and sells both jewelry and loose stones.
Megamalls & Shopping Centers
Hong Kong boasts shopping complexes that are so huge I call them "megamalls." Aside from the more convenient ones listed below, other Hong Kong megamalls include Festival Walk (located above Kowloon Tong MTR Station), the New Town Plaza in Sha Tin in the New Territories, Plaza Hollywood in Diamond Hill, and the Taikoo Shing City Plaza, located at the Taikoo MTR station on Hong Kong Island. Citygate, located at Tung Chung MTR station on Lantau Island, is Hong Kong's only outlet mall.
Important: Do not buy ivory goods while in Hong Kong. It is illegal to export ivory across international borders, and immoral in the case of China, since so many of the ivory objects you'll encounter in country come from the lawless slaughter of elephants in many parts of Africa. The sale of black market ivory not only is inexorably leading to the extinction of many species of elephant (some 25,000 are being killed yearly) but it also supports such terrorist organisations as Boko Haram, which is funding its organization by hunting elephants and smuggling ivory.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.