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Shop 'Til You Drop: International Retail Therapy

It may seem strange for a woman to admit, but I actually hate shopping when I'm at home. The thought of trudging around the city or enduring a suburban shopping mall is my idea of torture. But take me overseas and I am suddenly transformed to a plastic yielding maniac.

It may seem strange for a woman to admit, but I actually hate shopping for clothes when I am at home. The thought of trudging around the city (although let's face it my home is New York City, one of the world's foremost shopping capitals) or enduring a suburban shopping mall is my idea of torture. But take me overseas and I am suddenly transformed to a plastic yielding maniac, eager to seek out every new and exciting opportunity to spend and purchase unique clothes. The attraction probably lies in the fact that everything is new, with unknown brands, some ridiculously cheap prices and originality. Or perhaps it is the ability to wear that particular piece when you get home and remember where you bought it and the feeling you had when you discovered that special store. Luckily through travel, I get the retail juices flowing quite often and in destinations that you wouldn't normally associate with being very fashion forward. For you men who have decided that now would be a good time to navigate away from this webpage and article, keep in mind that men's clothing in these destinations is just as accessible, bountiful and affordable.


Shanghai surprise? It's no surprise that a lot of what we would possibly buy at home is "made in China." The question is: how do you find designer duds in China itself when most of what is produced is exported and you don't speak the language to find out? China has some of the most affordable quality shopping out there -- a combination of foreign brands and home-grown designers including up-and-coming fashion brands at rock bottom prices. Shanghai has four main shopping areas -- Huaihai Lu, Nanjing Lu and Xujiahui in Puxi and Lujiazui in Pudong. Huahai Lu is a lively area with a combination of local and western designs, including name brands. Here you will find wealthy Shanghai residents shopping for their own clothes at bargain prices. Shanxi Nan Lu, which runs between Nanjing Lu and Huaihai Lu is a strip of boutiques and stalls offering a vast choice of cute and fashionable gear. Xujiahui is a maze of underground walkways that connects several huge malls. Shopping at the Super Brand Mall in Pudong is an adventure in stamina -- it is Asia's largest shopping mall and although there is nothing characteristically Chinese or culturally quaint about it, the prices are low and the selection enormous. Bargaining is a must, even at what you'd probably consider as more up-market boutiques.

Hong Kong

I extend my love fair with China retail indulgence to Hong Kong, which although more expensive at times, is no less exciting shopping-wise and bargains are there for the taking. On the Kowloon side, try the Women's Wholesale District on Cheung Sha Wan Road and Ap Liu Street (MTR to Sham Shui Po -- Cheung Sha Wan Road Exit), Cameron and Granville Roads Kowloon (MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui), the Women's Market and Night Market (MTR to Mong Kok) and Park Lane Shoppers Boulevard on Nathan Road (MTR to Jordan). On Hong Kong Island, Central is an interesting area for a variety of quality shops, department stores and boutiques. Don't be afraid to venture down narrow lanes and alley ways as some of the best stores can be found in the smallest of spaces. Also watch out for sale times as prices in major stores plummet.


Another Asian shopping mecca and one that remains off many people's radar is Seoul. Tongdaemun is a market area featuring young and very cutting edge fashion. Doota B/1 is the perfect place to shop for designer knock offs and original designs at super low prices although quality may not always be great. Itaewon would probably be your best bet for super deals but be prepared to rummage. Slightly irregular and overstock designer clothes manufactured in Korea are rampant here with labels like Marc Jacobs, DKNY and BCBG. Not that I condone the purchase of fake designer goods, but if it is fake handbags you are after, you'll find them here too in street stalls and smaller shops. Myong Dong is the trendy fashion area with a bit of everything -- but mainly tailored to the young and funky shopper on a budget. Seoul is also home to large department stores like Hyundai, Lotte and Shinsagae, but Galleria is considered the pick of the bunch for discerning shoppers.


Dare I say it, but I recall the last time I went to Athens, I bought shoes in the double digits and thought even Italy didn't have a selection that wide (and not at those prices). Don't let the Euro scare you -- Athens has affordable shopping, especially during sale times -- August-September and January-February. Athinas Street has dozens of casual clothing shops. Ermou Street probably has the widest selection of quality shoes or clothes and is a pedestrian mall with a market-like atmosphere including street performers, food stalls and entertainment. Eolou and Agiou Marou Streets are more for the bargain hunters among you. Shops are generally closed on Sundays, but that's the perfect day to go to the Flea Market in Monastiraki.


You may not know that a lot of clothing brands you buy are sourced from Turkey, so it is here that you can find some great mid-range clothing and bargains. Thursday is market day at Ulus Pazari, located across the Bosphorus River in the fashionable Ulus residential area. You'll be hard pressed to find anyone that speaks English here, but money is the international language so go with plenty of cash and strong arms to carry your fashion booty. For more traditional shops including up-market boutiques try one of Istanbul's malls like the Galleria in Atakoy with 127 retail outlets, Akmerkez located on Etiler Street, Cevahir (considered the biggest shopping center in Europe),located in Mecidiyekoy, Metro City in Levent and Capitol in Altunizade (with its Çars? department store). There is also Olivium -- an Outlet center in Zeytinburnu, the streets of Taksim, especially the pedestrian mall which is great for smaller, local brands and the area around the Misir Carsisi Spice market near Yeni Cami called Mahmutpasa.


Bangkok is a shopper's paradise but you need patience and the willingness to go into each store rather than just look in the windows. Quality varies from rudimentary T-shirts to exquisitely tailored suits and of course everything in between. There are so many shopping malls here that you could easily spend a few days meandering through them without seeing anything else in Bangkok. The Platinum, with 1300 fashion stores is a relatively new mall located on Petchburi Road across the road from the labyrinth that is Pratunam Market. Other good locations to scout a bargain are Siam Center, Siam Square and Mah Boon Krong -- all are within walking distance of each other. The only caveat for shopping in Bangkok is that sizing is restricted so if you are larger than size 6-8 ladies, or a medium for men, it may be harder to find clothes that fit -- in which case -- shoes could be the solution!

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