Hong Kong's new Symphony of Lights
For the first time since it launched in 2004, Hong Kong's nightly light show, Symphony of Lights on Victoria Harbour, has been revamped. Australian Emmy-award winner, Richard Lindsay curated the new show featuring dynamic lighting effects accompanied by a score from the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Video: Hong Kong Tourism Board
Whether you're after clothes, electronics or big-brand knock-offs, here are the best places to get a bargain.
There are many ways to explore a city and, whether consciously or not, most of us tend to discover a new place via the indulgence of another interest such as architecture, history, food, sport, drinking or shopping.
For tourists partial to the latter, Hong Kong's retail haunts – be they the markets of Kowloon or the high-rise plazas of industrialised Ap Lei Chau – offer a unique slice of Hong Kong life. Here are seven worthy places to splash your Hong Kong dollar.
Best for: Kitchenware; functional souvenirs
The place: Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
Why: Running parallel to Nathan Road and Temple Street through Jordan, Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok, Shanghai Street is a snapshot of Hong Kong's many historical incarnations, the best being a row of old tong lau shophouses (at numbers 600-626 toward the Mong Kok end).
The highlights: For shoppers, the Yau Ma Tei section is the most attractive, being a hot spot for bulk buying kitchenware at commercial prices. For tourists it's a fascinating glimpse at a uniquely Chinese retail environment and a chance to buy cheap souvenirs that can actually be of use.
Choose either side of the street and prepare yourself for repetition, with every second shop selling lovely big bamboo dim sum steaming baskets, hand-carved wooden mooncake moulds, commercial wooden chopping boards, a huge selection of knives, including lethal-looking choppers and a personal favourite, lightweight aluminium beer mugs.
Insider tip: Nearby, the Jade Market is an indoor bazaar selling a bounty of bangles and colourful beads. Irene at stall 278 is it-and-a-bit for pearls. Bartering is essential.
Best for: Seconds and samples in clothes; furniture
The place: 2 Lee Wing St, Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong Island southside (no website)
Why: This is less a plaza and more a 28-storey industrial high-rise given over to big spaces occupied by furniture, food and clothing stores avoiding the crazy rents in regular shopping strips.
The highlights: Armani, Max Mara, Diesel, Hugo Boss and Juicy Couture outlets are packed hanger-to-hanger with bargains ranging from 30 to 90 per cent off. Most items are outsized or off-season, so be prepared to hunt. Multi-brand clothing outlets include Joyce Warehouse (joyce.com) for Comme des Garcons, Anna Sui and Issey Miyake labels; Bluebell (bluebellgroup.com) for Paul Smith, Jimmy Choo and Moschino; and Lane Crawford Warehouse (lanecrawford.com), which has the best selection of shoes and accessories for both men and women. Horizon Plaza is also good for cheaper-than-home furniture (that ships). See Artura Ficus (arturaficus.com) for bespoke reproduction Chinese wares and G.O.D (god.com.hk) for couches and sideboards that morph East and West styles. Tree (tree.com.hk), selling beautiful eco-chic furniture made from recycled timber, is not cheap but it's unique to Hong Kong.
Insider tip: Pick up a store directory on the ground floor. Work from the top floor down to avoid elevator queues. There's a decent cafe (and bathroom) at Tree on the 28th floor.
Best for: Locally handcrafted and designed products
The place: 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong Island.
Why: PMQ (pmq.org.hk) opened last year in the former Police Marine Quarters to loud applause. Built in 1951, the U-shaped, eight-storey building is typical of functional post-war modern architecture, so its transformation into a cool retail hub for the city's creative industry is quite something. There are 130 studio-cum-shop spaces set aside for local artists and designers to launch or build brands and businesses. Visitors can watch the artists in action.
The highlights: Keep an eye out for The Little Finger's (thelittlefinger.com) contemporary jewellery shop. Flow+Living (pmq.org.hk) sells ceramics with unique lotus imprints and Pomch (pomch.com) has a line of accessories including bags, belts and wallets. Tasteful boutique Kapok's (ka-pok.com) 'Crafted in Hong Kong' store showcases quality design goods including iPhone covers by Native Union and backpacks and pouches by Teddyfish.
Insider tip: For more retail eye candy, head north down Aberdeen Street to vintage homewares store Casa Capriz (casacapriz.com) and bespoke tailors Moustache (moustachehongkong.com).
Best for: Luxury brands; home-grown high-end labels
The place: 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong Island.
Why: All shopping malls should look this good. Surrounded by ritzy hotels and flashy office blocks, Pacific Place (pacificplace.com.hk) oozes elitism, its natural wood, stone and bronze decor making it feel more like a flash department store than a mall.
The highlights: Stores you can't find in Australia include men's tailor Alfred Dunhill (dunhill.com/en), watchmakers Audemars Piguet (www.audemarspiguet.com), UK fashion house DAKS (daks.com), Italian leather artisan Loewe (loewe.com) and Spanish fashion label Loro Piana (www.loropiana.com). Hong Kong multi-brand shops Joyce (joyce.com), I.T. (ithk.com) and The Swank (swank.hk) are good spots to find local labels or head straight to big guns Vivienne Tam (viviennetam.com) and Shanghai Tang (Shanghaitang.com).
Insider tip: Take a break from the aircon: on level four, Petit Cafe (maxconcepts.com.hk) has outdoor seating and serves pastries, sandwiches and espresso coffee in lovely floral paper cups.
Wan Chai Computer Centre
Best for: Electronics and computer supplies
The place: 130 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island
Why: This two-storey nondescript building in bustling Wan Chai is a techno-Aladdin's cave of every possible electronic gadget and accessory, both rip-off and ridgy-didge. It's the only place on Hong Kong Island that offers everything in the same place and at cheaper prices than mainstream electronics stores.
The highlights: Trawl dozens of outlets (more like booths than shops) for everything from USB sticks, cables and compact discs to digital cameras, smartphones, laptops and even high-end audio equipment and headphones. Tech geeks will love the selection of games and consoles. Alongside the shops selling copy goods (of decent quality, but lacking official certification) are authentic micro outlets for second-tier brands such as Dell, ACER and Lenovo. There's no shortage of Apple and Mac merchandisers, but no outlet. The goods all have pricetags, but it's expected that you will haggle for a bargain.
Insider tip: Shops near the entry are usually 20 to 30 per cent more expensive. For a real bargain you should delve into the depths of the building.
Temple Street Night Market
Best for: Fakes; cheap factory goods; souvenirs
The place: This famous Kowloon night market stretches along Temple Street from Man Ming Lane South, in Yau Ma Tei, to Nanking Street, in Jordan. It is interrupted in the middle by Tin Hau temple, which is worth a look if you have time.
Why: Night markets are rare beasts in Hong Kong. This one takes over the neighbourhood at sundown and is as much about atmosphere as it is about retail.
The highlights: Hong Kong isn't what it used to be when it comes to cheap copies, but stroll along the canvas-topped stalls for stands of plastic wrapped 'Ralph Lauren' shirts, 'Gucci' and 'Jimmy Choo' handbags (of varying quality) and more recent fashion staples such as (I hate to say it, given the company's buy-one give-one ethos) 'Tom's' canvas shoes. Typical oriental souvenirs such as embroidered Chinese pyjamas, glass 'jade' bangles and porcelain knick-knacks are sold here by the truckload. You'll also find cheap-but-handy market stuff, such as phone covers, hair accessories, batteries and tacky toys.
Insider tip: Try an oyster pancake on the go, or sit down at Formica tables for whole steamed fish, clams sauteed in garlic and fried rice paired with a chilled long neck of Tsingtao beer.
Paterson, Kingston & Cleveland streets
Best for: Edgy fashion brands
The place: Causeway Bay
Why: Despite being the most condensed shopping megalopolis in the world, malls give way to street level shopping in this little corner of Causeway Bay.
The highlights: Funky Japanese fashion brands Tsumori Chisato (tsumorichisato.com), Frapbois (frapbois.jp), Comme des Garcons (comme-des-garcons.com) and Y3 (y-3.com/hk/#/) give this hub a point of difference, as do edgy shops APC (apc.fr) and Hysteric Glamour (ithk.com). Better-known flagship stores include Zadig & Voltaire (zadig-et-voltaire.com), Patrizia Pepe (patriziapepe.com), Vivienne Westwood (viviennewestwood.com) and Diesel (diesel.com). For shoes, check out Camper (camper.com/en_HK), Shine (shinegroup.com.hk/en) and Gum Gum Gum (gum-gum-gum.com) on Cleveland Street.
Penny Watson is the author of Hong Kong Precincts, published by Hardie Grant Books www.theprecincts.com