An indulgent holiday in the sun, sipping cocktails and escaping between the covers of an enticing book is not my idea of a holiday. Well maybe I could tolerate it for a day or two, but after that, cabin fever would set in. The whole concept of doing nothing gives me an anxiety attack, and once boredom sets in I’ll start dreaming about what to have for lunch, what to have for dinner, and before I know it I’m treating food as the highlight of my break and stacking on the kilos!
Which brings me to why I love Hong Kong so much and why I return there time after time and always try to include it in all my holiday itineraries. I know this astounds some of my friends – why would I return to somewhere I’ve already visited several times? Aren’t there new places to explore, new cuisines to savour, different experiences to embrace? Yes, of course there are, but Hong Kong has so much to offer and I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg.
I’m competitive by nature and am hugely excited by a bargain because nabbing a prize in the most unexpected place is such a huge win! So my idea of a brilliant holiday is letting myself loose in the less touristy districts of Kowloon where no one speaks English. In most cases you’ve no idea what treasures lie behind the various shop fronts and stalls. You can’t see what’s on offer without immersing yourself into the crowded narrow lanes and shops, dragging items out of bins and rifling through clothes racks packed so tightly you can barely remove a hanger without risking the collapse of the entire rack. But this is what makes the experience so energising and exciting, it’s really a treasure hunt. I’m sure by now you’re wondering if it’s really worth looking for fakes designer labels, but let me reassure you. Firstly, I abhor fakes – the threat of being discovered carrying a fake bag terrifies me more than public speaking. Fakes are generally so badly made they can turn your entire outfit from elegant to tacky. I have a friend who spends between $350 – $500 each on fake handbags, she reasons that they are well made and worth the money. To me this is madness, I would rather invest in one well-made authentic accessory than three copies. Secondly, many European and American designers have a lot of their prototypes produced in Asia, some of them ship the components back to their country of origin where they might be finished or assembled, thereby validating the European or American ‘made in’ label.
Some of my more notable successes include a pure silk Balenciaga shirt for $1, a Dior gentleman’s jacket for $30, a cashmere Loro Piana top for $55, and other items including Michael Kors jeans, Fornarina blouses, Laura Ashley skirts and Crew Jackets. As for children’s clothes – you’ll find some amazing Ralph Lauren and Laura Ashley for babies and kids up to 16, the availability of sizes and styles is haphazard at best, and you might find a great deal one day only to find that nothing is left the next, so if you see something for yourself or a friend or family – grab it there and then. Many of these items may also be labelled ‘SAMPLE’ or ‘SAMPLE, NOT FOR SALE’. Now you’ll notice that the label is snipped or marked by text on each of these items, and this is done specifically so that you can’t take the item back to a retail store and expect to exchange it or receive a refund. Considering the cost to make the item, the quality of the material and the authentic clear labels sewn into the seams, they would never recoup their costs by launching an elaborate rouse of fake labelled clothing and then sell items for less than the cost of making it or the material. Bear in mind that these hidden little areas exist in many parts of Kowloon, my favourites are in Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok, Wan Chai (although not in Kowloon) and Prince Edward – but I make it a mission to discover a new area every time I visit.
Adding to the absolute enjoyment of the treasure hunt is the opportunity to experience parts of Hong Kong that are almost entirely free of tourists. I love listening to the language – Cantonese is so much more exuberant to the ear than the soft slur and slush of Mandarin. I love seeing how frail and elderly relatives are lovingly escorted to the market to experience the vibe. Shopping can be a strenuous activity, so it’s such a delight to find so many hidden away tiny eateries dotted in between the stalls, some of them featuring a massive cauldron bubbling away at the front. These establishments are where the workers and locals eat so don’t expect fine dining and yes you’ll probably have to share a table – but count on some noodles and dumplings in exquisitely flavoured broth, juicy pieces of roast pork or chicken and tantalizing fresh steamed greens.
Next time, I’ll tell you about Sham Shui Po’s craft district!
Violet Blonde is a part-time blogger and full-time shopper. She originally met Bossy Flossie in a noodle bar in the middle of Kowloon in Hong Kong. They immediately bonded over soup and fried wontons and have been WordPress pals ever since! When Violet Blonde is not shopping, eating or blogging, she can be found practising her Cantonese language skills at the taxi rank by Hong Kong international airport. Stay tuned for more blogs by Violet Blonde!