- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2006

HONG KONG — A whirlwind day of shopping in Hong Kong can take travelers from some of the world’s glitziest malls to shady back-alley rooms selling Louis Vuitton knockoffs, from clusters of souvenir shops hawking Mao Zedong watches to the twinkling blue waters of the South China Sea.

A good place to begin a shopping spree is at Pacific Place, a chic mall near the central business district on Hong Kong Island. Just looking at the shopping center’s store directory can give a shopaholic goose bumps. It has Prada, Hermes, Chanel, D&G; Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and more.

Walking down the mall’s wide and airy walkways is like being inside the glossy pages of Vogue magazine. It’s a wardrobe wish list. The boutiques boast an excellent collection of couture, but not low prices.

After a couple hours of shopping quality rather than quantity, shoppers can walk to a bus terminal from the sky bridge to hop on a double-decker bus to Stanley Market on the south side of Hong Kong Island.

Take a seat on the bus’s top level for the best views. The bus will leave the city and follow a curvy, tree-lined mountain road. Stunning views of the sapphire South China Sea will come into view throughout the excursion.

The trip to Stanley takes just 30 minutes. The beauty of shopping in Hong Kong is that all the malls and shopping districts are relatively close together.

Once at Stanley, a shopper can weave around tourists and pop into shops selling everything from beaded purses to a watch with a waving Mao Zedong and a North Face jacket. Some stores specialize in selling factory seconds with minor defects.

Once or twice a year, businessmen can be seen with their arms full of Brooks Bros. dress shirts. A shop intermittently gets a truckload of the designs and sells them for $10 each.

After a stint shopping at Stanley, have lunch at one of the area’s many cafes and pubs, then hop on a bus back to central Hong Kong to scour a traditional street market.

The Tai Yuen Street market in Wan Chai is in a gritty neighborhood made world-famous by the 1960 movie “The World of Suzie Wong” — a love story about a prostitute and a foreign painter. The ‘hood is a hot shopping spot.

Bras, socks, purses, jewelry and pet turtles are displayed in street stalls. Shirts piled in bins sell for as little as $1.29. Also take a peek at clothing stores near the markets, which have even more fab finds.

After Wan Chai, head north toward Victoria Harbor and board a ferry that sails to the bustling shopping district Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. As the ferry sails away from Hong Kong Island, take advantage of the peaceful moment and turn around to gaze at the harbor’s strikingly solid wall of skyscrapers.

After leaving the ferry pier, head directly to Harbour City, a gargantuan luxury-brand shopping haven. This mega-facility unfolds with a labyrinth of escalators, hallways and boutiques with names such as Escada and Hugo Boss.

Many of the world’s other shopping capitals — Paris, New York and London — have all the big-name boutiques, but Hong Kong is special because of its dense concentration of famous labels. It boasts nine Gucci stores, seven Hermes and a three-level Armani Complex complete with an Armani flower shop, just for starters.

Ute Their, who works in fashion design in Germany, has traveled the world shopping for inspiration. In Paris or Florence, she says, there is a lot of distance between high-end fashion stores, which a shopper has to walk or drive.

“They are all close together here,” she says, which is convenient during her brief visits.

After getting lost in the luxury brands available at Harbour City, shoppers can jump on Hong Kong’s subway and ride north to the Kowloon neighborhood of Mong Kok. Crowds swarm beneath layers of flashing neon signs extending out from buildings toward the centers of the streets. Battling the crowd is worth it — here is the Ladies Fashion Market, one of the best fashion markets in Hong Kong.

At the market, some stalls display laminated catalogs of luxury accessories, such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci bags. If you want to see the goods, the salesperson may lead you to an “office” nearby. Often, the display room is a room upstairs in a grungy apartment building on the main market drag. Note to potential knockoff shoppers: Follow the salesperson at your own risk. Use street smarts and don’t go alone.

The showroom is amazing. It’s as though popular products from a glitzy mall were copied, shoved into one room and given an amazing discount. Handbags line the room from floor to just above hands’ reach. A table displays wallets, watches and ties.

With Hong Kong’s selection of markets and mega-malls, the question isn’t, “Where is the Prada?” It’s, “Where is the nearest Prada?”

For more information about Hong Kong, visit www.discoverhongkong.com or call 800/282-4582.

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