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Farewell to British Hong Kong: Commerce

by Walter Glaser

Commerce

Shopping in Hong Kong can be a trial or a delight -- the former if the first-time tourist is inexperienced. Traps include dishonest traders who, smelling a gullible "mark" a mile away, can load him or her up with fake antiques, jewelry that is plated when the tourist thinks he's buying the real thing, or electrical appliances designed for systems in countries other than where the customer resides. However, shops who are members of the Hong Kong Tourist Association are generally reliable, and I find that shopping at its member stores can overcome most of the problems. And if you carefully check around, you can still find totally reliable and scrupulously honest shopkeepers who take a pride in what they offer. An example of this is my favorite jewelry store downstairs in the Holiday Inn basement arcade in Nathan Road. My family have been shopping at Ma's Jewelry for years, and we've never yet had a bad price or a bad deal from owner Philip Chan. To me he exemplifies the best of the old Hong Kong values and traditions. I usually avoid the hard-selling shops which line Nathan Road and its side streets close to the waterfront. With huge rents and a constant passing parade of shoppers, they invariably charge the highest possible prices that the traffic will bear.

Clothing factory over-runs made for the American and European markets are among the best "buys" in Hong Kong. Shops known as "factory outlets" whose job is to market the over-runs and samples from the factories of Hong Kong and China often look like bargain basements after the Christmas sales, but are a hard act to follow when it comes to price and quality. Perhaps start with an outfit called Dorfit on the 6th Floor of the Sands Building, 17 Hankow Road, or their other branch on the 6th Floor of the Mary Building 71-77 Peking Road -- both in Kowloon. These are the sort of places you would never find if you looked for them for a century, and can only locate through word of mouth recommendations when you ask local residents where they do their shopping. If you don't like the merchandise here there is a booklet of factory outlets available in bookshops, and a list from the Hong Kong Tourist Association.

All visitors have their own ideas on what sightseeing they want to do in Hong Kong. There are none of the excessive fleshpots of Bangkok, Manila or even Kings Cross. Hong Kong's delights are more varied. An evening trip up to the Peak, the steep mountain behind the central city district on Victoria Island will provide a never-to-be-forgotten view of one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. A nighttime view is sensational and you can have a great meal at Caf» Deco Bar and Grill while you are up there.

A cruise around Hong Kong's unique freighter and sailing-junk laden harbor is another "must", as is a visit to Ocean Park. Every time l go here, I marvel at the way this magnificent aquarium complex has been built, of all places, at the top of a small mountain. Equally impressive is the army of cable-car gondolas that transport visitors up and down from the Ocean Park complex.

I personally find the Kowloon nightlife more exciting than the Island, or Central District, many parts of which tend to "die" after 6:00 p.m. just when the bars, restaurants and shops in Kowloon are at their busiest. Shopping in Kowloon also offers an incredible choice, with more than 500 shops at the Ocean Terminal and Ocean Center next to the Star Ferry providing a good place to start looking around.

Within these four blocks one can find everything from the latest chrome-and-leather European furniture to exquisitely carved and lacquered Asian antiques. Without leaving the area I could furnish a mansion with whatever I needed to live there. Everything from the most superb European and Japanese appliances to paintings and electronics is available. And the choice in clothing in this area staggers me. I've never seen in one place so many top quality boutiques selling the finest products of Europe's most elegant couturiers. But be warned! There's no point in even walking into such shops if you don't have a bottomless wallet or credit card facility. Should you be interested in electronics, cameras or radios, make sure that you've shopped around at home first and know the exact model, style and price of what you want to buy. Stick with it! Invariably the slick sales assistant will tell you that what you want is an old or discontinued model and the latest equivalent is the "Fantasmagoric Supra 3.5a" which, he will tell you is the latest model to die for and one which any discerning person like you will immediately recognize as being the best. The translation of this spiel is that he doesn't have the model you want, can't be bothered getting it in, and is dying to unload his last few models of the "Fantasmagoric Supra 3.5a" which he bought three years ago in a fit of enthusiasm and which is now obsolete.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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