Are you a fashionista with an eye for luxury brands? Or perhaps a bargain hunter who’s always ready to fend off other overtly-zealous shoppers? Whatever your style of shopping is, you will love Asia’s best shopping spots!
Compiled by: Ari Vanuaranu
1. Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok’s status as a shopping capital is legendary. Bargain hunting here is a breeze, whatever it is that you’re looking for. Giant shopping malls? Check. Weekend markets? Check. Indie boutiques? Check. And everything at very attractive prices. For all your favourite brands under one roof, you’d want spend your whole day in Central World Mall, Platinum Mall, Siam Discovery or Robinsons. Local designers are just as good, so check them out at Terminal 21. The world’s largest flea market with more 10,000 stalls will really test your bargaining skill, but navigating around the maze-like Chatuchak Weekend Market is a whole lot of fun. Weekday shopping is always a delight at Khao San Road for its wide array of cheap buys, from cheeky T-shirts to hair extensions. Night-owl shoppers have the choice of Silom or Siam Paradise Night Bazaar. Forget about buying bootleg DVDs, as even original DVDs are cheap here as they are made specifically for Thai market!
2. Hong Kong
Shopaholics are addicted to Hong Kong, where shopping is not just a transaction, but also a form of entertainment. Those who are familiar with the art of bargaining can find their heaven at Ladies’ Market for clothes, scarves, purses, shoes and other fashion items. In search of knock-offs? Go to Li Yuen Street East and West. Touristy as it may be, Stanley Street is still a great place to find silk wear in “Western” sizes and souvenirs to bring home. Sort things out at Citygate Outlets and Kaiser Estates to find overruns and seconds to boost your wardrobe. Popular outlets known for all kinds of discounted designer clothes previously located at Pedder Building have moved to Queens Road, Hing Wai Building and Tak Woo House among other locations. There are just too many outlets to list out here, so look for those discreet signs with famous designer brands on them pointing to unassuming corners of retail bliss!
3. Seoul, South Korea
More and more people are raving about the shopping scene in Seoul with its trendy locales and remarkable customer service. The city’s not only for spendthrifts either! There’s something for everyone in Myeongdong, from chic stores to small stalls lining the alleyways. But really, if cute and affordable Korean fashion is what you’re after, go to Dongdaemun where all the small shops get their merchandise. For tailored suits, try Itaewon, the famous district of international fashion and cuisine. K-Pop fangirls (and boys) will find merchandise of their favourite boybands and girl groups at Insadong, but for souvenirs to bring home it’s better to look in Namdaemun. Shopping around Ewha Women’s University or the Sunday market in front of Hongik University are best for those who are always on ‘student budget’. South Korea is also famous for its cosmetic and skincare products, which make great souvenirs for your friends back home!
4. Manila, the Philippines
Proof that Filipinos take shopping seriously: three of the ten largest shopping malls in the world (SM Megamall, SM City North EDSA and Mall of Asia) can be found in Manila. Swanky shops at Shangri-La Mall and Greenbelt are the places to go if you’re after designer items and quality jewellery. If you don’t care about brands, there are plenty of tiangge (bazaars) in places like Divisoria and 168 Mall where you can exercise your bargaining skill for cheap fashion and knockoffs. For mid-range buys, Greenhills Shopping Center is the place to go. Trendy indie is more of your thing? Try Cubao Expo and The Collective. English is widely spoken here, making your penny-pinching endeavour easier.
5. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The modern capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is a prime tourism hub in Southeast Asia, attracting shoppers from all over the world. Knockoffs abound in Chinatown, but even the genuine article is sold at considerably lower prices than in most Western countries, and you can shop for these in comfort at the malls along Bukit Bintang. Thinking of buying a new mobile phone, tablet or laptop? Malaysian prices are surprisingly lower than neighbouring countries so don’t forget to make a detour to Low Yat Plaza. If you’re someone who appreciates local talent, come down to Publika and enjoy the indie scene.
6. Jakarta, Indonesia
Glam it up in the Indonesian capital! Unbeknownst to many, Jakarta’s collection of upscale establishments such as Galeries Lafayette makes it the only city in Southeast Asia to carry exclusive names like Karl Lagerfeld and Corto Moltedo. Many world-renowned brands are made in Indonesia and you can find many factory outlets in Jakarta, including the ones in Sudirman Central Business District and Mangga Dua Square. If you’re confident with your bargaining skills, try to score a deal or two at Tanah Abang, Mester Jatinegara and Cililitan wholesale centres.
As in any important deal you want to seal, remember to stay friendly when you go about and do your haggling. There’s no reason not to flash your most charming smile as there will always be sweet deals when you’re shopping in Asia!
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