Friday, March 29, 2013

Stanley Market Hong Kong

Legends abound about shopping bargains at Stanley Market and it's on the list for most Hong Kong first timers. I have mixed feelings about this village/market/tourist trap. I've never found it that exciting but I have found a few treasures among the junk and was willing to try again. Liz and I had a free afternoon, so off we went. (Taxi fare from Kowloon is about $20, no MTR, or take bus no.6)

Stanley is very crowded on weekends, but quiet and delightful during the week, especially on a nice day.We were there on a Tuesday and the crowd was mostly ex-pat locals and moms with children. The market itself has expanded from the original small alleys into the remodeled waterfront promenade which makes for a much more pleasant shopping experience. 

It turned out to be a great outing. The views, the weather and yes, the shopping. I bought "pearl" earrings for $10, a baby gift (adorable DKNY jeans in size 6 months), and a linen shirt ($30). Liz and I sipped our Starbucks as we strolled along the walkway and enjoyed the views. Will I go again? Of course.

The market is open daily from 10am to 7pm but don't rush out there; most market stalls open between 10 and 10:30. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shopping Shenzhen

What’s that old saying about “a day without sunshine”?  For me, it goes something like “A day (trip) to Shenzhen is like a day FULL of sunshine”. I can’t imagine visiting Hong Kong without  crossing the border for a day of bargain shopping at the LoWu Commercial Center. I've been shopping LoWu for years and have sorted out the good from the bad. Most shoppers equate LoWu with knock-offs and I must say right upfront that I don’t condone fake merchandise. For the most part, I think you get what you pay for and Fake is Fake. 

“Missy, missy.. you want copy-bag, copy-watch”? No thanks, I want to have eyeglasses made for $50 a pair. I want to have dresses and jackets copied at a tailor for $12 and $20. I want to eat the best Peking Duck I’ve ever had. I want to buy yards and yards of freshwater pearls…. All at LoWu.

The vendors will hiss at you, grab you and drive you crazy, but if you can ignore their pleas and keep walking, you'll do just fine. Don't forget to bring a rolly-tote or small suitcase. You'll no doubt fill it up.


From Hong Kong, take the MTR from Hung Hom in Kowloon. The train costs about $12 for first class which gives you a comfy plush seat. Rush hours are crowded; at other times, standard service is fine and you should get a seat.
The train is easy to use and well marked; trains to Shenzhen leave every 15 minutes or so. The place to stand while waiting for the first class compartment is designated on the platform. Be sure to read the destination message on the front of the train before you get in, as the train will branch different directions for either LoWu or Lok Ma Chau. To avoid the crowds and arrive at a nicer station, you can go to Lok Ma Chau and take a taxi to LoWu. 


Because you are crossing the border into mainland China, it's not a breeze at either station. You need to have a visa stamp in your passport and to make it easy on yourself, get the visa before you leave the US. Your hotel concierge can do it for you in Hong Kong, but it will take a couple of days and will be very expensive.
Once you have the visa, here's the drill:

1. Get off the train. Follow the crowds. Stand in the line marked "Foreigners." Exit the Separate Administrative Region (SAR) by going through the formalities there.
2. Walk down a corridor and over a river into a second building and officially enter China with more lines, (again, marked "Foreigners"), more paperwork and your visa.
3. Change money, exit the immigration center. If you arrive at LoWu, you are 100m (328ft.) from the LWCC. It's that huge building just ahead on the right; again, follow the crowds. If you arrive via Lok Ma Chau, take a taxi to LoWu.
Going back to Hong Kong, it's the same thing. Allow about one hour each way for the formalities; it can take a couple of hours or less than 30 minutes, but that's rare.


The commercial center is a five story building with escalators that zigzag through an atrium leading to each floor. There are restaurants and toilets on all floors, usually in the corners, but you want to have lunch (order the Peking Duck) at Laurel on the fifth floor and use the restrooms there. Everything in the world is sold at LoWu, altho it known for copyright violations and you could get into hot water for bringing knock-offs back into Hong Kong. That said, it's time to shop.

Once in a shop, the vendor will either pull your chosen item off the wall or ask you to look at a booklet or catalog. You'll choose what you want to see and wait for the item to be retrieved by a runner. This takes time.

Once you have the merchandise in hand, it's time to bargain. This takes more time and is very tiring and emotional. I once took a Born to Shop tour group to LoWu and one of the shoppers felt faint and had to go outside for air (that shopper was my daughter, who was obviously not Born to Shop.)

I've had the thrill of comparing fakes and shopping for "inspirations"; now, it's the other stuff that gives me chills. Here are my faves:


Ya Qi Western Style Clothes (5th floor, #19) This tailor was discovered by Pam, one of the passengers on a recent Born to Shop tour. I handed over a pair of linen trousers and the tailor took me into the fabric mart portion of the 5th floor to Runxin Linen Shop. I chose six different linens each just under $10/meter. When I came back for the trousers (two days later), the pants were pressed and beautiful. Total price for the six pairs was just under $20 per pair. No deposit was taken for the tailor work but the fabric was bought in HKD cash. Be specific about when you plan to pick up your goods.

Mei/Sunlight Custom Tailor (5th floor, #70) This shop was recomended by a colleague in Hong Kong, a PR mover and shaker who uses Mei for her business attire and insists that Mei is a gem. I took a blazer with a somewhat complicated Euro design to her to copy. I was shown wools from a swatch book and chose what I thought was the best quality fabric. When I returned for the jacket, I saw that there was a flaw in the stitching on the collar and the fabric - so promising from the swatch - seemed cheap. Mei offered to redo the faulty stitching, but needed time which I didn't have. So, for $75, I have an okay jacket to wear with jeans. Next time, I will bring fabric from the US or Europe.

Kuang Jian Ming (5th Floor, just down the hall from Mei) I had no recommendation for this shop; it just looked like a winner. Again, I gave the tailor three pairs of pants to copy along with some fabric, and told him I wanted pockets added. He made a quick sketch which I approved and quoted me $8 per pair. I also gave him a simple straight lined linen dress and some fancy fabric I'd found in the fabric mart (same floor). It was $15 for the dress. This guy was great. The dress was sensational and the pants were perfect.


Joseph Glasses Trade (2/F, left side escalator) I had my prescription from my opthamologist in San Francisco, along with Tom's RX. I wanted to have a couple of pairs made for both of us and thought the frames in this shop were stunning. Tom has a wide face so the vendor had to pull out drawers to search for suitable options while I just grabbed frames from the wall and had a ball trying them on. I settled on two pairs for Tom (one frameless with silver temples, one a horn-like plastic) and three for me (all tortoisey, colored plastic, one with light tinted lenses). We both have simple prescriptions and after some serious negotiating, I purchased the five pairs for $250USD. I requested top quality scratch-proof lenses and when I picked up the glasses four hours later, they were perfect. If you're buying for someone who isn't with you, have their PD number (pupil distance) with you - very important!


There are two main jewelry sections in the building - on floors two and three. Both are crowded and crazy and the jewelry vendors are more agressive than others in the shopping center. I found several beautiful pearl necklaces and some cheapie earrings. Hard negotiating brought prices down about 75% from the initial offer. I paid about $10 for each necklace and $5 for the earrings.


General Merchandise Square Mei Mei Leather Shop (5/F, left escalator, in the corner) I've been buying handbags, watches, wallets and suitcases from this vendor for about five years and like the quality of his goods. The shop is run by a young couple who speak flawless English and understand what you mean when you say "AAA quality". I once returned a watch that stopped running about a year after I bought it and it was replaced with no questions asked. After your shopping spree, ask the vendor to walk you down the hall to Laurel for lunch. He can whisper a word to the hostess and you'll be seated promptly. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong

Liz and I took a break from our Hong Kong shopping day to have lunch at the Peninsula Hotel and after fueling up on dim sum at Spring Moon, we did a little snooping...

Fans of the Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong are in for a surprise the next time they check into this legendary Grande Dame. A delightful surprise! Floor by floor, a complete renovation has transformed this already perfect hotel into a fantasy. This wasn’t just a face lift, friends...  Each floor was gutted and reconfigured with new rooms and wider corridors and the results are simply stunning. I got a sneak peak at a few of the new rooms and suites.

It’s just amazing what a good architectural team can do with $60 million. That’s how much the hotel has invested in what can only be described as a brilliant transformation. All 300 rooms have been redesigned with a luxurious residential feel. There are leather-clad closets, burl wood cabinets, sofas and chairs with retractable drink coasters, all surrounded by contemporary Chinese ink paintings and bronze tone wall sculptures. 

And the technology? Think customized digital bedside and desk tablets, preset with the guest’s preferences. These gadgets control the Peninsula World. All in-room functions, restaurant menus, hotel services (schedule your preferred time for housekeeping), and video streaming are at your fingertips.  You'll enjoy state of the art audio with noise-cancelling earphones while you cruise 90 internet TV channels. Music choices include more than 400 internet radio stations, all for enjoyment via surround-sound. Of course. 

Even the bedframes are high tech. The touch of a button raises the entire bed to allow the housekeepers better access. Just amazing.

I’ve stayed in some of the world’s best hotels, but I’ve never, NEVER seen a more perfect hotel than this new Peninsula. A visit to this stunning beauty should be on everyone’s bucket list!


Every hotel should have a shopping arcade like the one at the Pen. Small shops fill the eastern and western wings of the hotel with more on the mezzanine and still more in the basement and every big name in the world has a shop here. Stop by the concierge desk for a brochure listing all the stores in the arcade.

Don’t miss:

Maylin (now in the basement, relocated from the mezzanine) The specialty of this shop is woven leather bags, wallets and iPad sleeves, all surprisingly similar to that Italian favorite, BV. They aren’t illegal knock-offs, just very good “inspirations”.  Maylin used to make the best Birkin this side of Hermes. No more, they are still making fine bags but few are in the style of the Hermes brand. Plan to spend about $400 for a nice sac and about $75 for a wallet. Credit cards accepted.

A sad note is that years ago, in the pharmacy in the basement of The Pen, they had the best Birkin copies for $250. Alas, the pharmacy is now gone and Hong Kong keeps on moving.

Shiatzy Chen (basement) This Tiawanese designer makes men's and women's clothes as well as accessories. The look is a little bit Armani and a whole lot Asia kicked up many notches into high couture. Everything in the shop is gorgeous; prices begin at about $1000.

Peninsula Boutique (basement) This is a great place to pick up a snack for your room or gifts to take home; choices include chocolates, cookies, biscuits, all Peninsula recipes. The Peninsula XO Chili Sauce is a little pricey but a little goes a long way and your foodie friends will be very impressed! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Shopping Hong Kong

Liz and I were short on time in Hong Kong; we had only one day to shop and we each had a list of must-dos.  I wanted to check out a couple of markets and Liz was on a quest for a perfect handbag. 

We got up early and while I headed across the Harbour to Alfie's for a meeting, Liz had breakfast in the Club Lounge at the InterContinental Hong Kong. Then we were off to The Jade Market where Liz bought a pair of dangly “jade” earrings.  After bargaining like crazy and getting a discount for being the first customer of the day,Liz paid $10, reduced from the asking price of $50. We know the stones are not real jade, but they're very pretty and the baubles were a good deal for ten bucks. I was tempted to buy some calligraphy brushes with jade and porcelain handles - very chic and only about $10 - $12 each - but we're headed to Tokyo and I'm trying to watch my luggage weight.

Next stop was Cosmos Co., a handbag store on the mezzanine level of the Kimberley Hotel (28 Kimberley Road). Louisa Chan (wife of Peter of W. W. Chan Tailor, the best in Hong Kong) told me about this shop years ago and I’m still pretty impressed. The quality of the leather bags is excellent and there are always a few styles I haven’t seen elsewhere. Don’t miss the woven leather totes – much like those Italian BV bags. After bargaining, you’ll pay about $200 and be the envy of all your friends. Unfortunately, the shop was closed so we drooled on the window and moved along…

From Kimberley Road, we took a taxi to the Prince Edward entrance of Fa Yuen Street Market; it was jam packed as always. Liz wasn’t impressed but we had fun and were energized by the crowds. I found a bracelet much like the Cartier triple bangle of white, yellow and rose gold bands. It was $15 and I pray my wrist doesn't turn green or black.

Last stop was a pharmacy I've used ever since I've been coming to Hong Kong. Years ago, I got a nasty sinus infection and was able to buy some antibiotics at Marvel Medicine (G/F, 12A Peking Road). Liz was having allergy problems and eye drops she bought cleared up the problem immediately.

Unfortunately, there wasn't time to show Liz all my favorite handbag shops, but here's a list of my best sources:

Ashneil (Far East Mansions, 5 -6 Middle Road) These bags are not knock-offs; they just happen to look a lot like the handbags you'll find in designer shops. Quality is excellent.

(Basement of Peninsula Hotel Shopping Arcade, Salisbury Road) Woven leather bags, wallets and iPad sleeves in a rainbow of colors. They will do custom work and ship.

Cosmos Co (see above)

Tomorrow... Shenzhen!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The InterContinental Hotel Hong Kong

Liz and I arrived at HKG in the early evening after a 14 hour flight (well, mine was 14 hours; hers was more, from EWR). Needless to say, we were delighted to be met by our hotel driver and taken to our Hong Kong 'home'.


It’s confession time, I’ve been having an affair.  I’ve been in love with the InterContinental Hong Kong hotel for about ten years now. It was the first place I stayed on my first trip to Hong Kong in 2004 and while I’ve been a guest at many other Hong Kong hotels over the years, the InterConti just keeps calling me back.

Formerly the Regent, the InterConti  is perched at the tip of the Kowloon peninsula – one of the best locations in town.  The Star Ferry dock is a five minute walk and the shops and restaurants on Nathan Road are just across the street. The Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) MTR stop is right in front of the hotel; you can be out the door, on the train, across the Harbour and ready for shopping in Central in 15 minutes.


Most guest rooms, the newly refurbished Lobby Lounge and Club Lounge all offer spectacular views of the Hong Kong skyline. 

I usually book a treatment at the hotel’s I-Spa after my long-haul flight and highly recommend the Jet Lag Recovery, a stretching massage that does wonders for post flight woes. The treatment rooms each have a private sauna and Jacuzzi.

It’s a splurge, but booking Club Intercontinental is well worth it. The Club Lounge is a haven for weary shoppers, offering scrumptious buffets at breakfast, afternoon teatime, and cocktail hour. You can also order eggs, pancakes, waffles and other breakfast goodies cooked to order in the morning. At the end of the day, champagne, wine and cocktails are served with the extensive buffet bites (I often make this dinner). There are computers for personal use and a dedicated concierge staff who work magic on any request.

Liz and I had drinks in the newly reburbished Lobby Lounge. The signature “V-sips”cocktails and “Tappetisers” were a fab treat as we watched the nightly Symphony of Lights laser show dancing on the Hong Kong skyline across the Harbour. It was the perfect finale to a long day of shopping!


My favorite Hong Kong store, Shanghai Tang, has a small branch shop in the InterConti lobby. Always my first shopping stop, this is undoubtedly one of the must sees, must dos of Hong Kong, even if you don’t buy anything. Prices are high but so is quality. Check out the cashmere Mao sweaters, silk accessories and everything you didn’t know you needed. Of course, I did need to buy something! My new fuchsia leather iPad cover will be the envy of everyone at Starbucks and I’ve added another dachshund to my family. This one, in Shanghai Tang signature silk fabric, will be introduced to my doxie boys at home. There’s another larger Shanghai Tang across the road in the Heritage 1888 complex. The Mother Ship in Central has moved out of the Pedder Building and up the road and around the corner. Now at 1 Duddell Street, it pales in comparison to the original but is still worth a visit.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Woodbury Common Premium Outlets

My daughter, Elizabeth, lives in New York and we always look forward to a shopping day at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets when I come to town. I’ve visited most of the outlet malls around the world, researching Born to Shop, and unfortunately, the US malls often disappoint. Not so Woodbury Common! This is one of the best shopping adventures anywhere and it’s an easy one hour bus ride from Port Authority terminal in Manhattan. (When traveling in Europe, don’t miss the Value Retail Chic Shopping Villages ( I’ve begged the firm to bring their concept to the US; still waiting.)

Liz did her research and had a list of shops she wanted to visit including Rag & Bone, Lululemon, Le Creuset and Ralph Lauren. On my list were Diane Von Furstenberg, Tod’s, Etro and Bottega Veneta, among others.

Woodbury Common hosts about 220 shops offering discounts from 25% to 65%; some stores are the only brand discount sources in the US. Woodbury Common is home to high end designers including Ted Baker, Tom Ford, Valentino and Yves St. Laurent. The Tory Burch outlet is so popular, queues form at the entrance and a wait of 15 minutes or so is common. Worth it? Absolutely!

Note: The Chanel outlet store is no longer there.

A complete list of stores, along with a shopping map, is available on the company website,


We thought we’d save some time and money by booking our bus tickets online. BIG mistake!  Liz booked our transport and discovered that actual tickets weren’t printed. She got a voucher requiring her to go to a ticket booth at Times Square to redeem the bus tickets. With no time to do this, we paid for new tickets and she will request a refund for the original booking.

Mistake # 2 – There’s a promotion on the website for bus service to the outlets from the East Side of Manhattan. Great idea, we thought. Liz lives on the East Side and I was staying at the InterConti Barclay on 48th at Lexington so we would meet at the Waldorf Astoria, the pick-up bus location. When we arrived, we were herded onto the open top level of a city tour bus for a ride across town. We were dropped off on Eighth Avenue at 41st Street and had to walk six blocks to Port Authority to board the bus to the outlets. This exercise was a huge waste of time and we know now to just go to Port Authority, buy a ticket and GO! Do arrive early as lines start forming for morning departures about an hour before the bus rolls.

The Woodbury Common website lists several bus companies offering transport from Port Authority but in fact, once you arrive at the bus depot, there’s just one big long line for the ride. $42 round trip.


Liz: From Rag & Bone – one dress, one sweater, one pair of booties. From Ralph Lauren - two pairs of sandals. From Lululemon – Two workout tops, one pair of leggings. From Le Creuset – one very heavy dutch oven.

Me: From Ralph Lauren – one silk scarf. From Tod’s – Two pairs of signature Gommino Leather Moccasin loafers. From Kate Spade – one wallet. From Diane Von Furstenberg – one dress.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shopping Manhattan

A combination of luxe digs (InterContinental New York Barclay) and blustery weather tempted me to ditch my ambitious shopping plans but second thoughts prevailed and I hit the streets running… for a taxi! Since I only had one day to shop Manhattan, I moved from neighborhood to neighborhood with lightning speed.


·         Limelight Marketplace – A former Episcopal church, turned disco nightclub (NOT a good choice) and now shopping venue, Limelight Marketplace hosts about sixty stalls selling a variety of mid-priced goods including Hunter Boots, bespoke men’s clothing (Alexander West), and toys (Zakka Conceptual). Corner of Sixth Avenue and 20th Street,

·       Joe Fresh – Since Uniqlo opened in San Francisco (also three stores in NYC on Fifth Avenue at 53rd, West 34th Street between Fifth and Sixth Aves and in Soho at 546 Broadway between Spring and Prince) I’ve become a big fan of big box shopping for on-trend seasonal clothing. And need I mention inexpensive? This Canadian retailer outfits the whole family in chic cheap colorful basics. 510 Fifth Avenue, between 42nd and 43rd Streets.

·      Clyde’s Pharmacy – This is a fancy drugstore serving well-to-do Upper East Side residents, yet the staff is warm, welcoming and oh so helpful. Clyde’s has been around for decades and I shop there for hard-to-find travel size creams and shampoos from European and American manufacturers. Their hair clips will make you swooooon… 926 Madison Ave, near 74th Street.

·       Museum of Modern Art – Okay, we all know this isn’t a shopping destination, but their gift shop is one of the best museum shops in the world. I breezed thru the exhibits and then had a wonderful lunch at CafĂ© 2. West 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.


Check out French import Laduree at 864 Madison between 70th and 71st Streets, for the best macarons in the world. Expensive, but worth every penny. Award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan has opened a cookie company, Buerre & Sel, in the Essex St. Market on the Lower East Side. Decadent cookies made with local butter and French sea salt. You can satisfy your sweet tooth while shopping for $1000 handbags at CuRious, a candy store on the second floor of Cynthia Rowley’s new Upper East Side boutique.  Candy bars, toffee crisps, chocolate….. 43 East 78th Street, between Madison and Park.

Tomorrow… Off to Woodbury Common Outlets!