Hello from Hong Kong! Hard to believe it’s been so long (almost 9 months!) since my meatstravaganza post, but here I am again, and on the other side of the globe, no less. Time for some Culturesplosion: HK edition!
I’ve been living here for a couple of months now, and it’s a very different experience compared to a week’s vacation. With more time to explore slowly, I’ve uncovered a few gems, although I am sure there are still tons yet to be discovered.
One such gem is Dragon Centre (map!) or “西九龍中心”/”west kowloon centre”, located in the Sham Shui Po neighborhood of Kowloon. The easiest way to get there is via MTR subway. Once you step out of the station, you are totally transported into “old school” Hong Kong where the neighborhood is a little bit rougher around the edges (quite a contrast from most neighborhoods in trendier Hong Kong Island), but populated by nice locals. After walking past a couple of blocks of street hawkers selling the most random of electronics gear (oh look, a dusty power drill next to the 1980s-style home-stereo equipment next to the iPhone 5 cases!), you’re confronted by the big glass behemoth:
I’ve explored many a mall since I’ve arrived, and found this 9-story wonder to be among my favorites, both for selection and price. There are the usual big-box/chain stores which are conveniently located but not particularly noteworthy (PriceRite and Japan Home Center for household goods, Wellcome for groceries, obligatory 7-Eleven, Watsons drugstore, etc.) and mid-range clothing/shoe stores of every kind. There are also two arcades and even an ice-skating rink.
The best attractions, though, are the little independent shops situated either in little mall-carts that ring around every floor or in the “Apple Mall” on the 5th-7th floors.
These “box stores” are amazing. There are dozens and dozens of little shops, some no bigger than a walk-in closet, squished together selling all sorts of interesting and cute wares. I saw many 1-person nail salons creating crazy nail art (non-local that I am, I might be a little wary of the hygiene levels, but they also sell manicure supplies and decorations to do it yourself at home!), hair styling/extension shops, endless accessories boutiques that would put our American Claire’s to shame, arts & crafts stores catering to all your creative needs, and every kind of adorable mascot knick-knack your hoarding heart desires. This mall is fueling my Rilakkuma obsession like nothing else.
Best of all, everything of decent style and quality is still cheap. Cheaper than in Mongkok, which I used to think was the bastion of cheap shopping, but now has become more expensive as probably more tourists make the area a destination. As an example, very pretty hair ties found for HK$40 (US$5.61) in Mongkok were sold for HK$5 (US$0.65!) in Dragon Centre. Stationery supplies are almost half the price compared to what’s available on Hong Kong Island. And you can be sure everything is emblazoned with enough cute and color to satisfy even a resident of Ponyville.
Finally, when you’re done running around from shop to shop like a crazy person buying many many sheet of stickers, you can hop over to the dun-dun-dun FOOD COURT (8th floor) for some serious nosh of all varieties.
There are tons of authentic Chinese dishes available, of course, but also Japanese, Western-style, sweets/desserts and…Turkish! The one drawback is that many of the menus are in Chinese, so even I will have to decipher and taste everything gradually as I learn more characters, but enough places have English for a good sampling, and there are many sit-down restaurants scattered all over the entire mall itself which have English menus. They are definitely worth a visit as well.
If you still have the energy after journeying through Dragon Centre, I would also suggest a visit to the nearby Golden Computer Center/Gold Computer Arcade (map!) (HK is so loose with the “Center/Centre” spellings, really) where you can look for bargains amidst the insane crowds. Or, if nothing fancies you, you can always go to watch some K-Pop videos, playing on a multitude of screens in endless loop.
Happy consuming! You won’t need a lot of money to have a good time, I promise.