Rubbishy, she said. That's why I've never really seriously shopped before at the Ladies' Night Market in Mong Kok. Until this fall.
'She' was a British journo friend from long ago, describing the quality of merchandise at the Ladies' Night Market on Tung Choi St. But after a work colleague came back with interesting, un-rubbishy buys from the very same market, I thought I'd check it out myself the next time I was in Hong Kong. Filipinos are probably the world's best bargain hunters after all.
So off I went on the MTR, ascending from the Mong Kok station via the D3 exit. Now, you can map out the most conventional battle plan:
A) Electronics – From D3, land on Sai Yeung Choi St. South starting from the corner of Argyle. If you have the legs for it, walk south until you hit Dundas St. Count the 4th corner if you can't see any sign because of the dense, pushing crowd. (I, very stupidly, went on a Saturday!). Turn left, then left again, and enter Tung Choi Street to find...
B) Ladies' Goods – Walk the length of the Tung Choi Ladies' Night Market going north. Traverse the length of the Ladies' Street until you hit Argyle again, and then enter Fa Yuen to shop for...
C) Sports Apparel – Fa Yuen St. spans all the same blocks as 1 & 2, plus four blocks after you hit the Argyle intersection. It is Mong Kok's longest shopping street. So when you hit Argyle from the Ladies' Market, you can either turn right then right to go south or right then left to go north.
Of course, after ascending from the MTR station at D3, you can just walk around aimlessly—which is what I did. Here are the finds that made me overshoot my baggage allowance by 6 kilos. (Note: PAL is very forgiving if you did not buy your air ticket at a discounted price.)
1. Sleep Masks, HK$8, HK$9 each Passport Covers, HK$15, HK$39 each
I found these cute eye masks in a tightly stocked shop selling barrettes, headbands, clips, and sundry beaded things. It was near the D3 MTR exit along the stretch of Tung Choi between and Argyle and Nelson. I think.
I first stumbled along the Electronics Street (AKA Sai Yeung Choi) because the dense crowd pushed me in that direction. After a fruitless search for Kindle accessories in what was obviously iPhone heaven, I turned left twice and walked back to Argyle. All this in hindsight because I really didn't know where I was anymore amid the throng of people.
The printed cotton masks are HK$8 (Php48) each; skull and crossbones, HK$9 (Php54). Of slightly lower quality than the ones sold at Tickles (Php300). But at one-sixth the price, who cares?
I also found cute passport covers. A whole rack of them went for HK$15 each. A matte-finished fabric one with a pocket for stubs, cost HK$39. Only one piece in stock. Poshly cute. I couldn't resist.
Spent so far: HK$134; number of gifts so far: 10
2. Adidas Sleeveless Tee, HK$119
Crossing Argyle and walking along the northern end of Sports Street (AKA Fai Yuen), I found a small sporting apparel nook with goods of better quality compared to the other stores on that stretch between Argyle and Mong Kok Rd. The store is called Athletic City.
This sleeveless tee (from the Adidas Women's Running line) retails for US$28 on Amazon and maybe twice that at an outlet store. But I got it for the equivalent of US$16! The ClimaCool fabric (like Nike's Dri-FIT) makes it the perfect workout tee.
The store also sold pink shades in the exact same color as the shirt. But at HK$145, it was way too pricey for something not too posh-looking. You can get a better deal at Watson's (the Stanley Market one carried some pretty sunglasses last year) where good UV shades cost only around HK$60 a pop.
The nice guy manning the store gave me directions back to the Ladies' Street FOUR times (two using my map). I showed him the sleep masks I bought and we both agreed I must have already been there. Pathetic, I know.
Spent so far: HK$253; gifts so far: 11
3. Foldable Hat, HK$30
Finding my way back to the Ladies' Street (Tung Choi) by using the footbridge, as suggested by the Athletic City store attendant, I found a hat sold by a nice elderly, smiley gentleman. The hat is foldable and cap-less, like a visor. I asked how low the gent would drop the price if I bought two. He said two at HK$29 each. One dollar? He smiled. My tactics don't always work in Hong Kong.
The smiley gent was also selling umbrellas at HK$30 each. I told him I bought the same exact things in Causeway Bay earlier this year for HK$20 each. He smilingly asked if I meant Australian dollars. Funny.
The Ladies' Night Market is NOT the place to buy umbrellas. I discovered that the smiling gent's price was already low at HK$30. Other stalls were selling them between HK$40 and HK$80. Apparently the things are very popular here.
I got a good price for the hat. I saw the same exact hat in another store further along Tung Choi walking north. Price: HK$50. Also sold by an elderly, albeit less smiley, gent.
Spent so far: HK$283; gifts so far: 12
4. Purses, HK$10 each
I found a pretty girl selling cool zipped purses. Already a steal at HK$10 each, I asked the girl if I could get one purse free if I bought 10 pieces. Done. HK$100 for 11 purses? That's easily a third of the price of the cheapest (and not as pretty) purses in any Manila mall.
Spent so far: HK$383; gifts so far: 23
5. Draped Vest, HK$79
I found this at a popular Gothic-cum-dance-club-inspired store called Mirror. Every piece of clothing they sell is black and retails at bargain basement prices. If you buy a draped vest at Greenbelt 5, it will cost you upwards of Php1,200. And they don't even have the same quaint, Gothic-looking fabric. Each purchase comes with a nice cloth bag. What a terrific gift!
A saleslady told me 'No Pictures.' This being Hong Kong, I ignored her, snapped away, and told her she should be nicer. Then I bought three vests from a nicer saleslady.
Spent so far: HK$620; gifts so far: 26
6. Umbrella, HK$25
Looking around the many pricey umbrella stalls, I spotted a precious find—cute, square, and pink. At HK$45, it was more than I was willing to spend. I opened the umbrella. Lo and behold, a pinhole. Did the lady manning the stall have anything similar in stock? No.
I asked her what she was going to do with it? Would she sell it to me for HK$25? Cannot. HK$35. Really? No way, it has a hole! After a brief stab at getting me to shell out HK$30 for her defective goods, the lady relented to sell it for HK$25.
She asked where I was from. I said Manila. “Ah, okay to use in Manila for sun not rain.” Gee. Then, after a pause, “But you will not come back to me to return because defective?” Duh. I told her I was flying away the next day and, even if I weren't, wouldn't bother to return to crowded Mong Kok to retrieve HK$25. To which she smilingly replied, “I know, I know.”
The hole is much smaller than you'd expect given my reaction. A definite bargain. I was happy and decided to call it a day.
Spent so far: HK$645; gifts so far: 27 (But I'm keeping this pin-holed thing for myself.)
7. Umbrellas, HK$10, HK$20 each Purses, HK$20 each
On the way back to my hotel in Causeway Bay, I finally found my favorite transient shop anywhere in the former colony. Earlier this year, it was in a hole in the wall on Yee Wo St. This time, I found it in a hole in the wall on Sugar St. I have my suspicions, especially given the aloof, cautious, equally suspicious staff.
Now, this is the place to buy good quality umbrellas (not too heavy but won't collapse upon initial use). I also bought a couple of Anna Sui purses. Not knock-offs, just using the same metal beading technique used by Anna Sui a couple of years ago.
I bought a dozen purses last time. I didn't feel like going through a pile of them after my Mong Kok adventure, so I bought two. (The third one you see with my video-cam is from a previous visit.)
It took me 3½ hours to shop for 44 gifts and it cost me less than Php5,000, an average of Php114 per gift. I gave myself a pat on my tired back, went back to the hotel room, and drew myself a bubble bath. By the way, Bonjour sells one-liter bubble baths, which bubble terrifically, for less than HK$30.
Total spent: HK$855; total number of gifts: 44
Print ed: 02/12