Go with the Float-ation Shoppers in Hong Kong

by edapeters

Floatation Shopping is a brand new concept in the sphere of retail therapy, and one that’s pretty well exclusive to Hong Kong

Much of Central district is linked by overhead walkways bridging busy roads and weaving their way through a quintet of premiere malls (www.centralhk.com and www.ifc.com.hk) which are all sited above the MTR station.
Dedicated shoppers can spend a day or more navigating their way through myriad boutiques and stores without ever once setting foot on a pavement or pausing at a traffic light.

The Landmark’s the place to start, anchored by Harvey Nichols (3695 3388), and piled high with designer label boutiques from the gorgeous Gucci (2524 4492) to Jimmy 'rhymes-with-shoe Choo' (2525 6068) to home-grown Hong Kong designer Vivienne Tam (2868 2726).

The Who’s Who of upper crust retailers here is nothing if not extensive and includes Louis Vuitton (8100 1182), Tiffany & Co (2845 9853), Sonia Rykiel (2525 6048), and Ralph Lauren (2869 0388).

Prince’s Building lies a few minutes’ stroll away. There are international names spread about Prince’s five regal floors – take your pick from Brooks Brothers (2523 3366) or Calvin Klein (2530 3632) and a particularly healthy crop of jewellers: Van Cleef & Arpels (2522 9677), Cartier (8105 5008), and Piaget (2525 5575) to name but three.

However there’s a more home-spun feel to its purlieus. This is partly imbued by a number of children’s outlets, such as Wise-Kids Educational Toys (2377 9888) but – more importantly – by the bespoke business that is very much part and parcel of Hong Kong shopping. Ascot Chang (2523 3663) first set up in an unassuming townhouse in the then Crown Colony back in 1955, and five decades on, has become a byword for the very finest tailoring. Decreeing 22 stitches to the inch for a shirt may seem excessive, but it is simply routine for the house of Chang.

Alexandra House might be described as the junior member of Central’s shopping clique, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Abutting the Landmark and Prince’s Building, and revolving around an especially frenetic Starbucks outlet, Alexandra provides a roll call of celebrated names. Burberry (2868 3511), and Prada (2522 2989) run to two levels, Ermenegildo Zegna (2868 9638) and Yves Saint Laurent (2868 0092) stick to the ground floor, while Tse (2147 3033) is to be found on the second. One of the pleasures of shopping in this part of town is the Central Concierge (2500 0555) – a multi-lingual team who remain on call during shopping hours to provide directions, advice and other essential information on all the commercial operations in Alexandra House, Prince’s Building, The Landmark and Chater House.

At Chater, Bvlgari (2523 8057) gets a look in on the ground floor, but elsewhere the building is almost singularly devoted to the Armani empire (2532 7728), in all its delicious shapes and forms. On the non-threads side, there’s Armani Casa, Dolci and Fiori, as well as Giorgio Armani Cosmetics; and to augment the wares in Emporio Armani and the flagship Giorgio Armani stores, there’s also a GA Cosmetics. The Armani Bar does sterling work as a suitably hip oasis.

Striking north, Floatation Shoppers are lead out of the air conditioning above Connaught Road Central and past the General Post Office into ifc, as the International Finance Centre styles itself.

Unlike neighbouring malls which have grown up in a slightly piecemeal fashion, ifc was designed from the ground up, and while it is new, it’s home to a very Hong Kong institution. Lane Crawford (2118 3388) is the Harrods or Macey’s of Hong Kong, tracing its antecedents to Victorian times but with some very modern styles on offer nowadays.

Another long-established partnership, Gieves & Hawkes (2234 7220), acts as a magnet in ifc, especially for mainland Chinese who flock here in search of bespoke suiting that’s the antithesis of Mao jacket and trousers.

Elsewhere in ifc, fashion rubs its comfortable shoulders with jewellery, and personal care and beauty makes a solid showing as well. A stroll along a single gently curved podium, happily lit by the marine vistas outside, might embrace the likes of Zara (2234 7305), FCUK (2234 7787), and Agnès b La Loggia (2805 0678); Links of London (2295 3328), Swarovski (2234 7126) and Swatch 2376 3909; and, Estée Lauder (3188 9313). Samsonite (2295 3055) and Victorinix (2730 1847) provide plenty in the way of travel accessories, and Dymocks (2117 0360) stocks a heady supply of books, magazines and stationery.

Floatation Shoppers in need of assistance can drop by the ifc concierge desk – on Level One (2295 3308) next to the multiplex cinema – which provides free photocopying, faxes and scanning, mobile phone charging, sweets for children (no age limit) and a wealth of pointers on where to shop and eat.

edapeters

A two-year round-the-world trip in the early 90s ended in Laos mere months after I'd set off from London for that time-honoured reason: zero cash. Took a boat over the Mekong (no bridges in those days), jumped the train to Bangkok, flew the credit card to Hong Kong, and got a job within a week. And like Mrs Lot, from that moment, I've never looked back. Somehow my rucksack has grown exponentially into a house and garden and similar impedimenta - but it's a rare month that I'm not travelling somewhere, preferably with my Kinshasa-born, Chinese-speaking, Flemish wife.

Over the years I’ve contributed to numerous guidebooks on Hong Kong, edited three editions of Asia’s Best Hotels & Resorts, and am currently working on a new guide to private villas in the region. I’m also Senior Editor at Large for AsiaSpa magazine, and have written for other publications such as Gourmet Traveller, Business Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Los Angeles Times, The Australian and The Scotsman.

This SimonSeeks guide was actually inaugurated by Teresa Machan, who writes:

A travel journalist with over 15 years’ experience, I lived in Hong Kong in exciting times – before, during and after the Handover. Before a stint at regional travel magazine Holiday Asia, I worked on the Hong Kong Standard and edited Concierge, the Hong Kong Hotels’ Association magazine. Cutting my teeth on some of the world’s finest hotel stock I chewed the fat with top chefs, interviewed the city’s finest Swiss-finished managers, and sampled some of the best Chinese food on the planet. Since returning to the UK I have written extensively about Hong Kong for magazines and newspaper travel sections, and I also edited a Smart Guide, published by Insight. One of the most fun stories I’ve done was for the Telegraph’s Ultratravel magazine. Hanging out in some of the city’s most glamorous spots, I had dinner with designer Barney Cheng, lunch at the hallowed China Club with philanthropist and society high-flyer Warren Mok, and benefited from some top tipster advice in the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s member’s box.
But I’m just as happy hanging out in flip-flops and slurping noodles with the locals in my former home, Lamma Island.

These are some of our favourites around Hong Kong

Best for people watching

From the upper deck of a tram as it trundles around Sheung Wan, Central Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Happy Valley.


The most breathtaking city view

From The Peak or with a cocktail at Aqua (29th and 30th floor, One Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui).


Lunch at the China Club
Tuck into hairy crab dumplings and watch the world turn on a high-decibel axis of lazy Susans. Members only but hey, this is the world’s greatest networking city!

Best cheap thrill
The pungent cross-harbour whiff of industry; the sailor-suited deckhands; the creak of the gangplank, the view… it’s quintessential Hong Kong. (ie Star Ferry)

Favourite walk
The day you are due to leave Hong Kong, drop your bags at the in-town check-in, catch a ferry to Lantau, then walk over the hills to Tung Chung (it takes a couple of hours) and cab it to Chek Lap Kok (you can grab a shower in Departures). Sensational scenery - woodland, waterfalls, small farms, open countryside - and what a way to combat DVT!

Best new attraction

1881 Heritage – A former downtown police station converted with a fair degree of sensitivity into a hotel, restaurants, and a swathe of designer label shops.

Don’t leave without...
Taking the MTR to a station that’s not mentioned in any guidebook, and plunging outside to explore.

Favourite dining spot
China Beach Club in Mui Wo – superb Mediterranean food and marvellous maritime location. Dogs welcome. Huge portions. Warsteiner on tap, likewise banter with the resident chorus of cook, owner and passing folk.

The best spot for some peace and quiet
Sir Edward Youde Memorial Pavilion, towards the northern end of the Wilson Trail above Luk Keng in the north-eastern New Territories. An incredible amalgam – 100% rural New Territories to the fore, with Mainland container terminal and TV mast on the horizon. Quiet as the grave, and only about ten minutes’ walk from the road-head.