Hong Kong’s Best Independent stores

by edapeters

Sidestep Hong Kong’s malls and international chains for a clutch of free-spirited independent stores

It’s more or less universally acknowledged that Hong Kong is run by large corporations that put their heads together so that they won’t bid against each other for contracts. So it’s all the more heartening to find a host of independent stores, run by passionate entrepreneurs who’ve come up with a designer label that maybe you just haven't about yet.

Fashion leads the pack, with a number of designers beavering away in their own ateliers, often with an exclusive A-List clientele. Voulez Vous (Shop 4, G/F, 3 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay; 2806 2616) stars ahead-of-the-curve, one-off eclectic fashion, while DYOS – Do Your Own Shoes – (1/F, 33 Yiu Wa Street,Causeway Bay; 2204 3043) features a huge range of women’s shoes, which can be altered to taste. Bank on paying about HK$800 a pair.

Cheongsams are the quintessential Chinese garb, and Leung Ching-wah of Linva Tailor (38 Cochrane Street, Central; 2544 2456) has been in business for the best part of half a century. Off-the-peg numbers of these figure-hugging dresses cost about HK$2,000.

Ecols (8-10 Gough Street, Central; 3006 4918) showcases clothing and accessories which are all made from recyclable materials. If Ming Kee’s (30 Bowring Street, Austin; 2730 4815) hand-made shoes are good enough for Jackie Chan, then surely they’ll fit you? The shop appears to be in some disorder, but like a cluttered desk being the sign of a genius, it’s simply that they’re concentrating on getting your shoes right, with no time for fussy cleaning up. Expect to pay around HK$1,600 and up.

Something for the home makes for an ideal souvenir. Interpret (5 St Francis Street, Wan Chai; 2838 3408) specialises in antique homeware and furnishings, with prices from a few hundred HK dollars to many thousands. Out of Stock (12 On Wo Lane, Central; 2369 6008) is an inspired name from somewhere that hosts 1960s gear, from clunky cameras to Scandinavian memorabilia. And Tang Gallery (60 Fung Tak Road, Diamond Hill; 2329 8811) has a glorious assembly of handicrafts from all around Asia.

Tea is another great Chinese takeaway, and Sun Sing Tea Shop (32/F, Soundwill Plaza, 38 Russell Street, Causeway Bay; 2832 2889) sells tea cups, tea pots, and loose-leaf teas of all persuasions. In a similar sort of vein, Man Kee Chopping Board (G/F, 340-3 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei; 2332 2784) sells not just chopping boards, but everything for the kitchen. Shanghai Street, incidentally, is crammed kitchenware shops, interior designers and builders’ merchants.

Hong Kongers are great collectors, partly with an eye on investment, but also purely as a hobby. White Noise Records (1901, Workingview Commercial Building, 21 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay; 2591 0499) puts paid to the myth that vinyl is dead, and also sells tickets for upcoming gigs by alternative bands.

Photography buffs will find much to enjoy at Lomography (2 Po Yan Street, Sheung Wan; 2915 2205) with its selection of first-edition cameras and other paraphernalia.

It’s a rare main street in Hong Kong that doesn’t include at least one shop selling watches. But for classic, vintage timepieces, dating from the early years of the 20th century to more recent times, there’s no substitute for Good Old Days (4/F, World Trade Centre, Causeway Bay; 2116 0088). A 1930 Patek Phillipe will set you back about HK$120,000, but there are cheaper options available.

Looking for an antidote to Kindle? Lok Man Rare Books (6 Chancery Lane, Central; 2868 1056) should be the first port of call. Another bookshop that looks more like a private library, Indosiam (89 Hollywood Road, Central; 2854 2853) is also well worth dropping by. If you don’t see what you want, the owner, retired French teacher Yves Azemar, can very probably source it for you.

For more mainstream books, try Flow Books and Music (1/F, 40 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central; 2694 9483). It’s a labour of love – and second-hand heaven. I love this place, and have to set myself a budget before I cross the threshold.

Finally, if for some reason you haven’t been able to find exactly the right Hong Kong souvenir, Global Handicrafts (2 Castle Peak Road, Tuen Mun; 2272 9333) may have the answer. Run on strict fair-trade principles, it’s also a charitable venture supporting refugees throughout the Third World.

The proprietors of many of these stores are often both messenger and manager, running the place single-handedly or with minimal staff. It’s best to call ahead to check (sometimes eccentric) opening hours, and to verify the address, as they do have a tendency to move at short notice. The Yellow Pages online map – www.ypmap.com – is invaluable for searching out the more obscure addresses as well as indicating how
best to reach them.

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.