Have passport, will travel—and shop. Traveling isn’t complete without bringing home a souvenir or two. But if you’re the type who has more than a keychain or snow globe in mind, check out our list of some of the top Asian shopping destinations.
From designer duds to tacky tops, Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise. The city is booming with malls and markets that cater to everyone—from the upscale shopper to penny-pincher—and all are accessible via taxi, train, or the infamous tuk-tuk.
Where to go: If you’re looking for designer wear, head to Siam Square, home to tons of high-end brands. For bargain-hunters, go to outdoor market Chatuchak, where you’ll find everything from beaded bags to vinyl records. Want to go shopping from day ‘til night? Spend a day at Asiatique at the Riverfront: this former international trade post has a mall open during the day, and a bazaar that comes up at night. Do your food shopping at Or Tor Kor (it’s right next to Chatuchak), a food market that’s supposedly a favorite of top chef Gordon Ramsay. But for a truly local experience, head to Pratunam, also known as Bangkok’s wholesale fashion district!
What to bring: Your bargaining skills. Vendors are used to bargaining—however, be polite as you haggle. And unless you’re shopping at Siam, leave your credit cards at home, as market vendors only accept cash.
It’s common knowledge that a lot of things are made in China, and what better place to get first dibs on them than in Hong Kong? A train ride away from Mainland China (Shenzhen is less than an hour away), Hong Kong has everything from clothes to electronics.
Where to go: Hong Kong is made of three areas: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories. Hong Kong Island is filled with mostly designer brands, and these can be found in Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Sheung Wan, and Wan Chai. If you’re looking for an arts-y alternative, stroll the streets of Soho for unique clothes, bags, and art pieces. Kowloon has streets full of shops and pocket markets. Tsim Sha Tsui and Nathan Road are lined with tourist-favorite shops, from Chinese candies and medicine to (slightly overpriced) electronics. For shoes and electronic needs, go to Mong Kok or Sham Shui Po. If it’s outlet stores you want to check out, head to Lantau, which is located in the New Territories.
What to bring: Credit cards for shops in the malls, and cash for street vendors.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
More into malls than street markets? Kuala Lumpur has mammoth malls that spell major retail therapy. Many hotels are even connected to malls to satisfy any last-minute shopping needs! It’s no wonder CNN Travel voted KL as the fourth shopping destination in the world!
Where to go: KL is full of shopping malls, but here is the top three worth swiping your credit cards for: Suria KLCC, Pavilion Shopping Mall, and Mid Valley Megamall. Suria KLCC is located at the base of the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers, so you’ll surely want to drop by this one (if only for that cliché photo op with the towers). The Pavilion is one of many malls that share real estate with a hotel (it sits on a 1.37 million square foot lot that also includes office space). Mid Valley Megamall is so big, it has two hotels, and a mall within it!
What to bring: Unlimited credit, if you can afford it!
Japan has a long tradition of handcrafted wares—from silk kimonos to the famed handmade kokeshi doll. It’s no secret that Tokyo is a bit pricey, so savor the culture and authentic sushi while you’re on a shopping frenzy!
Where to go: For “touristy” items, head to International Arcade, near the Imperial Hotel in Yurakucho. If you’re looking for fashion-related items, head to Ginza, which is Tokyo’s answer to New York’s 5th Avenue. Warning: the place gets really crowded, so if you don’t fancy spending time in a retail district, keep away from here. Into electronics? Shinjuku is the place for you: find well-known camera brands like Canon and Nikon in this area, as well as big brand Sharp’s showroom (more of a Panasonic fan? Head to Higashi on Shinagawa). Look for upscale, designer duds in Omotesando.
What to bring: A creative taste for all things fashion: it’s not unusual to see teenagers crossing the street while dressed like Lolita dolls.