Journeywoman Ellen McNally is a Canadian citizen
who has lived in Hong Kong for over 14 years. She has been
a market researcher for the last twenty years, a shopping
expert in her part of the world and the author of, "Shop
in Shenzhen, an Insider's Guide." We asked Ellen
to share some of her shopping expertise with women travelling
to Hong Kong and China. Ellen writes:
Hong Kong locals want to find fabulous shopping deals, they
go to Shenzhen, the Chinese
city on the border of Hong Kong. Just 40 minutes by urban
(MTR/KCR) train from the centre of Hong Kong, this Chinese
border town offers up bargains not seen in Hong Kong for
over 20 years. In the past year alone, Hong Kong shoppers
have spent the equivalent of US$3.9 billion buying up good
quality products made in China. That's a lot of shopping!
1500 small shops...
best and easiest place to shop, especially if you
are short of time, is Lowu
Commercial City, a sprawling shopping center
with close to 1500 small shops selling everything
from dinosaur eggs (yes! real dinosaur eggs!) to high
fashion leather handbags. The mall is in a sleek blue
glass building at the exit of the Chinese border crossing.
While it's relatively
safe, the usual travelling rules apply: dress down,
leave your jewelry at home, shop with a belt bag and
bring a bag on wheels for your purchases.
Take the urban
train (MTR or KCR depending on your location) to the
Lowu stop. A return trip will cost you anywhere between
US$5 to US$12.
Pack your passport
need your passport and a visa to cross the border
into China. If you don't have a visa, you can obtain
(US$20) visa to Shenzhen at the Chinese border crossing
at Lowu, which is exactly where the urban train
drops you off. If you plan to return a second time,
then you will need to obtain this visa a second
time as well. For British passport holders, the
visa fee is US$58.
A note of caution
though -- by exception, US passport holders must already
have their visas before reaching Lowu or they'll be
fined. In Hong Kong, they should apply for it at the
China Travel Service
(there are a few branches in
the city) or at the Chinese Government Office
in Wanchai North and wait 1 1/2 to 2 days for it to
be processed. One-journey, two-journey or multiple-journey
visas can be obtained here.
At Lowu Commercial
City, the shopping mall, and throughout Shenzhen,
Hong Kong dollars are the preferred currency. At
LCC, you'll receive your change back in Hong Kong
dollars but elsewhere in the city, change will be
in Chinese Yuan.
The minute you
walk into the mall, touters for all kinds of goods
and services, from manicurists, to sellers of pirated
goods, restaurant hostesses, massage centers, and
tailors compete with each other for your attention.
Shopkeepers hang out of their doors trying to persuade
you to take a look. Everyone wants your business and
everyone is friendly. Be prepared to be overwhelmed
and unable to make decisions until the last few panicky
hours, when you finally get the knack of it and try
desperately to make up for lost time before taking
the train back to Hong Kong.
LCC shopping mall is a virtual maze. You'll get lost
-- a lot. And you will waste too much time finding
your way back to your favorite shops (but that's all
part of the game). Shops only display a shop number
and not a store name. When you see a shop you like,
make sure to ask for a business card. Since everything
is in Chinese on the card, except for the shop number,
make sure to write down what it was you liked there
so you can find it again. If you can't find it, try
to find your way to the bubble lift on each floor
in the center of the mall. This is where the floor
plans are displayed.
to the tailor...
of the biggest draws at LCC is going to the tailor's.
You can have clothes tailored quickly and for a fraction
of the price charged anywhere in the western world.
Getting the finished product can take from a few hours
to a few days. Many tailors can be found in stalls
surrounding the huge Fabric Market on the 5th floor,
on the far right as you exit the bubble lift. Tailors
usually have assistants walking around the 60 or so
fabric stalls looking for business. Check that they
speak English and let them introduce you to their
tailor. There are tailors on other floors as well.
Look for Rosie at 3120 or Helen (Shop 35B) on the
5th floor behind the electronic section.