7 Insanely Gorgeous Asian Cities for the Shopping-Obsessed Traveller
We're sure you've compiled more than a few travel bucket lists that include daredevil trips and natural wonders to see before you die, but we want to add one more: the shopping bucket list. We'd love nothing more than to hike Machu Picchu or float in a hot-air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey, but sometimes we just want to take a vacation where the only physical activity required is lifting shopping bags from one market or retail store to the next.
But seriously, there's more to these shopping trips than just consumption of fashionable goods. Aside from the very cool threads and designer wares, the seven Asian cities we're about to highlight allow you to immerse yourself in some seriously inspiring culture and tradition that can't be bought. So grab your notepad, jot this stylish bucket list down, and start planning your next vacation. You're welcome.
Why Visit: If you love a good market haul and sourcing rare finds, you'll love the colorful markets of Hong Kong. But these eclectic side streets aren't the only place to shop up a storm, and according to Lonely Planet, its reputation as a "bargain hunter's paradise" is quickly becoming a thing of the past. You'll find almost all the luxury brands you know and love in this bustling metropolis or all under the one roof at the famous high-end department store Lane Crawford. And the streets are brimming with stylish trendsetters, so make sure you keep a camera ready.
If street style and original designer wares are your catnip, then head over to the EDIT. This cult womenswear store is renowned for it vibrant, hip collections. Don't miss a trip over to the Horizon Plaza located at Ap Lei Chau, an island off the south of Hong Kong. It's home to all the designer outlets (including Prada) with discounted goods across fashion and home furnishing brands. If you're looking for affordable but on-trend pieces from sunglasses to footwear and jewelry, head over to Square Street.
But if it's bargains you're after, visit during the peak sale season. Discover Hong Kong says to go between December and February; during Christmas and in the run-up to Chinese New Year is when you'll score the most bargains.
Where to Shop: EDIT, Lane Crawford, Square Street, IFC Mall, Landmark Mall, Pacific Place, Harbor City, Horizon Plaza, Granville Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, and street markets on Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei
Why Visit: If you really want to step up your retail game, book your next trip to Shanghai, aka the Paris of the Orient. Aside from the malls (and there are many), there are several famous shopping streets, including Nanjing Road, that attract thousands of stylish travelers from around the world. We recommend wearing some comfortable shoes, and only serious shoppers need apply here, as there are over 600 specialty stores along this strip. If street shopping is up your alley, then there's plenty of on offer in Shanghai—bookmark these markets before you go.
You should also dedicate some serious time at the many Shanghai malls, too, as they really are spectacular. We recommend IAPM Mall for all of fashion's biggest names from Stella McCartney to Chloé, Balmain, and Michael Kors. Or try Cloud Nine, a 58-floor skyscraper of clothing, food, and more.
Why Visit: If you want to escape the malls, then make a beeline for Taipei's famous Shilin Night Market. This vibrant cultural hotspot is the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere like a Taipei local. Hundreds of food stalls line the streets with traditional cuisine of all flavors, and the side streets are brimming with unique little shops, roadside stalls, and vendors selling fashion, trinkets, and souvenirs. If it's a bargain you're after, don't miss wholesale prices at Wu Fen Pu. This gigantic outlet is a literal maze of women's apparel, and Guide to Taipei says you'll walk away with a full wardrobe for next to nothing.
These bustling street markets and alleys offer so much more than shopping. It's a visual feast of energy and excitement. Be sure to keep your camera ready to capture it all.
Why Visit: Bali might be renowned for its insanely beautiful beaches, cliffside resorts, and infinity pools, but there is so much more to this coastal destination. It's a mecca for interesting shopping and locally made designer garments. In fact, many Australian designers have their collections made in Balinese factories. You can also have unique items handmade by the local tailors, from fashion to handbags and even shoes. Just make sure you get them to measure your body and feet first since their sizes are different.
But clothing aside, Bali is filled with local artisanal makers who specialise in carvings, hand-painted batik, and intricate woodwork. These artifacts don't come cheap, but they are definitely worth every cent when you consider the hours that have gone into making them. Besides, they will be a welcome addition to your interior when you get back home.
Why Visit: The insane levels of shopping Tokyo offers are very well documented (and if you haven't been there, then please add it to your bucket list of places to shop, by all means) but for the purpose of this story, we wanted to highlight another region of Japan that's lesser known but still up there as a must-visit.
Enter: Yokohama. We're told by fashion insiders that this is where all the die-hard fashion crew goes for unique threads no one else has. You only have to experience the hip store Neighborhood in the Minato Mirai district to see why they flock here. Its "contemporary lodge-meets-old school military surplus store" vibe is insanely cool.
Next stop is the futuristic port of Minato Mirai. Everything you could ever wish for is here, from fine dining to shopping, culture, and entertainment. They even have a Ferris wheel with a roller coaster at Cosmo World (night rides, anyone?). Then head over to Motomachi. This five-block-long stretch of shops has cafés and boutiques with luxury brands mixed in.
And when you're not shopping, be sure to visit Landmark Tower, the second tallest building in Japan. The Sky Garden observation deck on the 69th floor has 360-degree views of Yokohama, and we're told you can even see to Tokyo and Mount Fuji on a clear day. Don't miss Yokohama China Town either, with restaurants and food stalls galore, not to mention visual eye candy as you stroll the alleys.
Why Visit: When we polled the office on their must-visit city to go shopping in Asia, there was one almost resounding answer: Singapore. This immaculate city is brimming with malls, specialty stores, designer wares, and boutiques. Oh, and it also gets major brownie points for the ridiculously good food available for those much-needed retail therapy breaks. But not only that, the architecture of some of these malls is a sight to behold; just take ION Orchard or The Paragon. Not to mention the interior design. You have to take a walk through the striking Louis Vuitton store.
But glistening malls aside, Singapore is also known for its smaller boutiques that house home-grown brands and local talent. Be sure to head through the side streets and check out the local designer wares. CNN traveler recommends visitors start with Haji Lane, "a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shopping street in the heart of Singapore's Arab Quarter."
Why Visit: Not unlike many of the cities featured in this list, Bangkok offers a plethora of interesting markets, but we're told the Chatuchak Weekend Market is the market to end all markets. Just its size alone will impress you with hundreds of stalls offering clothing, vinyl, jewelry, and more. Be sure to get your bartering skills in order before you leave, as "haggling is encouraged." It certainly makes for an action-packed and highly animated shopping experience. For more of this, head over to the night markets on Khao San Road, which is full of interesting local and counterfeit items at affordable prices.
But perhaps one of our favorite reasons to visit Bangkok is the floating markets. Visually these are super impressive with their boats piled high with colorful fruits and vegetables food cooked fresh before your eyes. Continuing on the night bazaar theme is Asiatique, but this is more mall than a market with over 1500 boutiques and 40 restaurants.
But once you've done a few of the markets, hit up Central World, the largest lifestyle shopping destination in Bangkok. To give you an indication of how big it is, there are even cars and motorbikes for sale. Go up to the seventh floor to visit the gourmet market with fruit, vegetables, beverages, a bakery, and food galore.