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What sets apart a great travel agent from a mediocre one is the ability to understand the nuances of a destination. The travel agent who stands above the OTAs (online booking companies), and even their own peer group is the one who can explain to their clients the hidden alleyways and local eateries that can easily turn an ordinary trip to Asia into the extraordinary.
A big part of that is shopping, so here are my top picks for favourite markets to recommend in both Thailand and Hong Kong.
This tourist-friendly market is set in a quaint seaside location on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Away from the city, it offers a whole different feel and perspective on Hong Kong. This is a good place to shop for clothing, sandals, shoes, Chinese calligraphy, and other souvenirs. Even though it’s slightly touristy, it is colourful, and the shopkeepers are good-natured (not overly aggressive). After browsing the market, enjoy a fresh, tasty meal at one of the inexpensive restaurants and cafes along the sea. You’ll also get postcard-perfect views of traditional fishing boats sailing in the South China Sea.
One of my personal favourites! Located a block from Man Mo Temple, this curious street of antique dealers, curio merchants, and art galleries line Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Road in the Sheung Wan neighbourhood on Hong Kong Island. Exotic souvenirs, vintage Communist propaganda, antiques, jade, silk products, embroideries, and wooden handicraft items and antique door knockers are all on offer here. Cat Street has souvenirs you won’t find anywhere else. You might even wonder who buys this stuff! But it’s fun to poke around and imagine where the items came from. Once you are satisfied with your purchases, enjoy a beverage at one of the boutique cafes tucked away in one of the market nooks.
This night market in central Kowloon is quintessential Hong Kong. The goods on offer are pretty standard fare compared to most Asian markets but what makes this market special is the charged atmosphere. Listen to opera singers busking on the street, fortune tellers delivering their predictions, gamblers betting on Chinese chess, and much more. The food stalls serve up some of Hong Kong’s best street food, including clay-pot rice, seafood, and noodles. And while the items for sale aren’t necessarily the most unique, the prices are good. I managed to get the price I wanted for a few items which doesn’t always happen. Best purchase? A portable karaoke microphone that I pulled out just this past weekend.
Unlike some of the other markets in both Hong Kong and Bangkok, the Chatuchak market is only open on the weekend. If your clients are shoppers, I would actually build their itinerary around a weekend stay in Bangkok to take advantage of this market. Heralded as one of the largest in South East Asia, picking up a map of the market is a must if you plan to navigate it properly. My only failure on my last visit to Chatuchak was not leaving the boys in my family behind. This is not a market for the timid shopper. To really maximize the experience, it’s best to roll up your sleeves, loosen your purse strings and pack just a little bit of humour for the pending negotiations that are sure to take place.
One of Bangkok’s newer markets located on the Chayo Phraya River and is accessible by free shuttle boat from Sathorn Pier, which is also located beside the BTS Saphan Taksin stop. The air conditioned stalls filled with artsy trinkets and fashionable accessories can make street shopping feel downright civilized! Grab a Sour Issan Sausage on a stick and take a romantic spin on the ferris wheel that offers incredible views of the Bangkok skyline. I’ve heard some people lament that the market is too touristy, but I challenge that statement. Can you expect to pay a little more for items? Sure, but I found items here I didn’t see in every other street market of Bangkok and you can’t beat the atmosphere.
My first visit to this popular market was almost 30 years ago and while it has changed a thousand fold, expanding across several alleyways and packing in tourists no matter when you visit, this market holds a special place in my heart. I still have my teak wood mirror framed in hand carved tropical birds hanging in my childhood bedroom. I remember lugging that heavy treasure home with a smile of pride and complete satisfaction. And every time I return, I always find something fun to buy. What’s best, just as your feet are aching from all the walking and your back and shoulders are crying from carrying so many parcels, you’ll find an inexpensive massage shop on every corner and sometimes in between, each one beckoning like an oasis. Shopping plus spa equals a perfect romantic holiday complete!
Now that you are equipped with some expert tips on markets in Hong Kong and Thailand, try your hand at selling them along with any of Goway’s Hong Kong and Thailand promotional romance packages on special right now.
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