If Washington, D.C. is all about politics and Nashville is all about country music, Hong Kong’s favorite pastime is easily shopping. We caught up with Jacquelyn Tryde, marketing assistant for the swank Four Seasons Hong Kong in the Central District — a chic native, and cultural ambassador for guests who want to learn more about regional cuisine and shopping.
The hotel is located in the Central District, a corporate area that’s home to banks, and yet—with its dead-sexy rooftop pool lined by curtained cabanas—it manages to feel as much about vacation as it does about business.
Jacquelyn likes to start her tours right in the neighborhood. “In some cities, the financial district is dead and there’s a lack of things to do. People work and then leave as soon as they get off. But in Hong Kong, this is the happening scene.”
In this town where shopping is king, she gets tired of hearing people recommend the Ladies’ Market, with its hard sells, and the Jade Market, with its “goods of questionable quality.” And she understands that, for real shoppers, the flower market and bird market aren’t terribly fruitful for travelers.
Jacquelyn loves mixing high-end pieces with cheap finds and bargain scores. Her own style is a unique blend of the cultures she embodies. “Mom’s Chinese, Dad’s from Denmark,” she explains. “When I am with my Mom we talk in Cantonese, and when Dad enters the room we switch to English.”
Still, her unique mix of East and West isn’t out of place in Hong Kong, which is often described in just that way.
“Homegrown Hong Kong girl here,” she nods proudly when I ask her if shopping is her favorite hobby. Here, her favorite finds:
G.O.D.: The name of this local brand, which sells everything from clever flip flops to playful Zodiac mugs, Double Happiness frames, and colorful glass chopstick rests, is play on a Cantonese phrase that means to live better. The English translation: Goods of Desire, and there may be no better place to pick up unique little gifts before heading home.
PMQ: This former apartment building in the cool SoHo neighborhood now serves as a multi-use work/sell space for local crafters and entrepreneurs. The mix leans heavily toward designers, and you can catch the next generations of artisans on their way up. Mondavi’s glamorous nightgowns and robes, for example, combine lots of black lace and saturated colors in elegant designs and sumptuous fabrics. The building is also home to a variety of bakeries, ice cream shops, and lunch spots and the courtyard often hosts live musicians on the weekends. The ground floor is home to more established brands, including G.O.D and Vivienne Tam.
Man Mo Cafe: “Our Chinese restaurant is pretty baller,” she says of Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons, the first Chinese restaurant in the world to get three Michelin stars. “Even guests of the hotel can’t get in if they don’t book in advance.” (Note to self: Must plan better next time.) For a quick lunch without months of planning she heads to Man Mo, just around the corner from P.M.Q. You’ll find duck dumplings inside red wrappers dyed with beets and brie and truffle dumplings colored with squid ink. These modern East-meets-West style plates are served up with fresh, equally bright blends from the juice bar. Can’t bear to lose shopping time? Jacquelyn likes Lan Fong Yuen for milk tea and Tai Cheong for still-warm egg custard tarts.
Cameron Road and Kimberley Road: “Locals in the know do not go to expensive malls for their perfume. They come here,” Jacquelyn explains. If you’re willing to brave these small, cramped, and exceedingly crowded shops in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood you can find all the same brands—in their original packaging—for as much as half off. Bonus: the stores have large samples of high-end make-up and perfumes for a couple dollars each, so you can try new beauty products without the risk.
Yue Hwa: One of the first department stores in Hong Kong, this no-frills stalwart continues to sell wares from the mainland at better prices than you’ll find elsewhere. Jacquelyn recommends the customized name stamps and the bespoke traditional Chinese dresses, both of which can be had cheaper here than elsewhere. The basement grocer hawks otherwise hard-to-find products from all over China, including her favorite indulgence: buttery record-shaped tea biscuits.
Tang Tang Tang Tang: Opened by Sir David Tang of Shanghai Tang and named for the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, this year-old housewares store extends his playful take on luxury to home goods and accessories. Look for fortune cookie-shaped salt and pepper shakers and silk scarves in striking zebra patterns.
Lane Crawford Warehouse Outlet: The outlet of this local department store is to Hong Kong what Century 21 is to New York. It’s not for everyone, Jacquelyn explains, as if already aware of my lack of patience: Expect to sift through bins in the hopes of finding discounted Prada pieces and other designer items from last season. Unusual designs can be slashed as much as 70 percent; timeless designs are more likely 20 to 30 percent off.
It’s a hike from Central, and no longer a secret, but Jacquelyn loves the sport of hunting for buried treasure here just the same. “I can dig through those bins,” she says, smiling wistfully, “for hours.”
By Sherri Eisenberg