From discounted luxury brands to retail outlets and from fashion accessories to consumer electronics, there’s a place to grab a bargain on just about anything in Asia. Here’s a quick guide of where to go for cheap shopping in Asia.
Famous Places for Cheap Shopping in Asia
MBK Center, Bangkok
CC 2.0 / m-louis .®
Bangkok is one of Asia’s most vibrant shopping destinations and is home to the legendary MBK shopping mall. With eight floors and approximately 2000 shops that sell nearly everything under the sun, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for at the MBK.
It’s the kind of place in which you really can spend an entire day looking for that perfect handbag – if you want to. Part of the fun about shopping here is that you never know what you’ll encounter around the next corner, so it’s worth going back again and again to browse and buy.
Russian Market, Phnom Penh
Markets abound in Phnom Penh, but none is more atmospheric than Tuol Tom Pong Market, aka the Russian Market, the most popular market for visitors to the city. The main building is a grand, pale-yellow structure that you’d expect to see somewhere in Europe. Flanking it are makeshift stands that quadruple the size of the main market area.
CC 2.0 / Phalinn Ooi
Be prepared to navigate the mind-boggling and narrow lanes. I visited the market with the intention of buying souvenirs, and I was not disappointed. Every Cambodian memento was on offer, such as handmade wooden sculptures, jade and silver jewellery and Buddhas, and whisky-infused scorpions. It may be crowded and chaotic, but the Russian Market is indeed the place to shop for something other than the usual mass-produced postcards and key chains.
Guanghua Digital Plaza, Taipei
It may come as no surprise, but Taipei is electronics heaven, and Guanghua Digital Plaza is the place to pick up a tech bargain. Wading through the market, which for the most part is a collection of improvised alleyways, you’ll find cameras, laptops, keyboards, USB sticks and more, with individual merchants competing for the contents of your wallet. Local and no-frills brands line display windows and are available at a fraction of the price of major electronics brands.
But you can find those international brands here too, such as HTC, Acer, Samsung, Asus, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard. It’s a popular place for tourists, as market workers largely speak English. Just be sure to shop around, as you may find a better bargain for the same item elsewhere in the plaza.
CC 2.0 / ellery
The fashion malls, Manila
Manila is the place to go for some amazing finds, with shopping malls and markets stocked up with the hottest trends and brands of the season. One of the best places to do some budget retail therapy is at the Greenhills Shopping Centre. Located in San Juan, it’s a favourite for both locals and tourists, and it’s ideal for some one-stop shopping on the cheap.
If you’d like to escape the crowded malls and combine economical shopping with a bit of glam, the SM Mall of Asia is a must-visit. On the shore of Manila Bay, this is one of shopping mall giant SM’s latest developments. It offers great variety, with stores to suit all budgets and tastes. Don’t let its size and sprawl deter you; there’s plenty of budget-friendly shopping on all its floors.
Ladies’ Market, Hong Kong
They don’t call this the Ladies’ Market for nothing. Essentially, if you’re looking for cosmetics, jewellery, bags, shoes, lingerie, maternity needs or baby items, get ready to bargain at this lively and female-focused market in the Mong Kok area of Hong Kong. And as we know, the best places for genuinely cheap shopping in Asia are the street markets.
The market stretches along Tung Choi Street, with stalls also encroaching on nearby alleys. Compared with other markets in Asia, the Ladies’ Market isn’t as big, but the variety of the merchants keeps browsing interesting – it took me a long while to visit all of them.
And although I found shopping for bras and lacy underpants a little awkward in this very open space, I did enjoy shopping for everything else. One of the best things about market shopping in Hong Kong is that you’re never too far from food stalls and cafes. So when you get a little peckish from all the browsing and bargaining, you can simply pause, order something delicious on a stick, wash it down with a stimulating cup of coffee and continue – refreshed – on your shopping quest.
As with a lot of markets, haggling here is essential, but it’s important to exercise some common sense. For example, keep in mind that most ‘brand-name’ items are fakes. Nonetheless, enjoy the negotiations!
1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival, throughout Malaysia
The annual midyear Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival is my favourite global sales event. All of the malls and shopping centres in the country participate in this two-month shopping festival, during which you can find sales of as much as 70 per cent off retail prices.
Everywhere I looked, there were big red sale signs – and no shortage of competition. For example, one mall will advertise a product for 60 per cent off, but just across the street, you’ll find the same thing on sale for 65 per cent off. And a little farther down the road, you might just find it at a 70-per-cent discount. In a word: wow!
This is the one festival that turns the normally sensibly shopping me into a crazy consumer, so much so that I even had to buy additional luggage to bring everything home! But again, I got a great deal, so it was well worth it.