Shop with confidence
by Richard Davis
As mysterious as travelling to the Far East may seem to most people,
shopping there for souvenirs or antiques can be daunting. Regardless of
whether your destination is Hong Kong, Bangkok, or Taiwan, you should do a
little research before embarking on any overseas purchases, especially if you're on a budget.
My first visit to Hong Kong was in 1988, and there already existed an
established marketplace for anything from genuine antiques to curios made for the average tourist.
HONG KONG — STROLL SHOPS AND SEE TREASURES
Hollywood Road is a favorite Hong Kong destination and the most famous
street for genuine Asian antiques. There you can stroll through ten's of
shops and see wonderful pottery from early dynasties such as the Han and
Since Hong Kong is still the major clearing port for items arriving
from interior China, there is a tremendous selection of goods in all price
ranges. Anything antique that you might purchase should come with a
certificate of authenticity from the merchant.
On another one of my stops, I ventured over to Kowloon via the Starr
Ferry, which crosses Hong Kong harbor, and went into a
government-sponsored store by the name of Peiking Arts and Crafts, which
sells both new and old Chinese items starting from as little as $50 U.S.
Everything from snuff bottles, to contemporary paintings, to antique
porcelain is sold at this popular spot.
Luckily all these destinations are still in business — there was some
concern after the changeover in 1997 that things might be different.
BANGKOK — TAKE HOME THAI TEXTILES
While in Bangkok, you may want to check out the River City shopping
complex, located in the heart of the city. This is very similar to
Hollywood Road in that a large group of merchants have gathered together
to form a unique area that specifically caters to Western tourists.
Many merchants speak English and prices are not only reasonable, they
are also very negotiable.
Southeast Asian oil paintings by local artists can be found in most
shops, and prices begin at about $300 U.S. and go up into the thousands.
Textiles, linens and fine silks are also at the top of my list because the
Thais make some of the finest in the world.
TAIPEI — PURCHASE LOCALLY PRODUCED GOODS
Taipei is not the emporium that Hong Kong is, but it offers a good
selection of Chinese arts and crafts, and bargains to boot. The Chinese
Handicraft Mart near the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, a government-sponsored
organization, sells Chinese porcelain, jade, bronze, lacquer, and
furniture at all levels of quality and price.
The Taiwan Crafts Center is another government-operated store with
locally produced goods. Both centers will ship items to anywhere in the
world and credit cards are accepted.
Hopefully, these few tips will help make your antique shopping
experience easier and give you the confidence to strike out on your own.
Richard Davis is an expert in Chinese ceramics, furniture, jade, bronzes, and sculpture and Japanese
works of art. He is a consultant to Beshar's Fine Rugs and Antiques in New
York, owns Richard A. Davis Asian Art, and responds to questions about
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