Shop till you drop in Hong Kong continues…

We had enjoyed our 3 days shopping in downtown Hong Kong but were ready to hit the big time. With our wallets stuffed full of cash, we boarded the train into mainland China to the shopping mecca: Shenzhen. We didn?t know what to expect at all ? the train from HK was filled with a gaggle of other women that all looked like they were on a similar mission to us (bag as many bargains as we could carry back to Hong Kong!) Let the adventure begin!

As you get off the train (note: visa for China essential!) you could be forgiven for expecting to see markets, similar to Hong Kong. Forget the markets honey! Shenzhen is mainly one building, 5 stories high packed with goodies to tempt Westerners addicted to labels. You will feel like you have died and gone to logo heaven! Make sure you dress for the occasion: you really need a good comfy pair of shoes as you will be on your feet all day. Also important is a wallet full of cash but don?t let that stop you from haggling, wheeling and dealing to ensure you get the best bargains.

As many of the world?s leading fashion houses have factories in the Shenzhen area of mainland China, the Shenzhen shopping centre has evolved as the global centre of copy handbags, shoes, jewellery, clothes, golf products and even toys! Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Hermes handbags, ties and scarves adorn many of the shop fronts. Be aware though, the really good copies are usually kept out the back and away from preying police eyes. The trade of copy goods is illegal in China; it is just that there is so much of it that police raids never uncover it all. This is one slick illegal trade of goodies! You should also be aware it is illegal to bring copy goods into Australia and customs may take your booty of fake goods should you be searched returning home.

The copy DVD market also flourishes in Shenzeng. It is really hit and miss as to the quality of them; new releases do tend to be of poorer quality and some are even taken by someone sitting in the theatre with a handycam complete with laughing audience noise and chip packet crunching!

There is a serious side to shopping in Shenzhen that you must be aware of when you go there ? it can be dangerous. Petty thieves and Chinese criminals do find Shenzhen an easy hunting ground for gullible travelers after those copy DVDs and handbags. The day we were in Shenzhen on of the Aussie chicks we knew had her bag pick pocketed and her wallet stolen while she waited in the Visa office for her passport to be stamped! She lost all of her cash for the day (about $2k Aussie) but was relieved to be safe and sound unlike some silly tourists that get in cabs with Chinese trying to tempt them with bargains further into China. DO NOT under any circumstances get in a cab or car with anyone promising your bargains or deals outside of the shopping centre by the train station. I know I sound like your mother sending you off on a school excursion but this is really no laughing matter as these people can mean business. Who really wants to risk their lives over a copy handbag or copies of the latest movies on pirated DVDS?

The good news is that you don’t have to leave the shopping centre for really good quality (or what the Chinese call AAA) goods that even a professional shopper will have problems distinguishing from the real thing. Shop around before you purchase, haggle with a smile as the Chinese love a laugh and many tourists from other countries (not naming names of course!) can be a quite rude to the locals and you will always score a better deal with a friendly face. If you see something you like don?t be afraid to ask if they have any better quality ones. They won?t be offended and may even scurry off to another shop or out the back for the better quality fakes that are more expensive but closer to the real thing.

If you have a hankering for Tod loafer and hangbags, Chanel handbags and wallets, Hermes ties and scarves, Louis Vuitton handbags, Burberry clothes, shoes and accessories, Prada handbags and loafers then this really is the place for you to shop till you drop! But you were warned! Be careful fellow shopaholics this is not a trip for the faint hearted!

By Ruby Harris freelance writer, weary traveller and self confessed shopaholic!