Thursday, November 20, 2008

Asian shopping destinations

THERE are no borders for shopping aficionados, and the number of upscale Indonesian families traveling to top Asian shopping destinations has been on the rise over the past several years, especially ahead of Christmas and New Year. Take Hong Kong, for example, a favorite shopping destination. This country offers not only a shopping experience in giant shopping centers but also provides room for small and unique boutiques to develop.

Who can resist shopping in Hong Kong? Everything is available here, ranging from bags to footwear, and items at prices that won't drain your pocket too quickly. "Whenever I go to Hong Kong, I never have enough time for shopping," said Shinta, a businesswoman.

Causeway Bay is a large shopping area most frequented by foreign tourists. Here you can find various department stores, malls and small stores selling apparel, electronics and computer equipment.

When looking for bargains, go to Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Like Causeway Bay, here there are lots of stores selling various products such as electronics, apparel, souvenirs and jewelry. The difference between these two places is that Causeway Bay seems more conventional while Tsim Sha Tsui is more hip. More importantly, though, the prices offered at Tsim Sha Tsui are relatively lower.

Hong Kong is indeed a favorite shopping destination for middle-class Indonesians. Then again Singapore, which is closer, is also a popular shopping destination. "Indonesia is Singapore's largest market and this makes shoppers from Indonesia important," said Regional Director of Singapore Tourism Board, ASEAN, Chooi Yee Choong.

Indonesians can be seen, day and night, hunting for the best offers in Singapore. In the city-state you can easily find anything you need, ranging from daily necessities to lifestyle items. Shopping, dining and nightlife is available all around Orchard Road, the most popular shopping area in Southeast Asia.

As a tourist destination, Orchard Road is well known as a place that is open almost around the clock, with foreign tourists snapping up goods on sale. Here visitors may be stunned at how products can be offered at relatively low prices.

Meanwhile, if you want unique items, try Chinatown or Little India. Chinatown is under the skyscrapers in a financial area. It is colorful and lively, with people buying Chinese spices, herbal medicine and fruit. Little India boasts the only shopping mall in Singapore that is open around the clock: Mustafa Center, an emporium plus department store plus a 24-hour Aladdin's cave. Established in 1973, you can find everything here at the lowest prices in Singapore.

Every year, Singapore organizes the Great Singapore Sale and promotes the event in Indonesia. This year was the sale's 15th. The sale lasts three months and offers fashion goods, accessories, household equipment and electronics at discounts of up to 70 percent.

The Great Singapore Sale may be over, but that does not mean there are no more discounts on offer. Christmas and New Year are ideal times to shop in Singapore as stores often offer special discounts at this time of year.

Malaysia is also an up and coming shopping destination, but it is also more than that. With its tourism tagline of "Malaysia, Truly Asia", its tourist industry continues to develop and flourish. Malaysia continues to be innovative in the marketing of its tourism products. Promotions for the Formula 1 Malaysia, culture and arts, eco-tourism, culinary experiences and shopping have been intensified.

Tourism and shopping are two separate but complementary activities for tourists, especially when a country offers unique elements not found elsewhere. It is this aspect that the Malaysian government continues to develop in boosting its tourism. In terms of supply of goods, Kuala Lumpur seems comparable with Singapore. Outlets and boutiques selling goods of international brands can be found around Petronas Twin Towers, like KLCC Suriah, and in Bukit Bintan, which is as brightly lit as Singapore's Orchard Road.

Thanks to its contribution to Malaysia's economy, the promotion of shopping tourism has been intensified from one year to the next through innovation and new packaging. To bolster shopping tourism, the Malaysian government is organizing an end of year sale, previously called the Malaysia Year-End Sale but now called Malaysia Savings Sale 2008. This 38-day event is being held nationwide from Nov. 29, 2008 to Jan. 4, 2009. "Malaysia must find innovative and fresh ways to make this country more attractive to foreign tourists," said Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Seri Najib Tun Razak.

So, why wait? Just get your passport and money ready, and enjoy the shopping! (Burhanuddin Abe)

The Jakarta Post, November 19, 2008

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