Where to buy knock-offs in Asia

Thursday, January 29, 2009
Fake handbags 'a plenty
Fake handbags 'a plenty

Okay, I'll admit — it's wrong to buy knock-offs. I've seen the ad ("Piracy — it's a crime!") time and time again; it seems to run as soon as I throw in a DVD from my collection of a hundred or so bootlegs. But it's time to come clean. A $1 pre-release, a $20 "Bolex" and a "Fucci" handbag for Mum are very tempting take-homes. So here's a round-up of where you can find some of the best faux-fashion and hot merchandise in Asia.

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is a wonderland for shady shoppers. You will easily exceed your luggage limit, and then some, after a few hours down the capital's winding sois. So where's the best place to get the goods? Depends what you're after.

Back tack

If you're looking to stock up on backpacker bootie, look no further than the dreadlocked mecca of Khao Sarn Road. Here you'll find all the music "the kids" are listening to, fishermen's pants and patchouli for pence, fake ID cards and those oh-so-stylish beer T-shirts that just say "class".

Digi deals

For tech heads, get on over to Pantip Plaza. This wonderland of factory seconds, software and dirt-cheap digi toys can keep you busy for hours. And though quality may vary, I'm happy to say that my, uh, friend bought a flashy camera, laptop and iPod at Pantip for pennies on the dollar years ago, and all are still in good working order. Just make sure to have your salesperson swap the preferred on-screen language from Thai to English before you head home.

Heaven for hard-core hagglers

Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest market in the world, so it's not for the faint of heart (read: leave the boys at home). About 300,000 bargain hunters brave the place each day in search of everything from fabrics to food, handicrafts to hens and chooks, and bed knobs to broomsticks. If you can't find it here, you didn't need it in the first place. Trust me.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Make sure to head up to Northern Thailand, the capital of which is Chiang Mai. Expect a cooler climate, delicious food and, of course, some awesome shopping. But be ready to bargain — prices can be a bit more inflated than back down in the big smoke.

Night-time's the right time

The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is an eclectic mish-mash of hawker stalls and shops offering all the "off the back of a truck" merchandise you'll see elsewhere in country, as well as great local nibbles (come hungry), tourist tack for Timbo and handicrafts for Nan. On nightly, from about sunset.

Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong is well-known as a shopper's paradise. In fact, according to most, shopping in Hong Kong is more than just a social activity — it's a serious sport, and not for the faint of heart!

All my single ladies, put your hands up

The Ladies' Market may be more popular with the fairer sex, but blokes after bargains are more than welcome. The purchase to pursue in Honkers is clothing. Sure, you can load up on your dollar DVDs, as elsewhere in Asia, but this particular street is teeming with threads from tailor shops to name brands off-the-rack. Nearby department stores cater to those who aren't so keen to haggle.

Beijing, China

If you're looking for cheap, China's the place to go. From sweat shops to swank shops, the People's Republic is home to both the very fine and the obviously faux. And so long as you're prepared to wade through some coal, you're sure to turn up with a diamond or two.

Shopping for labels, shopping for love

Sanlitun is the place to go for top-quality "hot" merchandise. At nearby Yaxiu Market you'll get better prices on all things knocked off than at the more popular Silk Market, and you'll be surprised by how spot-on some of the clothing and sports gear stands up next to originals. The "North Face" ski jacket and pants I bought in 2001 have been through every Northern and Southern Hemisphere winter on the slopes since then, and they're still going strong. Also a good place to stock up on your favourite television show DVD series.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

This is one of the few places you can still live it up as a millionaire (every Aussie dollar will get you about 12,000 Vietnamese dong). So be sure to arrive empty-handed, as the deals on offer in Indochina are bound to inspire any shopaholic.

The heat is on in Saigon

The "Socialist" Republic of Vietnam? Yeah, right. The dollar reigns supreme in old Ho Chi Minh and capitalism is the name of the game these days. Look no further than the city's Ben Thanh Market, a short stroll from the CBD, for a sight that would make Mao blush. Alongside the headless chooks and vats of fish sauce you'll find Hollywood hits on DVD available for a greenback, Nike shoes, Tag watches, Ray-Bans and more. It's a veritable duty free shop, married to an Asian wet market!

What's your take on knock-off shopping? If you indulge in a little dodgy retail therapy, tell us your favourite spots to snatch up bargains on bootlegs.

User comments
Stayed at the Rose Hotel twice during my Thai holiday and ALL of your comments were relevant, made my stay more enjoyable and I'll stay there next time I'm in BKK. When returning from Chiang Mai (with the XXcheap handbag) got a good deal at the Rose thru a late booking site.
Just read these comments, found that if you are being "hard-arsed" then the thumb rule is 33% of the offered price, I usually start with a good natured chuckle at the first price, be pleasant but be prepared to walk away if you cant agree on a price, you'll see the same thing "just down the road" and don't get aggressive because some traders can buy at better prices. If they say they cant sell at that price, thank them for their time and state that you'll continue looking. Face is important and civility cost you nothing. Picked up a woman's handbag which started at over 3000bht for 850, took time and exercise but the second stall I tried finally agreed when I did a quick check of the viable offers. AND they offered to do business whenever I passed that way. courtesy pays.
Tim you are a tight ***
Koreans make the best quality knock offs. They take pride in this. A nice t-shirt or hat will cost $5 or maybe $10.A jaket $15 or a bag for $50-200. These would cost $50 - $2000 from the factory stores. But not even the real designers themselves could tell it was a fake. And they will last as long if not longer than the real ones. Itaewon in Seoul is your best bet.
how about the philippines, green hills and divisoria Manila.. they have everything there and so cheap. and just an hour or two flight to the beautiful boracay island and bohol islands!
Just been backpacking Thailand top to bottom. I don't know where you can buy something fake like handbags or watches for a dollar. You can never actually find a bargain. HAGGLE and there are many different techniques. The cut the first offer in half and work your way to the price you want to pay. Next is the silent treatment and yes it works wonders. The walk away and come back with offers well below theirs. Finally the HARDASS hustler who will get what they want well under half of what the sales person was asking and yeah its not easy but is do able. What ever you pay you will always be ripped off. However remember this if the price you pay is what you were comfortable with paying then you have bargain, Some handbags at starting price are 3000 baht or $127 dollars Aus. I managed to buy one for 1100 baht or under $40 Aus. this was a good fake genuine. no threads missing, and it hasn't fallen apart yet so i believe i have done good. Thanks i hope some of this info can help.
How could you forget malaysia, Penang in particular and Phuket in Thailand for knock off shopping. They have some great markets for all this stuff and its not bad quality. Plus there is also Bali in Indonesia which is a mecca for shopping.