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 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.
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".
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 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.
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.