Letter From Asia – Drive-by observations from Steve Portigal

Core77 has just posted my latest article, a travelogue- Letter From Asia.

Hong Kong is a visually stimulating city–where bright neon signs stretch horizontally out from the buildings across the road and electric boxes are covered with graffiti advertising household services. Storefronts open to the street, and service windows for snacks of every kind proliferate.

The standard line about Hong Kong is that it’s a shopper’s paradise. But Hong Kong shopping seemed to be more about the shallower pleasures of acquisition versus the immersive indulgence of massive choice . Take Tokyo as a point of contrast: Tokyo’s Akihabara (or Electronics Town) is a place to find all things electronic. If you want USB cables, you choose from myriad lengths, each in a large variety of colors and translucencies. If you are a Rolling Stones fan, in the Harajuku neighborhood you will find a tiny store with an exhaustive collection of trinkets, books, and assorted Stones ephemera.

But in Hong Kong, shopping is more about bounty; quantity over variety. For example, Mong Kok is a neighborhood with several shopping areas, including Sai Yeung Choi Street, where you’ll see a crowded street with small stores selling the very latest digital cameras, mobile phones, and MP3 players. Next door will be a similar store selling a similar selection of gizmos, and three doors down will be another branch of the first store…and across the street will be yet another branch of that same store. A few chains occupy many of the stores, seemingly with little specialization. The point seems to be that there’s lots of this stuff here, so why not grab some? It seemed to work–people were actively buying.

There’s more about Hong Kong, as well as Bangkok, and India.


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