Remember to crane your neck upwards and be not afraid to ring doorbells. Good enough unsolicited advice for anyone who wants to check out what is arguably the hippest shopping destination in Hong Kong.

Now Hong Kong, arguably, is really just this one huge shopping mecca that happens to have a Disneyland just recently. But for those in the hunt for a so-hip-it-hurts experience, it pays to look beyond the glitter of shopping malls and take a casual stroll along the streets of Causeway Bay. Once again, look for signs that point to shops located in top floors.

A friend of mine, who’s been living in Hong Kong for years now, told me about how locals (or Hongkese, as he calls them) are fond of imitating the Japanese when it comes to fashion and all things uber-cool. True. Because the one thing I remember the most from my brief sojourn I can sum up it three words: A Bathing Ape.

For the unaware, A Bathing Ape is this trendy Japanese label owned by a guy named Nigo who looks like your typical hip-hop-loving, bling-wearing kid in baggy jeans. The brand caught fire in the States, thanks in part to entertainers like Jay-Z and Pharell Williams. It certainly is catching fire among Hongkong’s hip set. And it can certainly burn a hole in your pocket if you splurge on a pair of jeans worth no less than HK$500 (in peso terms, that’s about seven times as much).

Options abound, though. And the Japanese aesthetic – both in fashion and in the stores’ interior design – is no less evident in most of the local shops like this little shop I found in Mongkok that sells shirts emblazoned with Star Trek characters. Dusty (www.dusty.com.hk), located along the same area, is akin to A Bathing Ape’s retro sneakers and trucker hat vibe.

Anyone who’s into vintage stuff can scour through stores along Lockhart Road and Jaffe Road on the north side of the main thoroughfare Hennessy Road (sort of like our very own EDSA). I chanced upon Retrostone, a shop that stays true to its name with loads of vintage Levi’s and cowboy-inspired flannel shirts. I found the store’s attendant scribbling prices on a chalkboard. If this is Hongkong’s version of the ukay-ukay, it definitely is a lot more expensive.

Another interesting store I found was Underground, which sells, in no particular degree of conspicuousness, boots, bongs (yes, they’re proudly placed by the wall) and hard-to-find vinyl albums, mostly Japanese imports, of course. The mood here is definitely industrial-slash-punk; the store itself resembles an underground club complete with a DJ booth. The store sells original UK-made Underground footwear, including to-die-for boots (that would make DMs-wearing people green with envy) and creepers (those platform shoes that Bono wears. Remember that photo of him and Bush walking on the White House lawn? ).

Causeway is also home to surf and skate shops, especially the area around Lee Gardens. Which prompted me to ask this pretty lady manning a store called Island Wake, “Is there a like a beach in Hong Kong where people surf?” Apparently there is, and her store sells snowboarding equipment as well. Is there snow in Hong Kong?

Another shop called 8 Five 2 gave me some sort of epiphany about vintage jeans. After engaging the guy at the counter in a little banter about the ultra-expensive Evisus, Sevens and Levi’s I saw, his eyes lit up when I said I’m from the Philippines. “Dude, I heard it’s the best place to find vintage jeans aside from Bangkok!”. Ukay-ukay images began popping up like thought balloons.

The truth is, the only thing I was able to buy at Causeway are ten pieces of stickers (bargained at HK$20 with two freebies courtesy of the guy I chatted with at 8 Five 2) and this red shoelace that would go well with this pair of vintage Nike Air Force hi-tops I scored UK-style in Baguio. But hey, if I had more time I would have definitely seen a lot more interesting shops and hopefully, be able to buy more stuff. Especially that great-looking Captain Spock T-shirt.

If you get yourself a map, Causeway Bay is somewhere northeast of Hong Kong Island. To get there, hop aboard bus number 74, which will traverse Hennessy Road. Ring the bell and get off once you see Sogo mall. From there, just walk around the area for that so-hip-it-hurts shopping experience.

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