What goodies should we bring back to US from Hong Kong and Seoul?
October 27, 2012 2:42 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are traveling to Hong Kong and Seoul very soon. What are some things we should buy and bring back for ourselves and as gifts for family/friends/colleagues?

My husband and I will be in Hong Kong and Seoul in the near future, for about 10 days. We are setting aside plenty of time to shop (especially at the Kowloon night market) and would like to bring back some goodies for ourselves and for people we know.

We already know that having a tailored suit made in Hong Kong is an incredibly cheap and popular thing for men to do before returning to the States. What other things should we consider bringing back for ourselves? General info: we are both foodies, we love technology, I am a girly-girl who is into fashion and makeup, and we have cats. We don't want to buy expensive things or knockoff gadgets, but just things that are hard to find in the US that we might enjoy.

We'd also like to bring back some gifts for colleagues and family. For example, it's common at my office for employees to bring a non-perishable food treat when returning from overseas. Any ideas there? Tea? Weird-flavored crisps? Local candy?

In terms of family, we have lots of teenaged nieces and nephews and I have older sisters. I would like to bring back some fake designer wallets/clutches for the ladies but am worried about whether they will be confiscated at customs? One of my teenaged nephews is into fashion and clothing design, and the other is into science-y stuff and things that smart nerdy boys like. What should we look for there?

Please throw any ideas our way! Also, of course, general travel suggestions are welcome. We are DEFINITELY planning to wait in line for some amazing dim sum at Tim Ho Wan.
posted by joan_holloway to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
When my aunt goes to Hong Kong she brings her own fabric. She says the fabric selection there is oddly terrible, considering most of the fabric she gets here in the states and brings to Hong Kong with her is made in China. She gets fancy window shades and that sort of thing done there. However, she's there to visit family. I don't know how you find tailors without someone local dialing you in.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:55 PM on October 27, 2012

I wish I had bought more wall paintings/hangings...and that I had measured my space before my trip. They roll up very nicely and are infinitely cheaper than I could ever find here.

I did bring back coin purses for girls and memo pads in nice boxes or with covers for the guys.
Also purse hooks [again very cheap in HK] like this.
I also found nice credit card wallets and sunglass holders [again check quality].
posted by calgirl at 3:27 PM on October 27, 2012

If you're into makeup, there are two local stores pretty common on the Kowloon side called Sasa and Bonjour, both of which sell discounted Western makeup/skincare and Asian makeup/skincare. Their prices (depending on your own currency) are almost always lower than retail and some products have prices comparable if not lower than duty-free items at the airport. They have locations and HKD prices on their websites: sasa.com and bonjourhk.com

For nerdy-ish stuff (circuit boards, electrical goods etc), my go-to place is the Apliu Flea Market, full of weird tech goodies and scrap stuffs. For computer-related goodies, the Golden Computer Shopping Centre in Sham Shui Po is always a good bet.
posted by zennish at 3:39 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always regret not buying cool metal chopsticks when I lived in South Korea.
posted by bquarters at 4:53 PM on October 27, 2012

Ok, this is going to be a long post. I have tons of recommendations for makeup and skincare. You'll notice that a lot of them are Japanese, that's because almost all Asian makeup/skincare brands are either Korean or Japanese. You can probably find any of this stuff in both HK and Korea. Some of it IS available online or at Asian markets in the US, but at a very high markup. And shopping is fun.

1. Etude House Proof 10 Eye Primer: perfect, $5 dupe of Urban Decay Primer Potion (Korea, available at Etude House stores)
2. Nfu-Oh nail polish: fantastic holographic & flakies. (Seoul flagship) *also nail polish in general-- great selection of bright/sparkly/weird shades* Also Konad nail art stamps if you're in to that.
3. Skin Food Salmon Concealer: very unique consistency that is perfect for some. Super light and moisturizing without sacrificing pigmentation. (Korea, available at Skin Food stores)
4. Individually packaged face masks. Fun & cute gift with literally hundreds of options. Face-shaped towelette soaked in watery lotion. Not my favorite, but some people swear by them. (any drugstore or standalone store)
5. Shu Uemura products, which are no longer sold in US stores. The one item that has no American equivalent is the Shu Uemura Brow Pencil: legendary product, twice as long and effective as anything you'll find in the US. (department stores) *side note: Asian brow products in general are great (pencils, powders, etc)*
6. BB Cream, if you have light skin. Apparently American brands have started to produce this stuff but I have heard that the offerings from major brands (L'Oreal etc) are nothing like the real thing. Suggest going to drugstores such as Watsons, SASA or Olive Young where they have dozens of options to try. (HK and Korea, but possibly better selection in Korea)
7. If you like your lipstick sheer, moisturizing, and sweet-smelling, you will enjoy the offerings from Korean brands Etude House, Missha, Skin Food, etc.
8. Girly-girl packaging is very popular in Korean/Japanese makeup (I mention Japanese makeup because it's very widely sold across Asia). However, be warned that pigmentation is generally lacking in items such as eyeshadow or blush. Might be a good choice for younger teens who are still in the playing-with-makeup stage.
9. Cleansing oil: really fantastic alternative to makeup remover. Many different brands available-- I think the most popular is Fancl but don't think there's much difference.
10. Hada Labo skincare products. Hada Labo is sort of a wildly popular Japanese Neutrogena, I think. They make a very affordable AHA+BHA cleanser and an utterly amazing line of products called Super Hyaluronic Acid. The main item is the tall bottle, second from the left, which is called toner. When Japanese people say "toner" they don't mean the harsh astringent, they mean a watery lotion. Just a couple of drops is extremely moisturizing without being greasy or oily at all.
11. Mandom Barrier Repair products are a cult favorite on Makeup Alley for people with dry skin.
12. Japanese sunscreen. There are so many different kinds so you'll need to do research if you're interested. Suffice to say there's a myriad of consistencies available-- jelly, watery, foam, powder-- and it's all very high-quality and mattifying.
13. Fiber mascara-- check out Fiberwig, Dollywink, Kiss Me Heroine Make, Majolica Majorca, etc. Smudge-free city. Don't forget your Kiss Me Heroine Make mascara remover because otherwise you'll have a hell of a time getting some of this stuff off.

As for clothes shopping, I haven't been to HK in ages, but you will enjoy Dongdaemun or Nandaemun markets in Seoul. Lots of random cheap trendy items (think Forever21). If you're on the smaller side and wear leggings/jeggings, you're in luck-- you'll be blown away by the variety and selection. Also if you have a small chest you might want to buy bras, either from a market stall or a real store. Knockoff bags are fine to bring back; I think you'd only run into trouble if you brought back hundreds with a clear intent to resell.

A lot of Korean packaged snacks feature seafood, particularly shrimp. Shrimp chips are pretty good, dried fish snacks not so much (but clearly, a nation disagrees). If you go to a supermarket look for this tea; it's basically marmalade that you stir into hot water and has ingredients such as citrus, ginger and honey that are great for a sore throat.

Enjoy! If you see a guy on the street pouring batter into a fish-shaped mold, buy some, it's delicious and filled with red bean!
posted by acidic at 11:19 AM on October 28, 2012 [10 favorites]

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