Happy hunting

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 12:00am

As a duty-free port, Macau is a haven that offers cheap alcohol, gold and electronic products. Textile manufacturing is one of the enclave's biggest industries, and fabrics and clothes sell at good prices. The textile industry produces clothes for designer labels, and seconds or items from discontinued lines are often available. Most clothes shops are concentrated around Senado Square.

Macau is probably best known among shoppers for its rows of furniture shops selling antiques and reproductions. A pleasant contrast to Hong Kong's large malls and crowds, Macau has small shops on narrow streets and fewer people, making for a pleasant and leisurely shopping experience. In general, bargaining is expected. Most furniture shops are clustered along two lanes, Rua de Sao Paulo and Travessa Da Fortuna Sao Paulo, near St Paul's Church, off Senado Square.

Some claim to stock antiques, although authenticity is sometimes in doubt. We were told that some shops display misleading price tags, so tread cautiously. After visiting the first few shops and seeing a number of similar pieces, the furniture pieces tend to blur into one piece. If you find a piece you like, decide what you think it is worth and bargain accordingly.

Shops can be crammed ceiling high, while others are better organised and spacious. Many shops stock reproductions of traditional Chinese styles ranging from wardrobes and chests to chairs and boxes. Most shops will custom-make furniture to specific orders, changing colour, size, number of draws, doors and handles to your liking.

A made-to-order bed base at Pui Lung Funiture, No 9 Rua de S. Paulo (tel 853 358 261) costs about $3,000. Further along at Va Ngai (No 26, tel 853 365 848), a bed of similar proportions costs about $7,500. Staff at Wa Fat Trade Company at No 11 Rua de S. Paulo (tel 853 369 880) insist that some of the shop's pieces are antiques. An elm wood cupboard about 1.2 metres high, from Shanghai and supposedly 70 or 80 years old, goes for $2,300 after discount.

A similar reproduction piece, from Yuen Ngai Furniture at No 20A Rua de S. Paulo (tel 853 369 780), goes for about $1,800. Yuen Ngai is one of the better organised shops, with space between furniture so the shopper can get a closer look.

Kin Seng Mobilias, No 1-3 Da Fortuna Sao Paulo (tel 853 302 565), is one of three shops in the area with the same owner. This shop seems to have a sale all year, and prices are negotiable. Kin Seng asks for about $2,600 for a cupboard similar in style to the above-mentioned pieces. A reproduction dining chair goes for $800.

The shop with the largest selection is Mobilia De Long Ngai, No 46-48A Rua De S. Paulo (tel 853 368 745). Good bargaining skills are required here as staff are not too keen to drop prices.

A nine-draw CD cabinet costs about $1,700. Moving from shop to shop, you will also come across Asian artefacts, and other outlets selling porcelain ware. As with furniture, the final price depends on desire for the product and bargaining skills.

A few minutes' walk from the tourist trail is Rua De Santo Antonio, where you can find a few more furniture shops. A cabinet, again similar in style and dimensions to those mentioned above, costs about $2,900 at Kin Long Furniture, shop No 4 (tel 853 955 462). The warehouse is large with just a few pieces of furniture, but it has the largest selection of Chinese screens.

Cheong U Hong, at No 16, is a tiny shop housing mostly smaller pieces, such as bedside cabinets, chests and artefacts. Shops will arrange delivery to Hong Kong (prices usually include this), as well as further afield.

Macau has a huge variety of Portuguese wines and ports at enticing prices. Soi Cheong Lda at No 7 Rua S. Domingos sells quaffable vinha verde from about $48, port goes from about $80. Seng Cheong Supermarket, on Avenida Dr Sun Yat Sen, No 243-249 (convenient for those staying at the Hyatt Regency) on Taipa island has the best, and possibly cheapest, options. Wines begin at about $35 for a Dao, ports around $79.

Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro is the main road running adjacent to Senado Square, and shops running the entire length sell jewellery, cookies and dried foods.