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Asia's World City still has a few unique gifts, if you look hard
With the advent of globalisation, truly unique Hong Kong souvenirs are a rarity these days, but there are still a few left if you know where to look
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With the holidays upon us, our minds turn to gift-giving and the struggle to find something appropriate.
When my friends from the mainland travel to Hong Kong, they often ask me what they should buy as souvenirs for their friends.
What they really want is something memorable that won't be found elsewhere. I always wrestle with an answer.
Blame globalisation. These days wherever you go, particularly to big cities like New York or London, it's getting more and more difficult to find something that really represents that city. I remember I once bought a T-shirt with the famous "I heart NY" logo on it in New York. Later, I saw something similar in London and Dubai - all made in China.
Before Hong Kong was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997, many mainland visitors liked to take back souvenirs with a British colonial theme. The trinkets held no particular political meaning for them, just representative of a certain era. Such souvenirs mostly disappeared after 1997, although there are still some on the shelves in Stanley market.
Post-handover, both the central government and the government of Hong Kong have been trying their best to foster Hong Kong's image as an international financial centre and a truly global city. The government even adopted "Asia's World City" as the city's official slogan.
But some critics contend Hong Kong is losing its own flavour day by day; others quip that today's Hong Kong is "just another mainland city" like Shanghai or Beijing. To some extent, both Shanghai and Beijing are also very global, considering how many skyscrapers they each boast, and how many multinational corporations have offices there.
After some research and taking advice from colleagues, here are three gift ideas that we think represent something unique about Hong Kong.
If you like teddy bears, chocolate and cookies, the Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui offers some interesting items. The hotel has a long history, and has been party to many important moments. For kids, the Peninsula teddy - dressed in the hotel's traditional white doorman's outfit- accompanied by a box of cookies or chocolates makes for a sweet memory of the city.
For those who favour culture and history but want to mix them with modern style, Goods of Desire is a good place to shop. Also known as G.O.D., it is a lifestyle accessories chain store founded by two local businessmen. In fact, it is more than a souvenir shop for travellers. Many local people often shop there for themselves.
Hong Kong is also well known for many historic members-only social clubs, including the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) in Central.
Once located in Shanghai, the FCC moved to Hong Kong after the civil war in 1949. A venue for media professionals and diplomats to rub shoulders, there's a small gift shop in the lobby, where visitors can pay for FCC souvenirs in cash. My favourite is the big FCC umbrella with its strong sense of reliability. It makes a memorable gift, not to mention a handy one on a rainy day!
George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in the print version of the SCMP. Like it? Visit facebook.com/mrshangkong