I was in Hong Kong over the weekend and took advantage of the visit (and the good weather!!) to check out a couple of doll shops that I’ve been itching to visit for almost a year: namely Dollfie World, Doll Hearts and JR Toys. All of them are located very close to each other in the Mong Kok area of Kowloon, Hong Kong and the purpose of this post is to give you very simple, idiot-proof directions especially if you’ve never been to Hong Kong. Most of the places I’ll mention open later in the afternoon and stay open until around 10pm at night so you can do other things during the day and come here afterwards.
If you’ve never been to Hong Kong before, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds, smells (good and bad…) and huge crowds of people everywhere. I still get a bit overloaded every time I’m there but it’s a very easy city to get around in due to the excellent transit system (the MTR) and 90% of the signs have English on them since Hong Kong was a British colony up until very recently. Space is limited everywhere so as a result there are many tall skyscrapers, very close together. To break it down very simply, you have Hong Kong Island at the south, the mainland part which is Kowloon and north of that you’ll be in China. This is a portion of the skyline of Hong Kong Island as viewed from the harbour area of Kowloon – you can see the Hong Kong Convention Centre which was modeled in the shape of a pigeon or seagull or some other bird…
To get to Mong Kok, get onto the MTR subway system and direct yourself on to the Kwun Tong Line (green line) or the Tsuen Wan Line (red line). You can buy tickets from the machine or if you’re going to be there for several days get yourself an Octopus Card. An Octopus is the electronic pass that is used on buses, subways, many stores and restaurants and credit is automatically deducted when you tap your card on the Octopus reader. It’s just really convenient because you’re not always rummaging for small change or lining up at machines to buy tickets. Anyone who’s been to London should be familiar with this system since they have the Oyster card for their Underground system (but it’s not as well integrated into the city as HK’s Octopus in terms of being able to use it at so many stores!).
Here’s my little Backpacking TarePanda to show you what the Chinese characters for Mong Kok looks like –
When you’ve passed through the turnstile and come out of the “paid area” of the subway look about for the signs directing you to “Exit E” – you want to take Exit E2 (Bank Centre) to get to all the good doll shops! If you’re not sure if you’ve taken the right exit, have a look at the top of the stairs on street level for this sign –
Walk straight out of the subway (you’ll see the Bank Centre building immediately on your right) and on the first cross-street you’ll see a Body Shop on your immediate left. Landmark this shop since it’s your beacon back to the subway later (unless you’re headed somewhere else). I’ve marked where the Body Shop is on the map below with a blue dot.
This cross street is Sai Yeung Choi Street and you want to turn right immediately on this street (you’ll be heading south). Just walk along this street and take in the sights – Mong Kok translates to “busy corner” and it’s immediately apparent since this street is always busy and crowded. It’s mostly pedestrianized but be careful at crossings not to get run over. You’ll be walking almost to the end of the street and towards the end of Sai Yeung Choi Street you’ll see the Pakpolee Commercial Centre building on your right. It’s a small doorway so it’s easy to miss, but this is what it looks like –
I headed to Doll Hearts first – so take the elevator up to the 20th floor. They are in units 2010-2011 and you’ll see this big sign at the end of hallway. They have lots of shoes and accessories in the shop and a few dolls.
Then I headed down the stairs to the 18th floor to unit 1801 to Dollfie World. I was met with a locked door and this rather depressing sign 0__0″
Looked like the lights were on, but no one was home. However, I’d asked Natalie of Dollfie World via Twitter earlier in the month if they closed on odd days and was informed they opened 7 days a week. Since it was around 4pm (and Hong Kong shops are reknowned for opening and closing whenever they want…) I went for a walk and came back a couple hours later. When I came back, the lights were still on but the door was still locked; but this time I rang the doorbell and immediately the sales girl came and let me in. So THAT is the secret no one ever bothered to mention to this silly foreign girl on any other blog – you have to ring the damn doorbell! Who’d have thought?! I spent a good while in the shop looking at this and that and ended up spending more than I planned ^__~” I was so busy looking at the goodies that I didn’t take photos in the store, but Wolfheinrich has some nice ones on his blog from his visit earlier this summer. There are lots of nice accessories, clothes, shoes and dolls in the shop, most of it have a fairly reasonable mark-up considering the limited nature of some of the items; and I factor in that I don’t have to pay for PayPal fees, shipping charges or deal with customs. There are also unique things from independent doll shops that Natalie picks up from doll shows here and there.
While I was wandering around waiting for Dollfie World to “open” (-___-“) I went to Ginza Place, which is the building across the street from the Pakpolee Centre where Dollfie World used to be located. I took the escalator down to the basement and there are a couple of doll-related shops in there but the one I wanted to check out was JR Toys. They have a pretty well-known presence on eBay for selling authentic items for ridiculously jacked-up prices and the prices in their shop are pretty much what I expected (triple or more of retail prices) although seeing some of the Volks outfits that I was longing for in person actually helped me strike them off my wishlist. They do have a lot of rare and out-of-stock items and a lot of DD’s, so if you’re willing to fork out the cash then check this place out. I saw a Yoko, Kirisame Marisa DDS, Moe v.2 among other dolls there.
At the end of Sai Yeung Choi Street (right at where it meets Dundas St) is the CTMA Centre. There’s an interesting array of shops here and if you’re looking for figures and toys it’s worth a visit. A lot of the figure shops have changed since I was here last November but there’s a couple of cute Blythe stores in the basement floors. Do your homework before buying expensive figures since there’s always the risk of counterfeit figures and toys (I’ve seen a few in this building) but you can also find some rare treasures too. Here’s Backpacking TarePanda to show you what the CTMA Centre looks like:
If you walk along Dundas St towards Nathan Rd there’s a what looks like an office building with the lobby open to the street and escalators facing Dundas Street. I forget what this building is called [I’ll edit later if I can find the name or precise address] but this is another good building to check out for toys, figures, cute plushies, etc. There’s at least 8-10 floors of shops to look at here. The entrance is roughly where the blue arrow is on the map below. Around the corner on Nathan Road (the yellow street on the map) is “Trendy Zone” (where the red arrow is) and it’s another good spot for plushies, anime figures, Gundam’s, etc. Just go up and walk around each floor until you reach the top (about 6 floors iirc) since you never know what you might find.
One of my vices in Hong Kong is for the delicious drinks at Hui Lau Shan – they have locations everywhere (there’s one right across the street from the Body Shop I mentioned earlier on Sai Yeung Choi Street, and another across from the CTMA Centre). This is the “Fresh mango with Mango Slush and Hasmar jelly. It’s quite tasty, except I was bit grossed out when I looked up what Hasmar is, so next time I’ll order the same drink with Mango Jelly instead since it tastes the same >__>”
Since I’m talking about Mong Kok I should probably mention that the “Ladies Market” street is the next street over to Sai Yeung Choi Street, so if you want to check it out just walk along Dundas Street to Tung Choi Street and walk up. There are lots of street vendors selling things like knock-off handbags, “I ♥ HK” goods, Chinese souvenirs, clothing & accessories and whatnot. If you’re going to buy anything at the Ladies Market remember to bargain and sales are cash only.
Anyhoo – here’s a quick peek at my loot from today’s shopping including a few things I picked up for some friends ^__^”
UPDATE: November 16, 2012-
My directions are still accurate ^__^”
Also wanted to add that DollHeart, Dollfie World & JR Toys accept credit cards, however please note that JR Toys charges a 5% fee on top of their already inflated aftermarket prices (i.e. scalping!); Dollfie World’s aftermarket prices are more reasonable, and for this reason they are often sold out recent releases quicker. They also don’t add any in-store fees for using a credit card.
Also, both places have items in their stores that are not listed on their websites so it’s worth an in-person visit to see what is around.
DollHeart charges a 3% service fee for using a credit card.