If Taiwan had a national pastime, shopping would be it. To say that our cities are filled with shopping districts is an understatement. In some parts of Taipei, for example, it’s impossible to state with any real certainty where one particular shopping district ends and the next one begins.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t districts that are better known for some items than others. For example, if you’re looking for high tech stuff, the Guanghua Digital Plaza Computer Market (光華數位新天地, or光華商場) for short) is probably your best bet. Laptops, mobile phones, cameras…If you can’t find it in the main Guanghua mall (or one of the many individual stores or underground warren-like malls in the neighborhood), chances are good the item in question either hasn’t been invented or is completely obsolete. (Read more: Customized Souvenir Tips from Taiwan Scene)
Of course, no serious camerahound would wind up in Guanghua without first heading to camera street just southwest of Taipei main station. Actually a couple of streets (Kaifeng and Hankou), this is the area to head if you’re looking for camera gear, lenses, camera bags or to get a camera cleaned or repaired on the fly. (Read more: A Day in Historic Ximen)
Clothing, of course, is everywhere, so labeling one district in particular as a clothing district is kind of a fool’s errand. (But hey, we’re game…Wu Fen Pu in the Xinyi district is largely a wholesale area, but retail shopping is also permitted. But seriously, clothing is everywhere).
Then there are malls. Taipei has Tall malls (Taipei 101 Mall), malls shaped like balls (The Core Pacific Mall), and one mall that’s a seemingly never-ending hall (the subterranean Taipei City Mall, which runs underground from Taipei Main to Beimen Station and has a peculiar Mobius strip vibe to it). (Read more: 6 things to do in Taipei that should be on every visitor’s bucket list)
We’ve not even mentioned specialty items like jade (there’s a weekend Jade Market on Jianguo road, open naturally on the weekends), tea (stores selling tea are everywhere, (Read also: The Taiwan Scene Guide to Taiwanese Tea) but the Dadaocheng neighborhood is a great place to start) and religious items (anywhere close to a temple).
Taipei is basically to fanciers of retail therapy what Las Vegas is to people who dig gambling. So yeah, you’ll have no problem finding places in Taiwan to exchange money for a vast variety of items of value here in Taipei.
Which brings us to our next topic, spending your money wisely.
Bargaining is generally OK in Taiwan. If you’re in a shop on, say, camera street shopping for a new Nikon, the shop’s owner fully expects that you’ve been checking out their neighbor’s prices and is likely prepared to negotiate about the price. But don’t be overly aggressive about it. (Read also: Taiwan Travel Tips:Read Before You Go)
Sales, of course, are everywhere. Taiwan inverts sale prices, so what would be a “15% off everything in this rack” special in the west will be presented in Taiwan as “everything in this rack can be had for 85% of the original price.” In Chinese, it looks like this: (April, can you show a sale photo).
Another common sales tactic is buy one get one free, which in Chinese is rendered as 買一送一; of course this comes in various equations of buying to getting. 買二送一 (buy two, get one), 買五送一 (by five, get one). You get the picture. A slightly more complicated version of this type of promotion is the second at a discount sale, meaning you buy the first item at full price and the second one comes at whatever the stated discount is. Here’s what that looks like:
The concept of Black Friday is new to Taiwan. The closest thing we have here is Guānggùn Jié, or “singles day”, which takes place on 11/11 and is basically a day for unabashed shopping. But this year a few popular department stores (most notably Costco and Carefour) are advertising “Black Friday Sales.” Whether these will be accompanied by the sort of behavior associated with the hyper-holy day of capitalism in the USA remains to be seen, though it seems unlikely. Taiwan is nothing if not a reserved society, and bargains in Taiwan are easy to come by without having to run the risk of getting trampled. (Read also: Do in Taiwan as the Taiwanese do! Seven Taiwan Taboos worth knowing about)