Private villa holidays are all about spoiling yourself with comfort, relaxation and fine food. But what about a little retail therapy? With direct flights to the top tropical islands from most of Southeast Asia's shopping meccas, stopover sprees make an attractive side trip, especially when just about everything is ON SALE.
In July and August every year, many of Asia's top destinations offer visitors the added enticement of discount shopping to tempt them on a holiday before the tourist high season kicks into full swing.
Amazing Thailand Grand Sale
Not surprisingly, Thailand was one of the first countries to adopt a retail themed global tourism campaign. After all, the country's vast and appealing "Smörgåsbord" of products and bargains buys has long been a draw for visitors from around the world.
This year is no exception. The Thailand Grand Sale began in June and lasts until August 15 with discounts of up to 80% across a range of retail, design and service sectors. Some of the biggest bargains are to be had at the duty free shops in the country's main airports, where participating brands and boutiques have dropped their prices by as much as 50%.
Thailand's ubiquitous tailor shops have also joined the sale, so a new business suit or wedding outfit can also be had for a snip. Other items worth seeking out include Jewellery (only at reputable stores, of course), home accessories, art and craft pieces, as well as spa and medical treatments, green fees as participating golf courses and a whole host of Thai and international restaurants.
The sale is offered in partnership with Visa, so make sure you have your plastic handy to make the most of the offers. The sale is not restricted to Bangkok, but also extends to outlets in Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Had Yai, Phuket and Koh Samui.
The Great Singapore Sale
Thousand of people now head for the beaches and islands of Thailand and Bali from Singapore's Changi Airport. Whether you live in the Lion State or are simply passing through the city, it's well worth checking out the bargains on offer until July 28 as part of the Great Singapore Sale.
Discounts are being offered on just about everything, from fashion to watches and jewellery, electronics, toys and fashion. Well known Department Stores like Tangs and OG are giving as much as 70% off, with additional extras like free personal shopper services (at Tangs) and complimentary gift-wrapping services with minimum purchases (at OG). Independent outlets are also taking part in the promotion, so shoppers looking for deals on homeward, furnishings, and IT products will also find plenty of options.
The card of choice for the Singapore Sale is MasterCard and for traveller arriving late a number of major shopping malls are staying open until 11pm.
Hong Kong Summer Spectacular
Visitors arriving in Southeast Asia for their holiday from the northern part of the continent can also make the most of their trip with a "shopover" in the bustling streets and malls of Hong Kong. The city’s heritage as an international trade hub means there's an impressive range of goods on offer, and the "Honkies" passion for buying and selling extends to almost every street in the city.
To make life easy for shoppers, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has introduced the Quality Tourism Services (QTS) scheme, with accredited establishments being put through stringent annual assessments to prove that they meet high standards of product quality and service. The scheme also requires retailers to clearly display prices and product information, as well as providing reliable customer service.
Hit the Ground Shopping
If you don't have the time or inclination to negotiate big city shopping malls as part of your holiday; you will also find plenty of opportunities to browse and buy on Koh Samui, Phuket and Bali. All three destinations boast their own full scale shopping centres, which also offer special sales and discounts. The islands' boutiques, street markets and beach sellers are another great source of souvenirs and holiday buys, with discounts based as much on your bargaining skills as the retailer's generosity.
On the smaller of the three islands, Koh Samui, Chaweng is the main shopping strip, lined with shops and stalls selling everything from local handicrafts to fashion items and electronics. A more boutique shopping area can be found at Fisherman's Village Bophut, which also hosts a weekly Walking Street market, as does the souther beach town of Lamai.
On Phuket, the biggest beach town Patong is home to a whole host of shops, as well as its own tropical styled shopping mall known as Junceylon. Other popular beach areas like Karon, Kata and Surin all have a choice of outlets, making occasional retail excursions a fun part of the stay.
On Bali, Kuta and Seminyak are both packed with shops of all sizes and styles. The latter with a more upmarket feel, and also known for its clothing boutiques, which offer original designs by home grown fashion labels, some of which have expanded to become international names.
by MAX VEE