They are those amazing streets packed with electronics stores. Most of us in North America are used to driving 40 minutes to a far away lone computer super store or ordering off of eBay to get our next batch of laser printer paper, but in the far east the tendency is to pack all of the electronic stores into a street block. You'll still find super stores--but you'll find tens if not hundreds of little boutique stores right around or inside these super stores. This makes way for specialization and expert advice not found at some of the superstores.
Depending on the strength of the currency, the local economy and ever present international tariffs--visiting one of these streets can be quite an eye opener for bargain hunters.
Some of the most famous computer streets are (if you know more or if you know about them, you know who to /msg):
- Computer Street - Saigon (Vietnam) What is so great about Saigon is you 'll find not only computer street, but also a street for any given category of things you'd want to buy. Fish mongers crowd together just as the fabrics vendors do. You should just about never accept the first offer. Although the cost of living in Vietnam is wonderfully low, the cost of imports like computers may face stiff tariffs, although vendors try their best to work around the rules.
- Nathan Road - Kowloon (Hong Kong) It starts at YMCA, they open so late you'll be able to drop off rolls of film at 4 in the morning. Hong Kong is another city incapable of sleeping peacefully through weekends, perhaps that's why dimsums (traditional morning tea and snacks) are frequented by locals in the afternoon. Hong Kong's tech elites are no stranger to lack of warantees and foreign manuals (Brits, Filipinos, Malays, Japanese, Germans, Chinese, Canadians and Saudis geeks are imported daily to work side by side)--often times the selection comes close if not equal what Akihabara offers in these northern streets of Kowloon. If you can't speak cantonese though--don't expect to get very far with the haggling. However, if you've checked your prices and are willing to offload more than one expensive items, most vendors are willing to make deals, even at 4 in the morning.
- Akihabara - Tokyo (Japan) There is already a node for the most famous of great computer streets. I may not admit to going to Hong Kong just to see Nathan Road, but I'll freely admit no sane geek can visit Japan without a trip to Akihabara. The price is no longer interesting, nor is it that much more cooler a place to visit than the other cool places in Tokyo (see: Lost In Translation for an explanation), but there's always this mystique: what in the world could Sony sell to 100+ million gadget-loving japanese which simply won't sell in North America? Inquiring minds must know. The answer will amaze you over and over again. You'll leave Akihabara hot and angry--wondering why you can't buy X gadget back in New Jersey.
- Guang Hwa - Taipei (Taiwan) Technically, there are multiple major malls catering to the computer savvy. This one is the most well known because it's in the biggest taiwanese city, nearest to the major train station (the station, or rather, the area around the station, to most, is the social north pole of the country). Taiwan, as many already know, is home to the computer tech elites, who has managed to find a way to markets hundreds of brands of seemingly identical motherboards and compact disc recordables, because they are so used to slapping someone else's brand on their goods (on behalf of someone else's brand). If you look carefully, there are differences, and that's where all the fun begins.
- Spadina/College - Toronto (Canada) Although you'll find great deals all over the greater toronto area, it's still the most convenient place to do some quick comparison shopping. It is probably one of around five places in Toronto where you can comparison shop (others are north of Yonge and Dundas; Pacific Center or Knight in Scarborough; Steels and Eglington; and Square One in Mississauga).
- To be described... Tottenham Court Road - London (United Kingdom)
- To be described... Falkoner Allé - Copenhagen(Denmark).