If you haven’t figured it out already, I am the quintessential kuripot (stingy) shopper. I see it as a talent that I can look at items in shops and know where to find the cheaper alternatives (even when it’s the exact same item, except with a more reasonable price tag) and/or around how much I can get it for. Naturally, 168 and Divisoria are at the top of my shopping Go-Tos for extreme deals.
This well-known shopping mecca definitely holds its own against the flea markets of Vietnam, Malaysia, or Thailand. I’m not just talking about the variety of shop offerings or the number of vendors they can fit into a single area, but also of the “bang for your buck”. Very few can beat the “wholesale” prices here, especially if you’re a decent haggler. And of course, the fact that all the tiangge (flea market) shops are crammed into buildings and that those buildings happen to be built next to each other only adds to sweeten the pot. How very one-stop shop!
That said, the experience requires lots of patience, courage, and endurance. It isn’t for faint-of-heart shoppers who can’t stand crowds, heat, and less-than-5-star surroundings. You have to bear in mind that the area is old Manila territory and, let’s just say, it isn’t the safest or cleanest for anyone who prefers to look “unique” or conspicuous.
For an awesome shopping day, hit up Lucky Chinatown Mall and the surrounding area for some hardcore shopping:
Lucky Chinatown in itself has a luxury feel to it with its premium brands in addition to the usual shops you find in any other Manila mall. This can serve as a great meet-up/starting/end point to a shopping itinerary. That way, if a member of your party gets lost or would like to rest, it would be way easier to find them in the less-crowded Lucky Chinatown than in the huge and confusing tiangge.
The other shopping places located around Lucky Chinatown are 168, 999, and Meisic Mall, to name a few. Items sold in those bargain places are an eclectic mix from wall clocks, baby clothes, and home decor to shoes, Chinese food products, and undergarments.
DOs & DON’Ts:
DO try to go with someone who is already familiar with the Divisoria scene. Especially for first-timers, the experience can be overwhelming. Thick crowds and a maze-like line-up of stalls can drive anyone crazy.
DO get your haggling skills on, but be aware that some vendors just won’t budge past the first “last price” they declare. (I know this by experience: No amount of haggling will work on some of them, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your darndest.)
DO try to don your best “rugged” gear.
DON’T even try to wear heels. Flip-flops AREN’T advisable either. Nobody wants to have their toes stepped on and the streets outside are often littered or wet. Sneakers are your best bet for the long walk and the safety of your feet.
DO bring a bottle of drinking water to keep yourself hydrated.
DO bring some ecobags to carry your purchases in. Some vendors only give out very thin plastic bags.
DON’T store your all your money in one place. It’s good to have small bills and change distributed among your pockets for ease and convenience. Just try to remember what denominations go where. (Keep organized.)
Everyone before me has said it, and I’ll say it again: Don’t overdress. For the love of all that is good and holy, wear something simple. Skip ANY form of jewelry.
There ATM terminals in each mall, but it’s still best to already have your shopping money at hand. Better safe than sorry.
Outside Lucky Chinatown is a transport terminal. I remember seeing tricycles and FXs lined up. Not so sure about the ease of getting a cab through all the traffic, so it’s best not to stay too late or until rush hour.