City Mall: General Shopping
The four storey mall opened in November 2009. It hosts a lot of designer clothing shops. It has a big play area for children as well as a food court and one restaurant. There is also a big food market. It lacks a smaller cofee shop though.
What to buy: Clothes, mobile phones and equipment, house ware, groceries, jewellery, toys, imported trinkets.
What to pay: Designer prizes!
How to buy things...
Shopping in Russia is as popular as the west, but here in Sakhalin, the concept of deparment stores and malls is pretty unexplored.
There are several 'torgovli centres' that have numerous little boutique style shops (shops are generally referred to as magazines) selling everything from overpriced fur coats to overpriced china dogs. They all seem to strive to project an air of sophistication, but many simply come across as being stuffed with naff tat...
Supermarkets also exist. They tend to be frequented by foreigners and richer locals, hence the prices can be pretty steep, although the range and quality of products is pretty good. Just like the culture of paranoia that grips the whole of the government (visas, border passes etc), supermarkets are also very wary. Big, burly security guards will prevent you from taking bags into the shops, forcing you to leave them in lockers.
Local shops are pretty much on every street corner – these can be kiosks where you speak through a window, to larger shops, but with everything behind a counter. Some even have a separate counter to pay – basically you state the items you want and the lady sourly tells you how much they costs. You then must go to another window and pay that amount of money to get a receipt which you must give back to the first lady in order to get the shopping.
What to buy: If you are looking for something traditionally Russian, then lots of the little boutique shops sell the famous Matrushka dolls in lots of styles an designs, modern and traditional.
Vodka in speciality cases and bottles is also popular - how about a glass kalashnikov rifle in a wooden crate?
Local food delcacies include salmon caviar, both red and black. It is remarkably cheap here, and widely available. Just make sure you check the date of manufacture - if it is more than 1 year old, or if it has no date, do not buy it.
What to pay: Prices here are amongst the highest in Russia, reflecting both the remoteness of the place and the relative affluence of a growing number of people on the island.
As a rule, for regular food stuffs, expect to pay prices similar to that you would pay in the UK or western Europe.
Unsurprisingly, local beers and vodka are pretty cheap though...
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