Just like most girls, I love a bit of shopping. I especially love finding a great deal and from experience, shopping in the inner city is the best place to find a bargain. The PAST Experiences Inner City Shopping Tour is an awesome way to enjoy the city’s shopping highlights while still learning something about Johannesburg.
Jo Buitendach, the main cheese at PAST Experiences, started the company with a vision to show off not only the inner city, but also introduce the idea of walking the city while on a tour. I regard her company as THE original walking tour company in Jo’burg and have done a few different tours with her.
My favourite shopping partner, I grabbed my mom and we headed to the meeting spot in Newtown a few weeks ago to meet the group ready to shop up a storm. Naturally, we were all female and were all ready to spend some cash. After a brief introduction to Jo’s tours in the CBD, we began our tour that included history, details on some public art works and of course, some great spots to shop.
We stopped off at the steel Paper Pigeons sculptures, which I’ve been dying to see on foot for a long time, and took some photos. These were designed with the poor pigeons of Jozi in mind. The statues all have metal rods sticking out their sides for the pigeons to roost on and have casual pigeon conversation. We also made a stop by the Herakut mural, a graffiti piece painted by a two-person team from Germany.
Our first shopping stop was at Sui Hing Hong, a Chinese supermarket that has been around for the majority of the last century, even having moved into bigger premises in its more recent years. Fresh tofu, a massive selection of teas and tea pots to go with them, as well as a weird assortment of ingredients that not even I knew what to do with are all on the shelves here. It was fun to spend time looking through all the shelves and giggling at the broken English on the packaging. I left with some delicious teas, but will definitely be heading back when I need bits for an Asian dish.
We stopped off next at a store that I can’t recall the name off, but sold a lot of different bits and pieces of clothing and accessories. Scarves and gloves were popular items that day because of a cold wind blowing, but school uniforms, dress-up hats and other items of clothing were on special here. We walked around the corner towards our next stop and came across this ‘muti’ shop. Here, a traditional healer displays all of his wares, ready to help the passersby that may be dealing with a cold or even something a little nastier.
Our next stop was at Minty’s Fabric Shop, one of the best to pick up some authentic Shweshwe cloth in Jozi. Here, the brightly-coloured fabrics are stacked to the ceiling. Wax prints and other fabrics from across the continent can be found here too. This spot is popular with brides looking for fabric for a traditional gown for their wedding. The store has also been here for decades and the fabric is stored in the basement. The store itself looks like something from a 70s movie with its fittings and retro display counters.
The stop following Minty’s had to be my favourite! Kohinoor is a music store, strangely located below street level inside a Fair Price homeware store. Traipsing through the appliances and towards the staircase that leads down into the Kohinoor is a strange experience, and not one that people would likely find by themselves. In this jazz treasure trove lies tons of LPs, cassette tapes and even 8-bit tapes looking for their new home. The bright yellow of the cabinets and the loud, soulful jazz overhead makes this place seem lost to the ages in its artificial light.
Our last stop was at a bag shop in the Carmel Building. I didn’t take a picture of the chaos, but with handbags packed to the rafters, customers rooting around for the perfect one, and shop assistants hopping over everything like mountain goats, let’s say it was an experience to remember!
The tour was so much fun, it took just under three hours in total and was insightful and full of laughter. It was great to walk the inner city and find out so much more about the mix of cultures in this western part of the CBD. The tour was also really affordable at only R120 per person! Jo offers plenty of variety in her tours, make sure to check out her sight to find out what’s coming up soon!