Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hong Kong: Shopping

Why do people travel?  Most people have their own unique desires when it comes to planning their vacations.  Some people want to relax and soak up the sun all day every day.  Some people want to party.  Others want to have cultural, learning experiences.  Still others travel to shop.  

Now, of course, there are multiple factors that go into a persons decision on how and where to travel.  And these goals change over time.  For myself, I like to learn.  I could look at museums all day long and only occasionally get bored.  (Information saturation is a real thing!) 

But at the end of the day, after a full day of cultural experiences and adventures…it is nice to have some retail therapy. 

In Hong Kong, there are a few places that most tourists head to for their souvenir shopping: Temple Street Night Market and Ladies' Market.  

We went to both and didn’t buy a single thing. 

These are the types of stalls that are crammed together in rows with no wiggle room.  As you walk down the market row, the products repeat every few minutes.  You will be hard pressed to find unique items at both of these markets, or things of good quality for that matter. 

Still, they can be fun to walk around-but be ready to be bombarded by people eager to sell you anything and everything they can. 

Another place we went shopping (and actually bought some things) was on Hong Kong Island at a place called Stanley.  The shops there had much of the some things as Temple Street and the Ladies Market, but we dug around until we found something we liked.

If you are serious about wanting something of high quality and unique, be sure to go to Chinese Arts and Crafts.  There is a store right next to the Star Ferry pier on the Kowloon side of the harbor.  If you go though, be prepared to spend a bit more.  Also, there is no bartering.  We bought a gloriously beautiful set of silk placemats and a table runner there. They sell everything from furniture to jewelry. 

One of the last places we went to shop was the Jade market.  As you might imagine, this market specializes in jade, though we found several types of jewelry at this market.  Unlike the other street markets (whish are open till late), this one closes at the early hour of 4:30.  Unless you are a jade expert and can verify the quality yourself, barter the prices down to something reasonable. 

We purchased some pretty little things, had a fun time bartering our prices down to less than half the asking price and then left before we were roped in by other prowling salespeople.

A Short Guide to Bargaining (Based on my experience.)

If you show the least bit of interest in anything-the following will happen: Salespeople walk right up to you and start shoving bracelets on you wrists and putting necklaces around your neck. They will then proceed to thrust a mirror into your hands and prompt you to admire yourself in your newly acquired beauty.  (Did you ever imagine you could ever look you beautiful! And YES that is DEFINITELY your color.) 

You fall for the flattery and ask for the price. 

800 dollars, but for you morning discount.  600 dollars.  Only for you. 

You are now swooning at the flattery.  But you must STAY STRONG.  Do not show any emotion or attachment to the item in question.  Offer a much lower price.

200 dollars.

WHAT?! Nonononono!  This is high quality.  Is no fake! Real jade!  You give me more!

250 dollars. 

More!More!More!  Is no fake! Real jade!  You give me more!  You walk away, no deal!!!

Now you have stayed strong, but if they don’t take what you offer, walk away.  This will usually trigger the response you want-even if they threaten you otherwise. 

Once you agree on a price, don’t be surprised if they try to sell you more items.  It happened to us. 

And remember, if one sale doesn’t work out, there are dozens of other salespeople dying to barter with you for something that looks identical to the item you originally wanted. 

Also, have fun.  This is not something you get to do anywhere.  All you need is a healthy dose of shrewd skepticism and you should walk away with some great deals. 

One other short note about shopping in Hong Kong: You will more than likely be asked about watches and handbags.  

Lots of times.

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