How to haggle in Hong Kong

Temple Street Night market PICTURE: Toby Jeffery

By Ross Barnett

Not only did Hong Kong open my eyes to the natural beauty of the state and surrounding area, it also threw me into the world of having to haggle at Temple Street Market, Stanley Market and the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok.

Less common in in the West, haggling is the skill of reducing the cost of souvenirs to a mutually agreed price between the buyer and the vendor. Particularly prevalent in Asian countries, what may seem like pennies in Britain, may mean the world to the family of the seller in other countries.

The ability to haggle is one of the essentials when visiting the markets of Hong Kong. A successful ‘haggle’ can turn a rubbish deal into a bargain and there’s no better feeling than halving the price of an object.

Having learnt to haggle the hard way there were several things I noticed during the trip to the market:

1. Making a mental note of the price of an item in each stall
As a stereotypical tourist, everywhere I go I collect key rings. Probably the most popular low cost souvenir, the markets in Hong Kong were filled with them, making it more difficult to remember the price at each stall. When in an unknown location it’s difficult to get your bearings and therefore impossible to remember where the best price is. Although it has to be said that, as most of the markets sell similar items, the price usually much the same.

2. Vendors are desperate to sell
I am slightly confused as to why the vendors are so desperate to sell their stock, but by walking off, or threatening to, the vendors that I dealt with often panic and knock off huge amounts of money. Of course, they will still make a profit but it is possibly the thought of losing trade to another vendor. Use this to your advantage.

3. If they accept your first offer first, you’ve been ripped off
It’s a sinking feeling when you suggest paying HK$100 for a plastic snow globe but by then it’s too late to review the price. Many people take the tactic of halving the price first initially and bargaining from there. As many vendors have caught on to this tactic, they have considered this in their original asking price for the item.

4. Local expertise
Gaining local expertise is a sure way to avoid getting ripped off. Of course, make sure this ‘insider’ is trustworthy or else this will just increase your risk of paying extortionate prices. Their knowledge will inform you of an estimated value of the item allowing you to make a calculated decision as to whether haggling with the vendor is worth it.

5. Let them make the first move
as they are desperate for a sale, if you show a slight interest in the product, it will show the vendor that you need convincing before making a purchase. They are well aware of the possibility of buying from another stall. By not showing a definite interest, you’re more likely to secure a better discount.

Tai O: The fishing village on stilts

Many of the houses in Tai O stand on stilts above the estuary

 

 

 

 

By Sebastian Old
Negotiate your way through the bustling market streets where dried puffer fish and starfish in a bag dangle from walls and an elderly women of around 85 can be found cutting up fresh fish with scissors and laughing away with her mates.

This is just another day in the life of Tai O.

Tai O is a fishing village in the south-east of Hong Kong, raised up above the water on stilts. The locals ride around on bicycles too small for them and there’s a dilapidated shower that’s been converted into a temple.

Dried puffer fish at a street stall

It’s all too easy to begin to feel sorry for the locals of Tai O.

There’s a quaint charm; its one of the last traditional fishing villages in Hong Kong. But, its lack of shiny cars, buildings, cafes and other markers of  ‘normal civilisation’ are nowhere to be seen.

The truth is that to think this way would be to miss the point.

First of all the locals don’t, at large, know any different. So, as little, smiling child entrepreneurs help their parents and grandparents sell grilled garlic prawns, oysters and Hong Kong’s famed ‘fish balls’ you begin to realise that what the locals lack really doesn’t matter.

A colourful shrine

The village is in the north-east region of  Lantau island; an island know by many as ‘The lungs of Hong Kong’ because of its stark contrast to the densely populated and industrialised Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Beyond the village and its rivers, the scenary is made up of rolling mountains for as far as the eye can see.

It seems fitting then that the salt water rivers should wind around streets and under the raised houses like vast green veins.

Chinese white dolphins or ‘pink dolphins’ are among some of the rarer species in the world. According to National Discovery, in 2016 there were around 60 pink dolphins left. Yet they’re found swimming in these winding green veins.

Brightly coloured blossoms in the streets of Tai O

If you can’t find the time or the 30 Hong Kong Dollars (about £3) to go on a boat ride to explore the inlets and give a little dolphin spotting a go, do not despair.

There’s a strange, understated beauty to be found amid the village’s corroding ‘lego-block’ houses where cherry blossoms grow from drain pipes.

After a while, you begin to understand how that little old lady with those scissors in her hands managed to chuckle as much as she did.

 

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DMU students attend world-reknowned Hong Kong design studio

De Montfort University project design students, pictured at Victoria Peak wwin Hong Kong

By Sebastian Old

Product design students visit a famed studio in Hong Kong as part of De Monfort University’s latest international academic led trip.

The students who qualified for the global initiative spent the afternoon learning how one of Asia’s leading designer’s, Michael Young, creatures his award winning pieces and how to run a thriving studio in today’s competitive market.

The students were given the opportunity to compare manufacturing processes in Young’s innovative studio to the methods used at their University.

Mohammad Hussain, 22 DMU Student, said: “It was fascinating and invaluable to be able to watch and study how such a pioneering studio goes about designing its products.”

English born Young specialises in modern design and has over 20 years in the industry. His work ranges from interior to technological design and his portfolio is displayed in museums across the globe. Young’s Hong Kong studio is one of two; the other is based in Brussels.

Despite the studio’s prestigious stature, the students’ experience was both enlightening and welcoming.

Hussain said: “The trip had the potential to be quite daunting for students who are still learning about the industry and the craft. That unreal feeling couldn’t have been further from the reality; one of the people we spoke to had been a student only a few years ago. It was a reassuring experience.”

The trip is one of many the University offers per year as part of the DMU Global project. De Montfort University provided the students with a bursary towards the cost of the flight and accommodation in Hong Kong.

Carla Forte, 22, DMU Project Design Student, said: “It’s been a great experience and a wonderful opportunity for students culturally and academically, and has enhanced my employment prospects.”

Hidden Hong Kong: Stanley fishing village

By Ross Barnett

Quite often tourists, including myself, arrive in Hong Kong with the preconception of a concrete jungle. While this certainly is correct – the city’s tallest building, the International Commerce Centre, stands at 484m tall, over a 150m taller than The Shard in London – it does have areas of natural beauty.

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Map Data (c)2018 Google

It doesn’t take long to escape the frantic pace of one of the most vibrant and modernized cities in Asia. Little over an hour long on the No. 6 bus from Central station takes you to the tranquil town of Stanley, in the south of Hong Kong Island.

As it is a bus, be prepared for traffic delays as getting out of the congested centre of the city can prove difficult – it took us over 40 minutes before we reached the edge of the city – but the erratic driving will keep you on the edge of your seat!

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Beach at Stanley

Nevertheless the bus journey is scenic and great views can be enjoyed as the bus motors along the winding road overlooking the neighbouring Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay. There’s a constant reminder about the extravagance of Hong Kong, particularly as bus travels under the resounding gaze of the impressive Repulse Bay Towers. The roads become narrower and the buildings become smaller as our destination approaches.

Formerly a fishing village, the clamour of tourism has seen it develop from a market town selling fish to one selling knick-knacks at affordab

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Beach at Stanley

le prices, making it perfect to get a last minute gift for a family member.

Handmade crafts, kimonos, Chinese lucky cats as well as the usual items available at souvenir shops. For someone who loves browsing, it is very easy to lose track of time and spend the day wandering around the narrow streets.

The market is quieter than Temple Street and usually finishes trading at approximately 6pm. It is best to head to the market in the early afternoon as the closer to 6pm it gets, the more intent the sellers become in packing up and therefore are less interested in haggling.

Away from the market, three temples are situated in Stanley,

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Stanley village

Pak Tai Temple, Kwum Yam Temple and Tin Hau Temple. Pak Tai Temple sits on the hill offering excellent photography opportunities. Consisting of just one room, the temple was locked when we there, but the burning of incense was smelt from outside the quaint little building. Steps from the temple lead down towards rocks – another peaceful place to hear the waves crash up against coastline and watch the sunset.

The picturesque setting allows life to be brought down to a slower pace compared to the centre of the city. It’s a perfect getaway for relaxation and the many beaches and bars along the promenade provides a great opportunity for people-watching.

The people in the town are friendly and willing to answer questions however their English can be quite broken. While sitting in a bar as the sun set, one of the locals who had lived in the village for over 50 years told me that everything he needs is right here.

This isn’t the Hong Kong that appears on all of the tourist posters and adverts and while no amount of words could accurately convey the splendor of the little town, it will leave you with unforgettable memories.

Three days on from our visit, it’s still hard to believe how this sedate seaside village is only a suburb in a dynamic city dubbed the ‘Gateway to Asia’ with world leading financial district.

 

JOURNALISM STUDENTS EXPLORE THEIR FIRST DAY IN HONG KONG

By Adrianna Zawadzka

Hong Kong is one of the most diverse, magical and exciting cities in the world. Yesterday, seven journalism students from De Montfort University started their life-time adventure.

After checking-in to their hotel, leaving their bags and getting some refreshment, they went out to explore the hotel’s neighbourhood. While searching for a place to their first taste of Chinese food and drinks, students got a chance to see the meat and fish market, full of fresh and exotic food.

Briar Wooldridge, 21, said: “Fishes, crabs and lobsters kept in big aquariums and ready to be prepared shocked me the most in this place. I have never seen such a wide range of fresh sea food.”

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After a long search, the chosen restaurant turned out to be a great place for their first dinner in Hong Kong.

“We went there to get some drinks, but we ended up eating chicken and noodles, because the waitress didn’t understand us, and that was great,” said Seb Old, 22.

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A chicken dish

The next stop of the journey was the Chinese bakery, where the price for local cakes was 25 HK$ – the equivalent of 25p in the UK.

“Warm egg tarts were absolutely amazing,” said Sara Cardoso Torres Vinagre, 22. While eating the sweet treats in a nearby park, students got a chance to listen to the wild birds, which gave a beautiful melody.

After getting some well-deserved rest in the hotel, some of the students decided to explore central Hong Kong with a trip organised by Students Union. That gave them another chance to view the other side of this amazing city full of restaurants, shops, bars and pubs.

Students are looking forward for the rest of the amazing attractions waiting for them throughout the week.