I was recently talking with a friend of mine. She and I have quite a bit in common. Her name is Polly, only one letter different than mine. Polly is also from the US and not only that but she has FOUR boys, just like me! Yes, we were supposed to be friends. 🙂 We talked about how life is so full raising these little men. On some days my life feels so busy with schooling the boys, taking care of the house and making meals that I can forget that we live in Hong Kong. Polly and I talked about how many things there are to see and do in Hong Kong….but many of them are things that we have yet to see and do. So at the end of our conversation we made a date to hit one of those spots… The Night Market.
There are a few different Night Markets in Hong Kong. Night Market basically means that they stay open until 11 o’clock in the evening. The market downtown that we went to was like many others. Each vendor sells their merchandise individually and it is all outdoors. You can find t-shirts, knock-off hand bags, wallets and watches. Many items are souvenir type things. You can also find traditional Chinese paintings and linens. There are more tea sets and jade bracelets than you could ever count.
One evening the following week, Polly and I ventured to the Night Market. As we were waiting for our mini bus to take us downtown is started to rain. It kept raining most of the night. The rain didn’t close any shops down or seem to ward off many shoppers, including us! 🙂 We walked up and down the open air aisles and as we did I noted a unique saddle type bag. Polly told me that it was a knock-off Cath Kidston. Unaware of the brand I stepped closer to take a look. No sooner did the elderly and friendly shop vender scoot towards me and start saying, “You like? How much? How much you want to pay?”. Not intending to buy the bag I politely just inquired how much he was going to sell it for. The gray haired, stooped over man (With an extra long crazy hair sticking out of a mole on his face I must add, at least 2 inches long!….which is common to see here actually. Apparently the Chinese believe that moles bring good luck and that is why they don’t trim, cut or pluck those hairs…..but this should be another blog post….so anyhow.) he said, “For you $250”. In Hong Kong dollars $250 is almost $32 USD. I knew I didn’t need a bag that bad. Actually I didn’t need a bag at all! Next thing I know the older man handed me a calculator, beckoning me to type in how much I wanted to pay.
Now when we first moved to HK I was very apprehensive to even begin to barter. We just don’t do that in the US and it feels confrontational, like you don’t value their goods. It just feels awkward. But after living here for nearly two years I’ve realized that is just how they do things here and they expect it.
So when I typed in $100 I expected him to say a loud and clear no and turn and walk away from me. I’m not sure if it was the soggy weather keeping business low that night but he came back with “Okay how about $150?” But that is still almost $20 USD and I really didn’t even want a new bag. I continued the game and offered $110 and at that moment he took the bag off the rack, put it in a plastic sack and handed it to me! I glanced at Polly and started laughing. “I guess I have a new bag”, I told her. So I went away that night with a cute knock-off floral saddle bag for $14 USD that started out at $32 USD!
As we started walking back to the area where we thought we could catch a mini bus back home, we saw a McDonalds. Not knowing what was open that late or exactly where we were, we decided to duck in the American franchise and have an ice cream cone. When we sat down inside with our dessert we couldn’t help but notice how full the restaurant was. By that time it was 10:45 p.m. The place was loaded with people eating burgers, drinking sodas and enjoying ice cream treats. I was shocked. It was as if it was noon and it was lunch time! I noticed a table full of teenagers, all still in school uniforms. Not that it is a bad place to hang out, actually I can think of a dozen worse places to be at almost 11 0’clock at night. But it was just shocking that these people weren’t all at home or at least on their way back home. I know that many kids in Hong Kong have very long school days. The YMCA where our church meets is full during the week with children around the dinner hour and well into the evening who are taking extra classes or meeting with tutors. Many business men and women work very long days as well. Polly told me of a friend of theirs that works as a manager for a financial firm downtown. He has to literally heard his staff out the doors by 9 p.m. There seems to be so much pressure to produce and perform here. Maybe their are other big cities around the globe like this. But it is such a different life. Hong Kong is truly a city that never sleeps.