Saturday, November 26, 2005

Holy crap--you can spend a lot of money in Hong Kong

Do you know how much money I spent today?  I went to the ATM three times, that's how much.

As you know, the guiding principle of Las Vegas design is: to get to anything, you have to go through the casino.  The guiding principle of Hong Kong design is: to get to anything, you have to go through the mall. 

I am so not kidding.

Like ... ok, Hong Kong was -- up until quite recently -- owned by the British, and a lot of it feels British.  Like the street signs, for instance.  Same colors and font and arrows and stuff that you see in London.  (Well, ok, they're in Chinese as well as English, but still.)  And, like in London, there are many places where you can't cross the street above ground, and are instead required to take the "subway" -- a system of pedestrian tunnels under the streets.  (Remember, they use "underground" to refer to that thing we call a "subway.")  In London, the subways are tiled, dirty, sometimes inhabited by homeless people, and frequently smelling of urine.  In Hong Kong, the subway floors are marble and there's Coach and Gucci shops.  So when I say you can't cross the street in Hong Kong without going through a mall, this is not an exaggeration.

Yesterday, we did some sightseeing.  (I'll post about that later; I'm sorta on a shopping roll right now.)  Today, Peggy and Sabing (and Sabing's mom and aunt, who came with) went to Macau.  I felt like I wanted to spend a bit more time in Hong Kong since this was my only full day here (and, quite annoyingly, I was feeling some cold symptoms coming on, so wanted to sleep in).  I also knew you could get clothes custom tailored here for a reasonable price, and I found the idea somewhat appealing.  (See earlier entries regarding my big fat butt and custom ordering pants from Land's End.)  I've got nothing against Land's End (in fact, I rather like the pants I've ordered from them), but if I'm paying $59 plus tax and shipping for a pair of cotton chinos that have been made based on my multiple-choice selections on the internet -- the idea of paying a similar amount for high-grade lined-wool trousers made by some dude who takes my measurements with a measuring tape is somewhat appealing.

Last night, I did some preliminary research -- I found the addresses of some nearby tailor shops.  Peggy also checked out a guide book which said to know what you want, shop around, and look for the seal of approval from the Hong Kong Tourism Board (so's you don't get all ripped off). 

I started off this morning at one of them shops that advertised on the map provided by my hotel.  Thought I'd be interested in a dress and two pairs of pants.  Dude gives me a price ... well, an opening bid really ... of about $450 for the set.  I try to talk him down to $300, but he won't go there.  He stops at $350.  I take his card and walk -- saying I may return.

I walk further down the street and am accosted by another tailor.  "Psst -- hey lady, wanna buy a suit?"  OK, not like that, but very nearly.  Dude takes me in his shop and we run through the whole routine again.  Silk dress and two pair of pants.  He starts in the same $450 neighborhood, and drops to $350 pretty quick.  I try to get him to $300, but he won't go there either.  He will, however, meet me at $310.  There are three problems I have with him -- he is not Hong Kong Tourism Board approved; he seemed way too eager for my business; and he was trying to pass off a fabric labelled "silky nylon" as silk.  I walked out.

I am again accosted by a tailor -- this time, it's a Tourism Board certified dude.  He too starts at $450 ....  I am reminded of this time that I was in a street market in the Bahamas -- I looked at some placemats that ran about $6.  We had been told to negotiate and the saleslady dropped to $4.  I then went to every other placemat seller in the market to see if I could get a better price -- but it was $4 everywhere.  One lady, exasperated, said to me, "$4 is the bargain price."  Like they'd all gotten together and agreed that nobody would negotiate below that.  Had the same feeling here.  $450 is the opening bid for a silk dress and two pair of high-quality wool pants, but $350 is the "bargain price."

By this time, I didn't think I was going to get any legitimate businessman down below $350, so I went with the last dude.  He seemed competent and professional and will have the stuff ready tomorrow.

When I left, I walked past Mr. Trying To Pass OffNylon As Silk.  I told him -- lying -- that I'd found someone to match the $300 price that I was looking for, so I was no longer interested in his deal.  Then, he says, "come back into the shop; let me make some pants for you."

Um... no.


mutualaide said...

Like the story very much!  Hope your dress and pants are all that you want them to be.

annalisa135 said...

I hope I get to see a picture of you in that dress!!!!  I'm dying to know where you will wear it to.  :-)  Maybe a christmas party?  Definitely a special event.  You didn't say what color it is or anything.  I'm waiting for details!
love, anna

swibirun said...

Ah yes....the pleasures of Nassau:)