You cannot walk down one of Hong Kong’s main shopping streets without being pressured to buy silk shirts by local wheeler dealers.
A trip to Hong Kong is high on the bucket list of every traveller. With its bright lights and multi-cultural heritage, the little city state has a lot to offer travellers of all budgets. Little did I know, that what I was going to be offered most was silk shirts!
On the way to Tsim Sha Tsui, I walked down to the waterfront through Nathan Road, which is known as the one of the busiest thoroughfares in Hong Kong. At times, the traffic on the roads down here is appalling, but likewise the number of pedestrians on the streets is crazy too, and it makes Oxford Street in London look like a walk in the park!
I had became used to experiencing touts and con artists in other countries such as India and Vietnam, who try to scam all unsuspecting tourists out of their money somehow, but I did not expect this kind of malpractice in a civilised country like Hong Kong. At regular intervals walking down Nathan Road, I was harassed by smart-looking men, of Indian ethnicity I think (certainly not Chinese), who were distributing leaflets and flyers. They would shout at me “Hey, sir, silk shirt?”. Usually, a simple no thank you would suffice, but here on Nathan Road, they are very persistent. I couldn’t shake them off, and one even followed me to the other side of the road as I was trying to get away from him. It must be much worse for solo female travellers, I would assume.
Although Nathan Road (once known as the “Golden Mile”) is one of the busiest areas of Hong Kong, it must be said that some parts just off the main roads were somewhat dingy, and it goes to show that despite being a very expensive place to stay for a tourist, lots of locals live in squalid conditions. I would not like to be hanging around these parts on my own at night, that’s for sure (I also thought this about parts of Mongkok where my hotel was)! So I did wonder if these smart-looking people harassing me to get me to buy their silk shirts were somehow connected to the poverty of the area, and undoubtedly working for a larger company or group who could just be exploiting them. Nonetheless, it is not nice to be chased across the road just because I didn’t want to buy a shirt – and something tells me it wouldn’t have been real silk anyway…
No question that Hong Kong, along with Dubai, Singapore, New York and maybe London, has a real buzz about the place, that few other locations can match. However, there is still a culture shock here to contend with, just like you would find in an Indian city or in most parts of Vietnam. You need to have your wits about you on Nathan Road, in particular, as otherwise one day these silk shirt salesman will take you to the cleaners!