Would you set up a street stall and sell beads
? Fruit juice?
Old coins or fake Louis Vuitton handbags from behind a curtain? Would you sell drugs, foreign currency, T-shirts, shaved ice, Pad Thai
(fried noodles) or fake antiques?
Would you braid hair, sell jewelry, pirate DVD's, or gem stones? Books, paper, deep fried bananas or beautiful flowers? Shoes, jeans for $10 a pair, fresh fruit or massages?
Would you play the flute, make tuk-tuks out of used Singha beer cans, weave sarongs, or make lampshades? Sell fake perfume, sunglasses and Rolex watches or iced drinks of every variety to soothe a long hot afternoon?
There is such a vibrancy to trade and an energy to earning a crust with many of the street stalls in the ancient night bazar, quite literally, 1m x 1m, yet the people here manage through sheer tenacity and ingenuity use that space to establish a commercial venture of some sort. And seem to be able to do so while maintaining a sense of humor or at least good will.
What would you do with your square meter?
The Thai's have the most amazing capacity to turn the most dusty and drab parking lot during the day into the most lively and energetic night market by night. These night markets here are what makes shopping and eating in Thailand so special.
From about 4pm each Sunday in Chiang Mai they close all of the main streets inside the city walls creating perhaps the largest night market in South East Asia. You can just wander, snack and shop. And it is even possible with two kids in tow as there is no traffic to worry about.
About 6pm they play the national anthem, and everyone stops shopping, talking, eating and walking and stands in silence in respect to the king. It really is a peculiar sight to see thousands of people frozen in silence for a few moments.
These wonderful markets afford almost everyone the opportunity to participate in one of the wonders of the ancient world: haggling.
Here is my recipe for haggling:
1. Always be exceptionally polite
2. Try not to show too much interest in something you want
3. Don't be in too much haste; take a seat if possible and settle in to savor the experience.
4. Try inject some humor or at least smile a lot
5. When they offer you X your first offer should be half X
6. After a bit of repartee, where you might have haggled them down to perhaps 70%, respectfully suggest you will politely take your leave
7. This should get you down to perhaps 60% so now, again with great politeness, ask them how much for two and repeat the whole process!
If you are anglo saxon and lucky you'll get them down to about 50% of what they started at. Don't worry that this isn't the local price, you'll never get that (and nor should you).
This is your price. Enjoy the experience, the memory, and your souvenir.