“Lady, lady. I have your size.” Cue the store owner pointing to me and stretching out her arms as if she’s about to hug a tree trunk.
Thanks for that, lady, me and my little old self-esteem really needed it, I’ll take 10 of whatever you’re selling.
Another pokes my shoulder, “Lady, you want bag?” She waves a hand over to her store, where lots of multi-coloured handbags are precariously stacked on top of one another.
I’ve only taken a few steps when another seller grabs on to my shoulder, trying to turn me around, I shrug it off and continue walking.
Some markets in Vietnam and Cambodia were arduous to say the least. I, like so many other tourists, was a fan of the prices but not so much the intensity.
Unless that is, I arrived in Luang Phabang.
You may or may not know about Laos’s laid-back reputation but it certainly becomes clear once you start strolling through the markets.
You walk past stalls bursting with colour from rugs, elephant harem trousers, lanterns, alongside intricate wooden carvings and silver jewellery. One moment they are lit by fluorescent lights, the next they’re illuminated with lanterns. Sometimes you have to duck underneath the tarpaulin covers to get to the next stall.
Rather than constant barrages of “lady, lady” or “over here” or “buy something” the store owners are quietly seated, some may be reading or making something to sell. One or two might smile at you. You feel comfortable browsing here.
When I was there I walked past one store where the owner was having a nap – I much preferred this selling technique over the tree trunk mime.
Just as the store owners in Laos are more laid-back than other countries, so is the haggling technique. It’s more of a short, relaxed, back and forth compared to the more intense stuff. I share some haggling tips below, if you fancy reading on.
Haggling is expected in South East Asia as it is part of everyday life there. Prior to this trip, my only experience of it was seeing my friend do it in Shanghai.
I struggle to ask for help with finding an item in Tesco, so I started off pretty awkwardly trying to negotiate prices with store owners. The more we explored markets, the more comfortable I became and it didn’t take long for me to genuinely enjoying haggling and trying to find a deal.
I managed to pick up these tips, which I am more happy to share with you:
- Be polite and friendly. Smiling will get you a lot further than shouting, plus it will be a better, more respectful experience
- Walk around the stores to get an idea of prices, don’t settle on the first store you see
- Say other stores offered you a cheaper price (even if they didn’t)
- Half the price they originally offer you – it gives you both room to negotiate
- You can include more than one item in the deal – get more, for less – which is particularly useful if you’re buying gifts
Plus one I accidentally discovered:
6. If you act like you’re walking away and definitely not going to buy it, they may offer you a much lower price. Though you have to be committed to walk away, as they may not bother to get you back.
Have you got any haggling tips or funny market stories? I’d love to hear about them.