Tsim Sha Tsui (or “TST”) is a particularly touristy corner of Hong Kong. The area includes lots of shopping, a Star Ferry pier, heaps of restaurants and many lovely cross-harbor viewpoints.
It is also full of tourists and amongst these tourists there is a healthy sprinkling of street touts. As such, there are several blocks in TST where you are guaranteed to be asked multiple times: “Tailored suit? Copy watch? Copy handbag?”
In my own experience these touts are only mildly annoying and not at all persistent: a negative head shake accompanied by an “I live here” eye roll and they move on.
A certain Mr. Clumer from Vancouver, however, finds the touts repellant as he explains in his recent letter to the editor of the South China Morning Post:
I love visiting Hong Kong but hate walking along Nathan Road [in Tsim Sha Tsui].
The continual barrage of unscrupulous tailors and sleazy point men trying to unload their tacky tailoring skills and fake Rolex watches on the unwary white tourists is nothing short of harassment.
Why does Hong Kong allow this behavior to continue in what is otherwise a modern civilized city?
Justin Culmer, Vancouver, Canada
An open letter to the incensed and adjective-loving Mr Culmer:
Dear Mr Culmer,
There are several solutions to the problem of the TST touts to whom you refer.
Firstly, simply ignore them like everyone else does. Categorize their questions as part of the background noise of TST and shut it all out.
Secondly, you could spend your time in Hong Kong outside of the three block radius where the TST touts operate (hint: don’t stay at the Holiday Inn on Nathan Road’s “Golden Mile”). I suggest visiting any one of Hong Kong’s trillion other interesting neighborhoods. Sai Kung? Mong Kok? Lama Island? Sheung Wan? Wan Chai? Tai Po? Stanley? All worth visiting. All completely tailoring-tout-free.
Thirdly, you might decide to be amused rather than annoyed by the touts. I’ve stood in front of Chung King Mansions on Nathan Road and watched the touts approach people (after asking me once, they all simply ignored me). Fascinating to watch them work. Their days are full of rejection. Must be similar to Mormon Missionary work.
Fourthly, if you can’t beat them, join them. Line the inside of your jacket with fake watches. When the touts approach you, open your jacket and ask if they’re interested in one of your copy watches.
Finally, if the occasional mention of “copy watch sir?” by a man of South Asian descent is the most irritating part of your trip to Hong Kong as a “white tourist” you should probably loosen up.