I offered the bearded stranger a hotel, a great restaurant, souvenirs: everything; anything.
I went up to him on the ferry boat from Kowloon, asking him if he was enjoying his time and offering my help. He started to discuss money. He told me that most of his experiences in Hong Kong had revolved around money. He had seen people selling cameras: and learnt that when the tourist unwrapped them at home they were just a shell, no working parts. He had found he had to bargain even for street food, and often failed to bring the seller down far from what was obviously a very high opening price. He had seen a local thrown off a bus for not having the exact fare.
Wherever he walked, whether looking lost or purposeful, he’d been continually accosted and offered things for sale: hundreds of ties, antiques, pornographic netsuke, currency exchange, vegetables, electronics, even girls.
I walked away from him well before the Star Ferry reached Hong Kong side. I had made my offers: find him a cheap hotel and agree with the concierge to charge him more and take the difference; take him to a friend’s shop and get a commission on what he buys; order a meal, him buying, order something really expensive for me. It became clear from his fixation on money that I wasn’t going to be able to make a profit from him.