Hong Kong, Beijing and pearl farms

Aug 4th, 2003, 08:52 AM
  #1  
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Hong Kong, Beijing and pearl farms

My husband and I will be traveling to Hong Kong in November. We have an interest in Chinese freshwater pearls and would like to visit some pearl farms. Does anyone have recommendations on pearl farms and how to get there from Hong Kong.

Also, we would like to visit Beijing for 4-5 days. Is this enough time? Can you suggest a package or just domestic flight from Hong Kong for the best deal? The express train takes 23 hours, which would be too long since we have limited time.

Thank you in advance for your time and input.

Nicci
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Aug 4th, 2003, 03:13 PM
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Unless your interest in pearl farms extends to being very knowledgeable about quality and about prices internationally, I wouldn't do any shopping at pearl farms. Unless you are fully able to recognize low quality pearls and fakes, I wouldn't shop for pearls in Beijing, either. If you do have professional knowledge in this area, I'm sure there are many who view this site who would welcome your opinions on mainland pearls once you've made your trip.

The 'best deal' for a flight to Beijing from Hong Kong will be had by taking the jetfoil service to Shenzhen and flying from there. Flights from Shenzhen are treated as domestic flights, and from Hong Kong as international ones, and are often considerably more expensive. Shop around Hong Kong travel agents for the best prices from Shenzhen and bargain a little--quotes for the same flight can vary widely. Always ask if there's something cheaper whatever price you are first quoted, and look at agents away from the main tourist streets (Nathan Road, etc.) as although many of these claim to target budget travellers they are often more expensive than those a few streets away catering to locals. You might try Shoestring Travel and CTS, next to each other on the corner of Nathan Road opposite Chungking Mansions just to get a starting price, but pay less by walking a little further into the maze of streets to the east (apologies, I don't have my Hong Kong street plan to hand to name streets, but this is easily done).

Whatever you do, do not buy in advance from on-line agents, even Hong Kong ones--rates are extortionate. Flights are frequent enough that you can almost always fly the same day without difficulty, but it's better to book a little further in advance if you can. But just turning up at Shenzhen and jumping on the first available flight is quite feasible, and will still be cheaper than flying from Hong Kong. China Southern occasionally has special discounts from Hong Kong which bring the price down to not far above the Shenzhen one, and then the convenience of HK Airport may be worth the difference in price. It pays to ask.

For details of the convenient jetfoil link to Shenzhen Airport see:

http://www.turbocat.com/index.htm

There are packages from Hong Kong, but you'd do just as well to fly and make your own arrangements. Getting to see the main sights of Beijing on your own is not difficult, and if you really prefer them there are one-day tours your can buy in Beijing on arrival. Three whole days in Beijing will enable you to see quite a lot, and the trip from Hong Kong is certainly worth making for that period of time. If you really prefer to have all arrangements made in advance, then they agents mention above have packages to offer.

Peter N-H
http://members.axion.net/~pnh/China.html
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Aug 5th, 2003, 06:59 AM
  #3  
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A great place to buy freshwater pearls in Beijing is the famous pearl market near the Temple of Heaven (I can't remember the name but it's in guidebooks). They have every shape and color (some natural, some not) you can imagine and will put together strands of whatever you want on the spot. Off on one end of the same floor you can also find all sorts of Mao memorabilia and other stuff. We spent a week there and could've stayed a lot longer. There's SOOOO much to see and do around there.
We're planning to go to Hong Kong after Christmas so I'd love to hear about your trip when you're back!
 
Aug 5th, 2003, 10:49 AM
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Peep, I think you are referring to the Hongqiao Market in the Chongwen District, generally known as the Pearl Market. I love that place also, but virtually every pearl there is a FAKE! Perhaps the single pearl earrings are real, but other than that, you take your chances. That being said, my jeweler in Hong Kong said they were the best fakes she had ever seen! I get compliments on my string of large gray pearls all the time, which I graciously accept. . . The selection is tremendous, they will make to order as well, but bargain hard, and assume that they are fakes -- even though they will tell you with a very sincere face that they are real and will even offer to crush one to prove it. Maintain your stance that they are fake, and offer to pay accordingly! (You might even whisper that you know they are fakes and indicate that you won't give it away to the other tourists if you get a good deal?..)

The Pearl Market is part of a shopping mall, which sells dried fish on the ground floor, so you have to steel yourself to go in. Once you get up to the upper floors, however, there are fake handbags and well as handicrafts. There is a "pearl" market on the top floor.

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Aug 5th, 2003, 11:33 AM
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Fake freshwater pearls?? Or are you talking about salt water pearls? There's a huge difference in price and value between the two. Freshwater pearls are MUCH cheaper.
 
Aug 5th, 2003, 11:39 PM
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I was referring to both. One of the explanations that shopkeepers will give you as to why their pearls are so cheap is that they will say that they are "dyed freshwater pearls"; and as most people know that freshwater pearls are cheaper, this can make a sort of sense. They are just fakes.
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Aug 6th, 2003, 03:22 AM
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I suppose it doesn't really matter. The 'fresh water pearls' I bought, fake or not, were inexpensive and nice souvenirs. Do you know how they make them? If mine are fake, they did an excellent job!
 
Aug 6th, 2003, 04:24 AM
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Sorry, Peep, I may have confused you. I think that all the pearls that they sell as cultured pearls or "dyed freshwater pearls" are fakes. These are larger pearls, which are round and perfectly circular.

It is possible that if you bought something which they just called freshwater pearls, that you bought the real thing. These would be small, unevenly shaped, not perfectly ciruclar pearls, more oblong or rectangular than circular. Real freshwater pearls are not expensive, even at US prices. The only way to know is to take them to a jeweler.

As mentioned, it is also possible that small one-pearl earrings are the real thing, but again only a jeweler would know.

I agree that they make great gifts and personal jewelery even if the are fakes. You could not beat the price for this quality of costume jelewery in the US.
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Aug 6th, 2003, 04:53 AM
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I bought several strands of of fresh water pearls for $10-20 each. I have others, fresh and salt water (cultured) so I felt reasonably confident they were real. Most fresh water pearls sold in the US come from China, don't they? I think dealers buy en masse from the Hong Qiao market. Anyway, whatever! It's not like I bought them for an investment.
 
Aug 6th, 2003, 05:29 AM
  #10  
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Peter- thanks for the transport info to Beijing.

I am not a expert on pearls, however, have been trying to learn more about them recently. We are interested importing them for a future business. So, I wanted part of this trip to be further research. I've read that Zhejiang province is the pearl farming region. I have a friend who recently moved to Hong Kong and will be able to translate for us.

I was hoping to get some feedback on if anyone has been to this area or purchased REAL fresh water pearls.

Has anyone purchased any real ones and if so, please advise on specifics to the location? And is there anyone who knows of an honest Chinese pearl merchant?

Thank you,

Nicci
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