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Mark is a great fan of Mombasa in Kenya and on his recent visit he did a bit of shopping:
Whenever I travel overseas I always bring back a few knickknack souvenirs, despite the fact I have a house full of the stuff anyway – wooden carvings, paintings, spice boxes and the like. When I go to Mombasa, though, I buy stuff more for fun of the bartering than the goods themselves. On this trip I’d set myself a mission – I wanted a small plate to use as a spoon tray in the kitchen at home, and under no circumstances was I to buy any form of wooden carving – and definitely not an animal of any nature.
Bartering for souvenirs on the beaches of Mombasa can be quite an intimidating process if you’re not expecting it – lots of sellers shouting random prices to you faster than you can work out the Sterling equivalent. On past trips I’d also been asked for pens and socks as these items are harder to get hold of in Kenya, so on this occasion I’d come prepared.
Armed with my previous experience and a specific target, I took to the beach at the Voyager Beach Resort, on Mombasa’s North Coast. There were two or three sellers when I made my move – but about a dozen by the time I’d descended the few steps to the beach! I aimed for the plates – a good selection and I saw the one I wanted almost straight away. “A thousand Shillings” was the starting price – that’s about £9, which was far too much for a small plate, I was hoping for nearer £2 “unless you have any socks” he said – an interesting trade, and just what I was hoping for! “What colour socks?” I asked, which got his interest immediately.
After 10 minutes of light-hearted bartering, interspersed with talk of the forthcoming football match, I’d got my chosen plate for my target price of £2, and given away a pack of M&S socks and three biros – and even got a wooden elephant thrown in. So much for no carvings!