Monday, December 17, 2012

Gui Ling Gao

I live in Tsuen Wan. It’s an area in the New Territories which is considered more affordable than areas in Hong Kong Island or Kowloon. The Hong Kong government decided to develop Tsuen Wan as a new town settlement in the 1960s to relieve the growing population in Hong Kong and Kowloon. Tsuen Wan began as an industrial area consisting of factories, but today has developed into a residential and commercial area similar to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
When you go to different areas in Hong Kong, you can expect different prices for similar products due to the location of the shop. The difference in price is mainly attributable to the difference in rent of that area.

I don’t know when this started, but I noticed that the price of coffee at MacDonald’s is different, depending on which area you buy it at. The price of their set meals are usually the same as consumers tend to remember those prices since they are purchased so often. Also, since the signs for the set meals make up most of the signboards, it would be pretty easy for someone to notice the discrepancy between two shops should they list different prices.
A coffee, bought a la carte, is different however. If you buy a coffee from a Tsuen Wan MacDonald’s, it would be a bit cheaper than one that is bought at a MacDonald’s located in Causeway Bay. I am used to purchasing at the Tsuen Wan MacDonald’s price; so of course, I was not pleased when I first discovered that I had to pay more for the exact same product when I purchased it at a different location. The difference is very subtle, but when this discovery dawns upon you, you find yourself shaking your head and thinking, that’s bullshit.  

I am aware that MacDonald’s have different prices for different cities and don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that their prices in Hong Kong are probably one of the cheapest in the world; but to have different prices in the same city, that to me does not seem right. Surely you cannot justify the difference in prices because the level of service and food quality of the Causeway Bay MacDonald’s is better than that of Tsuen Wan’s. It is safe to say that MacDonald’s service and taste is fairly consistent in every corner of the earth.
It is not just MacDonald’s, but some product prices differ enormously when purchased in different areas. One time I went to eat a “Gui Ling Gao” (龜苓膏) in Causeway Bay. For those of you that are wondering what a Gui Ling Gao is, it is a black colored herbal jelly made from the shell of a turtle and a mixture of variant Chinese herbal medicines. In Chinese medicine, the Gui Ling Gao is said to help relieve inner heat from the body. Inner heat is formed when you ingest such foods such as deep fried foods or hot pots. 

The Gui Ling Gao can be purchased at Chinese herbal tea shops.  I am sure most people who have visited Hong Kong have seen one of these shops as they are located everywhere in Hong Kong and stick out like a sore thumb when compared to nearby shops in the neighborhood. Chinese herbal tea shops are usually very old in style. When you set foot in one, you kind of feel like being transported back in time to the Qing Dynasty.  There is a counter at the front of the shop with bowls of black herbal tea, covered by a transparent piece of glass on top, ready to be consumed by people passing by. At the back, are tables for those who wish to sit down and relax while enjoying their teas or Gui Ling Gaos. 
So normally, I would eat a Gui Ling Gao at Tsuen Wan, where the price is around HK$30, but this time since I had just finished a heavy “heat filled” meal at Causeway Bay, I decided to relieve some of that heat by treating myself to the Turtle jelly at a nearby herbal tea shop. I rushed in and without looking at the price ordered a Gui Ling Gao and then started scooping it up upon arrival to my table.
Taking a mere three minutes to finish, I got up, pulled a fifty dollar bill out of my wallet, and handed it over to the staff at the pay counter. She took my fifty dollar bill and for about 3 seconds the two of us was staring at each other like a Mexican standoff, each of us waiting for the other to make a move—I was waiting for her to give me my change and her for me to take out more money.
Finally, when she said “Sixty Dollars”, it dawned upon me that I was not in Tsuen Wan anymore. I replied “Oh!” and then embarrassingly pulled out a ten and handed it over to her. I quickly walked out shaking my head, thinking that’s bullshit.

                                  Chinese Herbal tea shop

                  $60 Gui Ling Gao, where is this world coming to??  

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