One more introduction. Range is trying out to be our special correspondent from Asia. He's a Canadian splitting his time between Taipei, Taiwan and Quebec City, Quebec Canada. He has a photo project online called 366 Photos, where he takes a photo a day and posts it on his blog.
One of the best things about either visiting or working in Asia is getting access to the latest technologies made in Taiwan and Japanese factories. Most gadgets come out these two countries first, sometimes as much as a year before they're released in North America, and on the cheap.
All of this tech can be found in the cities' technology markets, a Costco of sorts for all things gadget. They can overwhelming to say the least. I remember my first visit. I was so overwhelmed that I just walked around for an hour and left without buying anything...
Asian technology markets are very strange to Western eyes. There are thousands of vendors all selling the same things, right next to each other.
How do you find technology markets in an Asian city?
In Taipei, the Gong Hua computer market is located on the corner of Xinsheng Rd. and Civic Blvd. It is currently housed in temporary buildings, but will move into a new building this week. The market actually extends into Bade Rd. and features Toshiba, Asus, and other manufacturers. The brands to get in Taiwan are the ones that are manufactured in Asia. American brands such as HP and Apple, even though most of their product lines have shifted to Asia, are still comparatively expensive to locally manufactured ones such as Asus or Acer. You can expect to pay up to 50% less than you would pay in the West. Naturally, this all depends on your ability to haggle down the price.
Make a plan.
Research what you want to buy, know the model and the year it was manufactured. Subtle differences make for a variance in prices. If a new model comes out, vendors will try to get rid of their older ones. Once you have decided on what to buy, you have to find out where to buy it. Take a printout of what you desire to purchase and ask around. By asking, I mean just pointing at it. If the vendors don't speak English, they will still be able to help you.
How to haggle.
There is a decent margin for haggling in Asia. Asian vendors enjoy haggling, and if you find one that doesn't budge, just change vendors. That is why it is so convenient to have all of the vendors in one place. Paying cash will give you further rebates.
To pay or not to pay taxes.
Unlike the States where you have no choice on whether you pay sales tax, in Taiwan, you can elect not to. However, this negates your claim on the warranty from the vendor, but not the manufacturer. If you are traveling back to the West with your purchase, you don't need that warranty.
Mods and hacks.
You can also have your laptop modified cheaply and quickly in these markets. Usually, they take less than a day to complete. Most times they modifications will be ready by the day's end.
These are some of the initial steps that you should known when buying technology from a computer market in Asia. More tips and tricks to come.