Posted by: adventuressetravels | February 28, 2012

Silk Savvy

India is a sumptuous feast for the senses.  Brightly colored silks line the streets.  Pungent aromas both beautiful and dreadful waft from street carts, storefronts, and gutters.   Women dressed in colorful saris, decked in shining bangles do their shopping.  And of course the vendors will try their best to get the tourists in their shop for a cup of masala chai tea rich with milk, sugar, and spiced with saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and anise just to have a look at the rainbow of fabrics they sell.

The silks are absolutely stunning, and it is hard to walk away without buying at least a scarf or two, but buyer beware.  Sadly silk sellers in tourist centers like Varanasi are sharks.  They will try to pass off brightly colored polyester scarves as silk.    One easy way to tell if a fabric is real silk or synthetic is to burn it.

By no means do you have to burn the entire scarf, simply ask the seller to pluck on thread from the fabric and burn it.

–          When you burn silk it smells like hair and the ash crumbles in the hand.

–          When you burn  synthetic material the thread melts to a hard plastic.

However, to throw the guileless tourist off the trail crafty sellers often sellers may offer to burn a thread from one of the scarf tassels.   This method is unreliable at best – frequently synthetic scarves have silk tassels for just this reason.

Always remember to bargain, look it as more of a game than a chore and you will go far, but even if something seems cheap.  What may seem like a good deal to you can actually be highway robbery , and when tourists don’t bargain, the sellers will raise the price and  it will be more difficult for the next tourists.

To get better deals, try to stay away from buying scarves in more touristy areas.  You shouldn’t spend more than 50 rupees for a scarf (about $1 USD), 100 rupees at most ($2 USD), and significantly less if you are buying synthetic.   If the seller doesn’t want to bargain, then move on to another store – there are always sellers who will be happy to bargain.  Besides, if the sellers realize you are willing to buy elsewhere, they  will almost always drop their prices.

Enjoy the rich array of colors, the beauty of this incredible country, but like everything else in this country tourists need to stay alert, play the game, and be confident.

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