It's one of my favourite cliches from stall owners throughout Asia when you're trying to do a bit of haggling. If it's for something vaguely sensible such as clothes then it makes a bit of sense, but it's hard to make a case for actually needing a soft toy panda ball head. Particularly when you don't have kids and you're a grown man in his mid-30s.

"How much you pay?" demanded the feisty little shopkeeper at the famed Beijing Hongqiao Market. She could see I was already carrying plastic bags of things of zero necessity, namely my fake Star Wars Lego (it looks convincing if you can get past it being called "Star Wart") and I represented an easy target.

I'd made the mistake of pausing to look at something odd, in this case, a crate of soft toy, comically round panda ball heads. The biggest panda ball head was almost the size of a living room bean bag, before descending down to something closer to a hacky-sack.

They looked hilarious. What does one pay for a good panda ball head? It's surely the question on the lips of most tourists in China and it was certainly on mine. "How much you pay?" came the predictable response.


Well, I didn't know and there was no way I'd be buying one.

"I'm not going to buy, but how much are they?" I asked her again. She then said a price so spectacularly inflated — something in the range of $100 — that I cracked up.

"Okay! Okay!" She replied, knocking it down to $80, and all this for a mid-range panda ball of roughly basketball size.

"Good for you, good for me."

How is $80 on a panda ball in a Beijing market good for me? I still had no intention of taking one home, but this was kind of fun. Shaping to walk away, the price dropped to $60.

"Good for you, good for me!" Not really.

But then $60 became $40, $40 became $30 and at the equivalent of $20 I found myself opening my wallet and handing over my hard-earned cash.

"Why?" is a question I get asked by visitors to my man cave and all I can say is that at the time it felt "good for you, good for me".


Why are the world's most liveable cities so cold?

Barely a month goes by where there isn't another survey announcing the most liveable cities in the world and almost always we find Auckland and Wellington fairly high up on those lists. And in so many ways, they should be. Chest-thumpingly good geography and a decent standard of living combine to make our two biggest cities justifiably attractive on a global stage. But looking at the latest "Most Liveable" list, this one by Deutsche Bank called the "Quality Of Life", why is it virtually every city in the top 10 has an iffy-to-dreadful climate?

Disclaimer: I was born in Wellington and I love it. The cliche of "you can't beat it on a good day", isn't hyperbole and that CBD-and-waterfront combo is up there with the best in the southern hemisphere. However, with only two months a year topping an average high of 20C or more, is the world's windiest metropolis really its most liveable?

With Edinburgh, Vienna, Zurich, Copenhagen, Ottawa, Boston and Amsterdam also near the top of the list, arguably the only weather-ledger positive cities in the final 10 are Melbourne and Sydney. Which raises the question: given human beings seem fanatically obsessed with weather, why are our most liveable cities lists always dominated by fantastic places with ordinary climates?

Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul on Coast and writes the