Henna in Cheung Chau – It’s all about the experience!

I’ve been doing henna in Hong Kong for over 2 years now; at all kinds of fairs, different community events etc as well as doing a lot of pro bono work… yet yesterday was the first time when I truly understood the power of the word “FREE”, and just how attractive it is. How easily that word eliminates the language barriers, and just how easily it can change something that’s perceived as being intimidating/ foreign/ unknown… to something that could be worth exploring and experiencing!

Yesterday I decided to dedicate my day to some field research, and I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone; educating local chinese people about henna, and exploring the henna opportunities in one of the outlying islands of Hong Kong – Cheung Chau. I found Cheung Chau to be a terrific place for this experiment!

Cheung Chau is a picturesque island with a waterfront that bustles with activity; an island most popular for it’s weeklong Bun Festival! On weekdays, it’s a quiet residential island but at weekends, it’s a different story. When ferries, packed with sightseers and holiday-makers, arrive at the island, the population doubles, however, tourists are still outnumbered by the locals, and there are still streets in this exciting village that are untouched and unspoiled by the tourists.

I chose to have my henna stall in the Cheung Chau complex, a small square just 5 mins away from the ferry pier. I thought this would be a good location as every half hour, a new wave of visitors would arrive at the island and most of them would have to pass this square in order to get to the more touristy locations of the island. Now, in my years of henna experience, I have learnt that Henna can not be marketed… it’s not something that I can shout out about to attract people to my stall… instead it’s about the interaction and people watching me henna on someone is the best promotion!

That’s my marketing tool… find one/ two clients and use them as adverts:) But that only works when I can actually find that one client to begin with!! This I found extremely difficult at Cheung Chau… I found that most people actually looked scared to come too close my stall.. they would look at it from far, keep looking but the minute I smiled at them they would turn around and scurry away. I looked around myself and thought, “Do I look that scary?” What was it about my stall that they didn’t even want to take a closer look? This thought worried me and had me a bit upset for the first hour. Thankfully, the shopkeeper who had given me the stall came out and explained to me. She told me that my stall looked too fancy for the locals, I had no clear big sign stating how much these tattoos were so they were scared that it might be too expensive, and top that with the fact that I was clearly not one of their kind and I can’t speak their language… these thoughts made them keep their distance. So we decided we’ll put up a sign that clearly shows how much the tattoos are… however at the last minute I decided, I want to do these tattoos for FREE! To which I got a shocked “Are you crazy?!” from the shopkeeper and my friend!


I wanted to encourage these local residents to share a small part of my culture with me… I wanted them to experience Henna as I knew most of them had never done so before. I wanted to educate them about what henna is and open their minds to something unique, something different! I wanted to see if there is actually any interest for henna in Cheung Chau, and whether if I decide to give tattoos for free, would I be able to make these people stop and turn and come towards my stall?

I got my answer within 10 seconds of putting up the ‘FREE’ sign!! Instantly people stopped and did a double take – although till today I’m still not sure whether the double take was for my apparently ‘Handsome’ friend who was holding the sign, or for the sign itself!:) Whatever it was, it sure did the trick! Within minutes we had a pretty big crowd around us, and by this point I had started doing tattoos on people and explaining to them as well as I could through the language barriers what henna was, how long it stayed and where it came from.

The hour that followed was then a blur of tattooing, explaining henna, laughing and chatting with these local residents of Cheung Chau. I was suddenly no longer an intimidating intruder on their island, but a crazy girl decorating their bodies for free! The funny thing we noticed was, that some people didn’t actually mind paying, and actually questioned our motives for doing these tattoos for free! But one thing that was common in all these people was that they left my stall smiling, and admiring their henna tattoos in awe!


All in all, I ended up having a blast introducing the art of henna to these people and was happy knowing that they will be able to remember their unique henna experience in Cheung Chau, and perhaps even talk about it with their friends and family for atleast the next 3 weeks to follow!:) Sara’s Henna – Mission Accomplished! 


Awesome photos of the day courtesy of my friend and assistant for the day – Suraj! I’d have given up in the first hour if I didn’t have the amazing company!:) You can see the full album on our facebook page!

For a unique henna experience in Hong Kong, remember Sara’s Henna!

1 Comment

  1. Suraj says:
    April 1, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    The best things in life are freeeeeeeeeeeee
    -the decidedly handsome assistant

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