Monday, December 23, 2013

A Tarpow Guide to Taobao South East Asia

Online purchases and bargain hunting is one of the main activity for many Malaysians nowadays. With webpages that offer good discount on purchases and even sometimes, “lucky catch” where the pricing is too low to believe, the trend is set to stay. However, there is only that much these webpages with “good deal” could offer. Online auction websites and even websites/purchasing based in China, offering items made from the country is also popular – in fact, these sites are often used by small traders to buy items like phone covers in bulk (and thus leveraging on the cheaper than usual pricing) and sell them for a small profit to cover operation and side income.

It is no secret that I’ve been buying things online from these China-based website, with one operating from Hong Kong. Freight charges are often included in the purchases, thus taking away the additional charges associated with the purchase – more so if the items are low in value. Make no sense to pay USD20 for a USD2 item, right?

Just two weeks ago, I was approached by an agency that runs a big online purchasing website that has a huge following (of buyers and sellers). If you have heard of, you will know the vast inventory available for you to browse through to your heart content and to a very large extend, finding things you may not even need and be intrigued that “these actually exist”. As Taobao (it actually meant…Tar pow, as in Bungkus!) is very much China based, the challenge is of course getting the item sent to you. With that in mind, Taobao set up a website specific for the South East Asia region and could be accessed at
South East Asia Taobao is here!
The only biggest hindrance to non-Chinese reading Malaysia (like me) is the language. However, there is always help at hand known as Google Translate. ;-)
The magic

Ps – there is a chance to win RMB500.00 or RM260 (3 winners for a total of RMB1500) in this Blog giveaway. Make sure you read until finish to stand a chance and to see the questions!
How To Use Taobao?
Setting up a Taobao account is simple and the steps are guided throughout. If you click on the “Login” tab at the top right corner, it will lead you to this page here. As I’ve already have an account, you will see my name in the “username” section. Again, “translate to English” if you can’t read Chinese ;-)

Assuming that the account has been setup, you will then be able to start browsing and putting things into the “cart” associated with your username. Here is my guide to buying from Taobao – because it is very daunting for people like me that can’t read Chinese!
First, think of what you want and key it into the search box. The inventory is so diverse that you WILL likely to find what you want – as long it’s not illegal.
Mission : Petzl Nao
I have always wanted an advance headlamp to go with my night runs and extended adventure race. I know the TOP of the line lamp is Petzl Nao, and that was what I searched for.  The website is easy to use once you get the hang of it. Again, at ever page refresh, the language goes back to Chinese, and it is a right click away to translate it to English.

Once you get used to the “right click to English”, you will start to enjoy the experience more. As you can see, I got excited with the headlamp I wanted…and it came in many different prices from different seller. Like many online website, it allow you to classify the items according to the single most important factor – PRICE.
Because this mattered most

As it turns out, the cheapest I could find is the lamp at Yuan970.00 (or Remembi RMB), which translate to about USD159. Is it cheaper that the best price you can get online (from US based website)? Yes. The cheapest I found quoted USD175 without freight. So, this USD159 is a good start to saving a bit more and use the differences to pay for freight. Why not buy from Malaysia you asked? Let’s just say that after conversion, be prepared to pay more (as usual).
Cheaper than nearby
After selecting the seller with the best (lowest) price and has good ratings (it shows reliability), you will have two choices – to buy straight (box in orange below) or to keep in cart (blue box). As my intention was to browse through, in the cart it went!
Getting a hang of it

Don’t judge me as I’ve put in 6 other items into the cart (the battery pack and battery charger for my Adixxion XA1 and XA2). I removed it later as I thought I should get something more relevant for the coming Sabah Adventure Challenge 2014. This meant I browsed for more headlights!
Ready To Check Out and Buy?
Now, I assumed you have no issue so far to put things into the cart and is ready to proceed to the next step i.e. to pay for the purchases. This is crucial and important. I will try to guide it as thoroughly as possible so you will have less issue/problem.
After you are happy with your selection and the Taoabo website totaled your purchase, you press the orange button on the lower left next to the price total (per the above photo, that’s next to the Yuan1162).
Pay attention on this photo

You will then be prompted to enter a delivery address, which you have NO choice but to fill it up. Be reminded that the Seller WILL not send to Malaysia and all delivery will be done via appointed “forwarding agent”. As usual, if you have issue understanding the language – “Right click and translate to English”. So part of the improvement to the Taobao in SEA initiative is to send it to country like Malaysia. HOWEVER, the TRANSLATED (to English) above doesn’t work and you need to roll back and click on the Chinese LINK to get to the forwarder!
The orange box brings you to a list of qualified forwarders

Once you click on the link above, you will see a list of forwarder. Obviously, I tried a few times to get it right (so you don’t have to experiment and pull your hair out).

There are 4 forwarder assigned by Taobao and their rates are shown per the table above, together with the expected delivery days and ratings. Naturally, I went for the most reliable (Lequgo) and their rates was advertised at Y38 for first kg and Y16 every subsequent 500grams. The rates will only be calculated after the forwarder receives all your goods! So, there is extra payment that needed to be made for your attention! Once you are sure to have chosen your forwarder, click the bottom left orange box and you will return to the purchasing cart to the next step – PAYMENT.
Happy with selection and proceed to pay

Payment is pretty direct as you can choose to pay via a few methods namely the usual credit card and if you win the contest in this blog, you will get a “Alipay Purchase card” worth Y$500!
Many options. All secured.
To demonstrate the Alipay Purchase Card that can be setup at Alipay, I am using that for this purchase. The process for credit card will be the same and it is pretty straight forward.
$Yuan1500 finishing soon...
After clicking the “USE” button, it comes to this pop up page which prompt me to verify if the amount to pay is correct. I sort of got used to the “color coding” in Taobao that I now know, even without translating that “Orange” is Confirm or Proceed ;-). Getting the hang of it here!

As I set the payment via Alipay, it then prompts me for a second set of password. If you notice the security is very tight (aka secure) that during the sign up of Alipay, it requires you to download a small program that will be used to verify your data and once that file or encryption is correct, it will say “security settings detection success!”
It is recommended that the password for the Alipay and Taobao to be different to set another level of security. Once everything is verified, you complete the purchase. Congrats!
View your activities

The system then allows you to check your transaction history and you will be able to view what you just paid and their subsequent action available. Pretty straight forward.
Historical purchases
You have to pardon the English due to Google Translate. It is not perfect, but you will be able to make some sense out of it.
Buy Baby? It's just bad translation at work.
If you return to the Taobao page and click on your own profileà Buy baby, you will then see the whole transaction and more details to the purchase.  As you can see from the screen above, the items I’ve bought and the pricing, including the charges to send these items to the forwarding company of my choice. What will happen next is the individual seller will then ship out to the designated forwarder and the forwarder will then “merge” the items under my instruction and send to me to my actual delivery address.
International tab for full tracking

Further on the drop down menu that you should pay attention is the “International” tab, where this is the detail of the forwarding agent and you interface. Notice that upon clicking it, you will see the designated forwarder company name and other actions you can complete.
The forwarder acts as a holding place for your purchases

The forwarder actually acts as a “warehouse” to store your item. Example is if you bought heavy or bulky item where you will be charged accordingly, the weight could had exceed, say…100gram from the nearest 500grams (say for example you bought something and the packing weight came up to 1.6kg, meaning you will be charge on 1st Kg, then next 500gram and another 500grams) as they do not take 100g increment. This would meant I have the option to include the above two lights, total weight no more than 400 grams into this order and “merge” them as ONE delivery to take advantage of the (up to) 2kg weight as charged by the forwarder.
As the items get sent to the forwarder, you can then activate the merger and get them to calculate the charges.
After 1 day, I returned back to Taobao and check on my order. It was nice to see that one of the item has been sent by the seller. Individually I can also check/track the movement of the parcel under “view logistic”.
Better translation here
Next Step
I am now waiting (at point of writing) the item to be delivered to the forwarder. Once that has been completed and received by the forwarder, I will initiate “merge” and get a quotation for sending the items to me. If the rates is agreeable (and likely you have to be since you already commit to the payment),  you can then pay the forwarder using the same method (credit card or Alipay) and then wait for the goods to arrive at your doorstep!

Win $Y500 (RM260) by “LIKE” the SEA Taobao Facebook Here: and by answering these questions. Be ONE of the THREE to win this!

1. What did Stupe purchase from Taobao?
2. Is the “choose Forwarder” link in English working?
3. Which Forwarder did he choose to send the item to him in Malaysia?
4.  Is the forwarding fee included in the payment of the item purchased
5. Taobao SEA Gift Back (of $Y500) will help me to fulfill a wish long pending. My wish is to...(in less than 35 words)

You will have to get all questions right and the tie breaker will be the last Question/Slogan. The decision by the agency that engages for this competition is final. 

Email your entries to admin at tristupe dot com with Subject header : I Want To Win RMB500

Contest ends at Midnight Jan 5, 2014 (GMT+8).

Good luck!

If you want to try more luck, Taobao is currently having 10 rounds of competition at their Facebook Page here : It is at Round 7 now (of 10) and stand to win more Alipay credit to shop for the things you want.


  1. bro, the weight charged by the forwarder is the actual item's weight or by volumetric weight of the packing box?

    1. Yue Tong. I just got the first confirmation from my purchase above. 2 headlamp at 0.41kg. I believe it's the packed weight.

  2. Been using taobao till now. Felt like buying everything!

    1. You sir, not the only one (i have 35 items in my cart)