Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beijing 2012 - Day 17 (Pearl and Silk Markets, Sihui street art)

This morning I met with some students for brunch at "Grandma's Kitchen." Several of them had searched for days to find this bastion of American-style food. Finally they spotted "Grandma's" Jianwai Soho location near Guomao station [Here's a map]. This place is pricey, serving up Denny's-quality pancakes and burgers. Nonetheless students gorged on their meals, bundling two or three orders apiece to produce their own personal feasts.

Later a few of us journeyed to the Pearl Market for some shopping and a chance to practice our haggling skills. The game is rigged at this kind of tourist trap, with westerners inevitably singled out for high prices. But it's a fun encounter nonetheless. You learn to react with shock at the opening bid, responding with a much lower counter-offer. You trade a few friendly jabs, and you might even walk away, knowing that the seller will generally chase you down if your price is remotely reasonable, offering one last "absolute best deal." At my best, I could buy a t-shirt for 20 Yuan, bargaining the price down from 150 [spending about three bucks for something that may or may not endure a few washings]. As ever, you get what you pay for.

Heading back to the hotel, I got off early at the Sihui station for one more street art excursion. I'd seen a "Garfield" sprayed on a wall there and had to grab a quick photo. Of course, the barriers that seem invisible while riding a train become vividly apparent when walking outside. Still, despite the blistering heat, I had enough time and patience - and a sufficient willingness to squeeze past some barriers - to get my shot.

At night I visited the Silk Market, which offers a much wider selection of clothes than the Pearl. Some of the stuff I'd packed had gotten pretty well trashed on this trip, and I was ready to complete my search for an "ObaMao" shirt (that clever mashup of Barack Obama and Chairman Mao that was briefly banned by the Chinese government during a presidential visit [CSM]). By now I'd learned to double-check the sizes before buying anything. China's version of "large" is clearly not designed with Americans in mind.

Day 16 | Day 18

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