Saturday, March 7, 2009
Confessions from the 7-11
So before I begin the round-up, I confess that I do read this sucker before I post it and I think that I have fixed all the typos. Spelling is something I can't do too much about, but typos I try to grab. The problem with proof-reading your own work is that you read what you thought you wrote, not what's on the page (or screen)-- so accept apologies for typos as well as bad spelling.
With six you get eggroll.
We have decided that Sunday is the day for the Great Wall, so today we did some of the important things. First stop was the Eye Glasses Mart. The address written in my latest edition of Born to Shop was in pinyan so even the concierge at the Hilton couldn't quite figure out what I needed when I asked for a taxi card. It took a huddle of three doormen to get the taxi driver calm enough to take off...and this only after I assured everyone I knew where I was going and could give directions. (Anyone wanna buy a bridge?)
This is not a total lie, but this part of Beijing has been enormously built up in the year and a half since I was here last, so it was fascinating to see what had once been badlands now turned into middle class housing with a village feel. I guess it takes an Olympics to make a village.
We sped out the Third Ring Road and were indeed able to find the building in question. Of course by the time we spotted it, the taxi was in the middle lane of hurtling traffic without an exit in sight. This did not bother him at all (welcome to China). He just pulled over to the median, asked for some money and sent us on our way. We dodged a few buses and some Skodas and learned why the chicken crossed the road (to get to the Eye Glasses Mart).
Saturday shoppers were scurrying all around us, abuzz with their errands and fits of Spring Fever. The weather has been very mild so the sidwalks were crammed with shoppers. Since we know the Eye Mart fairly well, we jsut returned to one of the shops where I had done business before and knew they spoke a form of Chinglish.
Sarah chose three pairs of glasses for one of her daughters for a total of about $100. I also spent $100, but on one pair of glasses with progressive lenses and tri-focal input as well as snap on sunshadess fitted to the brushed titanium frames. Sarah's order could have been completed in an hour but mine was more complicated so we agreed to return tomorrow morning. The clerk took a foto of what I bought with my telephone, but I can't figure out how to attach it.
The Eye Glasses Mart is conveniently located around the corner from the famous Dirt Market. There has always been some controversy with my Born to Shop readers who argue with me that this market is only on Sundays when I have visited on Saturdays and Sundays and so stated in my pages. In front of the market today was a large sign that said (in English) that the market is now open daily. I will try to get back there mid-week to see what it looks like. Meanwhile, it was business as usual in possibly the only shopping destination you ever need to visit in Beijing.
This market is so terribly cleaned up that a lot of the fun has been taken away... thankfully the vendors still cough in your face and frequently spit on the ground, so you know you are still in China. The guys who used to be in the dirt (hence the name) are now neatly lined up against walls on the perimeter of the market; an entirely new section has been set up next to the carpark on what would be your right hand side when you enter (the wall huggers are to the left, as they have always been). Additionally, two new hangars of large furniture have opened up and even a few food joints, although I didn't fall for the good duck. There is even a shipping agent.
I don't think I bought anything or if I did, I don't remember and it explains what was in the black plastic bag I can't find. (I'd swear I had two black plastic bags, but ended up back at the hotel with only one). The merchandise is yummy but my own home already looks like one of the market stalls, so I was fairly restrained with my yuan.
In order to catch a taxi to our next destination, we had to hop over barriers in the middle of the road in front of the market entrance and flag down a cab headed in the 'wrong' direction. These new white barriers -- almsot like picket fences--are all over town and possibly were part of The Games. At the sound of a gunshot, I hurdle and sprint.
We sped off to Silk Alley.
Silk Alley is an indoor mall that has replaced the old street market by the same name. The street market was a lot of fun; I have hated this new building and only returned there today because it's my job. (Hey, someone has to do it.) Imagine my surprise to fall in love. OK, I'm easy but this place was stuffed to the rafters with four legged Polo ponies and more jade than Mick Jaegger ever imagined.
This market, much like Ya Show but larger and more crowded, had much better quality in all merchandise. I was actually charmed by a 'Mulberry' handbag, asking price 950 yuan. Since I never buy anything I don't need, I kept walking.
For purposes of comparison only, I was compelled to make a few purchases at the market's name-less DVD shop. This time the English DVD's were through a clothing store behind the full length mirror inside the dressing room. Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice. Here the movies were 10 yuan DVD's and 12 yuan. The high cost product is super 9 or something like that. I bought several just to test them against yesterday's purchases. Science is in my genes.
Exhausted, we checked into The Pen where the VIP service in our room included a tray of chocolates accompanied by chocolate chop sticks! Now if I can jsut get my hands on a chocolate Prada handbag, I'll be all set.
With the realization that this hotel gave us chocolates but no water, we went to the nearby convenience store. I bought the usual necessities-- crisps, bottled water, packet of 5-spice and, here comes the confession part, three tubes of toothpaste. I know that I swore I would never buy toothpaste in China, but I found a shelf filled with my favorite bamboo salt toothpaste that I normally buy in Hanoi and couldn't resist. I jsut hope Ilive long enough to be a hypocrite.