On Thursday, I had finally finished my deadline work and Michael was going to be working all day so I decided to take a trip to the Pearl Market in downtown Beijing. I had visited here in 2011 and really wanted to go again.
Once I was able to communicate to the hotel front desk exactly where I wanted to go, including going back upstairs and emailing myself a link that I could show to them, they organized a taxi to take me to the market.
The trip was interesting on several different levels. First of all (for all of you Big Bang Theory Fans), his “Check Engine” light was shining brightly through the whole trip. When he would idle for a long time at a light, the car would start an ominous squealing!! Secondly, we encountered a bus traveling in the wrong direction on a multi-lane road…..
…of course, if you look at this photo, you can see that we were in the “bike only” lane ourselves!!
I arrived at the market and was at once accosted by the noise and confusion of hundreds of booths, hundreds of vendors and LOTS and LOTS of white people shopping.
As I walked up and down the aisles, the patter seldom varied….the first question was “What are you shopping for Madam?” or “Scarf / Watch / shirt (fill in the blank) for Madam?” I would smile and shake my head as the vendor’s cry followed me to the next booth. In many cases the price would drop even though I wasn’t interested in the item!!
The first floor was mostly electronics and I wasn’t interested in those so it was easy to breeze on thru. The second floor contained booths and booths of purses, suitcases, shoes and clothes of all genres…..
Once again, I wasn’t too interested in these items so was able to move thru fairly quickly.
Now I slowed considerably on the 3rd floor as it held vendors selling crystals and costume jewelry and also “arts and crafts”. My first purchase was a red and black necklace (for Georgia Football of course). It was fun to watch her re-string and tie off the beads……
There were many interesting shops on this floor and I loved seeing rows and rows of shiny beads and baubles….
I purchased a picture in the “Arts” section that I am really excited about. It is done on fabric that has been shaded with paint and then has straight line embroidery making up the rest of the picture. It has so much depth when you look at it.
I moved on up to the 5th floor and the quality and sophistication improved yet again…..
I was planning to visit a store that I had come to last time, but had forgotten to look up the name. I remembered that it was the name of a woman and that it was in the very corner along one corridor, so I patiently walked every corridor until I came again to “Lynn’s”. I knew immediately that I was in the right spot and spent some time shopping and enjoying talking to the women working there.
A quick jaunt up the escalator one more time took me into a world that was far beyond my means!!! Most of the stores on this floor sold only designer pieces and they started at $1,500+++++, although they were certainly beautiful.
I did avail myself of the facilities on the 6th floor and found a clean, quiet bathroom, very much different from the one that I had visited on the 2nd floor!!!
When I started down the stairs again, I kept going down and ended up on the Basement level which was the Food Court. I wasn’t super hungry but wanted something small and ended up at a Dairy Queen!!!!. My “blizzard” was similar to the ones at home, except that it had a vein of Strawberry (or Red Berries as they are called here) running thru the center…..
As I sat and ate it, I looked around at the other food vendors and kicked myself that I hadn’t ordered dumplings or soup or something along those lines.
On of the funniest encounters that I witnessed was between a British gentleman and a shopkeeper. He was wanting to buy a small chair but was worried about taking it on the plane as carry-on baggage. The shopkeeper repeatedly assured him that she would wrap it in bubble-wrap and that it would fit, but I fully expected to see it sitting abandoned outside one of the International gates as we departed!!!
Now I was ready to return to the hotel and this was the part that I was the most worried about. Because the hotel was fairly far away, many drivers are not interested in taking fares there. I approached the first driver and was relieved that he spoke very good English. He told me that he would take me but it would cost 300 Yuan!!! Now, I had come over during rush hour traffic and knew that the fare should be about 75Y so I told him thanks, but no!!!
I walked back inside and found an ATM to get some more cash….just in case and then approached a second driver. He told me that he would charge 100Y for the trip and I felt that was fair so agreed to the amount,. He drove about 10 blocks and then pulled over and asked to see the card with the hotel name and directions and I had a sinking feeling that I knew what was coming. Sure enough, he turned to me and said “it is VERY far” and I will need 120Y for the fare. I argued briefly that we had agreed on 100Y, but he knew that he had me over a barrel, so I finally said yes…..after all, it was only $3.00 more!! He happily drove me to the hotel and I grudgingly handed over my 120Y!! Oh well, at least I had made it home.
When Michael finished, we walked to Twosome Coffee, a small cafe that has become his “sanity station”. If he eats on campus, he almost always ends up talking with students or professors about science but if we walk down the street, he can enjoy a quiet cup of Espresso!! Don’t get me wrong, he LOVES to talk science, but sometimes it is good to have a little break!!
While we sat at an outside table, we engaged in one of our favorite pastimes….people watching!!!!
One thing that we noticed were the umbrellas that the women carried. We learned on our first trip to China that the Chinese women do not want their skin to become dark, especially their faces, so they will use an umbrella to shelter the harmful rays from the cheeks. I noticed in one store that the umbrellas actually had ratings as to the spf factor. Many of them had “black-out” material as a lining so that absolutely no sunrays could get past.
We have also noted that there is a definite “Business Card” etiquette in China. They love to give and receive business cards and they are always handed to you with both hands and a little bow. When you receive a card from someone, you also use both hands and it is apparently uncouth to put the card in your wallet and into your back pocket. They apparently deserve more respect than that and we have seen businessmen with special cases just to carry their cards.
We have laughingly noticed people driving motor bikes and scooters with the handlebars covered with something that looks like giant oven mitts. We are not sure exactly what the purpose is for these covers, but they are fun to look at. The only drawback that I see is that I bet they are really hot in the Beijing summers!!
After our hour of people watching we returned to the hotel, making a quick stop at the cafeteria to get a little something to eat. We were really glad that we had stopped as we had our self-proclaimed “DDM” dinner. That stands for DONKEY, DUCK & MUSHROOMS and yes,they were all three delicious!!!!!