(By the way, for those playing along at home, I’m not counting Thursday (when I flew out UK time) or Friday (when I arrived Chinese time) because I spent all of that time either flying or being too tired to sleep!)
So today, dear diary, I went to Wangfujing Dajie, which is the most commercial shopping street in Beijing. It was only about four stops down Line 5 of the subway from where I’m staying (which is really very conveniently central, barely any distance from the city centre and surprisingly cheap) and just like yesterday it was bakinghot. Absolutely sweltering today! Which is why it’s so funny that the shop assistants kept trying to sell me puffa jackets.
Clearly I have a gullible face, because I was approached not once but twice by young women on the street who I assume, given the stories I’ve heard, are scam artists, trying to get me to go get coffee with them or, alternatively, to go see their etchings.
Also slightly depressing: in only one store I went in was I not stalked by the sales assistant, which makes me wonder if Westerners have a reputation for stealing here. But I digress.
It’s really weird to go halfway around the world to somewhere almost as far away as I can go from home and to find that almost all of the brands in the mall are ones I can get in London. I was hoping for more Chinese stores so I could get more of a sense of the country, but maybe this is the country now. Nonetheless, the one time I did try anything on I looked terrible in everything as, though I’m not a big girl, I am also not a tiny slip of a thing, which would have been required for those clothes not to make me look like a brick shithouse.
I ended up wandering a little through the flea market to the side of Wangfujing, which was an education in and of itself food-wise (though due to some advice from Spicedpiano, I didn’t get any streetfood there) as on the first stall I came to there were scorpions on a stick that were STILL ALIVE AND WRIGGLING. I definitely didn’t eat those, but I did take a picture for my boss, who keeps insisting I have to eat insects while I’m here. Instead I had dumplings at a nice restaurant just off the main street.
I finally went downtown a little way to the Hongqiao Pearl Market, which is a bit of a grab bag of everything from purses to scarves to toys to jade and so on. It’s a very friendly-aggressive shopping experience - you don’t even have to look at anything to have the shopkeepers calling out to you trying to get you to buy something, and having been raised way too polite it was really hard for me not to at least say hello in response to people when they said hello to me. But I was only really interested in one thing: pearls!
I bought a lovely string of reddish-brown pearls and a matching pair of earrings, which are all cultivated pearls (which means they’re real but not wild - they insert the start of the pearl into the oyster to get a better, bigger result.) I also did a little negotiating which I was proud of myself for because I hate haggling usually, but clearly a year or two working in sales has helped me with that ;) So in total for the whole string (which she restrung for me and put a lobster clasp on it so I could fasten it more easily) and the earrings it cost me 150 yuan, or about £15. Score!
I also got a carved wooden ball which shows two dragons fighting, which I love (though those who know the city better may well tell me is mass-produced. I don’t care.) It’ll go really well with the carved wooden scarab beetle I bought in Egypt.
(That’s not a great picture, but it looks really awesome in RL.)
Highlight of the day: I have this necklace, right, which I bought for £3 in the supermarket in the UK. It’s nice but cheap, and yet the first time I wore it I was at a dinner out and I was wearing a £60 dress and £20 shoes and the necklace was what got complimented, which I thought was pretty funny.
Today that necklace got complimented twice here in Beijing, and one of those times was by a lady who was just another shopper at the Pearl Market, so had no reason to flatter me. Life is weird sometimes.
(This is the necklace in question, I got it at ASDA in the UK. You can also see the mole on my breast that I like to think of as a beauty mark ;D )
Lowlight of the day: second local person telling me that there is not enough to do in Beijing to keep me occupied for two weeks, making me feel kind of lame :/ Though I am very lazy (I go out at about 11am and come back by around 5pm) so perhaps being so lazy will spread it out a bit.
Tomorrow I think I will go to the Temple of Heaven and then loll around in the park reading all afternoon in the shade. Sounds like heaven to me!