Monday, April 12, 2010

You Want To Serve THAT For Dinner!?!

On Friday we had planned to make a trip to go and see the Great Wall. We had picked out a particular spot that we would like to see it at (Juyongguan pass) as we had heard that the most popular spot, Badaling, was always badly overrun with tourists and hawkers. There is a tourist bus depot that makes trips to the Great Wall near Tian'anmen Square so we headed there in the morning, hoping to jump on tour bus no. B at the tourist bus depot.

Upon arrival we were disappointed to discover that there is now only tour buses A and C (I have no idea what happened to B), both of which did not go to Juyongguan. Jenni and I would normally be happy to just re-direct our interest to go and see Badaling, but due to the amount of people pestering us around the depot to go with them to Badaling, we were determined not to go on principal.

We decided that when we were able to get back on the internet, we would find an alternative way to get Juyongguan, so we cut our losses and ventured into the shopping district, south of Tian'anmen square and thus began the day of visiting markets in Beijing.

I am not sure what the markets are called that lie among the alleyways behind the open mall that is to the south of Tian'anmen Square, I assume they are called Tian'anmen Markets or something like that. They seemed to be mostly filled with jewelery that the sellers claimed was authentic jade and various other souvenir type items such as hanging scrolls and little wooden statues. We managed to get one of the girls in the proper jewelery shops within the main mall to let us in on the secret to what the 'jade' bracelets in all of the markets are made out of. It turns out that they are made out of agate, not jade, which is very cheap in comparison.

We moved on from Tian'anmen Square to Yong'anli where the 'Silk Markets' are. These markets are in a multi-storey building that is connected to the Yong'anli subway station. It is full of fake designer brand clothes like Nike, Adidas, Colorado, Calvin Klein, Guess, D&G and many more. Some of the most impressive knock offs where the '100% Gortex' North Face jackets and Harley Davidson leather jackets. One girl got rather annoyed when she caught me taking a photo of all of her knock off North Face jackets and cried 'No photos, no photos!' Surely she wouldn't be worried that I might send a photo of her 'authentic' jackets to their manufacturers!

As we walked down each isle, all of the girls would be lined up waiting with t-shirts, hand bags, jeans, jackets and all sorts of things and pester us to come into their little stall to buy something. The amount of times we heard "You want Nike t-shirt? Adidas?" or "Sir, sir / pretty lady" or "Come in, just take a look" was unbelievable. They even got rather inventive by saying things to try and grab your attention like "Hey, I know you!". We would walk down an isle full of stalls selling purses and about 20 girls, one after another would ask you "You want to buy a purse?", even though you clearly said "Do not want" (in Mandarin) to the 10 girls before them. You would like to think that they would have got the message, but they just keep trying! By the end of it, we could hardly contain our laughter as we didn't intend to spend a dime, yet everyone was trying SO HARD to sell us something.

The one authentic thing in there that would probably worth buying is the cashmere jumpers and tailor made suits and dresses. I would have loved to get a suit made and Jenni would have loved to get a dress made, but we simply don't have enough room in our backpacks to be able to lug it around Asia with us. Another thing that had put us off buying anything was the fact that we had heard from multiple sources that you have to bargain VERY aggressively in these markets to avoid getting ripped off.

That evening we made sure to have an early dinner to allow it to settle before taking a venture through the infamous Beijing 'Night Market'. The Night Market is on Donganmen Street, just off the huge outdoor shopping mall on Wangfujing Street. It is filled with stalls of people selling all sorts of 'things' that are cooked on skewers. Along with what appeared to be standard pork, chicken and beef satay skewers, available for your culinary pleasure were scorpions, starfish, sea-horse, grasshoppers, bugs, snakes and lizards. The creepiest thing at the stalls is by far the scorpions as you can see that they are still very alive with their legs still moving, even while they have been skewered!  I only saw one Chinese bloke who was game enough to try a skewer of cooked scorpions and he was only doing it for the camera.

We tried the most popular type of skewer, the sweet skewer 'tanghulu', which consists of fruit, covered in a hardened sugar coating. We had the most common tanghulu fruit, the hawthorn fruit, but other fruit combinations including strawberries, pineapple, kiwi fruit and bananas were available. Even though I didn't try one of those very appetizing looking grasshopper skewers, I am pretty sure our sugar coated haws on a skewer tasted much better!


  1. Hey Guys
    DZ here.
    You guys seem to have been pretty prolific bloggers in your travels. Will be good to immortalise the memories. Congrats on the Engagement.

  2. get a suit and post it back home, can't beat having one tailor made for super cheap.