Tuesday, May 20, 2008

When in China...Shop!

After the first night in China I woke up the second more had coffee kicked my sleeping companions around until we were all awake and ready to move. I kicked with the non-sore foot. It was decided after much discussion that the day would include; a trip to a nearby market to buy shoes, a trip to the Pearl Street Market for a day of haggling, a dinner, and a late show of Legend of Kung Fu at one or another of the Chinese theaters.

And so it was.

The first market was a bizarre cacophony of colors and sounds. In the background the song “We wish you a Merry Christmas” was playing loudly and obnoxiously over and over again but the lyrics had been changed to something propoganidized and reflecting the opinions of Mao. It was the kind of gaudy exuberance you sort of expect if you go to China Town during the winter New Year. Strange and oddly perfectly in place with what I expected.

Once we arrived and got over the initial color poisoning we decided to each lunch in the market cafeteria. This was a great idea until my non-meat eating ass actually got into the hall of eats. There was stall after stall of stuff being plied and most of it included something in the form of steer, deer, something queer, or eggs, all of which I’m allergic too. Well, I have to be careful as I can get pretty sick if I eat something off.

As it turned out even though I managed to find something that looked like lo-mien and walked like lo-mien within five bites I started to have trouble breathing and realized that something was not right in the state of my lunch. Must have been an egg sneak attack since that is how it usually starts. I decided to forgo lunch and have an inhaler instead and then we wandered about unsuccessfully looking for shoes.

Since the market was feeling bust-ish we piled into a cab and drove across town to arrive at the Pearl Street Market. Unlike the Silk Street Market this market maintains some of the dignity of being a street market while still being converted into a five story mall. The façade of the building makes it look foreboding with Chinese architectural detailing on the roof trying to bring the whole thing down to earth but failing. Rather than looking like an overbuilt temple it comes off looking more like barracks. However once inside that quickly passes.

The first floor held all sorts of cool things and of course some of the most expensive ones in the market. It’s pile upon pile of stuff to buy that reminded me more of Korea than the first market I passed. Haggling was still the nature of the beast but since I had gone home early the night before I spent my down time converting money equations in my head until I felt fairly confident about tackling a market. Now, knowing better the value of my money I was well prepared.

We shuffled through the first floor and tried not to part with any cash. On the second floor we started to look around in earnest. T-shirt, bags, shoes, hats, scarves, kinck-nacks, posters, pins, buttons, etc, etc. It was all there for the taking. While McGlynn and the Australian went off I found some silk by the yard for sale and started to haggle in earnest with the girl. We went around like that for three floors up, each of us looking for what we wanted and reaching a mild amount of success in between.

At the top of the market where the real high end pearls are to be found we stepped out onto the balcony that overlooks the Temple of Heaven. The sky was a mottled mix of overcast and sunny and the clouds parted to shoot a single sunbeam down on the Temple sticking up from the center of a verdant green park. It was awe inspiring and a worthy background for pictures and being the good tourists that we are we all stopped and got one.

Having spent six hours in the market, it is quite huge, he headed down and around the corner to the theater to sit down and be entertained. By this point my foot was only mildly throbbing but I was doing my best to hold on. The show, which we were not allowed to take pictures of, was amazing to behold. A perfect blend of opera and kung-fu. In deed more opera should included Kung-fu.

The day ended with the acquirement of a hotel room on Ghost Street and the collection of bags and arrangements for the next morning. I went to bed tired, sore and probably in need of more tequila but I slept clean and had no dreams.

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