This past weekend, about half of the study abroad students took the bullet train from Tianjin to Beijing (a trip normally two-and-a-half hours via car, which is only 30 minutes on the bullet train). My roommate and I, along with a few others, arrived Saturday morning, and we immediately headed to Tiananmen Square. The weather was extremely warm (around 95 degrees Fahrenheit), and the Square was packed with tourists. There was also quite a bit of security around the area, especially in the subways, something we really had not experienced in Tianjin.
After walking around a bit, we headed across the street to the Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace. It’s the largest and most complete group of ancient buildings that China has preserved to the present, and is also simply an amazing, must-see site. We walked through every hall, and then headed out through the Imperial Garden, a feat that took, in sum, about three hours.
Needless to say, we were exhausted.
But my roommate and I boarded the subway and headed to 秀水街停 (silk market), which is essentially a large building holding hundreds of vendors selling various merchandise, mostly knock-off accessories, clothing, and shoes. My roommate has been to China six times in her life, so she taught me how to barter with the shopkeepers as we wandered from floor to floor. Following, for anyone hoping to come to China and purchase Kate Spade look-alike handbags, are my tips for smart-shopping and getting your money’s worth:
1. Pick a price and stick to it.
Haggling works the same way at every store in a silk market: you’ll walk in, find an item you like, and ask the shopkeeper what the going price is. The shopkeeper will name some outlandish amount, then tell you that since you’re a student and a new friend (note: joins are subject to change based on whether or not you are a student), you’ll get a special discount price, which is usually about 100 ¥ less than the normal price. Next, you’ll be asked if that price works, to which you will reply, “No.” I would say that there is no need to pay more than 200 ¥ for any given item, unless the normal price is more than 1100 ¥. Otherwise, name a low price, and if you do compromise on it, only do so little by little.
2. Check the quality of an item.
A great way to get an item cheaper is to point out some defect it has to show that it’s truly a knock-off or of not the best quality. For example, if a logo is crooked, or you notice a zipper that doesn’t work well, point it out to the shopkeeper and demand a lower price.
3. Randomly storming out of a store is very effective.
If all this isn’t working, feel free to put the item back and walk out. In my experience, this works 100 percent of the time, yielding the same results each time: the shopkeeper will call you back in, telling you that he or she will sell you the item for the price you had named.
And there you have it. Bonus, it’s also a great way to practice Chinese.
Following, we and 14 of our classmates headed to the Bird’s Nest at the Beijing Olympic Stadium to see Wang Lee Hom in concert, one of the most famous singers in China, singing music that could be classified as hip-hop/R&B. This concert was completely different than any I had ever been to, aside from the fact that it was in Chinese. There were no opening acts, and Lee Hom performed for two-and-a-half hours with essentially no breaks. Although we weren’t familiar with any of his songs, on either side of the stage were panels with the lyrics shown in Chinese characters, so we attempted singing along whenever possible.
It was an absolutely unforgettable experience, and I can’t wait to experience more in a Beijing over the coming weeks.
Until next time!