I’m here with a small tour group led by Pat Dalton of Dalton Textile Tours.
Our National Guide is Steven - charming, helpful, eternally good-natured and unruffled - he’s awesome. He takes care of everything - carries bags, haggles over prices with the shopkeepers to get us the best deals, herds us here and there, orders our food. I want to bring him home with me.
|Steven and Pat|
His girlfriend is a huge fan of Swarovski crystals, which are, apparently, crazy expensive in China, and their selection of styles is far less varied than what we have available to us in the States, so I will be sure to send him a generous package of sparkles as a thank-you gift.
We took the subway to the Pearl Market, rather than take taxis and sit in traffic. Much better way to travel, and it was kinda fun to be more immersed in "real" life in Beijing, rather than traveling like tourists. BUT - that meant a LOT of walking to get to and from the stations, and a LOT of stairs. A LOT of stairs.
Pearl Market was much like the Chinese vendors at bead shows - lots and lots and lots of pearls - but these are the very expensive types, not $3 strands like we see everywhere we go. Some less expensive, but lots of perfect cultured pearls at $3,000 - $10,000 a strand - eeek!
I didn't buy anything there.
Next we went to Silk Street Market - 5 or 6 stories of stalls, kinda like a merchandise mart. One or two floors of silk scarves, shawls, bags, etc. One or two floors of jewelry, another floor of just clothing, luggage, etc. High pressure sales techniques abound, chasing you down the aisle, trying to get you to buy something.
"Hey Lady! You need bag? You need Prada bag?"
"Hey Lady! You buy watch!"
"Hey Lady! Just looking!"
"Hey Lady! You want pearl?"
I freaking hated it! There were stalls I actually *did* want to look at, but because the salespeople were so pushy, I just ran past them.
The next day we took a class at the Hutong Cooking School.
Spent the morning at a 2-story indoor farmer’s market - meats and noodles and spices and nuts and fruits and vegetables.
Have you ever had a fresh date? It tastes crisp and fresh like an apple! Who knew?
We made dry-fried green beans and braised pork ribs and garlic prawns and beef with cumin & chili and chicken with ginger and scallions.