- 10 RMB for magnetic doohickies (Original 45)
- 10 RMB for sandalwood fans (Original 85)
- 80 RMB for 100g of Jasmine flower tea (Original 80RMB for 50g)
- 145 RMB for a Maxa Mara 3/4 length trench/rain coat (Original 1400)
- 50 RMB for silk kid outfit (Original 650RMB)
- 50 RMB for a Kipling backpack (Original 320-650 — I went to a lot of different places)
- 75 RMB for a chop (Original 680)
I think I got them down anywhere from 50% to around 10% of original price… not too shabby I don’t think. If not a good deal, I at least paid for them what I thought was cheap, and I’m sure they still profitted plenty so win win for everyone.
Some keys to bargaining:
- Realize that you don’t really need any of what you’re buying, so be willing to walk away — in the end you save the most by not buying anything.
- Start low and hold firm.
- Don’t feel like you are jipping them. If you are, believe me, they won’t sell. No one sells for a loss.
- Use the power of many. If you’re buying a lot, you’ll generally get a better price. Tell them that upfront.
- Be nice and cordial. Honey better than vinegar.
- Don’t bargain with someone who’s just lost a sale to someone they’ve spent a lot of time on — they are in no mood for cutting anyone a deal after that. Learned that one the hard way.
- There’s a dozen places that sell the same thing — if you don’t get the price you want, try a different place.
- Bargain to the point where after their last offer you refuse and they curse you. Now you know what price to aim for so when you go to a different shop, you have a price to beat and worse case you know you can match. If one place is willing to sell for that much, so will another.
This is my general routine:
Me: How much?
Seller: XXX (entered on a calculator)
Me: Woah… too much. (put on the "I’m so poor, I couldn’t afford that in a million years. I shouldn’t even be touching it")
Seller: Ok, you tell me how much
Seller: Woah… you mean US dollar?
Me: No. I mean Yuan. RMB.
Seller: Oh you’re crazy.
Me: Ok. Thanks anyway. (walk away)
Seller: (blocks my path or pulls me back) Ok. Listen to me, don’t be so quick to leave. You look nice. I give you special price because you look Chinese. So I give you Chinese price — (usually about half)
Me: (depending on the situation, I’ll either stick to my original offer or increase by 5 or 10)
Seller: Too little. I won’t make profit on that. You look nice, so I’ll give to you for XXX (usually dramatically closer to my offer)
Me: I don’t have much money on me (which is true, even here I don’t have a lot of cash on hand). You look nice too. I don’t really need it, so you can sell to someone else and make nice profit. (walk away)
Seller: (really pulling me back at this point) Ok, I give to you for your price.
Me: Really? Thank you. You’re so nice!! (pat on shoulder)
For a couple things, I just state my price and I don’t budge. They’ll point out how clearly ludicrous your offer is — like my offer to buy 10 fans for 100 when they sold 1 for 85. I just walk even against pulling and tugging until I hear the price I offer, I don’t turn back. You have to have a tough skin and hold firm. Sometimes they’ll say mean things when you’ve given them an offer so low it’s insulting. But whatever just move on. That’s part of the fun! I know I’ve done a good job when they say I’m very tough. For some of the things I bought I know I could have gotten less b/c they agreed either too quickly or w/o enough of a gripe or fuss. But oh well, they’ve got to make a living afterall.
So, four hours later, I’m armed with my new loot. I wanted to get some more clothes for myself, but didn’t have the strength to go on… even after the half Peking duck I had for lunch. Yes, I polished off half a duck myself! When the first food you’ve had all dat is at 3pm, you get hungry!
Silk Market. Check!
The Nine Dragon Screen is a mosaic of thousands of pieces of tile. There’s one dragon — the white dragon — that has 1 tile missing. Legend has it that the servants who made the screen broke one of the pieces. These pieces were one of a kind carved specifically to the dragon’s shape. Fearful that the Emperor would punish them, they fabricated a replacement piece made of wood. The piece could not hold up to the test of time and is now missing from the screen altogether.
The summer palace was originally constructed as an escape from the heat for the Emperor and his court. During the Anglo invasion, it was completely destroyed. In 1840 (?) it was rebuilt by a very powerful woman (I think she was Empress Dowager Ci Xi). This woman had gained the favor of the Emperor with her beauty and wit. I think I heard something in the Forbidden City that said she knew something lik 400 poems and upon hearing her recite one of these poems, the Emperor promoted her among the ranks of the concubine. She was further promoted when she was the only one to give the Emperor a son. When the Emperor died (I think Peggy said she poisoned him, not sure), her son took over the throne at the age of four (?). I saw later in the Forbidden City the Emperor’s throne, behind which was a curtain. Behind the curtain was where this powerful woman ruled through her son. Hence, the phrase, "Ruling behind the curtain".This powerful woman (I think she was Empress Dowager) had the Summer Palace rebuilt using all of the funds from the Chinese Navy, which essentially left China w/ no Navy. Parts of the Summer Palace were used as a prison and other parts were reconstructed to her whim. For example, in the Emperor’s (her son’s) quarters, she had the door through which concubines enter bricked up so her son could not occupy any concubines. She had appointed a woman whom she loved as a daughter as Empress, or wife to her son. However, he loved another woman, and thus remain heirless. After her son died, there was an unprecedented circunstance where there was no direct heir. As a result, her nephew then became Emperor. Just as in her son’s reign, the Powerful Woman, ruled in lieu of her nephew as well. For 40 years, she ruled China and not all that effectively either. Following her nephew’s death, I think someone on her side of the family became Emperor. He was the last Emperor since he was no longer part of the royal lineage.
There’s a man made lake, the dirt from which was used to make the hill right beside it. On top of the hill is a Buddhist temple where the Powerful woman went to pray
There’s a long corridor, which is truly long… it’s in the Guinness book of world records for having the most beams with unique artistic paintings on them — I think 4000+. Walking through the corridor, there’s a really nice breeze, which felt amazing in the heat!
For each meal, the servants made over 100 dishes for the Powerul Woman.
There’s a boat made of all marble (again from the funds of the Navy). The marble captured the fact that the boat could not be overturned and thus signified the strength, permanence and power of the Qing Dynasty. In my mind it also meant the boat could not sail and move forward. =)
Long ago when the wall was first being built, among the 1+ million people recruited as slave labor to build the wall was a young man. This man tried to escape by jumping over the wall (it wasn’t very high at that point yet) and he happened to land in this young woman’s garden. The young woman’s family took this man in and hid him. The two young people inevitably fell in love and were to wed. On their wedding day however, the government officials found him, seized him and brought him back to the Great Wall to work. Months and months passed by and the young woman heard no news of her new husband. So she goes to the Great Wall to inquire about him only to learn that he had died. She was so distraught, she cried and cried, causing a water way that divided the wall in two. When the Emperor heard of this, he was very angry at this woman. He demanded she be brought to him. Upon seeing her, he is mesmerized by her beauty and asks to take her as his concubine (I think 5th). She told him she would agree to it on 3 conditions: 1) that her husband receives a proper burial and tomb 2) that a monument be built in honor of all the people who worked on the Great Wall and 3) that the Emperor apologize. The Emperor agreed and did all these things only to have the woman refuse him. She took her own life by jumping off the wall into the sea. A monument was erected in her honor.
A group of caucasians speaking very fluid Mandarin to each other! Amazing… I noticed a lot of Caucasians speaking some Mandarin to other Chinese folks but this was a group of all Caucasians speaking Chinese to each other, which has to mean they’ve reached a level of fluency and comfort with the language that it’s their preferred way to communicate. I immediately felt the shame of not embracing my Chinese culture as much as I could have. I’ve gotten this a lot… "You don’t speak Chinese? Really? But you look Chinese."
Someone brought their dog onto the Great Wall — that is one well-traveled dog!
Vendors selling snacks and ice cold water (and beer!) on the wall. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised but I just never thought about it. Thank god for those folks. I don’t claim to have gotten a good deal, but at the entrance of the far end I went to, this old couple was charging 20RMB for 1 bottle of water (that’s close to 3 bucks!). I passed and walked on because I knew I would see more options on the way back. Part of me feared they’d charge something like 50RMB since in the middle of the wall you really have no choice. But when I got to the middle, some guy asked for 10 and I told him 5 and he agreed. I probably should have said 2 but hell, I was thirsty. These vendors really know how to play mind games on you though. I walk up a long flight of steps to one of the watch towers and like an alter/offering to the gods there’s a spread of fruit, snacks and water on a small towel. I felt like I was on a desert looking at a mirage of water. I held my own and walked right by it. Test number two of will-power was this woman eating a big ol’ sausage that smelled SOOO good. But salty sausage just means more water later… so onward I walked.