Sunday, August 07, 2005

Shopping in Shanghai

We left the hotel this morning to catch a taxi to the tea house district. We hadn't been outside of the hotel 10 seconds before we were treated to our first spectacle for the day... two taxi cab drivers were arguing over who's turn it was in line to pick up customers. The younger of the two drivers started shoving the other. In response, the older driver shoved back, and before you knew it the younger driver was punching the elder repeatedly. This was somewhat of a shock, but not as much as what came next... the shamed, beaten older driver calmly withdrew, realizing anymore response would get him hurt more. He walked over to his car, turned the ignition, rev'ed the engine, and very purposefully struck his assailent with his car. Hard. Like, the man's leg bent the wrong direction. He hit the guy with his car on purpose... good Lord.

We took the taxi to the Science Museum, which is the closest main subway station. The architecture of the museum was incredible... not very detailed, just grandiose (sp?). From there we took the subway (did I mention that Shanghai has 17 million people and all of them take the subway at the exact same time?) to East Nanjing Road. Nanjing Road is a combination of Rodeo Drive and 5th Avenue. Anyone that says China is anti-capitalism has no idea what they are talking about. Louis Vitton, Burburry, Coach, Sax, Omega, Versace... all there and all full of customers. We first went to a jewelers specializing in pearls and jade. They were trying to get out of the jade business, so most jade in the store (not cheap stuff by any standard) was 70-80% off. Keeping in mind that all things are negotiable in China, it was easy to talk them down to 90% off. The prices were too hard to ignore. My boss bought a pearl ring with diamonds for about $500. He thinks that when he gets home he will easily be able to sell it for at least $2000.

From there we took another taxi to the Tea House district. I don't know what else to call it... there are tea houses everywhere, but the main attraction here is the huge "fake product" market. You want a fake Rolex? You'll have one offered to you every 10 feet (literally.... it got to the point where there was 7 Chinese following us, trying to hawk there fake watches on us). One guy offered us Rolex, 100 yuan (about $12). We followed him for a few minutes onto a side street. He wanted us to to into a side alleyway... my b.s. detector had gone off a few minutes before, but this was the last straw. If you are stupid enough to follow a guy into an alleyway in Shanghai, you deserve the brick to the head you will receive and the hastle you'll have to go through at the US embassy to get your passport back and your credit cards canceled.

I did end up buying a fake Patek Phillipe watch from a street vendor for about $30. It is such a good fake that I think it might be real and stolen instead. If you make the mistake of even glancing into a store, be prepared to be followed by the proprietor for the next few blocks, trying to get you to come in.

I bought some Jasmine tea at a tea house. You put a golfball sized ball of tea into a glass of boiling water and watch a beautiful flower emerge. As the ball slowly opens, the jasmine flower blooms in the hot water and when it is finished opening, it looks the same as before it was picked from nature.

Hmm... it is getting late and I've already told you the most interesting stuff for the day. Not to cut things short, but I think it is time for my bedtime.

Goodnight, all.