Monday, October 15, 2012

The Silk Market

Theoretically, China is a comunist country. In practice, I don't recall seeing a city with so many shopping malls and all kind of stores like here in Beijing (ok, now they may have a real reason to block my blog in China! :p).  And the pinnacle of this less comunist part of the country may be found on this specific place, touristic, yes, but very Chinese as well. The Silk Street aka as the Silk Market!

One of the main entrances of the Silk Market. Opened almost 12h a day
It doesn't look like a market at all like I expected, but more like a large scale small town shopping center with no chain stores whatsoever.You can find plenty of things here (but not everything) from souvenirs, to watches, to suitcases, to clothing... to a lot of clothing...

The inside... the red lanterns are everywhere!
The true experience starts when you first enter a store and show some interest on something. There is always someone around to help you and tell you the price Price tags here are secondary, they count for very little. To tell you the price they get a calculator and type the numbers (tactic also used everywhere else on this trip, by the way). When they present you the value they're asking you stop for a moment to do the conversion to your own currency(in our case divide by 7) and then get shocked because the price is way higher than what you expected. Everyone told you this is the place where you can find the best bargains and that's just too expensive... and then you remember... you have to haggle, and haggle hard!
In the beginning I was a bit shy but after I got my first "You are tough (at negotiating)" I got cocky and sometimes I just felt like haggling for the haggling itself. It was fun, almost like a game. But if you won you had to take the "award" home.
But how were these negotiations?
First, we could never show that we really want something or getting the price to a good value won't be as easy.
Second, every time said/showed the price I would let go a sound of disbelief/absurd which they understood perfectly.
Then they asked "How much for you?". Here my strategy was not always the best. Most of the times I would calculate the price I was willing to give and say that one from the beginning and stick to it until the end. It worked a lot of times, but maybe I could have gotten those things even cheaper... Now I won't know.
Most of the times the way we (me and Isa) settled the deal after walking away. The vendors would then shout decreasing values until they agreed with our price. We were even chased through the corridors by some of them.
There were times where we know we could have done better deals (like when the vendor knew Portuguese!!) but we made a few good deals. Maybe too many good deals... maybe we got carried away at some poit... just a little... just enough for Isa ended up buying a suitcase to put all the extra gifts/souvenirs of the trip. :p

But even when we decided it was enough, the hassling continued. We were walking away from the Silk Market when one lady tried to sell us wallets. She chased us (maily Isa that had shown some curiosity, bad mistake) across the street and while we were crossing it and even while we were trying to get into a restaurant. I guess she also understood a bit of Portuguese (like the girl in the shop) because she went away a little after I told her: "Oh minha senhora, deixe-nos lá que nós queremos ir comer!" Something like: "Lady, please let us go, all we want is to have dinner" (it sounds better in Portuguese).

Trying to fleed the lady

At the end Isa was desperate, just asking the lady to let her go!
And finally we could stop our shopping frenzy and eat! :)

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