Saturday, 1 September 2012

Revisiting Old Haunts

Saturday morning outside my hotel window
Today the view outside my window looked dreary... it was hazy, but
actually not too humid which was a good sign that the sky was not as
pregnant with rain as feared.

After the severe flooding in July, my friend told me that whenever
there are forecasts for rain, people think twice about going out
because of their bad experience. But in the end there were showers at
lunchtime and then in the evening.

Before meeting friends for lunch near Sanlitun I wandered around
Yashow or Cotton Market. It was early in the day so it wasn't that
busy, the stalls manned by young women in uniform fucshia polo shirts
pretty much hawking all the same things, from Abercrombie & Fitch tops
to socks and underwear, shoes and fake bags. They seemed bored and
gossiped with their neighbours or tried their best to chat up
foreigners to buy their goods.

I was grateful not to have a foreign face and managed to wander around
pretty much free of harassment.

Then I walked through Sanlitun and from the quick glance it looked
pretty much the same, with the anchor stores, Apple and Nike still
there. The water fountain continues to be a hit with the kids wanting
to cool down from the summer heat. There seems to be more locals than
expats at this mall which is a natural progression.

It's interesting to note that while Taiwanese book shop Eslite has
opened in Hysan Place in Hong Kong's Causeway Bay, going 24 hours on
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Page One will be opening up in
Sanlitun going 24 hours as well. A copycat or a trend in bookstores?
We shall see.

Kids playing in the water park at The Village at Sanlitun
After lunch I headed to Silk Market at Yonganli. On the subway it's
annoying to find you still have to put your bags through a screening
device from a company called Nutech which by the way was run by
President Hu Jintao's son... what terrorist threat could there be now
that the Olympics have long gone, same with the 2010 Shanghai World
Expo?

Silk Market has changed quite a bit since I was last there over two
years ago. Many of the floors have upgraded, with the stalls having
glass walls on the outside and trying to look more upscale with shiny
gaudy floors and brighter lights. Some have done away with the stacks
of clothes covering the walls and try to present only a few outfits to
make it look more exclusive. For example there are blouses or dresses
with the Tory Burch label, others Chanel... are they real?

When I first came to Beijing, I bought a cashmere cardigan and loved
it so much that I wore holes through the elbows. It was difficult to
part with, let alone replace as the ones in Hong Kong are very
expensive.

So one of my missions was to find the same shop selling cashmere
sweaters from Inner Mongolia and luckily it is still there, with
pictures of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visiting the shop as
well as other dignitaries or foreigners they think are VIPs.

No one else was buying sweaters for summer so it was a pleasant
shopping experience, not without some bargaining.

In the end the sales girl put my things in a black plastic bag and
then the Silk Market-issued plastic bag. I asked her why the double
bagging, and she explained that she didn't want competitors to see the
goods. Really? That bad?

Competition got fierce in the basement where the fake bags are. It's
just so ironic that the government claims to be clamping down on fakes
and yet sanctions places like the Silk Market and Yashow to continue
their business. The demand from tourists is too great to ignore, as
they find these items too hard to resist.

Laden with goods, I schlepped back to Sanlitun to have dinner with
another friend. We ate at Turkish Mom, a place I used to eat at.

The shop space where Page One will be in Sanlitun
The menu is pretty much the same with hummus, tabouleh, dolmades, and
minced lamb with spices, though the mini dumplings are gone.
Nevertheless the food is still pretty good on the whole and
reasonable.

Afterwards I headed to Bodhi, the massage place I frequented when I
lived in Beijing.

Thankfully the full body massage wasn't as painful as I had
anticipated, and glad to get some kinks sorted.

I asked the masseuse how business was, and it seems it's still pretty
good. He said most of the clients were from Hong Kong, Taiwan and
overseas, which was the bulk of the business before as well.

Hopefully I'll be able to visit again a few more times before I leave...

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