#27 Shop till you drop in Beijing, China

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to shop. I’d been so good in the lead up to my trip, watching every penny I spent, wearing the same top on every single night out for about a year and managing to turn my eye from the lovely shoe shops as I walked by (even when the sales were on). On my way around the world I was carrying all of my possessions in a backpack I call The Beast (and not in an affectionate way). Lugging 16kg on your back for nine months is no joke so my shopping was somewhat limited for most of my trip. For every thing I bought I usually had to sacrifice something else from my backpack and as a natural hoarder this proved pretty difficult, so I usually just tried to buy small things I could tuck in to my bursting backpack somewhere or other with the justification that it “doesn’t weigh very much”.

So by the end of my trip, after nine months of being very, very, good I felt like I deserved a treat. And where better place to shop than China? For starters the bartering is amazing. Being a Northern girl I’ve always got my eye out for a bargain and China is the perfect place to haggle. My favourite place to shop in Beijing is the Silk Market. Five floors of goods ranging from handbags and shoes (my personal area of expertise) to traditional teapots and fans, where prices start off a ridiculous 90% higher than the amount you actually end up paying.

Oooh, where to start?

The first time I went to the market it felt pretty overwhelming. The shop owners are pushy to say the least. Sales techniques range from shouting at you and stamping feet to hanging on to your arm and fake crying. It’s definitely not a place for the faint hearted and I met a number of other tourists who said they’d rather just go to a normal shop and pay the asking price. But where’s the fun in that? It’s just a case of having to hold your nerve – and run when it gets too scary! During my shopping trips I was chased through the market, manhandled in stores and even chucked out of someone’s shop. But I soon got the hang of it as I realised that most purchases went something like this:

Me: How much is this?
Scary Shop owner: (Taps furiously into her calculator.)
Me: What? No way! That’s far too expensive!
SSO: Ok, ok, how much you pay?
Me: (Tap 10% of her original figure into calculator.)
SSO: What? You joking lady? You talking dollars? You give me real price, not joking price!
Me: That is my real price. No joking.
SSO: Ok, ok, for you discount. Normal tourist price is this but I like you. I give you special price. For friend. (Taps an ever-so-slightly lower price into calculator.)
Me: No, no, still too much. (Tap an ever-so-slightly higher price into calculator.)
SSO: (Hanging on to my arm/blocking doorway/generally not allowing me to leave the shop.) You give me a little bit higher, a little bit more! (Taps again.)
Me: This is my final price. (Taps again.)
SSO: No. Cannot do lady!
Me: Ok, thank you. (Go to leave, feigning indifference, even though it’s a really, really, pretty bag.)
SSO: Ok. (Feigning indifference, even though she really, really, wants my money.)

[Two minutes later, as I’m walking away]

SSO: Ok, lady! Lady, your price ok!

Another day, another shopping trip.

The only problem with leaving all of your shopping until the last week of your trip is that you get lulled into a false sense of security. Phrases like: “I’m sure I’ll fit it all in somewhere” and “It’ll be so much more expensive at home” became commonplace and as I added another purchase to the growing pile of bags I didn’t really properly think about how on earth I was going to a) Pack it all and b) Carry it all home. Which is how I ended up in this situation the night before I left China:

Hmm…I’m sure this will all fit in somewhere.

But where there’s a will there’s a way and it may have almost broken my back but I somehow managed to get it all back home. Now just to find somewhere to put it…

#27 – Definitely my easiest challenge to date!
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