Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 11 – We are Olympians, or so we thought

Today was supposed to be a ‘self-guided’ tour day, which many students did not participate in.  When we arrived we hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since, so I think the group is pretty exhausted.  I suspect that once we get back to the states, we’re all going to need a week or so to recover, especially us older folks who don’t have the stamina to keep up with the younger folks.

Since most skipped the self-guided tour, a most of us decided to meet at 12:30 to head to a local Thai food restaurant for lunch, then to a local department store to grab some tea.  We took the subway to lunch, and had a fabulous time.  This was the first Thai food experience for some folks, which turned out to be incredibly positive. 
After lunch we headed to the department store to purchase some tea.  The group pounced on the tea section, most picking up a variety of teas for family and friends back home.  Personally, I picked up a few large bags of Jasmine tea – one of my personal favorites, and some other types that we’ve sampled here.  I’m excited to get home so I can experiment in replicating a delicious Jasmine Honey Tea we’ve had at the closest Italian restaurant to campus called “I Do”.  The students also picked up some other things such as local candies to give to family and friends back home.  Personally, I stocked up too.

I headed back to campus while the group continued on to the Olympic Park.  They were supposed to go swimming, but from what I could gather, the price kept changing when they tried to enter the part (not an uncommon practice here with a large group of Americans).  So they walked around the park a bit, then headed back to campus around 9pm or so to settle in for the night. 

Most were not caught in the thunderstorm, thankfully, but I have a feeling some were.  The lightening was magnificent again and lasted well into the night.  Quite a few of us purchased bowls of noodles and tempted fate by using the local water which had previously been boiled.  We’re still waiting on baited breath to see if we’ve been affected or not.  I suspect we’ll be fine since the water was boiled, but one can never be too cautious when in another country.

Here is a post from Andrew Chow regarding his experience so far in China:

Wow, so much has transpired over the duration of this trip, I can't believe it hasn't even been two weeks! One of my most memorable experiences has undoubtedly been the shopping. Unlike in the United States where stores have fixed prices, the people in China live off of bartering. My first real shopping experience came when we paid a visit to the "Silk Market", a popular tourist stop to purchase inauthentic goods. The Silk Market specializes in selling knock-off designer clothes, bags, electronics, and jewelry; but you can honestly find anything you could possibly want or need for an extremely reasonable price by our American standards.

To say it was overwhelming is definitely an understatement. As soon as you walk in, you are subjected to a barrage of sales people trying to lure you into their store, sometimes even physically grabbing you and attempting to pull you in. It's especially funny because most of the stores are essentially replicas of each other, selling identical products, often with several of these stores lined up in a row. Even if you pass several shops and tell them that you are not interested, the succeeding stores will continue to try to get you to come in. There was a stretch of silk merchants that kept asking me, "Do you want silk?", despite telling each store down the line, "No."

Once you find an item you want to purchase, that is when the fun really starts. The merchants will always give you a ridiculous starting price, often because they know you are American and have money (and also likely because there are some suckers who will actually pay that price). However, I have found the best way to haggle is to counter by low balling them. They will always tell you, "That is too low! You're breaking my heart! Give me a real price!" However, if you stick to your guns and walk away if you don't get the price of desire, they will most likely oblige and agree at your original price. However, we found that they ultimately have their bottom price, so it might take a couple of failed bartering attempts to figure it out. But once you do find it out, you can purchase the item wherever because the stores carry the same merchandise and are a dime a dozen!

Until tomorrow…….

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