Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The art of shopping and a relaxing foot massage

Day 5 (Sun, 23 Nov 2008)

Sunday and it's time for some shopping! We headed out for Panjiayuan, a weekend market. When I was here three years ago, rows and rows of stalls sold an amazing array of knick knacks, accessories, paintings and antiques.

It was changed somewhat. The knick knacks have given way to fake antiques, fake jewelry and jade, and more paintings. Most of the paintings are copies, but I have to say they are beautifully copied. I've always wondered why if someone can paint so well, they don't just create their own artwork instead of copying another artist's. Ah well.

We bought a painting from this guy on the right. It's a modern piece of 8 cats - it's a gift for my cousin who loves cats. The painting is on the left (it's not a print though it looks like one.)

You can tell from the way the stall keepers are dressed that it was a frightfully cold day. The temperature was similar to the past few days but it was cloudy and the winds were ruthless.

The kids didn't enjoy Panjiayuan at all. You can see their unhappy faces in the picture. Not just because it was cold but because we encountered the full force of spitting. Almost every step we took, we could hear the ubiquitous throat clearing "rrhhhoiict!" and the kids would jump in horror and look for the accompanying projectile. Throughout the visit, Lesley-Anne and Andre would peer at the ground and shriek, "Don't step, spit!' I don't know why it was more pervasive here than at other tourist attractions, maybe it was the type of crowd that thronged the place. It was pretty disgusting, the locals spit anywere, even along the aisle where the stalls were. Kenneth's friend had remarked, "What's worse than stepping on spit? Slipping on frozen spit."

We spent only about an hour at Panjiayuan, before we left for Solana, a new shopping mall, to meet my cousin for lunch. Happy faces again!

My cousin had recommended eating at a Japanese restaurant at the mall. The restaurant was very enterprising, it offered a wide range of sushi rolls with names like "Olympic Special" (left pic below - it's tuna, avocado, cream cheese and topped with egg roe). How to resist?

Right pic above is the unagi (eel) sushi. As you can see, the portions are humongous - one of these is easily the size of three back home! When Andre was eating, he suddenly said, "Bone!" and spat out a white chunk. Bone in sushi? Then on closer examination, he exclaimed, "It's my tooth!" Haha! Anyway, it was a fabulous lunch, once again, fantastic recommendation by my cousin.

After that, we headed for Silk Market. For the uninitiated, Silk Market is a huge seven-storey shopping haven which sells anything from silk to souvenirs, from apparel to knick knacks. They claim to have eradicated all the fake goods in time for the Olympics but I really don't see how they can back up their claim. The shops blatantly display knock-offs and if there's something you can't find already crammed into a little stall, the enterprising shopkeeper immediately whips out a brochure where you can pick from a line up of any of your couture brands.

But whether you can pick up good bargains at Silk Market (vs being conned out of all your monetary possessions) lies singularly in your bargaining skills. Here is where we defer to the unrivaled skills of my 大姐. She had parked herself and my kids at a favourite tea shop, where the shop owners rush to serve her their top grade tea and even allow her to store her packages (she's obviously a favoured customer, she has bought many an exquisite teapot and tea leaves from the shop).

Then Kenneth and I would go shopping and when we had picked out our purchases, he would run to fetch my cousin and she would then browbeat the shopkeeper into slashing the prices. She's a pro, I tell you! At one shoe shop, she scolded and harangued the shopkeeper into submission, we managed to get a pair of leather boots, two pairs of track shoes, a pair of fashion running shoes and a pair of hiking shoes for about S$100. Five pairs in total, all of exceptional quality. Lesley-Anne told my cousin in awe, "Wah, you are so 厉害!" (fierce)

Aside: we 'd brought the kids to the shop and the female shopkeepers started fussing over Andre, exclaiming, "真可愛!" ("so cute") and "好帅!" ("so handsome"). Andre would then act coy which would bring forth another round of exclamations. (Insert Lesley-Anne rolling eyes here.) Everywhere we went in Beijing, Andre attracted a lot of attention. At first, we thought maybe it's because he's wearing spectacles but apparently that's quite common among Chinese children nowadays, so that can't be it. Maybe it's the prevalent boy-preference in China. Auntie killer strikes again!

After Silk Market, we went to the Flower Market for a short look-see, before my cousin suggested we go for a foot massage at a spa. Lesley-Anne wasn't too keen (she claimed she didn't like the idea of strange hands touching her), so Kenneth brought her back to my cousin's apartment. Andre has no such inhibitions so off to the spa we went!

The ladies at the spa decided that Andre's feet were too small to be massaged, so they offered him a head and shoulders massage instead.

Again, we were treated to a round of "真可愛!" (Really, what IS it about him? I'm baffled.) At the spa, you can order complimentary food and drink while you enjoy your massage, and here, you can see Andre thoroughly luxuriating in his Macau pork chop bun while being tenderly kneaded by the masseuse. In the picture on the right, he was so comfortable that he actually fell asleep! This boy really knows how to enjoy life.

It was a long day, but after that relaxing session, we mustered enough energy to walk to our last stop - Tom's err... Embroidery Shop. All expats in Beijing know this shop and no, it doesn't actually sell embroidery. I'll leave it up to you to hazard a guess.

Hint: we left the shop with a large bag in tow and the contents will keep the whole family entertained for many, many hours.


Lilian said...

Wahhh, this is my favourite day so far...good Japanese food, spa, massage, Best!

But this bit, "What's worse than stepping on spit? Slipping on frozen spit.", eeeeyeewwww, freaks me out...gross!

Btw, weren't you worried Sg customs would check on your er embroidery purchases?

eunice said...

Wow, it looks great except for the spitting. When we were in Shanghai, I was hoping Sean would pick up some Mandarin, instead he learnt how to make the 'grtttttt' (before spit) sound! Gross! Yes, the Chinese do seem to like boys though they kept asking me if Sean was a girl! Think it's cos he's so fair.

Never been to Beijing but after this, hmmmmm

monlim said...

Lilian: here's my official reply, Customs not interested in embroidery lah!! :D

Eunice: Beijing is great, do make a trip! but I think kids can probably appreciate it better if they're older. Lesley-Anne definitely appreciated the significance of the sights more than Andre.