Tuesday, 13 March 2012

China and learning to bargain

Looking down from the King of the Land building

The Commercial shopping mall as big as Broadford !

Port entry and immigration to mainland China

My banana fritters neatly displayed on a bed of fresh lettuce ? ! Eaten whilst waiting for my glasses to be made

First Class to China, not a slow boat in sight!

I was so whacked after two days of 3 sessions and then one of 2 last Thursday, Friday and Saturday I could barely write my name, never mind an adjudication sheet, so I decided, when I got back to the hotel on Saturday evening that I needed to get right away from it all.
I went down to Jeffrey in the concierge area and booked myself on the trip to mainland China leaving at noon on Sunday, for about 8 hours. I knew if I did it via a 'tour' I would be driven, mollycoddled and generally not have to use my brain at all.

I slept as late as I could and then was picked up promptly by the bus and tour guide Jimmy.

We collected two other families from other hotels and in total we were only 8 people, so quiet and no crowds! I am getting punch drunk by the noise pollution and overdrive of constant high pitched Cantonese conversation wrapping around me all the day long!

We were put in the First Class section of the train to Shenzen, a brand spanking new city just over the river border between mainland and Hong Kong. At the terminus which was at the city of Lo Wu, we had, thank goodness, a 150% efficient and mother hen type of guide. I would not have wanted to negotiate the Chinese immigration and customs on my own. I was particularly scrutinised because my passport had a work visa clearly stuck onto a page inside. The shiny and glitteringly decorated uniformed border control staff wanted to know if I was a working alien in Hong Kong ?! No comments please ( although there was a small Star Trek frisson crossed my unflinching face).

No amount of my answers could be understood, so Jimmy, bless him, had to mop up the linguistic mess and tell them I was leaving HK on March 31st and it was a temporary appointment, and I was not an alien!

We were transported in a small people carrier to an amazing building with a viewing tower on the 100th floor, where even in the cloudiness we could see almost all of HK and the river border in all it's colonial glory! Then we were taken to the Imperial Museum of Art and Jade. They had some of the Terracotta Warriors on display which were amazing to behold, especially so close up. The spectacle was in the detail and the fact each face and dress is unique, which they said was much more difficult to see when there are 5000 of them!

The jade rooms were astonishing, much like the Amber Rooms at the Catherine Palace in St Petersburg, so overwhelming in the colour, beauty and skill of the craftsmen. I bought a small Moonstone. Only allowed to be sold at government outlets, and with a government stamp of authenticity, this truly gorgeous round golf ball sized stone, glows in the dark when it sits in the sun, and for millennia was the evening form of lighting at the emperor's palace.

Then we got to the shopping.

Well I am no pro at shopping, but this was unbelievable. The size of NASA, with the variety of all the shopping malls I have ever visited in the known world, and the cheekiness of a 100 cheeky teens distilled into one small salesperson, and one at every one of the 10,000 stalls and shops.

I was tugged and pulled at every store, and hailed 'Missy missy you buy from me' Missy, you want MY stuff' 'Missy Missy Missy.........' bearing in mind I was only one of thousands of shoppers, they must all lose their voices at the end of the week. Actually I don't think there ever is an end to the week.

Well the bargains were there for the taking, s I had a jolly good go at spending money, and even ventured to have a new pair of Prada (ahem) specs made, in one hour. I must say they are great and lighter and better than my own. They simply put my glasses into a machine and read the prescription. They cost @ 10 times less than at 'should have gone to S..........'

I bought toys, a bag, pottery and all manner of souvenirs and was hard pushed to spend very much. The thrill of bargaining finally infected me, and now I feel I can go to the Co op in Paradise and knock them down by 50%! I know, I will get gently arrested if I do, but hey I passed my bargaining exam with flying colours!

Tired, limp, but victorious we climbed back onto the train and was back in the hotel by 9.30pm.

The power of the Yuen, Dollar, Pound, blah.

For one day I was the richest women I know. Then brought swiftly back to the earth with the loud bump of 55 tinies singing the Lazy Sheep and the Boy, sharp at 9.30am on Monday morning. I have said it before, and I will say it again.

No rest for the wicked.

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