Day 22 - Friday June 20, 2008

We had a great breakfast this morning - I think 95% of the people in the breakfast restaurant (there were others in the hotel) were non- Chinese. I had watermelon and pineapple with grapefruit juice and afterwards went back for roasted tomatoes, sauteed cabbage and onions with a croissant, and decaf cofee. Michael’s second course after his fruit (he calls this his “Chinese” breakfast) - baked beans with bacon, seasonal vegetables, hash browns, rice, scrambled eggs and broccoli - with coffee.

I met and talked with a woman in the lobby - she was from England, teaching in China and she told us about a picture dictionary that was available in the international bookstore. So we went and bought a copy: Michael is going to get a lot of use out of it in his future trips to China.

That's a page I could have used (above) because I wanted to get my hair cut in China - maybe that was not such a good idea anyway.

Then we went bought a lovely tea set that is the same shape/style as the one above, but with a different pattern painted on it. It’s very heavy and we thought about mailing it, but it would have cost 1500 rmb to ship ($200+). We’d have to try to take it with us, but it was really heavy ... so instead of an experience to complain about, we decided to make it an enjoyable experience worth remembering. Michael really wanted to get it and I'm glad he made the decision and he was going to carry it. We took it back to the hotel and then went back out to taxi to the silk market.

Aside: I was walking around the curb-side of a tree because of the construction (there was very little sidewalk), slipped off the curb and fell on the street - flat on the bump on my leg - yeeoweee! After a pause and some loving compassion from my husband, we continued on but it was quite painful to walk.

We felt that the taxi driver "overcharged" us on the way to the silk market because we were told by Steven (who knew) that it would cost around 10 or at the most 15 rmb and we shouldn't pay more. We knew the driver was doddling - our total fare was 18 rmb. That's a little over 2 dollars, but he's the one who has to pay the gas. It's hard to consider an extra 50 cents as a burden.

So, the silk Market is a department store with 3 or 4 floors - with stalls upon stalls of STUFF. Here's a drawing of the building - it used to be a street market but was torn down and reinstated as this modern horror:

(Silk Street (Chinese: 秀水街; pinyin: Xiùshuǐjiē , aka Silk Market, Silk Street Market, Pearl Market) is a shopping center in Beijing that accommodates over 1,700 retail vendors, notorious among international tourists for their wide selection of counterfeit designer brand apparels - wikipedia.)

I hope they don't mind, but someone put up a youtube video from the silk market - here it is, just copy and paste it into your browser. It's just like I experienced:

One floor had mostly clothing, another had mostly jewelry, another mostly scarves; there were household goods, there were toys, there were tea sets, etc. But a lot of it looked a bit cheap - especially the jewelery (but what do I know about jewelery, I only wear it) and the tea sets. They didn't seem to have the beautiful sets we had seen near the hotel.

It was very busy, the atmosphere was so "electric", the sales people were so “grabby” that I was stunned - and did not even take one picture. The first stall with scarves that I stopped at sucked me in, it had me in it's claws and would not let me out. I bought two scarves very quickly without having the opportunity to consider if I really liked them or not. The sales girls were in my face and I couldn’t think! They wanted an enormous amount of money, but even so I gave them about 45 dollars for 2 scarves. Way more than I had wanted to spend on scarves and they were not even the kind I was looking for!

After that another saleslady got me in her booth and was pressuring so much I had to just laugh out loud. I couldn’t even look at the scarves without their tentacles latching on to me. They were going to make a sale - no matter what! This one lady wanted to go with me to get my husband (who had gone up the escalator on purpose) because I told her he had the money. I almost got caught, she was going to let me have it without paying, trusting I would come back to pay. Finally I tossed the scarf back on the rack and immediately took the quick escape up the nearby escalator - WHEW!

All in all, it was a fun experience I must admit. I think I would do better next time having already been there once - but for me, it’s not worth going back. It was one of my China experiences for 2008.

Now to Gallery 798.

Then we took a taxi to the 798 art gallery area. We did lots of walking and saw lots of art..

This above is a slightly "larger than life" piece - I thought it was excellent work

What are we saying here - it's ok to pee on the sidewalk? The watermarks are unintentional, they were formed by dripping air conditioners right above the doorway to a gallery.

I thought this might be a sculpture of Mao, but Michael says no, it's not.

It's massive!

They were laying rectangular stones for this sidewalk, then drawing an uneven outline and cutting the shapes out with a rock cutter - very time consuming work, but I figured they'd get it done before the olympics.

There seemed to be a lot of dark work - paintings of greyness and fumes and jumbled chaos. The sculptures were interesting - some depicted multitudes of people, as though they were small anonymous toys; one showed a soldier rising out of thousands of small, deformed little toy people - all the same colour. It seemed to symbolize one person getting to the top at the expense of many others - not an uncommon theme in the west. I mostly took pics outside, many places said “no photos”.

At times I it seemed that the colour schemes were either gray and subdued or overly bright and unrealistic. Very few had, what I would consider, "beautiful colours", nevertheless, it’s always inspiring to see art that other people have made. Art is a universal language.

I used a drill press like this before - many years ago.

Maybe I was not supposed to take this photo (above) but I thought it was amusing.

I don't know if that large thing on the sidewalk was temporary or intentional - I guess it doesn't matter in an art park.

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