Beijing is really different from Shijiazhuang.
It doesn’t feel even close to as…out there. There’s tons more English, it’s far easier to get around, and there are 711 convenience stores on every corner (which are identical to their Japanese counterparts – except for the prices of course). Eating is far easier due to the proliferation of picture menus, and everything just seems so much more…developed.
Which I guess is no surprise, considering a certain worldwide event that just recently occurred here 😉
After getting back from the shooting range, Andy and I spent the rest of the day roaming around Beijing’s various electronics malls in search of a digital camera (for him) and a 16gb MicroSD card (for me). Again, we emerged empty-handed.
We’d start by walking around the various malls’ first floors, where each store had their bright, fancy display cases showing off all the newest gadgets. A sales clerk would see a pair of foreigners and promptly call us over. We’d either choose to ignore him, or tell him precisely what we’re looking for – depending on how legit/pushy he seemed.
At first, he’d quote a ludicrous price. We’d negotiate down to something we both agreed upon, and the staff would lead us upstairs to the main office – where customers go to pay for and collect their merchandise.
Arriving in the office, we’d immediately be introduced to another representative who’d go into the back room to fetch our product while the first salesman returned downstairs to acquire additional customers. Then, the clerk would come back out and one of the following would occur:
-He’d be holding a completely different model, trying to pass it off as what we’d agreed upon.
-He’d say he’s out of stock, but can sell us this other item for an even better price.
-He’d claim we’d agreed on a different price than we really had.
-He’d ask “What is it you wanted to buy again? And how much did you agree on? Oh, no no!…”
This happened time and time again, regardless of how careful we tried to be. “We’d like a 16gb MICRO SD card. That’s the tiny one, like this. Not the full-sized one, like this. And no, 8gb isn’t enough – it must be 16gb. The price we’re willing to pay is 400rmb. Agreed?” “Yes, a 16mb MICRO SD card for 400rmb. We have it in stock.”
Of course, they never did.
Quite an interesting way of doing business…and of wasting our entire afternoon
When I left the US for this trip, I wasn’t exactly sure what the future had in store. Would I spend 3 months in Japan and then return home? Would I pop over to Korea just for a weekend, renewing my visa for another 3? Would I move to China to learn Mandarin? Would I continue roaming throughout Southeast Asia?
Foolishly, I assumed that it would be one of the former options – where I’d be generally stationary – and packed way too much of everything. As if I were moving, not traveling. It was so much that even after leaving a suitcase with a friend in Kyoto, and after buying a new deluxe backpacking backpack, I could barely manage to carry it all around. Something had to be done. I had to lighten the load.
And I was in luck! A friend from San Diego just happened to be visiting Hong Kong and had some extra baggage allowance for the trip home – so I decided to forfeit the last week of my 30-day Chinese visa and head down across the border to catch up & get rid of half my clothing.
I could barely wait. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to be rid of it.
So the next morning, when Andy took off for the Middle East, I headed to Beijing East Train Station…where I missed the 24 hour train to Hong Kong. It’s the first train I ever remember missing 😥
How typical. I’d caught every 40 yuan short-distance train, but missed – by five minutes – the 455yuan, 24 hour overnighter. Worse, if I was to make it to Hong Kong before my friend’s departure I’d have no choice but to leave that evening – and my only option was a much slower train that would take 30 hours instead of 24, ending up in Shenzhen, this side of the China-Hong Kong border.
I was pissed. Real pissed.
But on the plus side, it would give me another day in Beijing to visit JingJing – my buddy from Tokyo – who just happened to be studying at Renmin University for half a year** 😀