Oct 4th – 7th
So what is the thrill of the week? After all we are on holidays in China and Kim and I have had a great one week holiday right here in Shanghai. Could it have been some of the delicious food we have been eating? We have certainly become a lot more adventurous in the selection of our food. We used to go only to restaurants where it looked like there was western food, English menus and pictures of the food so we could point as we ordered. We are getting much braver now. We recently went out and ate at a place with only one English word in the whole restaurant. It was painted on the door and it said “spicy.”. We ordered 4 dishes as we were with some friends. The first dish was a spicy eggplant with a little beef, some hot peppers and a delicious sauce. Next was some sort of vegetables cooked in a spicy sauce, also very delicious, then potatoes (this is very rare in China, especially in a Chinese theme restaurant) cooked with onions and spicy peppers. Finally the piece de resistance, a spicy sour noodle soup. Ohhhh the flavour was amazing. It was not really really hot, but after just one taste, your temples started to sweat. What a delicious meal. For the four of us, including green tea, the meal was about $22.00. We have been eating out a fair amount, because we just haven’t been at home and it is cheaper to eat out than to eat at home. Providing you aren’t going to fancy western restaurants. We have enjoyed this week curried pork with udon noodles, a delicious lunch at a dumpling house, the best Thai food in Shanghai (Simply Thai also has a restaurant in Vancouver) beef skewers with grilled veggies at the Blue Frog Restaurant, another evening of Thai food at the Tamarind Thai Restaurant down at the Cool Docks in the South Bund area and a good old roast beef sandwich at the Peace hotel at the Bund. Great food alas, but not the thrill of the week.
How about shopping? A great deal of our time this past week was spent shopping. Could the thrill of the week have been some super deal? A new store we have discovered? Stores in China are so interesting. Now, they have all of the big stores like, Walmart, IKEA, The Gap, etc and they are pretty much the same boring clones as the stores in North America. I say boring because they have the same layout, same goods and same prices.m this does not mean we don’t shop there. Every once in a while we get homesick for a Canadian product and so off we will go. However given the choice I would rather shop in the Shanghai, mom and pop stores. They are really different. First you haggle the prices. It is actually fun to do. Usually when Kim and I walk away We are happy with our purchase price and the store owner has made anew friend/customer. I always get a card from the vendors who have dealt with me well. This way I have an address to find the store again and I also will share this info with others. Business cards are important in China. Whenever you give or receive a card, etiquette requires that you hand it over with 2 hands and receive it with 2 hands. This is to signify that it is important. When you receive the card you can, grunt your approval, nod your head or say something like Hen how which means very good. You never put the card into your wallet and back into your pants. You kind of hang onto it so that you can show the card more respect later. With card in hand negotiations for whatever product begins. Here is a typical scenario when I bought a recent Ralph Loren polo shirt. The sales person always starts with a ridiculous price. They always show you this price on a calculator. As a teacher i appreciate having a visual representation so that there is no confusion. She wanted $50 for the shirt. I am sure some tourists say ok and pay that price, so why not ask it. It never pays to be rude, but it’s more than ok to smile and let them know the price is crazy. You can reply things like, no I only want one shirt, not ten. Or no this is too much and start to leave. They immediately pull out their calculator and ask how much are you willing to pay. My rule of thumb is to offer about 20% of the original asking price. So i offered her $10. Of course she pretends to be insulted but keeps talking because she wants my business. So now the negations get interesting, she offers me 2 shirts for $50. I countered with $12 for one and explain I only want the one shirt. She pulls out a Ralph Lauren knock off shirt, it looks nice but it’s a lot cheaper and clearly a knock off. She will let me have that one for $12. I tell her I don’t want the cheap shirt and I offer her $15. She tells me $22 and this is her last price. I now pull out my secret weapon, my business card. It’s Chinese one side and English the other side and it says I am a shou Jung. Principal. I tell her I work at a school and will tell all my friends to come to her store if we can make a good deal and offer her 100 RMB about $17. She smiles we shake hands and the deal is done. No tax in Shanghai so what you pay is what you pay. The other fascinating part of mom and pop stores is the specialization. This comes from the result of being so small you can’t carry a lot of inventory. For example, in Canada we would have a plumbing store, yesterday I passed a shop that sold only bathroom faucets. In Canada we have Home Depot (aka Disneyland for dads) here we see a shop that sells only wood dowelling. What makes it more interesting is when they decide to sell two or more items. I already told you about our fruit stand. It sells fresh fruit only ( no vegetables) and cigarettes. So Kim and I are collecting weird combinations of items sold in stores. Here are a few examples. Remember these shops sell only 2 items. Luggage and children’s t-shirts. Pajamas and purses. Girls dresses and watches. And my personal favorite; children’s formal wear (tuxedos etc) and DVDs. You get the picture. It may sound fairly weird, but Kim and I recognize that family is very important here in China and it is highly likely that thru some sort of family connection, these shop owners are getting a good deal to sell whatever it is they sell. It’s good for family and it’s good for business. While shopping here if fun and exciting, it wasn’t the thrill of the week.
So what was our highlight that gets to close this section of the blog and kept all of our faithful blog readers in suspense. It was the cab ride home last night. So we are a fair distance from home, and usually we would take the subway as it’s twice as fast as a cab. We have finished dinner and gone for a walk somewhere on the outskirts of the city of Shanghai. It’s dark and we decided we would take a cab home. It’s about a 30 minute ride so this means we will have to cough up big bucks about $8, but we decide to live in the moment and spring for a cab. We are driving along at about 80 km, which is the normal speed for a cab driver in a 60 km/hr speed zone, when we notice that up ahead there are 2 fire trucks racing to some sort of emergency. Well, the roads are pretty empty, so our driver floors it and starts weaving in and out of traffic. He catches up to fire trucks and then we speed past them. Unreal and totally worthy of the “Thrill of the Week” title.
So here we are on Sunday, the last day of our vacation. Kim and I had a lazy sleep in, we are getting up to go for Udon noodles and a foot massage. We will then come home, make our selves a dinner (the first time in almost a week, watch some of the TV series Damages we bought on DVD and get to bed early so our six o’clock alarm won’t sound so cruel. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!