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Beijing – Part 3 September 24, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Beijing.
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Instead of writing a 5,000 word essay covering all of our adventures in Beijing, Katie and I decided to sit down and conduct a more formal interview. Katie prepared a series of questions which I did my best to answer. Here is a transcript of the interview.

Click here if you missed Part 1.

Click here if you missed Part 2.

Katie: I have a challenge for you. See if you can make it through this entire post without mentioning sports.

Jordan: No problem. I wouldn’t want to talk about sports either if I didn’t know who Albert Pujols was. I’d like to thank everyone who wrote in and supported my outrage at your ignorance. We’ll all get through this together. Let’s move on.

Katie: Good idea. Why don’t we get things started by having you briefly describe our longest day.

Jordan: Well I’ve already made reference to several aspects of this one particular day in previous posts. It started off with me on the toilet around 6am minutes before our driver showed up for the 1 hour drive to the Great Wall.

We were lucky to have our own private driver who could have pulled over at a rest stop if neccessary, but his English was very very limited, so that would have been an interesting conversation involving some comical hand gestures. Just imagine me pointing at my butt and then mimicking an explosion with my hands and you get the idea.

Katie: That last sentence wasn’t necessary.

Jordan: I know, but I’m a little concerned about the content of this post so I may have to use some extreme measures.

Anyway, we never had to ask our driver (his name was Li) to pull over and we made up to the Great Wall and back in good time. We had also negotiated with him to include a visit to the Summer Palace on our way back so this was our second destination that day.

Here are some pictures:

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The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill (60 meters high) and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers, three quarters of which is water. The central Kunming Lake covering 2.2 square kilometers was entirely man made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill. In the Summer Palace, one finds a variety of palaces, gardens, and other classical-style architectural structures.

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The Summer Palace started out life as the Garden of Clear Ripples in 1750 with artisans reproducing the garden architecture styles of various palaces in China. The palace complex suffered two major attacks, the first during the Anglo-French allied invasion of 1860, and during the Boxer Rebellion, in an attack by the eight allied powers in 1900. The garden survived and was rebuilt in 1886 and 1902. It served as a summer resort for Empress Dowager Cixi, who diverted 30 million taels of silver, said to be originally designated for the Chinese navy, into the reconstruction and enlargement of the Summer Palace.

Katie: What’s a tael of silver?

Jordan: No idea. Ask Wikipedia.

So basically this place was the Emperor’s cottage that his enemies liked to attack. Eventually some lady came in and took over the joint, and spent 30 million taels (?) for renovations and expansion instead of spending it on defense. Typical.

All jokes aside it truly is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.

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The natural landscape of hills and open water combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. Overall, not a bad place to spend a long weekend with family and friends. I didn’t see any beer fridges or driving range though.

Katie: You’ve reached the 600 word mark and it’s not even lunch time yet. Pick up the pace. I don’t think I can handle doing a part 4.

Jordan: Don’t blame me. Tell Wikipedia to tighten up their descriptions of historical landmarks. All this copy/pasting takes time.

After the Summer Garden, our driver was supposed to be done for the day, but since we had taken much less time at both destinations, I think he felt like he should take us somewhere else. We were extremely hungry, but wanted to take advantage of his generosity and visit one more tourist attraction.

For the sake of time (and my stomach), we opted for a fast and safe choice that goes beyond any language barrier. McDonald’s. He took us to the closest one and we ate it in the car en route to our last destination of the tour – Olympic Park.

Not much else to say here except that both the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest are much more impressive in person.

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I guess our only regret would be that we didn’t come and see them at night when they’re lit up. Luckily, our buddy Zeff was visiting China during this same vacation only in reverse order (he went to Beijing first, then HK) and took some night pics which I’ve stolen from his Facebook profile.

Jeff_bird's nestwater cube_nightPretty cool. I wonder if these architectural marvels will survive the test of time. It was cool to compare the main stadiums from the past two Summer Olympics held in Asia exactly 20 years apart.

This is the Water Cube and Main Stadium (Bird’s Nest) from the 2008 Games in Beijing…

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…and this is the main stadium from the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.

IMG_5890Now this picture doesn’t do it justice, but in person it already looks extremely dated and worn.

Katie: Riveting. Not only are you talking about sports, but you’re now comparing stadiums from the world’s largest global sporting event!?

Jordan: Technically, this is more of a architectural discussion but I apologize nonetheless. Let’s not kid ourselves, we all knew I wouldn’t make it.

Speaking of architecture, one of the kids in the classroom next to me decided to give himself a new name and it’s pretty damn funny. Little Alex has decided to rename himself – Architecture. He goes by Archie for short, but I always call him by his full name. I love this place.

Katie: Don’t forget the 7-year old girl who fell down a flight of stairs and was taken for an MRI by her crazy mother. She also blamed the school and withdrew her daughter even though she was wearing high heels and was running. Yup, a 7-year old in high heels.

Jordan: Speaking of high heels, have you seen the “Single Ladies” music video? I guarantee Beyonce wouldn’t fall downstairs in heels. I’ve heard that song a bazillion times but I’d never seen the video. Kanye was right, that video is insanely good. What were we talking about before?

Katie: You were in the process of answering my first question from 1100 words ago.

Jordan: Oh yeah, so after Olympic Park our driver dropped us off at our hotel. We rested for a few minutes and then headed right back out to one of the famous markets known for counterfeit goods.

We had already visited one the previous day so we had an idea what to expect, but if you don’t like being bothered by sales people when you’re shopping, this isn’t the place for you.

I personally hate being badgered when I’m shopping. If I can’t find something or I need help finding a size, I’ll ask someone for assistance. All I ask is that they politely acknowledge my presence and let me do my thing.

Well, these markets do the exact opposite. They are shameless. They will hound you and wear you down so that it’s impossible to say no and you’ll buy something just so they’ll leave you alone. At first I tried to avoid eye contact with the people at each booth, but that doesn’t stop them. Most of them are all selling the exact same things and will see you rejecting or ignoring all the booths before them, but does that deter them? No chance. Some of them will even physically grab you and drag you into their booth.

As soon as you express the slightest, and I mean the slightest interest in any item, they’re in your face and the negotiations have begun. Once I got used to it, it actually became somewhat enjoyable. They always quote you a ridiculous price at first hoping that you’ll accept. And when I say ridiculous, I mean like $30 for fake Ralph Lauren Polo shirt which is the same quality as any shirt from the GAP. So really it’s not a bad deal to start. As soon as they would quote the price, I would put the item down and walk away. They would then grab you. Literally grab you, (Katie had a bruise on her arm the next day from one lady – no joke) and ask you what your price is and  hoping it would be reasonable. Regardless of what you said, they would act surprised and insulted, and quote a price somewhere in between. This is when I’d walk away again and they would either let me go, or in most cases grab me again and give in.

We also played a little game of good cop, bad cop where I would hold all the money and Katie would start the negotiations for an item she was interested in while I casually looked around. Once she got the price down to a certain level, she would ask me for money and I would look at the item and ask how much. Regardless of the item or the price, I would scoff and walk away disgusted. This game was lots of fun for me, but not as much for Katie as she would be left awkwardly with the salesperson and would have to chase me down for money to pay for an item that she actually wanted. We saved a bit of money with this strategy but it definetly wasn’t Katie’s favourite.

I ended up finding an area devoted to golf and spent some time going from booth to booth carefully inspecting certain items. The first booth quoted me $20 for a fake Titleist hat. I walked away. The next booth quoted me $7 for the exact same hat. The next booth quoted me $4. I went for the jugular and countered with $1. She then informed that she had watched me go from booth to booth looking at the same hat and knew that I wanted it. I was running out of golf booths, so after haggling over $0.50 for a few minutes, we settled at $3.

IMG_7090IMG_7091Fully-embroidered and virtually identical to a real Titleist hat. Not bad for $3. I might actually wear it.

Katie: No chance.

Jordan: Yeah, you’re probably right. I’m more of a Taylor Made guy anyway.

After my success with the Titleist hat I decided to see if I could work my magic elsewhere. I ended up finding a Billabong hat that I was mildly interested in and commenced negotiations with a young lady while her boss or mother (or both) monitored the situation. I explained that I had just paid $3 for a golf hat and wouldn’t pay more than that. She acted pissed off and tried to keep the price up. About midway through her broken English rant, I decided that I flat out didn’t want the hat anymore. It could have been free and I might not have taken it. I tried to politely explain this but it didn’t go over very well. The boss/mother intervened and tried to resolve the situation. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t want the hat anymore even though I had gotten my price. They were perplexed and insulted. I didn’t feel like carrying around some crappy hat that I would never wear. Eventually I just had to walk away. She’s probably writing about me on some blog about how cheap Canadians are.

That’s another thing we quickly learned. They always asked where you’re from. We just assumed it was small talk and a way of trying to engage the customer, but apparently they would quote the initial price of an item based on the perceived wealth of the country you’re from. I don’t know where Canada was ranked but we made out all right in the end.

Aside from the physical and mental abuse that we endured, the market experience was definetly worthwhile and something we’ll never forget. It also helped me gain some perspective which will hopefully allow me to be more understanding next time I have a slightly overzealous salesperson back in Canada.

Katie: Isn’t it nice to know we’re all better people.

Jordan: I couldn’t agree more. Let’s do this again and I’ll finish our story about the longest day ever with the dinner we had at our (my) new favourite restaurant.

Katie: Ok, but this is the last one. Stay tuned for Part 4…

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Comments»

1. Josh - September 24, 2009

For future posts could you please just highlight the one funny comment and one or two interesting facts that Katie makes you include. That would save everyone several hours of their lives. Thank-you.

2. Sub - September 25, 2009

and more Katie upskirts!! Otherwise, I’ve entirely lost interest…

3. danner - September 25, 2009

Noooo! I love these long ass stories…. they make my time in the airport lounge more interesting… by the way I’m so jealous you went to the olympic park in Beijing…. so jealous…. 🙂 You should save all these entries and make a book – including everyone’s comments. Think of how much you will laugh 50 years from now….

4. Nanners - September 25, 2009

HAHAHAHAHAHA. I love the interviews. I read the blog just imagining you and Katie talking and her sitting there with a look of disgust on her face just listening to you.

5. Dyson - September 29, 2009

Just a heads up that the space between 1988 and 2008 is twenty years, not ten.

Good thing you’re only teaching English.

6. Sean - September 29, 2009

Hey Josh and Sub – thanks for commenting on Jordan’s Blog religiously. Would it kill you to visit ours? Jerks!

And Dyson – nice to know you can write a full sentence every now and then. Rather than this week’ “meh”

7. Sean - September 29, 2009

By the way – nice post Jorkat. The pics are amazing!

8. Dyson - September 29, 2009

Mullin put a link to your blog in your comments, so I don’t have to remember yours and your wife’s first names.

9. Elliott Mcdonough - May 29, 2010

If I had a penny for each time I came to jorkat.com… Amazing writing.

10. Juliet Milton - May 30, 2010

You have done it once more. Great post!


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