Shopping 秀水街

We're S-H-O-PP-I-N-G, we're shopping 
It's easy when you got all the information
Inside help, no investigation
-Pet Shop Boys 

The Great Wall, China's crown jewel, should top the list of must-dos for any Beijing visitor. Ideally, a trip to the Great Wall should be done when the sky is blue. OK, considering that Beijing is normally shrouded in a gray haze, gray-blue skies are acceptable. But when the Air Quality Index exceeds 400 ppm (that's really bad), a trip to the Great Wall is a waste. Who wants to pay an entrance ticket to see thick-as-pea-soup smog? We can do that for free anywhere.

Last Thursday, Beijing smog thwarted yet another outing. I had put aside my normal Thursday activities to play Great Wall tour guide for the K Family. We decided to save the Great Wall for another day, but we can still experience Beijing's other not so crowning jewel: the Silk Market (秀水街 Xiùshuǐjiē).

The Silk Market is 5-story mall full of knock-off brand products with salespeople yelling at passersby in English, “You want to buy some-sing here?” If you so much as glance at something, you are pounced by calculator-wielding salesperson quoting an outrageous price.

When Xiao K expressed interest in long sleeved Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) hoodie, the saleslady said it was only 320 Rmb ($50). As a seasoned Beijing expat, I have an idea of how much fake brand things should cost—and that was too much. Xiao K looked at me for help. I spoke up, “20 kuai!” The saleslady shot me a nasty look. She turned back to Xiao K, “Ok, 150 kuai.” I gestured to Xiao K, no, no, too much.

To say the saleslady was not happy with me might be an understatement. She physically nudged my arm indicating, You get out of here. Then she told me “This shirt is for the beautiful girl, not for you and you are not beautiful.” “Not beautiful” in Chinese can be translated as “ugly”. Yes, that's right. The lady outright called me ugly. Of course, it's hard to take such an insult seriously in a place like the Silk Market. The saleslady then insisted that 100 Rmb is her cheapest price.

But Xiao K is a quick student. After a few more exchanges, Xiao K ended up paying 40 Rmb. And the saleslady ended up calling me ugly again.

Chinese Phrase of the Blog: 太贵了!Tài guìle!
English Translation: That's too expensive! (This is perhaps one of the most useful expressions ever in China.)

A poorly rated shop in the Silk Market, for real?


Blue 蓝

Hey blue, all your love is strange
Come out with all those crazy names
So true when you lie
For you, blue
- Smashing Pumpkins

Not California blue, but I will take it!
The skies are blue here in Beijing. Not azure blue, not sapphire blue, not cobalt blue, not even sky blue—let's call it APEC blue.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is group of 21 countries that meet annually to discuss promoting economic growth in – you guessed it – Asia. So what happens when representatives from the world's most influential economic powers (aka the USA) come to town? Just as your mother meticulously cleaned the bathroom, polished the fine silver and hid the dirty laundry from sight before the neighbors came for dinner, Beijing likewise prepared for its honorable guests. The schools and companies closed, car traffic was restricted, and surrounding factories went on hiatus. That's it smog, be gone! Here comes the APEC blue sky.

After all, it would be such a shame if Obama developed the Beijing cough like the rest of us.

Chinese Word of the Blog: APEC蓝 APEC lán
English Translation: APEC blue

Example Sentence: “APEC蓝”形容APEC会议期间北京蓝蓝的天空.
“APEC lán” xíngróng APEC huìyì qíjiān běijīng lán lán de tiānkōng
"APEC blue" describes the blue sky during the APEC meeting.

Want to read more?
With Obama in Town Beijing Censors US Air Pollution Data
TopAwkward Moments 2014 APEC Summit
APECBlue Has Chinese Factories Bleeding Red Economists Say
ClimateAnnouncement is Ambitious — But is it a Deal?
New visa policy elevates U.S.-China relations

Mmmmhhh, what's missing? Smog and cars
Just a little excited about fall and APEC blue

Love this blue sky, but is it for real?
A week before APEC, the skies were Beijing Gray