(A recap of our China adventures on Friday, August 25th…)
Having denied ourselves any napping the day before we were able to get an early start and make the breakfast buffet at the J.W. Marriott. The western-style grub was great and wonderfully presented; can’t say the same for the western-style hotel guests, though. Their attire started the bland trappings of “business casual” and went downhill from there. Way downhill.
After breakfast we re-traced our steps through the west end of Nanjing Road in order to find a building known as “Fashion Mall”, which I had read about in this helpful blog. It’s known to locals (and savvy tourists) as a good spot for fakes, and sure enough not two steps in I got pulled into a stall to look at fancy designer watches out of someone’s gym bag. I didn’t really want anything so I made a ridiculously low offer on one of them—like, twenty bucks Canadian—which was unfortunately accepted. The deal was hampered a bit by passing police officers, who made the merchandise instantly disappear and forced a awkward discussion of the weather for a moment or two. But once the coppers were out of sight I became the proud owner of a Rolex watch, which hasn’t worked since I left the store.
Previous experience in Beijing’s Silk Alley has taught me the fine art of bartering, and while my travel partner was initially disgusted with the concept in short order she had me doing the haggling for her. One of the shopkeepers offered to take us in back for a gym bag-full of cheap DVDs, and while we didn’t buy anything pirated (because of course Hollywood produces nothing but stellar movies that are absolutely worth the over-inflated prices they charge for their copy-protected discs!) we couldn’t resist getting a couple of copies of Sideways 2, pictured above.
We also topped up on some more kitschy souvenirs, but the constant cries of “Hello, hello! Bag/watch/DVD!” eventually wore us down, so we dumped our stuff back at the hotel then set out to get some post cards at a bookstore nearby.
It was here, on the Nanjing Road promenade, that a working girl walked up to me in broad daylight to offer her services. She was taller than me and a bit intimidating—I knew instantly what was up by the way she grabbed my arm, and sure enough, when I pointed out my girlfriend just up the road her mousy colleague who was trailing a few steps behind made herself known by giggling “I guess there will be no opportunities for you”, and pulling her friend off into the crowd. I wonder if they ever hire themselves out as a pair…
Over at the bookstore I was given a demo of some Windows software that uses speech-to-text to teach Mandarin Chinese. I had test driven an electronic translator at Cybermart the day before, writing some dumb thing like “can you tell me where Dongtai Lu Market is”, then passing it over to the person hawking it to read. And of course he couldn’t. Since this computer program seemed like less of a scam I took the plunge and brought it home with me, where it’s been sitting unopened on a shelf ever since.
Later that afternoon and into the evening we surveyed an area once known as The French Concession, featuring boutiques of local designers and a Shanghai Tang. And on the way back to the hotel we had an unremarkable dinner at a fast food curry joint before turning in for the night.