The really nice, comfortable thing about staying in a single city for 6 blissful nights is the ability to take a day “off” from major site-seeing and just hang out. That is how I would describe today… hanging out.
We started off the morning by sleeping in, another almost-unheard-of concept. For me, this means NOT setting an alarm, and not worrying about what time to get off. We had decided in advance that today was to be an errand day, a day to buy train tickets, pick up a new shirt or two, walk through some interesting neighborhoods. In other words, nothing that would require a schedule.
After a breakfast of delectible dim sum in the hotel restaurant, we headed out to the Tiananmen Square area to walk through some old alleys. We got a bit distracted, as Geoff mentioned, and ended up heading north to the Grand Hyatt instead.
Having worked rather closely with the Hyatt team, I can say that without question, you will find a high level of service in their top-end properties. And so, like Team Cha-cha-cha on The Amazing Race, we headed towards that mecca of service to get some questions answered.
And also, to use their spotless facilities.
However, on the way, I spotted two dudes with canadian patches on their backpacks. I said, “Hey, there are Canadians up there” and they turned around to introduce themselves. Justin and Noah are two brothers, originally from the Toronto area, who have 2 weeks to tour China. Unfortunately, they are already near the end of their trip. Fortunately, they are hilarious and great fun to run around with.
The four of us went together to the Grand Hyatt to figure out train tickets and a Great Wall tour, and within half an hour, decided to catch a shared taxi to the Great Wall together, this Monday. According to the very helpful (see above re: great service) concierge, we should spend about 800 RMB for a taxi for the entire day. So, split that four ways and we’re each out about $40 CAD. Not bad, considering it’s 2 hours drive.
We settled the plans, I bought 3 (three!!!!) English-language paperbacks at a bookstore that would put Border’s to shame, and we took the subway two stops down to the Silk Market.
“Silk Market” sounds all exotic and enticing, but it’s really a 5 story indoor shopping mall, with individual vendors occupying tiny booth after tiny booth. If you’re in the market for a knock-off Columbia jacket, this is the place to go. But be prepared to BARGAIN HARD.
Geoff inquired about a nice women’s style (no, not for himself), and the saleslady responded with 380. We walked away and she instantly lowered her price to 100… around $20 CAD.
I walked out with a pair of pants that convert not only to shorts but to the ever-useful capri length and a “Gap” tank top. The pants fit fantastically and were an ok deal at $13. The tank is another measure. First of all, the thing is pretty badly put together. (I only paid $8 so it’s not much of a loss.) Although I tried to estimate whether or not it would fit, it’s about 5 inches too short. And the armholes are about 2 inches too small.
Now, I left on this trip with a certain packing strategy.
You may remember that I brought 4 layerable Gap t-shirts. Well, these super-light shirts have no completely stretched out of any semblance of shape to the point that even Geoff is telling me they are unwearable.
Time to ditch them.
You have to understand, Geoff is the sort of guy who saves everything. If there is one crumbled cookie left in 5 pieces at the bottom of the bag, he will save it to eat later.
So if he’s saying it’s time for them to go, then I really need to do some serious shopping.
At least I’m not in London where a shirt would set me back $40.
I got this new pair of pants/capris/shorts, and I also scored a sweet green STAR WARS tee for 39 RMB, around $8. And it fits perfectly. PERFECTLY.
So if nothing else, I have Storm Troopers for the next 3.5 weeks.
I really need to find something else soon, though. Maybe tomorrow in Tianjin????
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