Morning: It’s difficult to adjust to a different time zone. Beijing is 12 hours ahead of local time. Both Joe and I kept waking up in the middle of the night, wide awake. We’d get on the computer and look at e-mail and then go back to sleep, sometimes until late in the morning. This was one of those mornings. Today’s breakfast at the bagel shop included two plates of french fries. They looked a lot like McDonald’s french fries. In fact we suspected that they had run to the nearby McDonalds and fetched the salty fries for us. Brandon said that sometimes when he orders french fries, they give him little potato triangles.
Afternoon: Bad weather again forced the postponement of visiting the Summer Palace. Instead, we decided to take in the military museum which was near the west train station we’d be going to the next day for our overnight trip to Xi’an (pronounced Shee-on) to see the Terracotta Warriors.
The Chinese have been fighting each other and outsiders for a long, long time so there is plenty of military history on display in the museum. We spent a good three hours walking through the displays. Photos probably do more justice to the museum than words. One thing struck me as unusual: a display of Chinese military uniforms over the years featured non-Asian manikins.
The Silk Market is a shopper’s paradise – or hell, depending on whether or not you like to haggle over the price of an item. Imagine a place like the farmer’s market in Hometown, Leesport or Kutztown only much, much bigger. Electronics. Luggage. Clothing. Jewelry. Arts and crafts. As you walk through the narrow isles, merchants aggressively try to get you to look at their wares. They go as far as pulling your arms to get your attention.
There’s just a few things you need to know about the Silk Market. First, just about everything offered there is a knock off – it’s not the real thing. iPhones are not made by Apple. That shirt is not really made by Armani and that is not really a Rolex watch. The second thing you need to know is that you never pay the asking price. Brandon suggested that I never pay more than 40 percent of the asking price. Lower than that is even better. Here’s how it works. The salesperson will type in a price on a calculator. Then you type in what you are willing to pay. The bargaining can continue until an agreed upon price is reached or you simply walk away. If you walk away, the merchant may then follow you offering a compromise. I didn’t much care for the process, nor did Mary Ruth when she visited the Silk Market. This day was merely a reconnaissance visit. I noted what was available and realized I would mostly have to come back before leaving Beijing. I decided to e-mail my wife to see what exactly she wanted me to pick up.
Evening: Dinner was at small restaurant near the hotel. Layla came along and brought a cell phone for Joe and I to use on our trip to Xi’an. Our Great Wall driver John Ping had arranged for a friend of his to be our guide in Xi’an, but Brandon thought we ought to have a phone just in case the guide didn’t show up at the rail station and we’d need help getting on a tour to see the Warriors and some of the city. Tonight’s meal included roasted chicken hearts. Brandon said he was a little leery of them at first but has learned to like them. I tried one. Layla said that ours was a little burnt and not as good as usual. I decided I’d take her word for it.
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