Back after a blog free weekend. Sorry. But I was in the need of a break.
Friday’s exam went quite badly, so when my classmate Willing magically pulled out two train tickets to Shanghai from her purse and asked me if I was keen to join her, I started jumping up and down. Down the drain went my plans of a ‘healthy’ (home cooked tofu with veggies and cottage cheese + a 6 mile run) and a ‘productive’ Friday (58 new words and 2 –already delayed- homework essays was on my ‘to do list’). Instead, we jumped into a taxi and headed to Suzhou's railway station.
Since Willing’s tickets were for 11am and it was only 9.15am, we decided to try and change them for an earlier train. We tried the ticket office first, but it was useless. Then we tried to ‘discreetly’ sneak onto the train anyways, but as you all might be able to figure out –being 175 cm tall, blonde and discrete is kind of hard to pull off over here (my attempt to stuff my hair inside my hat and look like a bold, tall person didn’t pay off either). I was stopped straight away and Willing received angry stares from the train guards, almost as if they were telling her to ‘take better care of her mischievous laowai.’ (I love how everyone sees us together and take for granted that she is my translator just because she's Asian).
One and a half hours later (spent on KFC –oh, this was a quality Friday) we got on our train and went to Shanghai. The first thing we did in Shanghai was to go and stuff ourselves at my favorite Hunan restaurant (first not-home-made-meal of this week… allow me to be excused) followed by coffee and a cookie (whoops, no excuse for that one) and when we felt as if we were about to explode of all the food, Willing suggested we’d go to Shanghai’s infamous ‘Qi Pu Lu’ and indulge in cheap shopping. I wasn’t hard to convince.
During my 2.5 years in China I have never actually been to this Qi Pu Lu place (the name, ‘qipu lu’ is a supposed to sound like ‘cheap lu’ because it is said to be so cheap). Although I have heard a LOT of stuff about it. It seems that Qipu Lu is one of those places that people love to hate? Or maybe that’s just an idea I’ve been getting, but comments about Qipu Lu often goes like:
-The sale’s people there are crazy. They pull you and follow you around.
-The clothes are cheap but the quality sucks. Wash it once and it will fall apart.
-It’s too packed with people.
-The sales people are so aggressive….
Well first of all, the place was huge. So I never experienced it as impossible to escape those annoying sale’s people who kept following us around (a bit of rudeness here gets you far). Thieves? Well no one put their hands in my bags. Packed? Sure. But what cheap shopping mall in China isn’t?
We spend a good 3 hours at Qipu Lu… bargaining, looking around… laughing at the funny comments we got in the shops. This one is a classic:
-Sorry you are too big, I have nothing you can buy (Said by the sales lady in a shorts’ shop). Of course I HAD to prove her wrong and that I did buy buying a pair of shorts with a superficial smile on my face, going ‘sure I can get into these… I am not THAT big you know!!’ (and seriously, I thought I would, they didn’t look that small after all). Turned out, however, that the sale’s girl was right. I could get them over my hips (impressive!) but I couldn’t close the button. Lord, I am happy that I couldn’t try them on in the shop.
And then, the usual 'warning' sign when I get close (which makes everyone turn around and look at me)….:
-Laowai lai le, laowai lai le!! (Laowai arriving!)
(and then, 34 seconds later when I took a hike)
-Laowai pao le, laowai pao le…. (laowai leaving)
And then of course, the standard:
-30 kuai?! Are you crazy? This dress costs 90 kuai, the absolute lowest I can go is 80!
-OK, then I don’t want it. Bye.
-How about 60?
-Wait, OK, 30!
-Thanks! (Damn, I should have said 20).
All in all it was a quite OK afternoon. A little mood booster and a nice change of scene. And did I buy anything? Sure I did (except for those shorts I couldn’t fit into –the rest actually fit). Will I go again? Maybe not... Although, ask me after our next exam and you’ll probably see me running towards the train station….