China 2014 Day 6: Yuyuan Bazaar, Sichuan Food, and a Blind Massage
Day 6 began with a.. wait for it... early start! First to breakfast and another EPIC buffet breakfast. Man!!! We had custard buns, Shanghai rice and chicken, juice, little samosas, and a "pumpkin ball" that tasted like fried cheese. Amazing. We ate with some new friends that we had just made the night before and that totally rocked. The buffet was intensely awesome, but I was careful to pace myself because... miraculously... we get to experience the buffet again 2 MORE TIMES! So I figured I didn't need to eat every single thing at once. :)
|First up - awesome breakfast!|
|View of the Pearl Tower from the dining room, but not great visibility this morning|
I literally ran to the subway and used my awesome 3-day MetroPass from yesterday. 1 stop to Yu Garden, and then out and I tried to find it... I got super lost in the Yuyuan Bazaar (which was super cool though!) Again, the shopkeepers were not very pushy, different that what I was expecting. As I was in the Bazaar a group of teenagers came up to me and one of the dudes was SO excited to see a foreigner... "Excuse me, can I take a photo with you?!" We both gave a thumbs up in the photo and he was totally psyched. Funny.
|Captain America: Winter Soldier!|
|KFC, Haagen-Daaz... in an unexpected location|
|The fanciest looking Dairy Queen ever|
|Streets of Yuyuan Bazaar|
|Old and New, seen from Yuyuan Gardens|
|A tourist group|
|Old + New|
|Lots of Koi Fish|
I headed back to the hotel and got there just in time for the tea, only 5 or 10 min late. It had already started but was pretty casual. They called one of the teas "Romeo and Juliet", a flowering tea. They had Jasmine, they had Black Tea fermented with Lychee Juice and Rose Petals... all very tasty. They did also have a Longjing Tea there but it tasted nothing like the one I got at the farmer's place in Hangzhou (as expected -- I don't think anything can compare to that!) Presumably this is not Pre-QingMing Longjing. They were selling 100gr for 250Yuan, whereas the one from our farmer was more like 100gr for 500Yuan. It tasted totally different. The other teas were great to try as well and I really enjoyed the Lychee one. They also had a REALLY cool tea board and a clay teapot, I'd really like to get one of those. She suggested that I shop at Yuyuan Bazaar instead of going to the wholesale "Tea City" like Lonely Planet had suggested. A few people had told us that it would be hard to get anything under 500gr at the Tea City, so maybe it made more sense to go to a normal tea shop instead.
|Tea Ceremony at the hotel|
|Trying lots of tea|
|Back at the hotel at the cafe, writing my blog notes|
|Amazing hotel lobby|
|This tree is amazing|
|Back to Yuyuan Bazaar|
|The "Bargaining" Market!|
|Anything you want to buy is here, but haggling required!|
We worked on some tactics together to lower the price, like pulling out the money you are willing to pay and saying "I only have this much left for the day". They will not sell it to you at a loss, so you can sortof sense when they are too close to their cost price... though they were very good :) The first girl at the shoe place was very nice and said "I want to make friends" and was really keen to make the deal, but she tried hard to keep the price up for a while.
After we were done there and made a good deal, a random dude walking around (probably a guy that sortof runs the place) found us and we said we were looking for Yixing Clay teapots. He took us to a store with a very tiny shopkeeper who was very nice and made us feel welcome right away. The dude sortof hung around (presumably to make sure she charged us enough), but we ended up staying there for a good 45 minutes. We sat there for a while and first looked at teapots. I loved this Yixing Clay dragon teapot which was sortof burgundy in colour, and also I found one of those awesome bamboo tea ceremony trays that I really liked, in a cool lime green colour. It looked great together and I definitely wanted to get that. They also had some interesting tea there, and I liked the look of a "Green Pu-erh" that we found there. She made us some and we chatted while she made it for us. Very tasty. She started us off with an initial 10% off from the sticker price, but I "bargained" down to about 40% off. She accepted the offer without too much of a fight, so I suspect I could have paid a little less... but no big deal. I loved everything and the tea was fantastic, so I was super happy with what I got and I paid what I felt it was worth to me. So that's all good. She was also a very sweet shop keeper and I didn't feel like I needed to drive the hardest bargain ever, (not that I'm that much of a pro at that anyway!) since she spent so much time with us and made us tea. It was a great experience and I looooove my teapot and tray.
We wandered some more, and there were some nice men's suits and peacoats, dresses, and fancy men's bright coloured wingtip dress shoes. Those were cool but were clearly very good quality... the starting price on those was 2000Yuan... $350! They were also not pretending to be any famous brand, they were just fancy, nicely made, good quality leather shoes. So you could tell though that there was not nearly as much leeway on those, so despite being awesome we didn't bargain for those. They had some cool red ones but I really liked the green ones... they said they'd need to create them for me in a custom order and I'd have to come back to pick them up, so we didn't have time for that. Too bad, but they were cool anyway :) We walked around lots and many people said "Come take a look!" There was one area with particularly good bags and shoes and it was sortof in a backroom with a secret bookcase door! Crazy. I didn't like that they closed the door when we went in there, but it was cool to see some of the nicer bags and watches and stuff. Still though, if you actually wanted something in there, you should make a good bargain here because there was no way any of these were not cheap reproductions.
It was fun there but after about 3 hours we were ready to roll. We went back to the hotel and dropped off stuff and showered and relaxed for a bit. From there we went to Spicy Joint, a very popular Sichuanese spicy restaurant that several people and Lonely Planet had recommended! You needed a local phone number to sign up for a spot in line so a guy there helped us with that. Our number came up within 5 minutes and we went to our table. It was awesome.
|Nightlife on the way to Spicy Joint|
|Cute Spring excited for Sichuan food at Spicy Joint|
|Local Harbin Beer|
|Chicken and rice|
After a GREAT meal, we headed to one of the Tea shops recommended in Lonely Planet. On the way there I saw a (legit) New Balance shoe store, so I had to check to see if they had any super crazy new neon shoes like they did in Japan and South Korea. They didn't have a lot that was different from USA, but they did have some crazy "Colour Run"-themed shoes with speckles of colour on them. Pretty awesome design. This area of town was pretty fancy so we were a bit worried about inflated prices at the tea shop, but it was a GREAT deal there. The tea was of excellent quality and the prices were rock-bottom. I was so excited.
|Fancy area outside of Spicy Joint|
|Me buying almost all the tea in China!|
|Learning about the different kinds of Yunnan Gold, Pu-erh, and Jasmine Pearl teas they have|
|A great after-dinner massage from blind masseurs at the Double Rainbow Massage House|
After this we headed back to the hotel and I tried a Mochi Strawberry McFlurry on the way back and we took the requisite photos of the strange and unusual and awesome McDonald's localizations in China.
|Mochi McFlurry time!|
|Other cool and funny localized stuff at McDonald's|
|I think that burger has Potato Salad in it!|
|Finishing off the evening at the famous Jazz Bar at the Peace Hotel|