Sunday, April 27, 2014

China 2014 Day 6: Yuyuan Bazaar, Sichuan Food, and a Blind Massage

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
There was a tea making ceremony at the hotel scheduled at 10am... and we finished breakfast at 8:50... can I make it to Yu Garden AND back? Do all the things! And... GO!

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
I finally found the gardens after about 15 min of wandering around somewhat aimlessly, and it was beautiful. I'm really glad I went. There was an awesome Koi Pond, wicked architecture, cool trees and roots and stones and typical roof tiles. Very cool. It was a quick wander through there, but I probably spent about 20-30 min in there which was good. After a nice visit there, I zoomed back out and ran to the subway to get back to the hotel in time for the tea ceremony.

Old and New, seen from Yuyuan Gardens
Awesome architecture
Cool tree
A tourist group
Old + New
Yuyuan Gardens
Koi Pond
Lots of Koi Fish
Here's a video of the Koi Pond.

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
After that, I chatted with a sweet girl in the lobby who worked at the front desk. She told me all about her dream to travel to Italy and I gave her some advice on traveling there. She was very excited about it and said she was saving up so she could do it. As we were chatting, Hugh from New Brunswick came by to ask a question about some "Bug Medicine" he'd found at a store nearby for $2500!! It was some sort of ground-up bugs used for skin care or something, and it was astronomically expensive, so he asked about it in bewilderment, wondering why such a thing existed! After a nice chat, I got a coffee and Macaron at Victor's, the hotel's coffee shop. I caught up on my journal there with a great view of The Bund. Stellar!

Back at the hotel at the cafe, writing my blog notes
Amazing hotel lobby
This tree is amazing
Today is another day of exploring. I met up with Spring and we took off back to Yuyuan Bazaar to check it out in a bit more detail. We got there and it was fun to wander the shops a bit but I didn't really see the tea stuff that I was really keen for. We looked at teapots for a bit but then headed off to the "Science and Tech Museum" metro stop to shop in the bargaining markets. And... we begin!

Back to Yuyuan Bazaar
The "Bargaining" Market!
Anything you want to buy is here, but haggling required!
Michal started by trying on some shoes she really liked and she drove a hard bargain! She ended up getting 3 of the same shoe in different colours for an excellent price. The original "price" was 450Yuan for one, and I think she ended up getting them for 300Yuan for 3 PAIRS. So the amount they start the bargaining at is way more than the actual amount you should ever pay. Lonely Planet even suggested that some places you should start your bargaining at 10% of their initial amount, and then move slowly up from there! Crazy. This, although, is highly expected at this market... you should never pay the actual ticket price ever (unless you are a huge sucker)... in fact you should probably never pay more than half or even 40% of it.

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
Beef stew
We got rice and some great spicy chicken. This reminded me a bit of the food at Spices II here in San Francisco (which, I believe is actually a Sichuan restaurant, actually!) The beef stew was intense but good, and the Harbin beer was cold and awesome. The noodles were a bit awkward as we weren't sure if actually there was potentially pork intestine in there (even though, of course, it was on the vegetarian part of the menu!) As usual in China though, the veggies were EXCELLENT. The spicy potatoes as well as veggie dish were both really awesome. Some businessmen at the table beside us were so excited we were there and were "Cheers-ing" us with their glasses and seemed impressed we'd figured out how to order the local beer (and not Budweiser, which we almost got by mistake).

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
This shop was a true shop and not a market stall kind of place, so it seemed pretty clear to me that this was not a place that you are supposed to bargain at. The lady at the shop was very helpful and pointed out a few different grades of tea for me to smell. For instance there was a Yunnan Red/Black Tea that I wanted to buy, and she had it priced by 50g increments which was perfect. The high-grade one was 70Yuan ($11) for 50g, and the cheaper version was 15Yuan ($2.50) for 50g. I don't really need a mountain of tea, just some stuff that seems nice, and the nicer version was significantly fresher and clearly a much better quality tea. So I generally went for the higher grade ones, since the pricing was already so affordable compared to getting this stuff in the US. So I got the nicer Yunnan tea as it smelled so incredible and fresh! I also smelled a TieGuanYin Oolong tea but didn't get it because I was looking for the Milk/Silk Oolong instead. I got some great Silver Needle White Tea... at 10Yuan ($1.75) for 50g!!!! Totally insane!!!! The Jasmine Pearls were great and I got some of those along with some Shun and Sheng Pu-erh Tea. The Pu-erh had a huge price range on it (as Pu-erh gets much more expensive if it is a very old, aged tea), so I opted for ones lower on that scale since I'm not as knowledgeable about that kind of tea and can't appreciate it as much yet.

Me buying almost all the tea in China!
Learning about the different kinds of Yunnan Gold, Pu-erh, and Jasmine Pearl teas they have
Smells good!
MAN that tea place was SO awesome. Uhh!!!!!!!!! So wicked.

A great after-dinner massage from blind masseurs at the Double Rainbow Massage House
We the headed to the Double Rainbow Massage House, to get a "Blind Massage". There is apparently a law in this area where massage places get a big tax credit if they employ blind masseurs. So we were excited to try it out (after verifying that this sort of thing was legit), and it was very good! You get a massage in a main room, and everyone is in the same room. You don't take off any clothing or get under a towel as you might in a fancy spa environment, rather this is just a massage on a regular massage table. It was very good, and the value was insanely epic at only 55Yuan ($9) for 45 minutes! You could also get a foot massage so we considered doing that given all of our walking so far, but went for a regular back and arm massage instead. What an awesome evening.

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!
Whew! What a long and awesome day. We were super tired and I was certainly on my last ounce of energy, but we really wanted to make sure to see the legendary Peace Hotel Jazz Bar, so we went down to check it out for just a short moment.

Finishing off the evening at the famous Jazz Bar at the Peace Hotel
It was awesome to see it and a great experience. I had a glorious night-cap on the evening with some excellent Japanese Hibiki 17 whisky! What a day!

1 comment:

Amancio Roberts Jr said...

Do you need a quick long or short term first class financial offer of different categories such as business, personal, home, auto, student, debt consolidation finance e.t.c. no matter your credit score. We are guaranteed in giving out financial services to our numerous clients all over world. With our flexible lending packages, funds can be processed and transferred to the borrower within the shortest time possible, contact our specialist for advice and finance planning. contact us today at

(1)Full Names:
(2)Amount Needed as Loan:
(3)Phone Number:
(7)Monthly Income:
(8)Marital Status:
(10)Loan Purpose: