All of the prices in these government stores were listed in U.S. Dollars. Obviously these stores are not for Chinese locals to shop in, they are for China's "foreign friends" like us who are brought here as part of a travel tour.
The Pearl Factory was interesting. We had a short informative presentation by a very good salesman who told us about the different types, colors, and sizes of pearls. He told us about picking the right size and color and also showed us how to tell real pearls from fake ones. We had fun looking around and trying on some necklaces but we didn't buy anything. Some of the bracelets at this store were hundreds of dollars and the necklaces were a whole lot more!
The Silk Quilt Factory was my favorite. We were shown how silk is produced from silk worms and the different types of silk that can be made. There were workers making a silk-filled comforter by stretching layer upon layer of silk over a frame. We were so impressed with the comforters and pillows that we each purchased a set. They were a little expensive but not unreasonable and now that we've been using them at home, we feel they were well worth it. We passed on the duvet covers which were a bit unreasonable. There were many other silk items for sale in this store such as clothing, rugs, scarfs, and fabric.
The Jade Factory was beautiful. There was so much carved jade to look at! Of course everything had a price and there were salespeople everywhere trying to convince us to buy something. There were thousands of beautiful and intricately carved pieces of jade in a variety of colors. There was also a huge huge selection of jade necklaces, bracelets, pendants, rings, and earrings... all highly priced of course. I laughed out loud when I saw some of the exact same jewelry that I've seen in the markets of Korea for a lot less than the "sale prices" here. We didn't buy anything but we took a lot of pictures!
These carved jade turtles were small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and were priced at $1,079!
This large carved jade cabbage was priced at $104,930!
At one of our stops we had time to sample teas at a tea house. So many different kinds!
We had one free afternoon that we spent exploring a couple of markets. We went to the Hongqiao Market (Pearl Market) and the Xui Shui Market (Silk Alley Market). These markets are both large and reminded me of Dongdaemun in Korea. There was floor upon floor of vendors selling practically anything you can think of. Shopping here was amazing but INTENSE. The store vendors are vicious, rude, and manipulative. If you so much as pause to look at something (or dare to pick something up), the vendor will start putting it in a bag and telling you how much you owe. The price they always start off with is ridiculously high. You have to be unemotional and firm to get the price you know you should pay. Don't be nice - it won't help. They start high, you start low, they'll call you crazy, you call them crazy, you try to walk away, they'll grab you to make you stay, and eventually you will win :) Most vendors won't bargain out loud, but prefer to pass a calculator back and forth. Walking away is one of the best ways to get them to agree to your price if its reasonable because they won't want to lose the sale. Always check the zippers, snaps, etc on an item before you agree to purchase it.
Most of the things you see in the markets are name brand but are really just good knock-offs of the real thing. Therefore, you should only pay a small a fraction of what the real thing would cost. I was told not to pay more than 20% of what the real item would cost in the States. We bought some North Face jackets (with a zip out fleece) for the equivalent of $40. The vendor's starting price was $300! It's a great jacket that I've been wearing daily ever since. It's a knock-off I'm sure, but it looks real and is certainly worth what I paid. There are also a lot of knock-off designer purses and wallets that you can get at cheap prices with bargaining. The Louis Vuitton wallet pictured was the equivalent of $10. You can get the same wallets in Korea (slightly better quality I think) for $35. We also each bought some gorgeous pearl necklaces and bracelets at the Hongqiao Market. My aunt's $20 pearl necklace was appraised at $300 when she got back to the States!
Our afternoon shopping in the markets was exhausting but so much fun! I would certainly take a trip back to China with an empty suitcase just to go shopping for a week!
Beijing, China - Part 1 of 3
Beijing, China - Part 1 of 3
"The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and
coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one."
~ Erma Bombeck