It comes with the territory.
You see it everywhere. Many get used to it and others never do.
Street hawkers abound. There is no place a tourist can walk
without being hounded by someone selling something. I an
reluctant to list all the things you can buy but if it’s in
Beijing or Xian, on the Shanghai Bund or on the Great Wall, you
can better your bottom grain of rice there’s somebody selling
something. The people don’t speak English but the know a few
catch phrases like ‘good price’ , ‘bargains’ or ‘how much you
And the few
rickshaw drivers offer to take you where the bargains are found.
there before I was certainly not going to be taken in. Yet, I
bought paint brushes, Rolex wrist watches, miniature terra cotta
soldiers, cigarette lighters, baseball caps, paper umbrellas,
silk ties, jade statues, chopsticks, tea, spices, cookies,
purses and even slippers and carvings from a boat tied to our
Attached to our
They accost you
when you enter your hotel or restaurant or when you come out again, even
if you’ve already purchased something or said no. Could it be that we
all look alike?
One day I went for
a walk in Xian. As I came out of the hotel an older lady jumped up
carrying a shopping bag. She reached in a pulled out a scark. I won’t go
into the whole spiel but I smiled and walked away. When I returned 20
minutes later she was there selling statues. I pointed to my face.
Suddenly she realized I had just been there. She laughed and walked
I told my wife
about her. She was determined and I felt a bit sorry for her. She was
only trying to make a living and to her a one dollar sale meant much
more than we can imagine.
Then, the next
morning as we exited the hotel at 8AM, she was there again. Her tenacity
was just too much. This time she was selling a box of paint- brushes.
three dollars”, she repeated as she pushed them into view.
“Too much” I
“How much?” she
I looked stern.
“I’ll give you four.”
dumbfounded. Then she burst into laughter.
I gave her the
three dollars and turned away. She had already started accosting someone
else. I hope I helped her. I still haven’t used the brushes.
Want to buy a
Then in Shanghai we
were asked for the hundredth time if we wanted a Rolex. Obviously they
are knockoffs but they looked good and there were different colors,
designs and bracelets.
We started our
usual barter. I eventually bought four for $10. The one I bought my wife
was lost after a few days. The clasp had opened. So, being the big
spender that I am, I went out and bought her another one.
“Is there a
guarantee?” I asked.
“Yes”, he replied.
“One day. If it not work you come back.”
I’ve been home now
for 5 months. My Rolex still keeps perfect time. I wear it all the time.
I gave one of the others to a young boy who works in my bank. One day I
walked up behind him and whispered, “What time is I”?
embarrassed. “I only wear it for special occasions.” He seriously
A Rolex is a Rolex
On our boat cruise
along the Li River two young men in a long narrow makeshift raft,
paddled out to our boat in mid stream, tied themselves to our hull and
proceeded to sell carvings. (See above) They did a brisk business.
money-maker is selling group pictures. Someone at a tourist site
greets you with a beautiful colored picture book of the site. It
always sounds like a nice souvenir so we gather as a group and
take a remembrance photo. I came home with one on Tien An Min
Square, one in Xian with the Terra Cotta Warriors and the man
they say unearthed the first one many years ago. We took one on
the Li River cruise and another in Hong Kong. They turned out to
be worth the price. The picture books are wonderful and a group
picture is a worthwhile souvenir.