Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Taxis and Antiques

Being a family of five is rough.  Rollercoasters typical seat pairs, tables have four chairs, and only four people fit in a taxi.  This morning, my family tried to get to Dazhalan Street to get some breakfast and decided we would take the easier route and take a taxi.   My sister asks the front desk to kindly call us an extra-large taxi so we can all sit together, concierge suggests two cabs instead.  Ok…sure.  Two cabs it is.  We wait on the curb and promptly the first taxi arrives.  My sister explains where to take my parents since the second cab had not arrived and the driver was too impatient to wait.  After much chatter back and forth in Chinese, the cab zooms off, leaving the three sisters waiting for taxi #2.  It never came so we all are escorted to the street by the bell hop where to try to hail another.  Why the second one never came, we will never know.  We finally find an empty cab, but the driver refuses to take us to the Dazhalan Street – we have no idea why, it’s not like this street is clear across town.  The bell hop tells us we should walk down the street to another intersection to have better luck.  Thank you, Fei Tian Hotel.  We walk and continue to eye taxis going by but are unable to spot an empty one.  After minutes, an angel appears from the streets!  We are about to jump in as Diana negotiates the price.  He states that he simply does not want to go that far.  We spit on his car as he drives away.  Don’t worry - this is Beijing, everyone spits everywhere.    We run after another cab and he also puts up a hissy fit so we try jumping in the cab behind him.  He argues, but we have learned from our prior hesitancies and all just jump in before he has a chance to accelerate.  Safe- we found a ride.  I am now convinced that the cab companies are all regulated by the Communist Chinese Party – why else would a cab driver turn down an easy fare?  I hate Chinese cab drivers- New York now seems like a walk in the park.

Everything is forgotten because our delicious four course breakfast was only 30 Yuan.  That’s 5 dollars, people!  Feeding a family of five was never so easy!  Following our steal of a deal, we march past pet crickets and other touristy Chinese gift ware.

Later, we stumbled upon the antique district at Liulichang Market and go exploring.  There was one little hole in the wall store that looked like it could be on Hoarder’s TV show.  We dug through dusty piles and boxes of antique coins, little hand painted vases and other trinkets that force us to ask “what-the-heck-is-this?”  I found this interesting and sharp looking blade-disk that looked like it served no functional purpose what so ever.  I thought it was the most amazing little thing and wondered what I could possibly do with it.  It looked like it had a cool hole at the top so it could hang for a chain - I thought maybe this would be a good Burning Man necklace so I casually asked the price.  1200 Yuan.  That’s almost $200!!  What the hell??  I would have paid maybe $5, maybe $10 max.  She insisted it was from some Dynasty some 200 years ago - but it looked like something that someone would find at a swap meet.  I told her I wished it was a fake so I could afford it and she laughed.  Luckily, I didn’t have to spend $200, because I later stumbled upon this other amazing replica.  My new purchase is a wine vessel from the Qin Dynasty which engraved phoenixes.  It is going to look so amazing in my new apartment, you don’t even know!  It is heavier than my rock collection, good think I have my parents to smuggle it back to the US for me at the end of the trip!

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