Frequently Argued Questions!
Hey Big Spender… Bargain Hunting in Beijing!
Ah. You’ve come to the land of the Fake Fendi. Now, young Padawan, it is time for you to learn how to use the Jedi Mind Trick to get that rabidly xenophobic stall-owner to drop the price on those obviously fake Calvin Kleins. How do you know they’re fake? Because they’ve spelt Calvin with a G.
No worries here girls, the shopping is pretty fabulous. Although it’s not presented beautifully, with a rack of all your sizes, and a friendly shop assistant to escort you to the fitting room, the cloths are great. (never mind cheap!!!!) China rips of lots of brands, including BEBE, Gap, Max Mara, Abercrombie & Fitch, Armani, Sevens, Diesel, the list goes on. Who’s knows if their fake or real, but if you can’t tell the dif, who cares. Bags and purses are to die for, and enough cheap accessories to go crazy over. Only advice is if you are a size 9 shoe (40) then bring some good winter boots. Summer shoes are no problem, but finding your size in the boots you want can be a bit difficult. If you’re coming in winter, buy all your scarves, gloves, hats here, and you’ll have no problem getting a cheap winter coat.
However, you should throw in your basic black or white tees, and your favorite hoodies as it’s often just the basics that are tricky to find. The Wudaokou Clothing Market is great (no more than 15mins drive from Peking & Qinghua University, and only 10mins from BLCU), as is Nali in Sanlitun.
But unless you love the 80’s Madonna look, bring new bras; Chinese bras tend to be small and do the pointy cone shape thing.
Wudaokou Market 五道口服装市场
- Northeast corner of Xueyuanlu and Qinghuadonglu, Haidian District
- 海淀区学院路和清华东路 路口的东北角
- Daily 10am-7.30pm
Located in Golden Towers 金码大厦(jinmadasha) with 4 floors of goodies.
Possibly because of the younger and debatably cooler nature of it’s clientele, clothing here is generally a) less cringe inducing than more typical chinese markets, and b) has less lame gear than markets typically purveying to the middle-aged tourist/ex-pat set. For example:
- 8 Xiushui Dongjie, Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District
- Daily 9am-9m
- 5169 8800
Quite possibly the oldest market to focus on the burgeoning foreign market, the grandly named Silk Market used to be a tiny lane squeezed in between embassy districts selling Calvin Klein boxers, North Face Jackets yes, Chinese silk scarves. Not anymore. Now it’s a capitalist powerhouse, boasting 7 floors (including a basement level) packed with anything Chinese people think non-Chinese people would like to buy.
Okay, for a gadget freak like me one of the best things about living in China is that you’ve come from the place where things are bought, to the place where things are made. And in Beijing, by going to the right place you can easily cut out 4 or 5 of the middle men between the 14 year old on the factory floor to the 17 year old at Circuit City.
Zhong Guan Cun 中关村
（North 4th Ring Road and Zhongguancun Avenue 北四环 / 中关村大街）
Hands down, the best PC joint in town is a place called Zhong Guan Cun just south of Peking University. This literal Nerd Mecca resides a mere 10 minutes cab ride from the Wu and currently comprises of a hub of 4 large tower malls and surrounded by countless satellite malls, each of which is absolutely jammed with absolutely anything that lights up, contains chips, or has a plug. There are floors devoted to not just printing gear, hard drives, optical drives (DVD combo burners, etc.), RAM, graphic cards and laptops, etc. but also cameras, TVs, MP3 players, cell phones and much much more. Zhong Guan Cun: Nerd Mecca
Hot Spots: Ding Hao Da Sha 鼎好电子商城 Inconveniently located behind the older and perpetually rennovating Hai Long Da Sha( 海龙大夏) it’s easier to just get off there and walk through. It’s not hard to find, but worth the effort in any case. If you’re after bargains, skip the first and second floors; it’s all name-brand cameras and laptops and it’s harder to bargain. Third floor is where the DIY goodness begins, and don’t forget to scope out the console nirvana in the basement: Wii, Xbox 360, PSP, DS, PS3. Pirate friendly, they’ll happily burn next-gen console discs, and if you’re a fan of haldhelds, they’ll set you up with a Mem Stick or DS card packed with downloaded titles like God of War and Mama’s Kitchen.
And what choice! Not only can you get all the brand names you logo junkies worship and adore (Sony, Apple, Canon), you can choose from an infinite panoply of Chinese brands. Not doubt, some of these are utter crap, but if you need a shitty digital camera to get you by, they can be had, again, ridiculously cheap. But then again, if you’re a savvy bargainer and your Chinese is pretty good you can hook yourself up with one of the up and coming Chinese brands; good quality at great value.
The place is run like a massive multi-level market; touts grab your arm shouting “You want PC?” and you’re constantly getting run over by hand carts stacked 8 feet high with electonics. Each stall is around 2 metres square and piled high with merchandise. Each stall has each own specialty, and each specialty tends to crowd together for protection, so once you find what you’re looking for bargaining becomes a snap.
A word on prices: I was going to list some sample prices, and when I did, they went out of date in about 2 hours. The place is run with a kind of up-to-the-minute stock market efficiency that puts Wall Asterisk Mart to shame. When you ask them how much something is, they call their storeroom who spits back the current cost. They then throw in their percentage, plus however much on top they think they can get away with. So prices change everyday, sometimes up, but a lot of the time down. So upshot, I haven’t listed prices but check out the website here. It’s in Chinese but there’re pictures and some English sprinkled around.
Obviously a lot of you guys aren’t in Beijing for long enough to pimp out your own ultra-fast next-gen gaming rig but there’re still a lot of handy little gadgets to cash in on. For example: USB Flash drives – so handy! Come in all shapes, sizes and flavors and start from 50rmb for that one that looks like Hello Kitty to around 150rmb for a 2Gb Cruzer Titanium. Not only flash drives though, but any kind of recording media, including SD cards and Sony memory sticks, can all be had on the cheap. I always pick up a few camera cards before I go home for Xmas. Everyone needs extra storage!
Mobile and/or Cell Phones
Nokia, Sony Eriksson, LG, you name it, you are now in the land of the Mobile Phone. Your cab driver’s got one, the waitress’s got one, hell, her daughter’s probably got one, the girl you’re checking out at the bar’s probably got two.
Depending on your program, you might even receive one on arrival from your course liaison. But if you get sick of a phone that looks like you can keep bubble gum inside it, then you can upgrade almost anywhere.
Cheap Nokias go for 280rmb+, and the sky’s the limit for the top-line models. And you may find Asian regions get a lot more models than back home.
China’s on the dual-band system so if you have a mobile from home, (and home is Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand or some parts of South America) then bring it on down, pick up a SIM card, charge it up and you’re good to go. If you’re American (or Canadian) though, you only have one option: write your Congressman and lobby to change your country’s cell phone network to the one that most of the rest of the world uses.
If you’re a musician, serious or not, and you’re wondering whether or not to bring your axe, then go ahead and bring it. Even if you don’t end up having time to rock out, I guarantee someone else on your course will. And if your experience is anything like mine, they’ll be way, way better than you on it. Just playing on a campus park bench will net you a crowd almost instantaneously, and if you’re after a more lively crowd, then Lush’s Open Mic Night may become your new home.
If you’re wary of sticking your beloved Taylor in a soft case and sending it 1000 miles over the ocean, then don’t worry! Beijing is the home of China’s live music scene, and the main music instrument district is handily located in the north-west part of the city, about half an hour from the Wu.
And it’s looking a lot better lately too.
in the day it was very hard to get name brand gear for even a reasonable price. These days however, registered dealers have popped up all over, selling everything from Fender, Yahama, Takamine, Epiphone, Taylor and more. Of course if you’re just after a basic steel string to get you through, then again, the number of local guitar manufacturers has multiplied in the last few years. Just don’t be surprised if the neck warps forward and there’s a toothpick jacking up the saddle. No joke, that actually happened to me once.
If you’re looking for other, more portable gear, check out what is usually an excellent range of Boss pedals. In particular, if you’re Australian the prices will blow you away! And if there’s anything Chinese people get, illogically it seems to be guitar equipment. So besides copious amounts of Boss gear, you can also pick up your Line 6s, Wah Pedals and more from such rock reputable suppliers as Zoom, DigiTech and Marshall.
You can bargain, but on the flip side they can rip you off, so it’s pretty much a fair deal. I’ve always had pretty good luck with a store called NAM (I have no idea why) on the east side down the south end of the street. They don’t stock acoustics, so if it’s one of them you’re after, don’t pay more than 800rmb for anything without a brand on it. And try the pickup first.