Thursday, 4 April 2013
04.04.2013 - 04.04.2013
The weather this morning was cold and grey with no visible sun in the sky. We had our regular breakfast in the executive lounge and by 09:30 we headed off for Xiidan station. It was a lot more crowded than what we experienced two days ago. The train looked to be 100% full but despite that hundreds more managed to squeeze in. There was little need for a hand-hold we were packed in too tight to fall. The were eleven stops on Line 4 to Zhong Guan Cun station in the Peking University district. Along the way some people got off and even more got on until we reached the Zoo station when so many got off we almost had breathing room.
The Zhong Guan Cun area is the 'technology' centre for Beijing. Dozens of huge buildings selling every conceivable brand of any electronic item you could want to buy. We were on the lookout for an over-the-ear MP3 player with SD card and FM radio. I figured it would be difficult to explain what we were after so I found an illustration on the web, captured the image from the screen, trimmed it and displayed it on the screen. I then took a photo of my screen and was able to show the item to potential retailers. It took a while but we finally found someone who knew what we were after. We were asked to be seated and someone ducked off and came back with exactly the item we were after. Not a happy ending though, their price was at least twice the on-line price and they were not prepared to drop their price.
There were more mobile phones of more brands than I had imagined were in the world and everyone wanting to sell us one or two!! Along the same line there were more models of more makes of camera and lenses. From monster telephoto to mini compacts. The dominant brands were Canon and Nikon but even if the stall had Canon plastered all over the store they were happy to discuss other brands including Panasonic. I asked for an indicative price for a DMC FZ200, after some time the price offered turned out to be no better than an on-line purchase from Hong Kong. I didn't push the topic as I wasn't prepared to buy at that price.
For good reason, they are not prepared to unwrap stock that is still in its original package, but it is difficult to make a decision on the basis of an illustration on a box. Only a limited range of the most popular items are on display. The stores were heated and the contrast with the outside temperature presented a clothing challenge which we survived better than my paper map which became decidedly limp in my shirt pocket.
Decided to drop into a McDonald's for a coffee and quick lunch. Ordering from an unfamiliar menu in a foreign language turned out to be easier than expected. When I reached the front of the queue she whipped out a miniature picture menu and by pointing at the image and holding up one or two fingers I managed to get pretty much what I wanted. She even helped by selecting the appropriate bank notes from my bundle. The coffee from the McCafe was beautifully presented and gave us access to the quieter part of the restaurant.
Having seen almost the identical range of items in four separate buildings and with no reason for lingering we decided to call it a day and returned to the station and hence the hotel. An interesting aspect of travelling on the subway is choosing the correct exit. The station are frequently located under major street intersections, there are therefore at least four possible exits depending on which side of which street you want to reach. The station we used today has a few more and I found the map, showing where they are, only after reaching the surface.
Spent some time relaxing this afternoon and intended to try for some night-time photography after 'Happy Hour' but it started to rain and that plan had little merit. Looks like the 'Silk Market' tomorrow, will report then.
Meanwhile, if you'd like to see my recent images you could try the following link. Recent Images on 365
Cheers ... Tony