This year, we wanted to spend a month touring various cities in
This is a very, very impressive city, with a population of 18 million.
We are constantly amazed at the scale of things. We booked a hotel which on the map seemed within walking distance of our train station,
The Mercure Hotel, part of the French ACCOR chain, turned out to be a poor choice. While it was in central Xiden, and near a subway station, you couldn’t just walk out the door and find restaurants, or pop over to the
We then did something we rarely do. We went into a restaurant with no English menu and instructed the waiter to just order for us. From the tanks by the door, he brought a bowl of clams, scallops on the half shell in a black bean sauce, large snail like things that the French like to eat with a vinaigrette sauce, a beautifully arrayed plate of vegetables, and seafood dumplings. I had a large beer, and the bill came to 97 RMB (about $14). After dinner, we wandered by all the restaurants adorned with red lanterns, and eventually decided to get on a bus heading in the direction of
The restaurant/club strip around
The next day, we checked into our new hotel. The room was very well designed with a large seating area. But more interestingly, the bathroom had glass walls, and on the counter was a HAPPY TRIP package ‘For People Frequently on Business Trip’. It included amongst other things a vibrating condom and other products for the traveling businessman. Normally we’re happy just to get an extra toothbrush and comb!
We then set off for our first day in
Giving up on the Information Centre, we decided to go along and see their school. One of their teachers was there, and they showed us their work, and the work of some of their colleagues and other teachers. It was all very good; considerably better than what one sees at Emily Carr. The class was planning a trip to
“Oh we can’t afford that” said Sally. “But how much is it anyway?” He wanted 1000 RMB. This seemed like a very low price for such a lovely piece. So we bought it too.
Happy with our purchases, we had photographs taken with the girls, and set off for the major pedestrian mall. The place was just packed since we were in the middle of the Golden Week holiday. Many people smiled at us since we stood out as two obvious foreigners. A couple of people stopped to ask if they could have their pictures taken with us. Sure. Finally a twenty something young man came up to us and started to chat in English. He was an art student, and wondered if….
Then it hit us! How foolish could we be? We had done everything that one is told not to do! We had gone off with strangers, bought things without much scrutiny, all in the excitement of the moment. So we sat down and took another look at our purchases. They were obviously not done by art students and their teachers. They were mass produced pieces. Very good, but still mass produced. Now we understood how some people can be taken in by Nigerian bankers.
Although we had been completely conned, it had been fun. Sally put it down to the fact that we just couldn’t ‘read’ people here in the same way as we can on our own turf. And anyway, the pieces still looked very good, even at the price we paid.
Two days later, we were walking down the street, and were approached by the same two girls. “Hey just a second” said Sally. “You’re not art students.” After a brief chat, which included reference to the fact that I had video taped much of their presentations, they offered to take back the pictures and return our money. We’ll see. I’m starting to get quite attached to them!