Sunday 22nd May 2011
8 days left traveling the world.
MP3 track of the day: Love the way you lie – Eminem and Rihanna
Weather: Still smoggy and still cool.
Something new should be tried everyday; therefore I found myself ordering only one McDonald's pineapple pie and one of their 'other pies'. I'd seen this 'other pie' advertised before however, with a bright pink centre, I'd avoided all contact with it … until now. As I bit through the sugary pastry the taste that followed wasn't much to write home about. No really, I couldn't tell you what the pink centre tasted of; it wasn't vile, yet it wasn't interesting. Once again I'd found a product that was bland. I finished eating it and moved onto the, much more tasty, pineapple pie.
Today was clothes shopping day and I made my way to the 'cheap stores', pointed out by my hostels receptionist. These stores were located around my favourite traffic intersection; the same traffic police women could be seen and, it would appear, that yesterday's 'love my neighbourhood' programme had rolled on. A different group of students were out and yet they were as useless as yesterday’s lot.
For the previous two days loud bangs could be heard all around Louyang. Two logical explanations came to mind; firstly World War Three had broken out and the fighting had centred around Louyang ... or someone was letting off fireworks. I wouldn't advise either; firstly China has the largest population of any country and so a military campaign could take a while. Secondly letting off fireworks in broad day light – with a sky covered in smog – wasn't going to give you 'value for money' (and you would have thought that the Chinese would know this as they invented fireworks). I shrugged at either scenario and made my way into a rather seedy looking shopping centre. Once through a plastic barrier I saw hundreds of shoes sitting on top of piles of boxes. I quickly glanced at them making my way to the centre of the building; some price tags could be seen and nothing was above £20. I decided to view the shoes on my way out; I went upstairs to where the men's clothing section was.
The second floor was devoted to men's clothes; I walked around the perimeter of each stall, as I didn't want to go in as that would trigger a saleswoman to walk towards me speaking Chinese. Once I'd completed a full loop, of the floor, I'd spotted two polo shirts that I liked; I walked cautiously in between the isles of clothes towards my intended target. A shop assistant countered my every move and we seem to arrive, at the product in question, at the same time. A green 'Joop' polo shirt hung in front of me; I was quite happy feeling the quality, looking for holes and trying to find a price tag but this woman insisted I try it on. At £12 I refused as I thought the price was too high; I backed away from the woman and went to the second polo shirt where another saleswoman had already pre-empted my movements. This polo shirt – white with green stripes – was in a sale at £5. I tried it on and liked the look of it. Therefore my clothes shopping had commenced.
I went back down to the bottom floor to view the stores that I'd missed. I stopped at a belt shop noticing the price was only £3.90 per belt. These belts were 'designer labelled' too but I hadn't heard of the brand before. The belts were leather with a sliding fastening system (instead of the usual buckle). With only a simple, small, cat logo I bought two different belts. I turned around to find a 'designer' shop, with polo shirts for just over £5; the lady pulled out a white, with purple stripe, polo shirt and put it to my chest. She nodded, satisfied, and I too liked it. I tried it on and decided to have it. All-in-all I'd spent £17 on two 'designer' polo shirts, and two 'designer' belts, in two hours. Obviously I liked all the stuff I'd bought, though I still contemplated about purchasing that green 'Joop' shirt. I searched around the shoe section finding two pairs of converse that I liked. Alas the assistant looked stunned at the size that I'd requested; she waved her hand suggesting that she didn't have any converse that big. She tried to offer me some trainers but I didn't like the design; still it was comforting to know that trainers might not be a problem. I left the shopping centre and went back to my hostel.
I was still thinking about that green polo shirt as I read my guidebook. With seventy pages devoted to Beijing it didn't take me long to realise that I had my work cut out fitting in all the sites. I left my hostel around 4pm; in the end I decided to purchase the green polo shirt before heading to Pizza Hut for lunch/tea. I'd been hungry all day but I'd bid my time so that I could roll both meals into one; I wouldn't have time to eat anything else later. I haven't have pizza for a month and it was divine; I enjoyed every mouthful and left feeling very full. Once I'd waddled back to the hostel I grabbed my luggage and, slowly, made my way to the train station.
Looking at my watch I knew the walk had taken fifteen minutes … but it felt so much longer. Additional weight within my backpack, and a new suitcase, made the journey slow and hot. Once through security, and in the waiting room, I found it difficult to find a seat as most of the Chinese had taken two seats by putting a small amount of groceries on one, and themselves on another. Not standing for this I put my excessive amount of luggage on one seat (remember the Chinese spit on the floor) before sitting on another after a gentleman had moved his pot noodle. I wasn't in the waiting room for long; within ten minutes the gates opened and I walked onto the platform before struggling into my hard sleeper carriage.
Fortunately my fellow cabin mates had little luggage and so I managed to fill the space. I sat down on the lower bunk and finished reading about Beijing. Like I said earlier, there's a lot to do in Beijing and I've made a list of 'must do's' (including trying two types of food) before I leave. Beijing is going to be busy.