Christmas atmosphere in Beijing

created: 2008-12-23

BEIJING, Dec. 21 -- The financial crisis appears to have even Santa tightening his belt, so perhaps now is a good time to stop judging gifts by their price tag and start proving that it's the thought that counts. With Christmas less than a week away, it's time to start ticking off items on Christmas lists.

For those prepared to take a step off the beaten track, Beijing brings a bundle of booty, without breaking the bank.

While most tourists make a beeline for Silk Street and Pearl market, there are other options. For an "everything under one roof" experience, you can't beat Jinwuxing Market, located near Dazhongsi, on subway Line 13, at Mingguangcun, Xueyuan Nanlu.

At the moment, good boots, furry hats and winter coats make up a big proportion of the stock on show, and those stalls that usually sell red envelopes and Chinese decorations, have traded in their red ribbons for reindeer in the pre-Christmas push.

With stalls pretty much grouped by wares, you'll find traders selling shoes in one corner of the market, computer equipment in another, mobile phones and formal clothing in another.

Some of the bargains look amazing till you remember that "Nike" is spelled with only one "k", Chanel doesn't make rucksacks, and Hello Kitty has never officially endorsed the iPhone. There's a lot of what are euphemistically called "shanzhai" products out there, and you can never be sure of the quality.

Though you're not going to find everything on your nearest and dearest's Christmas list, it's those strange discoveries and bizarre products that you never knew existed, such as kitchen mop soled slippers and collapsible taichi swords, that really make Beijing's markets worth exploring.

I'm sure you'll find something that will bring a look of amazement, or at least curious puzzlement when the wrapping paper comes off.

If you're after something specific, then it pays to shop around. If you want clothing, head to Beijing Zoo Market. A common shopping point for local Beijingers, the main market has spawned three or four imitators, so it's a perfect place to pick up a new winter wardrobe.

The rumor has it that any attempt at haggling will have you shooed from the shop. This isn't the case, but do tread lightly. Nice warm leather boots can be picked up for a mere 100 yuan, with a good thick winter coat costing maybe half that. Luxury goods, such as silk scarves, soft leather gloves, and other great gifts for a loved one can also be picked up for a song.

For games machines, iPods, and the latest computer gizmos, head a little further west, to Zhongguancun Dajie. This is an area jam-packed with all manner of electronics shops, spread over several malls.

Beware when entering, as most of the ground floors are taken up with computer and camera dealerships, and the aggressive selling by commission crazed salesmen is often enough to have you fleeing from the store. Shop around, as you'll often find sellers undercutting each other hand over fist to earn your Christmas kuai.

Have a good idea of what you're looking for before you head off for the day.

There's nothing wrong with the joy of rummaging, but remember, if you arrive home at the end of the day, laden with bags, only to discover you still haven't got Auntie Vera that scarf, you'll have to face another day out in the Christmas crush!


(China Daily News)



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