Saturday, July 9, 2011

How to Bargain In Beijing

Tips of bargaining here is in context of shopping in marketplace, not shopping mall. It's pretty clear you can't bargain in shopping mall right?

For those who had been to Beijing know where are the markets to shop but nevertheless I'll share some info of marketplaces that I went to.

Pearl Market

Situated opposite of Temple of Heaven North Gate, it is best visited after you're done with visiting Temple of Heaven. I just afraid you would not leave Pearl Market for Temple of Heaven if you ever choose the other way around :D

How to get here:
Subway Tiantan Dongmen (Line 5) Station, turn left and across the road you'll see the building

Operating hours: 9.00am - 7.00pm

What to look for: Pearl, watch, electronics, scarf, luggage etc

Pearl Market from front

Pearl Market from side

Yashow Market

I went here twice due to its proximity to my host's house and it's close to other shopping mall. The market is located in Sanlitun, a popular bar street in Beijing. So, you'll expect a lot of expats nearby the area and bargaining can be a little tougher. 

How to get here:
Subway Tuanjiehu (Line 10) Station, turn right and walk straight for about 7 minutes until you'll see shopping mall with Uniqlo and Adidas stores. Walk past it and Yashow Market is on the next building. 

Operating hours: 9.30am - 9.00pm

What to look for:
Shoe, luggage, handbag, adult's and children's clothing, silk and tailor shop, jewellery, watch

Walk pass these buildings

Yashow Market

More marketplace, check here.

Shopping in Beijing famous marketplaces is totally different experience to me when to compare with Bangkok, Indonesia or Vietnam. So, I'm sharing the little experience I had with the hope it might be useful to you when you shop in Beijing.


1. Shopping List

Whenever travelling I always prepare my shopping list to cut time wandering in the marketplace clueless what to look for. Clueless traveler always be a target of desperate vendors.

I prepare how many souvenirs I wanted to buy and to whom, the budget (extremely important) and what other things to buy.

On what other things to buy, you might need some research beforehand to know what the marketplace is offering and what's the best deal you could get. Above description could help you a little but generally all marketplaces sell almost the same as each other. Almost.

Entering the marketplace, look for floor where your desired items are located at and straight go towards that direction. Temptation to other item is always there. Keep to your shopping list first.

2. Less is good

Me and Sayra both had our big camera with us everywhere we went when in Beijing. Before entering the main door, we kept them away and all other possessions that might give perception 'we have a lot money' to the vendor in our bag.

Appear like an average traveller/tourist.
It does affect your bargain later.

Remember my previous post on my eating/drinking in Beijing? I bought hot chocolate at Starbucks next to Yashow Market before the shopping and as I didn't finish it all, I held it along my shopping process. And Sayra also had her coffee with her.

When we were at final stage of bargaining at first shop for fridge magnet, the lady vendor refused to agree with our price just because we had expensive coffee. Grrrr.... So, ditch all that might made you look rich/have much money to assure you'll get the cheapest price for your things. Well, since we applied other tips already, eventually we got our fridge magnets at price we bargained for. 

Keep reading, I personally find the tips afterwards worth apply for :D


Shops in marketplace are grouped at one level according to their goods. One level for clothing, another level for handbags, another level for shoes etc. It made your shopping easier, if you already have the shopping list as above right.
Well, advising which shop to buy from is the toughest part ever. Since every shop in the same floor sells about the same thing, you have to make a random try and visit. Sometimes it depends on your luck but you could always apply below series of tips which I find very useful and effective as your guideline.

This is a trial and error approach.
Common sense should also be applied.

3. Smile, someone might love looking at you

At the alleyway when deciding which shop to enter, always carry your beautiful and sincere smile around. Try to smile at vendors waiting outside of shops selling items in your list and make some eye contact with them. Whoever smiles back at you and invite you in, it might be the best place to buy.

4. Be Polite

As much as you don't like arrogant and rude people, so do the vendors.
Be in your most polite manner asking for items you like and its price. Remember to still keep your smile with you at this time.
First impressive is crucial.

Greet them in Chinese "Ni Hao"
Ask price in Chinese "Do shao chen?"

Whenever you think the item you like is overpriced, ask for discount. Usually they will ask what is your best price. Well, this is when your budget you prepared earlier will be used as basis and your bargain skills are put to test. Confidently state your price and smile again.

If they agree, it's your lucky day!

If not, there might be a case they will yell at you telling your price is crazy, you are mean, you are killing them, they make no money from selling it to you and other nasty stuff unpleasant to your ear. Don't get offended by them as that are the common dialog EVERY VENDOR are telling to their customers when asking for discount.

Turn deaf on that! Keep your politeness intact, ask few times more for discount. And tell exactly the same thing back to them that their price is crazy, you have no money etc in a friendlier tone. Joke a little if you can.

Remember to firmly stick to the price you're willing to pay. Usually I will ask for discount of 50% - 80% depending of item.

If that doesn't work and you still want the thing, the next step might help. It will take some time and some people might not want to go until this extend.

5. Built Rapport

So, you hardly want this thing from this particular shop but the price given is not making sense at all? Build a rapport and this works all the time for us. Seriously!

Linger a little longer in the shop looking for other item, put the bargaining business aside for a while.

Ask their name. And introduce yours too.
Don't we like when people calling us by name? I do!

Try creating a casual conversation with them so they feel comfortable with you and regards you as their friends. Some of my favourite are:

"Miss X, where do you learn to speak english? Your english is good unlike other person I met"

"Do you know how to go to (name place)? I'm planning to go there tomorrow. What's good about that place?"

"All your stuffs in your shop are more quality/beautiful/unique than others. You have a very good taste"

"Miss, your cloth/hair/skin/eyes is beautiful. Where do you buy/product you use?"

"Is your boyfriend also works here?"

"How do speak (whatever) in Chinese?"

"I have biscuit/chocolate, do you want some?"

That's just to get the conversation started. You should be able to continue with whatever topic after that. Have few laugh in between. Be more creative.

After you notice they've change their tone from stranger to friend, ask again for your price. This time, it's more difficult for them to say no. You have become their friends :D

A little and gentle touching/pat (at hand and shoulder) would also helps in bargaining. Do not overdo it as some people don't like to be touch. Know your limit. 

6. Find Similarities

After few trials, me and Sayra concluded dealing with a young girl/student alike and old lady were much hassle free and ended with lesser time negotiating. 

It is again about them being comfortable with you. If you and the vendor have common things to discuss/talk about, you clicked well. And bargaining is easy from there.  

And do not enter a shop with other foreigner (non Asian) in it. You may return later after they left. Vendors will prefer to entertain them than you. No offence as non Asian can give more money than Asian do. 

7. When it's Time To Leave, Leave

If it doesn't work, say politely you couldn't afford their price and leave the shop. Don't be surprise when they call you back agreeing to your price!

The key word for all the above is Psychology!

And as I said this is a trial and error approach. If any of these doesn't work, move to the other shops. Apply the same tips.


On average, me and Sayra spent half an hour or more at shop we think worth the time spending. What's the good thing about it?

At fridge magnet shop, we bargained for too much until we and the lady had to sit on a floor selecting the fridge magnet together, she gave all designs at the same price. We asked for free gift and she gave each of us earring and when we noticed she had few flag pins (of different country) on her scarf, we even asked if we could have that and she gave! LOL. That was after she shared her selling experience in the marketplace. 

Buying scarf in Beijing is cheap. The cheapest I got was from Pearl Market. Looking for old lady vendor worked :D

At Pearl Market, both me and Sayra bought same design but different colour winter clothing for a price we didn't expect she would give. Tips? We had conversation with some of the examples above and bargained until it was time for her to close the shop. And we also acted like a students with not much money :) Eventually when all the lights had turned off, she either had to choose to make some money or none at all and losing two customers. We left the shop with big smile.

My new Made-in-China winter clothing

I was so in love with this one particular jacket, it looked so stylish and warm enough for winter but I wasn't willing to spend extra money for that. So, after failed to get the price I was willing to pay, I left the shop to make the girl vendor feel sorry for losing me as her customer. Did she call me back? NO! I must had put a price with a slim profit margin to her. Tired of negotiating, I decided not to buy the jacket, even at other shop. So, we stop looking for jacket shops and went to look for Sayra's shoe for Great Wall climbing the next day. The girl vendor in jacket shop must had hard time selling her goods that day, I didn't know how but she managed to find us at other shop! We were surprised when we heard our name being called from afar in Yashow Market by the girl vendor and begging us to go back to her shop! I clearly put a condition to her that I only will buy if she could sell the jacket at my price. At the end of the day, she called me 'tough girl' for I was so firm with my price. It worth it!

When Sayra bought her shoe in Yashow, it was nearly closing time already. In between negotiating for cheapest price, we had many good conversation and laughing. After we left the shop as the last customer, she invited us to have dinner at her house! Wow, but we declined politely as it was our final night in Beijing and we had made other plan.

Sayra with new shoe in Great Wall

Goods in Beijing (or China) is generally very cheap if you know the right way to bargain for that. And you'll only encounter this situation at marketplaces that aim tourists as customer. Shopping in non tourist area is easy and simple - no bargain, no haggling, no yelling but CHEAP PRICE! Well, everything is MADE IN CHINA right?!

Overall, I enjoyed the shopping experience in Beijing although it took a lot of time and my patience. I hope the tips benefit you who has made plan to shop in Beijing. This topic couldn't leave my head these few days, so i'm just sharing it while it lasts. Now, I should resume to my draft of last part in Dieng Plateau entry. See you in a bit!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

[Me] Eating in Beijing

I was browsing my RECOVERED photo folders (I was scared to death as I didn't have any backup of them) and realized there are few photos of me eating/drinking when in Beijing. That's how I survived winter cold Beijing :)

This post is to appreciate and celebrate those photos I might be losing if the minor operation wasn't successful. So ladies and gentlemen, please have all your documents especially those VALUABLE TRAVEL PHOTOS BACKED UP ok. And now I'm getting myself another hard disk. Is 1TB too big?

First breakfast in Beijing, leftover spicy chicken from dinner with bread.

Snacking at Temple of Heaven. Chocolate is a must in my packing list!

Hot steamed corn at Summer Palace. I need something to warm me, it was cold. Brrrrr....

Breakfast at hostel - egg sandwich, to keep me energized the whole day.

Proper dinner at Niujie Street restaurant.

It look delicious but hey, look may deceive. Snacking in Wangfujing.

Ahh, nothing beats hot chocolate before shopping!

You haven't been to China if you haven't drink their chinese tea. That's the proper way of holding the cup :)

That are not entirely what I ate in Beijing, a usual post on foods will be coming when it's time :D

Do you have any specific food you like to try when travelling? Insect anyone?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Central-East Java: The Bubbling Sikidang Crater

I've told you I had enough of temple visiting but when in Indonesia, they are just everywhere, part of its history, they are either small or big, Buddha or Hindu, ruptured or restored.

So, when Pak Mur (my driver to Dieng) asked where is the next destination after Candi Arjuna Complex, I quickly told him I had enough of temple visiting and need to go to other places besides temple. Other temple like Candi Bima around Dieng I just looked from inside the moving car.

When you have too much of some thing, it doesn't thrills you anymore and you get bored easily. Or is it just me? I need some other thing to make this trip worth the Rp 250,000 car rental!

And this next destination was exactly the place worth the Rp 250,000 I paid for car rental (with driver), the waking up at 4am and driving all the way from Jogja for 5hours. It's Kawah Sikidang!

Trip to Dieng was a spontaneous decision I made, it didn't even in my list, so I had so little info about places I'd be going and clueless how they would look like. 

Named 'kawah' (crater), I imagined Kawah Sikidang to look like crater of Tangkuban Perahu or Mt Bromo at least, but instead, nothing resembles those craters. It's totally different and I was blown away by its sight!

Does this looks like crater to you?

You don't think so?
Yeah, me too.

Ok, let's go a little closer.

More closer.

No, I guess it's best to zoom out the photo.

Can you see?

Maybe more zoom out.

Yes, that it is.

Guys, it's bubbling!
Should I run?

My jaw dropped and I was astounded by the view. Subhanallah was the only word I could uttered.

People are free to roam around this crater. Yeah, I know, it doesn't look like crater you and I imagined it is. Since it has no rim, it looks just like a barren land. But trust me, the land that those people and I was stepping on was a crater and there's still volcano activity underneath it. At its peak pressure, it will erupt and form another crater. That's why you could see the smoke around (or I would rather call it fume).

Kawah Sikidang is the largest crater in Dieng and most popular than others for its easy access and facilities. It is known for always on the move releasing its gas at various points and hence it is named after 'kidang' - a deer in Javanese language. 

Across the fence is the former crater before it 'jump' to other place

This place might be the next crater hole, it was smoking at my feet!

The similarities of volcanoes is the gas smell. I must tell you the sulphur smell here was very distinct. The moment I opened the car door, the pungent gas rushed into my nose (and straight to my lungs).

The Safety & Health person in me wondered how much is the PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) Indonesian government set before alarming visitors to avoid this area.

People here didn't seem to border about the smell. Me?! I didn't hesitate to take when a man handed me a dust mask that he sells for Rp 2,500 although it didn't help much. Because afterall, it was a dust mask, not a gas mask! 

For many of us, we concern about the sulphur to our health, but for some people here that is their source of income to stay living. Risking their health just to make ends meet. 

The lady was selling sulphur chunk and brimstone from the mine, that is believed can beautify skin. A perfect souvenir from Kawah Sikidang.

Apart from volcano products, you could also buy local product especially crop from farmers here outside of Kawah Sikidang main entrance.

I was tempted to buy these potatoes. It's the main product from Dieng. 

So whenever things don't go your way, don't regret because you might be surprise to what it would lead you to. I might miss all these if I follow my itinerary. Sometimes it worth doing thing spontaneously. The least is you expect, the most it gives to you. So, don't forget to stretch your journey to Dieng Plateau when you in Jogja and witness this spectacular creation of the universe, Kawah Sikidang.

P/S: According to Taufik, my CS friend in Jogja whom I met in KL recently, it's not advisable to go to Dieng now as CO2 gas emission from Kawah Timbang is at alert level.