Saturday, June 23, 2007

Walk to the Square

Today I’m off to Tienamen Square and then the Forbidden City. It’s still early, but like every summer day in China, hot and humid. I start off walking due west and stop at a bank to change some money. This is a cash society. Almost no one wants to accept a credit card. Even in my hotel, they want cash.

About a block or two away from the square I’m spotted. A deluge of hawkers descends upon me. No one has any idea of what private enterprise and the spirit of capitalism are until they have been to communist China. The first one hails me with a hearty, “Hello!” and tries to interest me in his postcards. I quicken my pace and he matches it, dropping his price. Others join in, selling by and large the same items. It’s not that I’m not interested, except that I feel as if I’ve been dropped in a pool of piranhas. The potential feeding frenzy that would result if they actually smelt blood frightens me. But overall, I find the whole situation quite comical. I keep walking. One will pull up beside me with something to purchase. When I say no, he drops back and I wrongly assume we’re done with. Seconds later, he pulls up again. “Hello!” he enthusiastically says as if we’ve never met. He’s taken something new out of his bag and wants to know if perhaps it might interest me. This continues, me never knowing quite what will be pulled out of the magician’s hat. Now desperate to cut them loose, I quicken my pace once again. But I don’t break free until crossing the street to the square.

26 comments:

thailandchani said...

I experienced that in Thailand also. There was always someone trying to sell something. After a while, it got annoying so I'd look at them without a smile. That usually discouraged them from pursuing it any further.

Peace,

~Chani

JBelle said...

This is ... direct marketing, right?

:)

PortraitofPeter said...

Your walk to Tienamen Square must have been of emotions when one reflects on the happenings - still evident in mind.

The deluge of hawkers, reminds me of the characters in London who try to obtain extra money - they call it begging - I call it scrounging - for the genuine individuals are not to be seen.

I so enjoy your sharing with us your wonderful adventures - thank you so very much.

Steffi said...

Very interesting post again,Carla.And your pictures are very nice!Thank you for show it us.

dawn said...

I have always been shy of people approaching me to try to sell me something. It makes me uncomfortable for some reason. I would find that situation most daunting, or it might cure me once and for all. Again a good post that made me feel I was right there, discomfort and all.

The Fool said...

Good morning, Nomad. Yes, it seems China has a strong hunger for a piece of the capitalist pie. As if we aren't taxing enough on the resources of the world.

Thanks for continuing the travelogue through China. I enjoy the snapshots, and I look forward to your next vignette. I'm interested to hear your take on the Tianeman Square and the Forbidden City. The former errupted when I was making plans for China, and I never made it there. Perhaps someday.

Have a restive Sunday. Are you on summer vacation yet?

Carla said...

Chani, It certainly did get annoying after awhile. I found that if I didn't make eye contact and continued walking after about one try they would move onto their next victim.

JBelle, Indeed it is, indeed it is.

Carla said...

Peter, The magnitude of the event hit me once I reached the Square. It wasn't until then that I could visually see the terror that must have happened.

Steffi, I am glad that you enjoyed it. China was really a very interesting place to visit.

Carla said...

Dawn, One quickly realizes that in China this is a very normal occurrence. That fact, however, didn't particularly make me more comfortable with the occurrence, but perhaps I became a little more prepared for it.

Fool, China doesn't just have a hunger for the capitalist piece of the pie, it has the LARGEST piece. Capitalism is alive and well in China. The funny thing is that people who live there will not say that they are a communist country. Rather, they say that they are "moving towards the teachings of Mao." We really have no idea what we will be in for when the Red Dragon finally decides to raise her head.

I will get to my experience in the Square shortly, and yes, I am finally on vacation. Have a lovely Sunday.

Sirdar said...

I felt for you. I've been there too...in Morocco. There they sold you "anything"...some of it quite illegal in Canada.

Great words. You know how to paint a picture.

JBelle said...

Have you ever been to Russia?

Carla said...

Sirdar, I've heard that Morocco is quite bad that way. In China too, I am sure that some of the "animal products" would not be allowed through customs.

JBelle, I have not been yet, but I would particularly like to visit St Petersburg. Have you been?

rowena said...

And here my panties get all in a twist when the vacumn salesguy buzzes the intercom and tries to engage me in conversation by asking if I still have any vacumn bags. Eh?! (Apparently he was pushing those "bag-less" models.) Geez...

Erin O'Brien said...

Did you eat any chicken feet? I went to a Chinese restaurant and they served chicken feet. I tried to eat it, but couldn't.

Sandi @ the WhistleStop Cafe said...

You describe the scene perfectly~ It makes me so anxious when they crowd around. In Rome I learned that "basta" as enough! and the street sellers would usually back away.
I am loving your trip reports~

Carla said...

Rowena, I totally understand. I am totally of the mind that if I need help I will ask for it, otherwise let me be.

Erin, I've never been fed chicken feet. I don't think I would be able to manage it either. Yuck.

Carla said...

Sandi, I've never been one for large crowds, so China was interesting that way. I later learned the phrase "Boo yeow" which means, "not interested." I loved the shocked look on their faces when I used it.

Debbie said...

Great writing that had me feeling I was there with you in the square.

Like Chani, I experienced that in Thailand. I was nineteen when I went there. They even approached us on the beach when I was being adventurous by going topless. Trying haggling with no shirt on!

Carla said...

Debbie, You comment made me laugh. I would find it most distracting to try haggling with no shirt on.

jillie said...

That's interesting they are a cash society. Here they prefer plastic and I myself prefer to travel with it. I would worry about pick pockets to tell you the truth.

What great pictures. There are few places that I've ever wanted to visit in the Far East and this is one of them.

Glad to see you are enjoying your trip.

Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

How frightening. It would scary me.
I love walking in your steps, though and to walking in Tienamen Square... I can still see the young man standing in front of the tank even now.. How different to your photos.

keep safe and writing

Annie

Carla said...

Jillie, Actually, China is one place where one really doesn't have to worry about pick pockets. The people are very honest, if you leave a tip at a restaurant, they will chase after you to give you the money back. There are many places where I find pick pockets more worrisome.

Annie, The hagglers were annoying more than anything else. Overall friendly, but they just don't understand when enough is enough.

Fede said...

Good to see that during my absence you continued with your journey, I'll sip it one piece at a time.
By the way, thanks for the deluge of hawkers couple (discounting of...).
I have tried to pronounce hawkers but I cannot really distinguish its sound from a similar one, which is way less noble in meaning...
Good night and good luck.

Carla said...

Fede, Now I feel really silly. It took me close to 24 hours to figure out what similar sounding word you could possibly be talking about. It wasn't until this morning when I started playing around with my vowels that it hit me. I had forgotten to factor in the American drawl ;-). (In Canada those two words aren't quite so close.)

Fede said...

;-)

I have an other one for you, but you probably already know it from one of my posts.

Try with: To hassle

Carla said...

Fede, Ah yes, I am quite familiar with that one. The French in particular never voice their "H's" and have horrible time differentiating between the English "H" and a short "A." That particular word has provided me much amusement.