The only thing for Westerners to do here on a Saturday is shop, so that’s what I did. I couldn’t have managed it without my local guide, a Taiwanese girl who lives here and speaks fluent Mandarin. We had been out the night before to a Teriyaki restaurant, and both had sore heads on Saturday morning; she swore the best thing for it was more Japanese food, so that’s what we did first.
Then she made a telephone call to the Secret Apartment, where she takes all visiting colleagues from the UK and America, to buy handbags and watches with dubious designer labels…
We met another colleague, and then Taiwanese colleague had to go off on an emergency errand, leaving me and Chinese colleague to browse through an amazing selection of belts and bags and other leather goods. She had given us guideline prices, so when we had piled up everything I wanted, we decided on what we considered to be a good price, which was RMB600 [remember, 15 to the pound].
The Secret Shop’s Secret Assistant rattled the prices she had decided on into her calculator, and came up with a figure around RMB3000, at which point Chinese colleague started to argue. She had never been to the Secret Place before, and she was terrified, but she argues like a good ‘un, and we eventually walked out. This is what you do. Secret Assistant followed us to the lift, and I raised the price to RMB700. Chinese colleague was disgusted with me. Secret Assistant begged me for a little more so I said 750, at which point the lift arrived and we got into it. I gather this is all part of the proceedings, and I needn’t have gone up to 750; in fact it would be better if I hadn’t, because among the many counterfeit items in the Secret Apartment, were the counterfeit RMB50 notes – which was what they gave me in change.
Nonetheless, I’ve got 2 watches, 2 handbags, 4 purses, a belt and a silk tie, all with very good fake brand labels, for fifty quid. We left the Secret Apartment feeling like we had been had, and met up with Taiwanese colleague again; she reviewed the haul, and said I hope you didn’t pay more than RMB1000 for this. Very pleased with our handiwork, I can tell you.
We crossed the road (which is a horror story in itself), and went into Lohou Commercial City – like a giant indoor market crammed with little stalls selling all kinds of tat. As we walked through the aisles, all the shopkeepers called to me Hey! Missy! Looky! and offered their wares: watches, dvds, silk scarves, manicure-pedicure-massage, everything under the sun.
We shopped and shopped until we could shop no more, then went for more food. I had my first chopstick disaster, when I dropped a dumpling into a bowl of oil and soy sauce: splat.
I’ve taken lots of photos today – you will have to wait until I get back before you can see them.