Beijing '10 Day 8 - Banking, Shopping & Commuting

July 12, 2010 (Monday)

I was up by 9 a.m. to go out and resume my leisurely tour of the city. I went back to BLCU and circled the complex for some old and new stuff. The school was bare because the students were on a term break with the final exams just finished last week. I stopped at a stall for the good old BaoZi 包子 at 0.50RMB per piece. This used to be the staple breakfast for students bought and eaten quickly during breaks. The old ICBC bank was no longer inside the building and was situated just outside the building but as expected, the service was far better than the banks outside the school. I don’t know about the rates but the service was good due to the high foreigner rate of the students attending this school. Of course, you would still have to line up and show your passport for dollar exchange but everybody is treated equally – no numbers, no VIPs, no other lanes for withdrawing or foreign exchange. There was also an automatic passbook-updating machine now that was so cool.

Lunch was cheap and yummy over at the No. 2 Cafeteria. I decided to be a little healthier and order some HongShao RiBen DouFu 红烧 日本豆腐 (Japanese Tofu in HongShao Sauce) with rice and some NanGuaBing 南瓜饼 (Pumpkin Pies). 

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I once asked my Japanese friend if they have this round tofu back home but she said they don’t have those back home or this food at restaurants and it is not Japanese. At 17RMB, the big servings were already meant for 2 to 3 people. I used to eat here a lot with my friends and the Chinese food tastes great and is a lot reasonable. I was originally looking forward to eating the fried squid or ChaoYouYu 炒鱿鱼 at the Japanese restaurant beside it but they took it out of their menu already. I was hunting for some food I used to enjoy 4 years ago and everything but the cafeteria, of all the places you would expect, was there to help me reminisce those times. This place also only accepts cash so you can enjoy the food here even if you don’t have the cafeteria card.

With some money in my hands and food in my stomach to keep me going, I was ready to do some shopping over at the Beijing Zoo Wholesale Market 北京动物园 批发市场. It is not a single mall but buildings upon buildings of stores selling wholesale stuff. There’s a new line that stops directly there although it is really annoying to walk that far of a distance just to switch subway lines. If I have had enough time, I would have looked for a bus to go there instead. The amazing Google map over here can show directions from point A to B by car, bus or walking. Almost all subway exits will lead you to a wholesale market but I loved to go to the building across the zoo behind the bus station. If I remember correctly, the markets here close at 4 p.m. so I purposely arrived at 1 p.m. to give myself fewer time to spend money. One whole day that you spend shopping here is equivalent to a big, big black trash bag in your hands filled with all the stuff you can carry. Female clothes range at an average of 10RMB to 50RMB and you won’t have to bargain that much because majority of the prices are fixed. If you buy a lot though like more than one and you say PiFaJia 批发价 (Wholesale Price), there is a chance that you can slash the price a little more. The locals come here to shop and majority of the styles now are Korean.  I didn’t want to look so touristy so I didn’t take any pictures.

After 2 hours, my feet were already tired and my head was spinning so I headed out to the exit. I managed to buy a bag at 35RMB and a pair of shorts at 20RMB. They say that if you want to go at a time where there are a few people, go in the early morning. I say go on weekdays like Mondays to Thursdays, it was not that crowded today. I guess since the number of buildings and markets multiplied like 10 times in 3 to 4 years then the people are more dispersed in several locations. The building I went to was one of the cleanest, most developed and more organized markets at that time. I would love to take a look at the zoo and its improvements but I was too tired.

By the time I got back to WuDaoKou, the streets were already filled with sidewalk vendors. I bought 3 dresses for 70RMB that I saw at the Wholesale Market earlier for 25RMB each. They were selling for the same per piece price here so I decided to buy some. I stopped by the U-Center for dinner at Obaba on the way home and I came across Bee Cheng Hiang on the 5th Floor. It sells barbecued pork strips and my former roommate used to go all the way to XiDan to buy this treat. Now, I didn’t have to worry what to bring home to my relatives and family. It costs around 90RMB per 500 grams. I ordered ahead for pickup the day before I go home but had to pay a deposit for the quantity I was ordering. The dinner was decent and was a breather from all the random food I was eating. I ordered a plate of baked scallops with cheese for 15RMB, pretty cheap for me but I am thinking they used ordinary local cheese and added some cornstarch or flour. The other kinds of cheese costs a lot here and you can only find them in big international supermarkets like Carrefour. The beef was so-so and the sauce was great for rice but boy, did they mixed the beef up with a lot of vegetables.

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I went home at rush hour so I had to wait a long time for the bus and squeeze in with the crowd. It is always better to give yourself like 2 or 3 stops to make your way to the exit door because the entrance door is always different. It may also help to be the first on the line to ride the bus because you'll find yourself closer to the exit. Remember that there might be specific loading areas based on the bus number so look down on the road or street and you'll find the number.

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I always make it a point to go to the nearest exit door and wait there instead of waiting until the last minute. Ask the people “Yao Xia Ma (Are you going down?) 要下吗?” when you stop is up and you’re still in the middle. When you find one that says yes to the question, you can just let him push his way around and follow close to him. When you don’t find one that will go down, push your way and politely say “Huan Yi Xia” 换一下 or “Please exchange positions with me”. It is really helpful to know these bus lingos to get around. Also, some buses before, around 3 years ago, require that you to swipe your card twice, one at the entrance and one at the exit especially for those with varying rates per distance so if you see a lot of people doing this, just follow suit and make sure your card has enough money in it. Swiping cards at the entrance is a must but at the exit it depends especially now that almost all have equal rates of 1RMB if you pay in cash.  

Read more about Beijing:

Beijing '10 Day 1 - A Very Hot Welcome, Beijing in July
Beijing '10 Day 2 - At  HaiDian, Vegetarian Restaurant at WuDaoKou to Meet Up with an Old Friend
Beijing '10 Day 3 - Giving In to Korean Influence, Kimchi Rice, Kimbap and Koreanovela in Beijing!
Beijing '10 Day 4 - At The Golden Tripod & Lama Temple, Time Stops, Things Change and the World Goes On
Beijing '10 Day 5 - Taking On an Old Route, Food Delivery in Beijing
Beijing '10 Day 6 - Staying Awake on a Night Out
Beijing '10 Day 7 - The First Time’s the Charm
Beijing '10 Day 8 - Banking, Shopping & Commuting Tips
Beijing '10 Day 9 - In Time for the Lotus Season, the Festival at YuanMingYuan!
Beijing '10 Day 10 - Dumplings and Meatballs, YaShow Market & IKEA
Beijing '10 Day 11 - Trapped in the Rain, Eating Lamb Chuanr in Beijing!
Beijing '10 Day 12 - 798 Art District
Beijing '10 Day 13 - Tripping Through the Olympic Green, Bird's Nest & Forest Park
Beijing '10 Day 14 - Saying Goodbye With the Best Hutong Experience, SheShaHai, 100-Year Old Lamb Restaurant & NanLouGuXiang
Beijing '10 Day 15 - Going Home