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Bartering

 

It tells time just as accurately as one would expect.

It tells time just as accurately as one would expect.

While traveling bartering can either be a chore or a fun exercise. When I was traveling in China I enjoyed bartering with the street vendors over small souvenirs and gifts. I know that others who went on a similar trip did not have such a good experience bartering as I did.

It really comes down to how it is done. If you are bartering to get the lowest possible price, at perhaps a loss to the merchant, they will probably cheat you in the end. Some people bartered down to the lowest price on some scarves in Tibet, the owner went back to wrap them up and ended giving them some dirty/ripped scarves instead of the new ones. However when I bartered I kept in mind that the merchants are just trying to make a living and a few dollars to me means relatively nothing while to them it can mean a lot. I just bartered to a reasonable price, never to the point where the merchant stopped smiling.

A key point I realized is that there was no language barrier in bartering. Instead of me using broken chinese or the merchants using broken english they simply had a large format Casio calculator where we input our offers back and forth. This way there was no ambiguity in the price.

Usually one of us would start with a basic price that was either half or double what the final price would be. Some general tips to help with good prices:

  • Look disinterested in the product or don’t show that it is exactly what you want.
  • Start looking at another merchants goods with more interest.
  • Try to bundle items together, like 3 for 100 monies instead of 2 for 40 monies.
  • Walk away.

The last one is really helpful. If you either know that the item is available elsewhere or you really are not set on it, start to walk away. It may be hard to do but it is part of the game of bartering. 

Also bartering at the end of the day could result in better prices if they want to move the products, on the other hand the merchant may have had a bad day or not want to barter with a traveler.

Always keep in mind that in the bartering is really just a game.

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Smog

 

City wall of Xian in China

City wall of Xian in China

With the Olympics starting in Beijing in the upcoming week I have seen a lot of coverage about their anti-pollution measures. I was in China a year ago and was amazed at the amount of pollution in the air. When in Beijing the most of the counter measures were explained: closing the factories, planting millions of trees and pulling half the cars off the road. (They decided to pull all plates ending in odd numbers one day and even numbers the other. Of course plates ending in 0 have caused confusion.)

Anyway when I was in Xi’an after Beijing (took the night train there, those were short beds) we went to the top of the city wall and I was able to take this picture of lamps receding into the smog. I also could look down the main street of the city and only see four blocks down.

After the sun went down, it was hard to be outside with it up, we went to the main fountain by the Wild Goose Pagoda for a fountain show. The fountain was around three blocks long and half a block wide, dropping ten feet or so every block. I could not see into the fountain because there was a wall of people three deep around the edges of the fountain. As the show started I stood on a bench set back a bit to see the show. A few minutes later several “police” came by and told me to get down, well I assumed they did since it was in chinese, except these “police” were about twenty or so dressed in full pink uniforms. I wish could have gotten a clear shot of them but they were not the type of people who looked they would casually pose for a tourist.

The show began with lights and jets of water streaming into the air followed by classical music. A dozen or so minutes into the show we left our spot to walk around to the top of the show. Once there we realized why everyone was crowded on the edges of the fountain; the fountain was filled with people. Many were standing under the falling water from the jets but a few lucky individuals were held by their friends over the main jets of water. After the heat and smog the day it did not seem like a bad way to end the week.

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