Friday, December 24, 2010
My first visit to China was in 2006 when it was a summer holiday. I chose the city of Guangzhou as my first destination to this Panda and Bamboo country for I have some far relatives living there. On my first day, they directly took me and my mom to one of the most famous and internationally known shopping centers, called Beijing Lu. The name Beijing Lu itself does not have anything to do with Beijing as the capital city of China. However, the reason why they named that busiest pedestrian shopping street after Beijing is unclear.
As the commercial business center of China, Guangzhou has almost uncountable number of shops selling various things from A to Z, not to mention the street hawkers who display their unbelievably cheap goods along the streets. Only in Guangzhou you could find real pleasure of shopping and satisfy your thirsty eyes with multitudes of stuffs varying from size, color, brand, type, and price. Guangzhou is indeed a shopping paradise for shopaholics.
Among the many shopping centers in Guangzhou, Beijing Lu is the most visited one since it is famous for its user-friendly shopping areas, and has become the first must-visit destination for foreign tourists who visit Guangzhou. This commercial pedestrian street can easily be reached by bus, taxi or the fastest of all MRT or usually called “ditie” in Chinese. If you take MRT, just get off at the Gong Yuan Qian station and walk straight to D exit.
Beijing Lu is called a commercial pedestrian street since only pedestrians are allowed to walk along the street. Vehicles are forbidden to cross the street except bicycles. In the ancient time, only people were allowed to pass by since the area is considered highly official. Originally called Shuang Men Di, Beijing Lu was the main road connecting the southern part of the city to Ti Zi Terminal, crossed by ancient China’s high rank officials. It was also the central area of the residence of the government officials and their families. However, since the economic reformation, many businessmen invested a large sum of money to start over 500 businesses by building shops, retail departments, restaurants, cafes, and banks. By this, this main avenue was magically changed into one of the most bustling commercial streets in Guangzhou and obtained its current name in 1996.
In Beijing Lu, you could find various shops ranging from big shops selling branded goods with fixed price such as Fortune Duck leather bags and wallets, Giordano, Bossini, etc. to small shops in narrow lanes selling various leather belts, clothing, bags, shoes, make up kits, craftworks, antiques, books, medicine, home appliances, equipments, music instruments, furniture, tea, ceramics, specialty, handicrafts, spices, and all kinds of gold and silver accessories with very cheap price. Name everything you need, and you will find them there....
The brand clothing stores in Beijing Lu are located adjacent to each other, so you could save much of your shopping time. Most shops are open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on high seasons like Christmas and New Year are extremely packed with teenagers shopping for the latest Hongkong fashion or other branded clothes. During peak seasons, the street is trimmed with people pushing each other trying to grab discounted branded items. You have to push through the crowd to be able to get to your destined place. In average, Beijing Lu is visited by at least 350,000 people each day, thus makes it the most bustling commercial pedestrian street in Guangzhou covering Zhongshan No.4 Road, Zhongshan No.5 Road, Xihu Road, Jiaoyu Road, and Yushan. Unlike the mega shopping centers in Jakarta like Tanah Abang and Mangga Dua that are usually packed only on weekends, Beijing Lu is always packed everyday with massive crowds coming mainly from the local area, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and some other European countries. No wonder it never dies since it is located in the hometown of the world's largest population, the Chinese.
The night view at Beijing Lu is gorgeous with colorful neons, lanterns and other beautiful decorations. In the middle part of the street, there is a display of the remnants of the ancient roads from the Song and Yuan dynasties (11th - 14th centuries) put in a glass box.
You could even pay a short visit to the theater and park located in the area. From morning till evening, elderly people usually gather in the park to do different activities like exercising tai ji quan, practicing Kungfu, dancing, story-telling, chorusing, playing games and many others. There are also food stalls selling unique Guangzhou snacks, cafés, and fast food restaurants like KFC and McDonald's. Remember when you are in Guangzhou, you must address McDonald in Chinese, “Mai Dang Lao”..otherwise the people will not understand.
Chinese people are generally known as people unable to speak English. However, you might probably change your mind once you visit Beijing Lu and bargain with those broken English-speaking sellers. One of the unforgettable things about shopping in China is the people who are notoriously known as quick-tempered bargainers. Do not try to bargain things if you do not intend to buy, unless you want to get a saliva shower from the upset Chinese. Show your self-dignity and persistence when you haggle for a price. Once you do this, you can ensure the Chinese to give you the best deal. Bargain with more than half of the price offered for they are likely to give you a very high starting price because they personally think tourists have a lot of money, thus they want to gain advantage from that. In small shops, they will usually offer you twice more expensive than the actual price. So, when you shop in Guangzhou, you also need to learn the arts of bargaining and dealing. One of my experiences in shopping in Beijing Lu is a seller thought I was a Chinese citizen because of my face and she tried to pull my arm while saying “Please help me buy one of the dresses”. After months living in Guangzhou, I realized it is one of their tricks to entice buyers who pass by their small shop.
In short, I love China and everything about it no matter what people say. =DDD
Personal experience and additional information from other online articles