Friday, October 20, 2006

Gardens and Bargains

It was a cloudy and cool day in Yangzhou, comfortable for walking but not so ideal for photography.
We started with a breakfast of pork and vegetable buns, at a local place, virtually impossible to find unless you are a local! We wandered the alleys for quite a while looking for this restaurant, walking past tiny family run stalls selling basic household items and knicknacks such as little tweezers for removing hair from pig skin, little scissors for cutting nose hairs, backscratchers, etc. Surprisingly, it turned out to be fairly large, hidden in the middle of several tiny alleys. After lunch, we walked the side street which was packed with bicycles and rickshaws-no cars allowed. The street was lined with stores selling sweaters, jackets, and embroidered blue jeans, which we bargained for at $5 US each. This country has an abundance of clothing stores, all selling the same inventory. Is all this an oversupply from manufacturing? Salesgirls are willing to sell for 25% of their marked and stated prices-how can their costs be so low?? Are they making these jeans for $1 a pair? If so, Americans are totally getting ripped off!! I am amazed that the mark up in the US could be so high, there must be too many middlemen, or the overhead in US stores must be way too high!!

The gardens of Yangzhou are beautiful and we had a wonderful few hours walking among willows, pavilions, ponds and rock gardens. It was a photographer's paradise! We also managed to attract a bit of attention from several giggling schoolgirls who were curious about Ray and Tom's heritage. They were puzzled by these gray haired Chinese men who spoke no Chinese. First, no men have gray hair in China and secondly, it was odd that Chinese wouldn't speak Chinese. We have seen only a handful of Caucasians in Yangzhou; obviously it is not on the tour group path.

The 4 Yangzhou specialties of pigs head, bean curd threads, meatballs and fried rice appear to be the main selections in every restaurant, with not much else offered. We ended up at the same restaurant as last night but seemed to have a bit of a problem communicating with the young boys waiting on us and it took a bit of effort to get a fork for Tom, to elicit some coherent descriptions of their dishes, and to find something other than soup! We were a bit saturated with bean curd threads! My suggestion for Yangzhou is to develop a few other local specialities before the Olympics in 2008.

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