Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm a little bit XiDan Shopping District, and a little bit TienAnMen Square...

Another exhausting day, of about 8 hours of walking (we have got to start using the subway!), some MegaMall shopping, and mingling with about a million of our closest Chinese amigos in the Forbidden City and TienAnMen on the National Holiday. It's getting to the point where we need to seriously start pacing ourselves, because we still have over 30 days left and we don't want to run ourselves ragged!

XiDan shopping center was the first stop of the day, after our Jiang Bing breakfast (we are becoming fast friends with our neighborhood tricycle vendor) and the walk there was an event in itself, taking us down the impressive Financial Street. XiDan is actually composed of several connected malls and street-level shops, and is a massive monument to China's burgeoning consumer culture. We arrived before the stores even opened, but we got to see a cell phone outfit's morning pep rally, complete with fist raised slogan shouting.

In fact, a whole level of the XiDan is devoted to cell phones, and it takes high-pressure marketing to extreme levels of sensory bombardment... we lasted about 15 seconds before hightailing it to a less stressfully stimulating environment. The majority of the mall was devoted to clothing and shoes, which tend towards uber-trendy looks featuring countless rhinestones and nonsensical english phrases (very, very popular: "boxing match between you and me." Your guess is as good as mine.) Some of the more mature fashions were very nice, but we held off from buying anything untill we hit Shanghai, the capitol of the textile industry. Also of interest:

Maoist/Traditional Chinese doodads. They weren't so fond of my taking pictures (or maybe the fact that I wasn't buying), but this was only a tiny fraction of the store. Hopefully we'll find more Commie Kitsch when we hit the famous Panjiyuan Flea Market later this week.

LED Flashlights. You don't see these much in America... I'm kind of an LED-head (thanks to a fruitless project I wasted countless hours on for my hapless former employers) and these looked pretty cool.

Playboy brand shoes. You can actually find Playboy brand of almost any kind of apparel, including children's shoes(!). There's nothing special about them... in fact most don't even have the brand anywhere on the shoes themselves. Still, it's pretty hilarious considering that obscene images are technically illegal, and the government blocks obscene websights (er, I hear).Anyway, I wasn't hugely impressed by XiDan. No fake luxury brands, no cool kitsch or weird finds. The whole experience was a sort of unintentional parody of a western mall on a huge scale, and the prices weren't even that impressive. It seems that we're going to have to try a little harder to really hit my consumer funnybone.

Since we struck out on the capitalist front, we threw in our lot with the People's Republic and joined the masses in celebrating National Day at the Forbidden City and TienAnMen. Andrea covers the whole thing over at her blog, so I'll just leave you with this little taste of the action:

Take it easy comrades!


ben said...

those LED flashlights are the best! so bright and stuff... anyways Milan Kundera says that "The brotherhood of man on earth will be possible only on a base of kitsch." and "Kitsch is an integral part of the human condition." he goes on for chapters about it, seriously. glad that you got your bags and that you guys are having fun. and uh, you don't sell bric-a-brac anymore? and i want a mao snowglobe

ben said...

i tried to leave a comment on andrea's but i'm not signing up for things. so here's what i said:
flying with a head cold is the absolute worst! what't the hostelling situation like? and a man purse? that's a big step, has he even been rocking the fanny pack?