I'm so horrendously behind on updating :/ My sincerest apologies.
The fifth day of the National Holiday was spent in a combination of two places: The Bookworm and the Sanjia Shopping Center.
But before that...something interesting went down.
I rode my bike through campus out to Chengfu which is where the nearest subway station is. I was walking my bike along the sidewalk because it was too crowded with people and I don't like riding my bike against traffic in the street. SO, my bike accidentally knocks another bike down so I temporarily prop my bike up (kickstand is out), right the other bike, then continue on my way. Whole process took six seconds max. I start walking away and I hear a guy shout something. I glance over my shoulder and I see a a small group of people but they don't gesture to me or anything, so I continue on my way.
All of a sudden it feels like my bike is dragging on something so I turn and see a hand on the back. An older man started talking to me in Chinese (at this point, I honestly didn't know what he was saying) and I kept replying "I don't understand" in Chinese. He says something about "3" over and over, and finally takes out a small bit of paper money and points to it. I'm thinking, "Is he hitting me up for cash because I accidentally knocked a bike down? I picked it back up, thank you." I thought he was inferring that that was his bike and I, a foolish foreigner, could be suckered into giving some cash. I mean, I would have been out like....30 cents had I done it, but still. And for the record, when I picked the fallen bike up, they sucker was heavy. I mean, that was a guy's bike. Like a heavy duty bike. Now, I've seen 70 year old Chinese men with washboard abs, and I didn't doubt that maybe under his shirt was a body that could put a 20-something to shame, but for all intents and purposes, I DID doubt that that was his bike.
It was the first time in my life I feigned "Lost and incapable of understanding foreigner". Finally, a man and woman that was talking near us intervened. The man said something about "she didn't know" and the woman would chime in on occasion with a "nevermind it." Eventually she signaled me to go and I thanked her.
A little unusual....hrm.
Now, on to The Bookworm.
I've never seen so many foreigners gather in one spot in China outside of a study abroad program. It's located in the Chaoyang District, one of the major districts with shopping and all that.
After accidentally going down the wrong street when I initially got off the subway, I eventually found my way to the store. On the way is a lot of hustle and bustle with various cafes, banks, and stores. Not to mention an oddly numerous amount of 外国人, fufu. I happened to notice a multicolored building across from where I was to turn for the bookstore, so I made a mental note to check it out later.
I arrived at the Bookworm after passing a snazzy looking bar/restaurant. The Bookworm's building is a surprisingly tactful light green. Who knew that existed for a building? A stairway led up to the entrance that was on the second floor. Upon entering, I saw a heft number of foreigners. There was a counter or sorts near the window with several tables where people read, chatted, and used their laptops. There was a mini bar in the far right corner but what really caught my eye were the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves *drool*.
I briefly scanned the shelves in the main room before heading further back. The back room felt kind of....homey, if that makes any sense. There was the cashier's desk with a table in front with new releases as well as a couch/sitting area on the opposite side of the room where some people were eating/chatting.
This room was as open and airy as the main room, but it still gave off a nice feel. It was nicely decorated and furnished as well. I spent most of my time in the Chinese Culture section, I guess you could call it. It basically had almost half of my Amazon Book wishlist, haha. Various biographies about Chinese immigrants and people, books on the cultural revolution, memoirs, Amy Tan books (of course), Chinese history, Chinese religion, fiction and non-fiction alike. I was in heaven.
One of the travel sites I read up on claimed the books here were often cheaper than those on Amazon. I think they were wrong. Either that or I have oddly expensive taste and I happened to pick up all the pricey ones. GRANTED, as I looked around more in different sections, there were both used and new books. The used books, mayhaps, where the cheap ones. Coincidentally, all of my interests lay in the new ones. Not all of the books I picked up had prices on them, but I saw a few that had '120' or '140' scribbled in pencil inside the cover or within the first few pages.
$17-20? Hrm, you make the call. I'm fairly certain there were a hefty number of them I could find cheaper elsewhere.
There was one more room where they had these small round tables set up along with a few couches. It really had a laid back lounge type feel to it. Again, there were floor to ceiling bookshelves (the top two shelves I couldn't even begin to reach, ugh..) but as I scanned this room, I became a little frustrated at the...disorderliness? Is that a word? It doesn't have a squiggly red line under it, so I guess it's legit.
I managed to identify the arrangements were in alphabetical order, but I guess they ran out of room so they started stacking books in front of the already shelved books. I kind of dislike that. I don't like books to be blocking other books :/ Give everyone a chance to shine, you know? I also noticed that a Stephen King book was in just about every section. The 'A' section...'C' section...'M' section. I understand 'B', but not the rest. This made me uneasy (with my slight OCD self...). If King is outside of the 'K' section, what else isn't in the right section that I may have skipped over?
All in all, the room was mainly used/worn books.
I went back to the other room where all the China books were at and saw "Fat China", or as I like to call it, "How China might become the U.S." It's about how China's waistline is getting a little bigger and it delves into statistics (40 % of all statistics are wrong, a-fufuf), food and nutrition found in China....ahhhh, the table of contents looked SO yummy. The nutritionist/biologist in me was giddy with excitement.
Until I found out it was 240 yuan ($36-ish USD).
The lowest price they have on Amazon is $21 and even with $4.99 international shipping to China (can you believe that? so cheap!) I can still get it for less than what they're offering here.
Oh, how I wanted that book then and there. I'm going to treat myself to it when I get back to the States.
I definitely recommend a visit here if you're ever in Beijing. It's pretty much like your average bookstore in the States where you can sit down and read. I believe there's a 'check out' system like a library, but I don't have all the time and money in the world to keep making trips back there :/ There's also a roof terrace of sorts that I apparently missed (I just spotted it on the site). Looks snazzy.
Oh, they also have an...interesting selection of music. Never thought I'd hear some Motown classics in China. Go fig.
Very nice atmosphere, a chance to talk to other foreigners, you can order stuff to eat (I saw a salmon dish, methinks. Fancy fancy...), read and relax and your leisure. Don't expect every single book under the sun, but there are a few greats there. Almost all of the books are in English. I saw literally one book in Chinese but I was doing a very brief scan in that section.
The area in general has a number of pubs, bars, and restaurants as well. Seeing as how the place is littered with foreigners, I'm assuming these places are more upscale with mayhaps a few imported items on the menu. I don't know enough about bars and pubs to appreciate what I may have seen, so I didn't bother, haha. The outside of the buildings looked cool, for what that's worth.
I wanted to take some candid shots of The Bookworm but there were too many people, I felt too awkward to ask, and I would have felt really dumb to be the only foreigner among foreigners to be snapping pics. To be fair, there are pics on the website :/
I left after an hour or so (a very short time for me to be in a bookstore) and headed out. I decided to go to that colorful building even though it reeked of "overpriced goods".
Adidas, Puma, Mango, etc. All name brand fancy schmancy stuffs.
I walked to the other side of the area and saw a sex shop blatantly labeled "Sex Shop" in English, haha. Catering to foreigners, I see
Sooo...I walked back through the shopping center to get back to the subway station when I saw a BGM (?) Supermarket. I didn't know if they liberally applied the word to something other than an actual supermarket or if it was legit. Only way to find out was to see for myself. I descended a small flight of stairs into a large, fancy looking basement area. Sure enough it was a food supermarket.
With a whole lot of imported food.
It had kind of a Whole Foods feel to it. The signs, I noticed, where English first, then Chinese.
I saw more foreigners (mainly of European descent) than Chinese people as well. It was the typical food market plus cosmetics/household wares.
BUT....the greatest thing of all:
CHEESE! LEGIT CHEESE! Not Kraft singles! CHEESE-CHEESE! Being the garlic whore that I am, I chose this flavor, but they had several more! Agh, I should have taken pictures! They also had bleu cheese! And MONTEREY JACK CHEESE WITH JALAPENOS!!!! Granted the latter was Land O' Lakes, but they had Land O' Lakes in CHINA! The brand I got was from Australia, and it tasted fantastically good, considering I'd been without cheese since I left the States.
This little beauty was 33 Yuan, one of the cheaper cheeses, actually. But hey, if I have to pay import costs for a slice (no pun intended) of heaven, then so be it. I believe I will make a few more trips down there when I get a cheese/Frosted Flakes/Hunts tomato sauce craving. Overall, I really liked the store. I guess it was like America? It had more European brands than American, but hey, Europeans have a better grasp on chocolate in my opinion :P
The sixth day was spent bumming, haha. Surprise, eh? I actually spent the next two days bumming. That and keeping up with my Chinese. On Thursday I seriously considered going to the Beijing Zoo (although I'm paranoid that Line 4 will be shut down again for reasons I can't read) and was JUST about to get dressed when my Helen comes back :D I knew she would be tired and didn't want to go "Hey....want to go to the zoo with me even though you probably had to get up obscenely early to catch your flight?" And I knew she'd insist that I go without her, but that just didn't feel right for some reason. SO, I stayed and studied, surfed the internet, and thought of a good day to go zoo-tripping.