November 30th, 2008

This weekend must be the first time ever we’ve been out shopping and come home spending more money on me than on lzh. It’s an odd feeling. Yesterday was the trip out to Zhongguancun to buy the new laptop. 6550 元 for a Lenovo Thinkpad R400, 250 元 for an extra G of memory, maybe of the RAM kind, but I’m not sure. Today we went round to the Fangzhuang branch of 贵友/Guiyou for jewellery. We spent almost 800 元 on lzh and another 300 元 on her mum.

And today was an interesting trip. I’ve been around to Fangzhuang a few times before. HQ of a programme I worked on for a couple of years was at Fangzhuang Qiao on the 3rd Ring, and a friend lived in Fangzhuang proper for a couple of years. But for whatever reason I’d never figured out how to get buses from BeiGongDa to Fangzhuang. Fangzhuang Qiao is easy- get over to the western side of the 3rd Ring and get just about any bus heading south. Into Fangzhuang proper is what I’d never figured out, because the few times I’ve been around there and just say bugger it, and get a taxi. I mean, it’s so close, not one of those taxi rides that’s going to end in bankruptcy court.

Google China Maps to the rescue. Using it’s public transport finding function we saw we could take the 34 round to Panjiayuan Lu Xikou, walk southwards along the 2nd Ring then across the overbridge, take the 37, slightly less than 6 km all up. Sweet as.

Except that the 34 is often a little less than reliable on the weekends and can leave people waiting for a long time. And the longer you have to wait for the bus, the more people there are on it. Well, the 34’s terminal is just round the corner from us, so when it eventually showed up, it wasn’t too crowded. Then, as always, there was the weekend crush at the Panjiayuan market, but we got through that quickly enough and down to the end of the road. Crossing over to look for the 37s stop was easy enough, but of course, there are never many buses on the 2nd Ring. Still, we did discover there were two other buses heading Fangzhuang-wards, the 800 and the 434. But the 37 eventually showed up and before long we were on our way again.

lzh had scouted out a store in Guiyou that was selling gold cheap- well, cheaper than most, at least, and so we made a beeline for their counter. But it seems most of their clientele are mafiosi, or perhaps pimps. It wasn’t easy finding a ring that was small enough for lzh to lift and tasteful enough for me to allow her to wear. Then she decided that the ring was cheap enough we could afford her a necklace. Except most of the necklaces they had would’ve broken her neck had we found a crane to lift it on to her. The smallest were in the gangsta rapper range. Earrings. We had much more success with earrings, and we got her mum a pair, too.

Jewellery successfully bought, we got some lunch then looked for a bus home. To get the 34 back to BeiGongDa, thanks to the peculiarities of the southern portion of the East 2nd Ring, meant we had to go a little further north, up to Guangming Lou. The 12 was also heading that way, although taking a different route, heading up through Zuoanmen then round the west side of Longtan Park, and as it happened, the 12 was the first bus to arrive. I suspect, though, that the driver had just had his first ever double espresso. We got to Guangming Lou pretty quick.

And then, of course, we just missed a grossly overcrowded 34, and so had to sit and wait for the next sardine can to come along, and it being a weekend, that meant waiting quite some time and only just managing to squeeze on.

There are two things I don’t get about the 34’s crappy weekend service:

  • How is it that so few people have realised that if you move to the back, everybody gets enough space to breathe?
  • How is it that management has not realised that they need more buses running on weekends? I mean, you’re hardly going to encourage people to leave their cars at home on weekends when the traffic restrictions don’t apply if you don’t have enough buses running.

Now, I haven’t spent a huge amount of time in Fangzhuang, but the few times I’ve been down that way I’ve been quite impressed. Today for lunch I took lzh off to find a restaurant my friend who used to live their took me to once. That meant a walk from Guiyou, a couple of hundred metres east of the Fangzhuang roundabout, down to the Wumei a couple of hundred metres on the other side, and the walk reconfirmed my favourable impression of the place. It’s bustling and developed but feels like a well-established community, unlike, say, the CBD which is bustling, developed and cold and inhumane. On the KFC index, Fangzhuang scores pretty well, with two KFC’s, a Pizza Hutt (two if you count the little store which seemed to handle the deliveries), a McDonalds and a Starbucks. Plenty of big, fancy restaurants, including a branch of Quanjude, lots of smaller places, too. There’s a Guiyou (obviously), a Carrefour and the biggest Wumei I’ve ever seen. There’s a park and a sports ground and plenty of local people out strolling, dining, playing, shopping, or just hanging out. And there was Der Landgraf with its huge Bitburger Bier signs, but looking just a little too sinicised in its aesthetic for me to believe it would offer an entirely genuine German experience.

And then there was the restaurant I took lzh to for lunch today. 马华牛肉面, if I remember rightly. It’s a fastfood joint specialising in food from China’s far west, with decidedly Xinjiang overtones. When we walked in it was packed, but with still a few available seats, which is always a good sign. I’d gone their once before with a couple of friends, but in the evening when there was more space for us to relax over large quantities of roast bits of dead sheep and chuan’r washed down with nice, cold beer. That meal ended with so much oil and grease on the dishes and table and soaked into used serviettes it could’ve and should’ve been used to run the boss’ car for the next week. And damn did it taste good. Lunch today was just as tasty, but with a slightly smaller oil slick left at the end.

And although it seems, at first, to be rather remote, stuck down at the southern end of the city, Fangzhuang is actually in a pretty sweet location. It has plenty of buses and the Subway Line 5 running down its western side, and it’s an easy bike ride- or a leisurely stroll, even- from Yongdingmen and the south gate of the Temple of Heaven.

In other words, Fangzhuang, judging by my admittedly limited experience, is just the kind of place I could live. Except, of course, that lzh and I are quite happy in our little corner over here by BeiGongDa.

Oh, and I almost forgot: We managed to pick up a copy of Obama’s The Audacity of Hope translated into Chinese. Um, yeah, I’m not sure of its legality. Nor its accuracy. But it looks genuine, y’know, like maybe it fell of the back of a truck, rather than just straight-out pirated or faked.

Rare and overcrowded buses aside, it’s been a pretty good day. Now if I’d managed to get some more essays marked, it would be both good and productive….. Oh well.

2 Responses to “shopping”

  1. Beijing Sounds Says:

    hey thanks for the google ditu tip. somehow i thought baidu was the only thing going here. have you used both enuf to speak to advantages/disadvantages for either?

  2. wangbo Says:

    I haven’t used any Baidu maps, so I can’t compare. Google ditu hasn’t always had all the detail I’d like, especially when it comes to small, out of the way places, but for Beijing it’s pretty sweet. Getting those public transport directions off it yesterday took a little figuring out at first- y’know, beginner stuff like making sure we had accurate enough starting and ending points in, then making sure it was on “public transport” instead of “self drive”, but was pretty easy.