Monday, May 01, 2006

The Banterist: souvenir shopping in Xi'An

The Banterist is in China and this is from his report on visiting Xi'An and the terra cotta army.


At some point you'll tire of looking at thousands of terra cotta soldiers - impressive as it all is - and you'll want to leave. Can you leave the way you came? No. You need to be directed to the Gauntlet of Aggressive Souvenir Peddlers.

The G.A.S.P. is the roundabout route to the parking lot that corrals thousands of poor tourists into a channel about ten feet wide. The distance between you and the parking lot is about half a mile, and that entire distance is filled with people who want you to purchase terra cotta figurines, postcards, chopsticks, guide books, tea sets, bracelets, necklaces and other items. The logic is thus: Ask a man once, he may say no. Ask a man three thousand times, and perhaps he wants your ceramically-challenged tea set.

Hallo! [insert product name] Good price! Hallo! Sir! [insert product name]! Lookee! Yes?

You're like a lacerated hemophiliac in a gnat factory. They just keep coming. They don't take no for an answer even if you can pronounce it the right way - which you can't. Stay strong. One by one you'll watch your comrades fall by the wayside. Christ! Okay! Give me the figurines. How much? But don't be the one to give in. That's why they keep trying. They know it works on the bulk of the tourists who are willing to spend $2 for five feet of silence. All you're doing is making it worse for someone else.

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At 7:11 AM, Blogger kenju said...

That reminds me of a few of the places at Disneyworld. You can't leave the attraction without going through the gift shops. I hate that. But I sure would love to see the terrra cotta army.

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Jean said...

It's the same story at all World Heritage sites in poor countries. In March, I was at Chichen Itzá in the Yucatán and the walk to the sacred cenote was lined with the descendants of the Maya importuning you to buy mostly junk. It can be annoying but you can't blame the local people for trying to make a living from the tourists.

At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Craig said...

I visited the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall about two years ago. The hawkers outside the tourist attractions are where you go to learn how to bargain. Let them offer you a price. Then offer to pay 1/10th of their asking price. You'll either get a hell of a bargain or the vendor will start crying and look for an easier mark. I've got five copies of the Little Red Book and three Mickey Mao watches to prove it. They practically give them away.


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