The fact that none of the merchandise inside the walls of the silk market is genuine may deter many serious shoppers. However, there is still plenty to be said for some of the copies that are on sale. On my first visit I went with my friend Alana, who was just taken aback by the variety of bags on offer. Now I will admit I am no fashion connoissieur, and I definitely know very little about hand-bags, clutch-bags, and the likes, but I was informed that even though none of them were exactly like the real thing the resemblance was uncanny, and many were very well made. She spent what felt like a week on the basement level, where bags and shoes are on offer and spent a small fortune on various bits. She even devised an ingenious system of buying varying sizes of bag so she could fit one inside another inside another inside another and so on, like a giant bag shaped babushka doll so as to be able to transport them home.
Along with the bags, some of the clothing is also excellent quality. My first visit was almost a year ago now, and I am still wearing the same "Calvin Klein" jeans that I purchased for around $10 and they are lasting and wearing superbly. On the other hand, some stuff is genuinely cheap and proves the old adage of "you get what you pay for." I bought a pair of supposedly Nike soccer boots, which did not even manage to make the kick-off of my first match in them before they showed signs of splitting.
For me the fun of the place doesn't come in searching for the perfect bag or the best looking shirt, instead, it comes in the haggling. The golden rule at Xishui is that no price is fixed. The average sale begins with the Chinese salesgirl quoting a ridiculously inflated price. Customer and vendor then barter away until a price is reached, often one that bares no resemblance to the initial quote.
The best part is the way the sellers will try anything and everything to get a sale. When selling to men there is often some sexual wares used, the odd gentle stroke of the hand or the compliment on how handsome it makes you look. As much as you know the girl is lying, it does offer a slight nudge towards parting with some hard-earned cash. It is like a jungle, and I have to say it is that part of it that I enjoy most.
Results 1-7of 7 Reviews
WINSTON SALEM, North Carolina
November 22, 2008
Eagle River, Alaska
August 25, 2006
From journal Beijing or Bust
by Paul Bacon
Rotherham, United Kingdom
March 31, 2006
From journal Living life to Mao
London, United Kingdom
March 2, 2005
From journal Crazy in Beijing
April 11, 2003
Our hotel had a shuttle service that got us as far as the Beijing Friendship store. This is also where a lot of the embassies are located, behind barbed wires and armed guards. After about a 10 minute walk, we came to what we were told was the Silk Market. We were offered a very good deal on a set of Rolex watches on the way to the market, which we declined, hoping to strike better bargains at the market itself.
It was quite a chilly day, so I had hoped that there would be enough to keep us busy and warm for a while. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I had been expecting a huge marketplace, teaming with locals and tourists. It turned out to be more of a long alleyway that led to the American Embassy, which is kind of ironic as most of the goods on sale were ripioffs of American brands.
I decided to get two pairs of "fun" jeans. This was my first and last mistake. I know bargaining is part of the whole experience and I've had time to practice in Dubai and Bangkok. This was different. There was no visible price on the jeans, which was expected. Once the sales lady had "measured" me (one of the jeans is a size too small and wil be donated to someone else) and I had chosen the two that I wanted, she revealed a well hidden price tag -- almost RMB 600 for one pair! No way, Jose" was my initial reaction -- these were not even any form of name brand rip-off. So I began to walk away. She followed and basically dragged us back. This went on for about 5 minutes -- us leaving, her dragging us back. In the end, I tried the "my-husband-has-the-cash-and-he's-not-coughing-up" tactic... and she dragged him back! Eventually we got the price down to RMB 150 a pair, which was about RMB 50 too much. Her facial expression upon taking the cash from us was not pleasant -- or maybe she should've gotten this year's Best Actress in a Lead Role Oscar? By then, I was fed up and wanted to get going.
We ended up browsing for a short while longer and left a lot sooner than I had expected. One of the reasons for this is that "browsing" seems to be translated as an opening line to start wrangling you to buy. And don't ask for the price unless you're serious.
All in all, I'm sure those looking for Fendi, Lois Vuitton, Gucci, or Prada bag rip-offs would be happy here. The rip-off North Face jackets we saw didn't look very impressive and we had our own different brand Goretex jackets on, so comparing was pretty easy.
From journal Historical Emersion in Beijing
August 5, 2002
From journal Study in China 2
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
September 18, 2000
Bargaining can be quite a cutthroat business. It is certainly not something to be entered into half heartedly. You must at least appear confident, be certain of what you want and you should NEVER name a price if you're not serious about buying an item. It is easy to get 'bullied' into buying something you don't really want and I always wondered afterwards if I could have got a price lower if I had just held out a little bit longer. On the other hand, if you are in the mood it can be a great deal of fun and, even if you don't get it at the absolute best price, at least you are getting it cheaper!
The Silk Market caters for a lot of tourists and so the sellers here were probably at their most predatory and devious. In one instance, I bargained the price of a teapot down from Y150 to Y75 and paid the guy with a Y100 note. He wrapped up the teapot, gave to me, thanked me and then stood there smiling. I then asked him for my change and wondered how many people didn't!
From journal Bumbling Through Beijing