Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shopping in Zhuhai

I made my weekly shopping trip to Zhuhai on Tuesday instead of Monday this week. The excursion has become routine enough that I didn't even bother to take any pictures this time, instead of exploring, I mostly confined my visit to a few shops that I'd already been to (although I did wander by an intriguing-looking area in Gongbei toward the coast that I hope to investigate next time I'm there).

The main item on my agenda was to pick up an additional memory card for my camera. I've taken well over 600 pictures since I've been here, enough to fill up the 512 megabyte card I'd hastily bought before leaving Chicago. I'd noticed that the underground mall in Gongbei (which I've learned is called Port Plaza) has a section of stands that sell small electronics — mostly cell phones and MP3 players — so I figured I could find camera supplies there.

I'm enough of a Chinese consumer now that I knew to always try out the product before I bought it; good thing, too, because the first two cards I tested didn't work. And I also knew to bargain, which lowered the price from 120 yuen to 90 (about $12) — pretty good for 1 gigabyte.

After that was taken care of, I headed for lunch at the same restaurant I'd dined at last week. I remembered seeing a chicken curry and rice dish there that featured large pieces of potatoes, which I've been having a hankering for and haven't been able to find in the dining hall (I ordered a steam-table item there that looked like it had potatoes, but they turned out to be large pieces of pork fat). As a bonus, the curry was accompanied by slightly undercooked julienned potatoes, a common side dish here.

I then swung by the two Port Plaza DVD stores to take a closer look at their stock. One of them had a nice selection of 1930s foreign films that I hadn't noticed last week — everything from Ozu's first talkies to French features by Marcel Carne — but I'm apprehensive about whether they're subtitled; I'll probably try one out later, when I'm feeling more experimental. This time out, I picked up a couple of box sets of cable TV series. I don't usually try bargaining at mall stores — I figure if there's a price sticker, the amount is pretty well set — but I was feeling cocky after bargaining successfully for the memory card, and since the clerk who was helping me spoke pretty good English, I tried for a minor reduction from 60 yuen each down to 50 ($6.70), which he accepted.

I also picked up a few music DVDs. The Johnny Cash set is fantastic — I watched disc one last night — with clips from his 1969-71 TV show, featuring everyone from George Jones and Bill Monroe to Bob Dylan, Derek and the Dominoes, and Louis Armstrong. The further you are from home, the sweeter roots music sounds.

Surfacing from the underground mall, I strolled through a market area near the one that I photographed last week, where I found the sort of back alley — literally — DVD shop that sells a more limited assortment of discs that are shoddily packaged — they come in a flattened folder rather than a case, and the part-English descriptions of the contents are often amusingly baffling — and notoriously unreliable, but significantly cheaper than the mall stores: only 5 yuen (65 cents) rather than 15. Unfortunately. most of the American movies they carry (about half the stock is Chinese and Korean, with very little chance of those being subtitled) are action or horror movies, which I have no interest in picking up, even at that price. But I did buy these two — I watched Spidey last night — and I'll probably go back when I have more time to browse.

On the way back to the bus stop I decided to drop into a large modern supermarket that had impressed me when I took a quick look at it last week. I only bought a few things: some cleaning supplies, a couple of cans of import beer, a Heineken for 70 cents and an expensive Guinness at $1.20; and a freshly baked crusty baguette. And since James Fallows raved on his blog chronicling his stint in China (thanks to Ben for reminding me to check it out) about the deep-fried peanuts and the peanut butter here, I decided to buy a jar of Jiffy as well as a bag of the nuts. So last night I had my first non-Chinese meal since I've been here: a peanut butter sandwich.

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