Before I came to China I made a list of things that I wanted to buy while here. The list included an external DVD drive, and buying that was the plan for the day. We went to Cyber City, home of about a hundred or so small technology stalls. I've found that the general rule with this place is that the further one goes into the store, the cheaper the prices will become. I guess this is because the salespeople know that customers are likely to walk to the furthest stall from the entrance only once, so if a customer comes to a stall near that furthest point, it is imperative to get their money at that time, as they won't be coming back. True to this rule, as we went deeper into the building, the price for the same DVD writer dropped. The DVD writer that was within our price range was a Panasonic DVDÂ±RW designed for laptops, packaged as an IBM. It is small and powered by USB. The first salesman gave us a price of 580å…ƒ + 10 Sony DVDs, the next was 520å…ƒ, without the DVDs. One floor down the price was now 460å…ƒ, two stalls later it was 430. On the lowest floor we stopped at a larger computer stall, one from which one may purchase custom-built computers. We asked a salesman how much he would sell the DVD writer if he had one, and he told us that the cost price was 360å…ƒ, which meant the cheapest he thought we could get it for was about 390. We continued along this floor for awhile, and were offered the drive for 360. Though this was at cost, we didn't like the saleswoman at all, so we didn't buy from her. Instead we went up to the top, the only floor we hadn't yet trawled. We came to a particularly small stall and started talking to the young saleswoman there. We asked her about the drive, and she told us that she didn't know much about it, and got her workmate, who came over quickly. He told us that he'd sell it for 420, and there the haggling began. Eventually Yvonne got it down to 400, which was still a little high. He offered to give us a discount on some DVDs if we bought it at this price, and got a pile of 50 from under the counter. He also spent a long time explaining to us that other people in here would likely be selling fake DVD discs, and we should know how to tell the difference. To make his explanation easier, he went to another stall (too far for us to see which), and got some fake DVD discs. He showed us the fakes and compared them with the genuine one that he was offering. We were pleased to be shown this, but the drive itself was too expensive. We told him this and started to walk away, which made the salesman's face fall like he had just found out his mother had died. I was searching for an excuse to go back and buy it from him when he called us back and said he'd sell us the drive and the discs for 520. This was acceptable, and after some more haggling, because Yvonne likes to, we bought it for 510å…ƒ. The writer claims that it is IBM, but I did some research later, and it is actually a Panasonic wearing an IBM cover. Exactly what we wanted.
As we were walking down the stairs, I remembered that I had seen stalls selling hard clip-on covers for Macbooks. While in Beijing my laptop travelled everywhere with me, as I would fill the camera's memory card with photos too fast, and would need to transfer them to the laptop before being able to take more. The frequent removal from the laptop bag, and subsequent replacement caused the computer to get a few small scratches, which disgusted me. We looked in about 5 different stalls, all of which sold different variations of the same product. All that searching turned out to be pretty pointless however, as Yvonne wouldn't let me buy the cheaper one. This meant that I had four colours to choose from, reduced from about eight. In the end I chose blue. It was about 280å…ƒ, but I think it was worth it, as the laptop can't be scratched, and has an additional layer of protection if it is dropped. Also it looks better, not that I can see the cover most of the time, as the laptop is open with the screen facing me. If I get a job I'm going to buy a keyoard cover as well, as pimping my laptop makes me more of a man (hey, I don't have a fast car - gotta pimp something, right?).
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The next day was Christmas. As I was interested in what reception Christmas had received in China, I asked Yvonne if we could go to town on Christmas day. We went to a restaurant with her parents, then walked about for awhile. Christmas in China is similar to our western tradition in that it provides a reason for shops to dress themselves in red and white, and announce that they are having a sale. There are Christmas decorations everywhere, and one mall had a white guy with a snowy beard blowing bubbles. He was wearing a gold outfit though. I think the man was part of a performance group, because other acts included a living statue and a man dressed in a monster costume. It drew a crowd, but wasn't very "Christmassy." Many store have hideous Christmas music. Christmas day was just like any other day, not like New Zealand. On Christmas day in New Zealand, if one goes into town one doesn't see anyone, apart from maybe the odd police car. In Shanghai all the stores were open and filled with people.
Before lunch we walked around some incredibly opulent malls. In one mall we were separated from Yvonne's mother, and Yvonne had to go look for her. I waited outside for about twenty minutes with Yvonne's dad. Across the road from us there was another consturction project underway, and Yvonne's dad mentioned that he'd rather they built a park than another high-rise. He also said that to begin construction, the company must prove to the Shanghai authorities that they have at least 1,000,000,000å…ƒ available, to make sure the company is capable of finishing the building. I didn't actually understand that, I had to wait until Yvonne came back to translate. I can only count to 9,999 in Chinese. He also said that when subway line that will go through Baoshan (the suburb in which they live) is complete, it will take fifteen minutes to travel from Baoshan to this area, instead of the thirty minute bus ride followed by a ten minute subway trip that is required now.
Lunch was great, we ate at "The Golden Jaguar," which is a large buffet style restaurant. There were six areas, each had a different style of food. In one area there were two chefs at two large hot plates. Across from them there was a range of raw meat and vegetables, and one could choose what one wanted and have the chef cook it right there. Another area was devoted to Japanese food, and sushi, sashimi and other weird things were available. Yet another was devoted to roasted meat, with pork, duck and chicken. The desserts available were also excellent. The thing that really set it apart from other buffet restaurants that I've been to was that all drinks were included in the price as well, beer, cocktails, wine, juice and soft drinks - as much as one wanted. I drunk five cocktails. They were quite small and weak though, so I wasn't even a little drunk. The beer on tap was Budweiser, but I didn't have any because I am given beer every time we have dinner with one of Yvonne's uncles, and I don't want Yvonne's parents to think I want beer with every meal. The restaurant was awesome, and I plan to return soon.