Saturday, February 18, 2006

Caveat Emptor

Life is very good. I bought a computer desk, chair, and halogen lamp from IKEA last night (half an hour before closing, after the crowds had thinned). We assembled the lot in less than two hours and I am happily, comfortably settled in next to the window (plenty of natural lighting) and the radiator (plenty of warmth for my toes).

I had a special breakfast this morning at the top of the China World Hotel, where you can eat your eggs and croissant while gazing out over the city's skyline. Well, the skyline looks pretty much the same in every direction. All of the really distinct buildings are less than three stories tall - namely, the Forbidden City and other bits of history scattered around the city, wedged between high rises and overpasses.

After breakfast, I stopped at the Silk Market, which was once an open-air bazaar near the World Trade Center and still is a major tourist trap and haven for pickpockets. I'd been snookered more than once by inflated prices for tourists (often at higher than 300% markup), so I was on my guard. Some two hours and three shops later, I came away with four items, my wallet lighter by a mere 11 dollars. Still, I wasn't sure that I'd gotten a good deal. Had I spotted this posted placard of handy phrases before making my purchases, I might have done better! (Apparently the Tourism Ministry thought to throw a bone to the unwary vacationer.)

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