My roomie Janne wants to start the day with some chess and I oblige, beating him three times in a row before deciding to head out and explore the town. Adjacent to the hotel lobby is a classy store, the kind where all the clerks wear suit and tie and I wander about looking at all the overpriced goods. After a while I happen upon a box of bird’s nests used for making soup from, it’s a certain kind of cave-nesting swallow that builds its nest out of saliva. Very hard to get of course and therefore automatically a delicacy I guess. They’re hideously expensive; just over 10 000 yuan (about the same in sek and just shy of $1500) for a box of sixteen. I snap a picture and is politely interrupted by a lady explaining that photography is prohibited.
I head back to the lobby and run into Karina and Ingar who have been out for a bit already. I tag along and we end up at a Starbucks near what seems to be the center of town. After a cuppa joe we’re ready to explore and brave the murderous traffic in the roundabout surrounding a giant Mao statue. By the looks of it you’d think you’re back in DPRK, the thing is easily ten meters long and about as high, surrounded by hundreds of flowers. Our photography is interrupted by a big tanker with a guy on the roof wielding a water cannon watering the lawns and plantations. It’s really an absurd sight.
Even the city center is full of back alleys with sordid-looking holes in the wall masquerading as stores and we steer clear of them. After a while our feet are sore and we start looking for a place to get a foot massage. There doesn’t seem to be any places that serve both men and women so Karina and Ingar go by themselves and I’m left to explore on my own. One minute I walk by watch stores where I can’t afford to even look at the watches and the next I walk by houses ready to fall over, it sure is a diverse town! After a while I feel nature calling and I head into a large building looking like it would contain a toilet. Some sort of clerk gesturing for me to take off my shoes, so I do and head over to the doorway with a mans silhouette over it. A kid escorts me over to a locker and gestures for me to undress. At this point I start to suspect that this is in fact not a toilet. My suspicions are confirmed when a portly Chinese man walks by, stark naked, farting loudly. I decide that the bath probably has a toilet somewhere and take off my clothes, but after some unsuccessful spelunking I decide that I don’t want to see any more naked men pouring water on each other and quietly leave.
Hooking back up with Karina and Ingar we finally find what looks like a proper shopping district, we go down what looks like a subway entrance to find an underground mall. This is like the coolest place ever! There are tunnels in all directions, lined with tiny shops selling anything and everything you can think of. It’s almost like I can stretch my arms out and touch both walls simultaneously. The place is crowded, but not overly so and I start wandering off on my own. There are lots of cool local brand clothes, not like in Beijing where everything are copies of well known brands. Many of them with hilarious engrish-style prints and others just plain weird. I try lots of clothes but find to my dismay that I’m a tad too large for the majority of the clothes. Normally I’m a medium to large guy but here I’m lucky if XL fits.
As I walk up and down this underground mall for hours on end it strikes me that I haven’t seen a single tourist all day. It’s a really cool feeling and it also means that you don’t have to haggle so much when buying stuff since the prices are already reasonable. Having bought more than I’m sure that I can fit into my pack I finally head back to the hotel for some workout in the hotel gym, followed by a dip in the pool. The evening is rounded off with us stuffing our faces at the fabulous buffet.