Making new friends and getting good deals in Shanghai

Yesterday I took a taxi to Old Street in Shanghai, which was still decorated from the Chinese New Year and upcoming Lantern Festival.

As soon as I got out of my taxi I looked at my map to figure out which way I wanted to go, and was approached by a nice older gentleman who asked me “friend, where are you going?” I explained I was trying to go to Yu Yuan Garden, to which he responded “I go there too.” What a coincidence! So we walked together for a while, and it turned out we had a lot in common — his daughter also lives in the United States, and he used to work in a hotel. On the way to the Garden he showed me several of the tourist attractions, which I appreciated. Among those was this pretty cool contrast between a building that’s hundreds of years old and in the background the World Financial Center (which is where the Park Hyatt Shanghai is located).

We had such a nice conversation that he asked if I wanted to see his pearl shop and learn a bit about pearls. That sounds like an interesting enough experience, so why not? I went up to his pearl shop, and he taught me about various types of pearls. He knew I didn’t want to buy anything, but since we quickly became such good friends he agreed to sell me some at cost. I was still skeptical, though he showed me a book which listed the value of the pearls he was selling, and the value seemed to be about double of what he was offering me. Well, I’m not actually sure of that since the writing was in Mandarin, but that’s what the numbers suggested.

So in the end I purchased about $1,000 worth of pearls, which I figure I can resell in the US for at least double as much. That’ll nearly pay for my trip.

Great bargains — another joy of traveling abroad. You’ve gotta love nice people and how quickly it’s possible to make friends abroad…

And in the end I still got to see Yu Yuan Garden, which was beautiful.

Anyone want some pearls?

Filed Under: Travel
  1. Next time you are in CO come and visit me, I will sell you some prime property at the top half of Pike peak certain to double in value by the time you leave my drive up office. To top it off, it is made in America and will not break down for millions of years.

  2. How many strands did you purchase? Sounds very high. I can typically get a strand in Bangladesh for only a few dollars.

  3. Ahhhh… Sorry Ben…. But I’m pretty sure that you were scammed… Be skeptical about those English Speaking people who approaches you near tourist attractions, usually they’ll ask you to rest your feet and have a cup of tea which they charge more than 300 USD, or like you mentioned, take a look at the pearls…

  4. Haha do other commenters really not understand this post is sarcastic? Ben isn’t a clueless kettle.

  5. Ben, I think you got scammed for the pearls. The better pearl bargains are in Hong Kong. Whether you got a good deal for the $1000 depends entirely on the quality of the pearls. I think this guy took you for a ride.

  6. Hilarious. Nicely done Ben.

    Could you venture a guess how many times you have had people say “Hello!” to you while in Shanghai?

  7. Nicely done Ben. I must say I had to read the whole thing twice to make sure this was all sarcasm. I really thought you got scammed big time at first ๐Ÿ™‚ Hilarious ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope no one follows your advice to buy and resell pearls too seriously ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. While you were at Old Street did you get to try Nanxiang dumpling house? Makes some of the best xiah long bao!

  9. Pearl as in Tapioca in Bubble Tea? ๐Ÿ™‚

    I hope you didn’t even buy $1000 RMB worth of them

    Be glad you weren’t taken to dark valley to buy counterfeit stuffs (bags, clothes, wallets, etc..)

  10. Ha Ha. You got me big time … even tho the whole time I was reading it I was thinking you’re too intelligent to fall for this.

    Good to see that the Dairy Queen is ready for the Lantern Festival ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Pearls and Tea? Two things Chinese people don’t buy from the same store ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe if you punch the boxes, gold coins will fall out.

  12. That’s a pretty funny story with the pearls. Apparently there are a few readers concerned about your new purchase. ๐Ÿ˜€

    You could have offered him 1000 US miles for them.

  13. Yu Yuan Garden is pretty much insufferable. You cannot go ten yards without an offer for a Rolex, an IPhone, tea, or pearls. After 30 minutes, it becomes a real drag. My suggestion is the Tai Kang Lu area where you can shop in a 1930’s era shimuken area with nice shops and restaurants without all of the touts.

  14. You forgot the part where, if it turns out you don’t want them, you can return them to any Chinese consulate!

  15. They always have a daughter in the U.S. (or wherever you come from) and worked in the same (if not, related industry) before. If you really bought that, chances are it’s a scam.

  16. Yu Yuan’s buildings are not hundreds years old, they are only around 20 years old or less. They are rebuilt in 90s.

  17. does anyone know where the good girlie bars are in SH? There used to some chicken out in Xintiandi, but apparently the cops are cracking down. I’m heading down to SH next month and would like some poon tang

  18. This has to be one of the funniest and original blog I read for a long time. I have read it to my wife and we both were laughing for like 5 minutes.

    Pearl in shanghai
    Silk in Beijing
    Carpet in Istanbul
    Silver in Mexico

    Shall I go on ? We have all been there…..
    Great Blog

  19. People are not comfortable with anything with anything positive coming out of China. Why was last time anything good happened in China? Never.

  20. Everybody knows that there are scammers out there. That’s why I only trust those that have a government ID or work for the government tourism board.
    Well, that or the police officers touting AK47 asking for baksheesh in Egypt.
    Now, don’t waste any time buying pearls. There are so many great tea ceremonies to be had in Shanghai.

  21. I was horrified reading this post, as I was sure you were smarter than that! After wrestling a bit, I decided it was my painful duty to break the news to you that you’d been scammed so that you didn’t embarrass yourself further. After all, you’ve done so much for the frequent flyer community, it was time for me to return the favor, even if it was going to be painful. Then I started reading the comments and was relieved to realize that they were probably right and you were joking. *whew*

  22. The garden is closed for the next hour for a buddhist ceremony, but you can have tea with me and then I’ll take you to the garden.

  23. Ha. As a result of my travels to Shanghai and Beijing, I know three Chinese phrases, which my Chinese colleagues find absolutely hilarious:

    1. Ni Hao = Welcome
    2. She She = Thank you
    3. Boo Yao = “I don’t want” or “Go away” (not sure on the exact translation)

    The later was a direct result of getting hassled to buy useless crap. I went back to my hostel and inquired about a slightly rude way to tell people to leave me alone ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. You had to go all the way to China to pick up those 3 phrases? Dang. I picked them up from random movies and TV series…

  25. The only way this is true is if the Chinese man offered Lucky a Diet Coke with lime before going in for the kill.

  26. I am about 80 percent sure this is a joke, but I wish Ben would post a comment to confirm! I worry sometimes.

  27. Thank you for confirming this was a joke, which I think we all pretty much suspected. (Or hoped.) But what I want to know is: did the first part of the story happen and you were approached by someone that was going the same place as you, daughter in the US, etc…

  28. @ Michael — Hah, the first half of the story was true. And I had no problem engaging him (I always like to see how people want to scam me) till we got to his pearl shop.

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