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Beijing

beijing marketBeijing has an ever-growing retail sector, with the highest of the high-end shopping to be found in the Wangfujing area in the city center. And while the goods are authentic, the prices are the same as they would be back home. But for every piece of authentic merchandise on the market, there will be a much better priced -- albeit fake -- product available at any of the shopping centers most Beijingers frequent. The quality of Chinese fakes can range from passable to outstanding, and unless you're buying from an official, licensed retailer (i.e., buying a North Face jacket from the North Face store), rest assured, you're buying a knock-off.

So when you see a little lady with a shop full of Polo shirts saying she'll let one go for about half of what you'd pay for it on sale at Macy's, have no shame in offering her a tenth of her asking price. This is the game you must play when shopping for almost anything in Beijing. Unless it has a barcode and gets scanned by a uniformed employee behind a cash register, the price is negotiable.

Secrets of Shopping Abroad: Haggling Tips and More

While haggling can grow frustrating, as long as you can maintain a sense of levity about it, the whole experience can turn out to be fun for both you and the shopkeeper. An effective way to bargain successfully is to think about what an item is worth to you. Set a maximum in your head. Open the bidding at a tenth of what you want to pay, and work your way from there. And when things start to get difficult, just walk away. This will almost always get the price to drop in your favor.

A staggering array of counterfeit shoes, luggage, apparel and handbags can be found at the Sanlitun Yashow Clothing Market and in the Silk Market near Yong'anli station on Line One of the metro. These markets cater almost exclusively to foreigners. The prices will be higher here, but the workers all speak English and are pretty fun to engage. If you know Mandarin or are shopping with someone who does, you will get much better deals.

For international brand-name (legitimate) goods, visit the Wangfujing shopping street, the Malls at Oriental Plaza or the Sanlitun Village Shopping Center. Lots of high-end shopping can be found at the Dawang Lu subway station, in the Xinkong Tiandi Center. For more brand-name shopping and dining (including Beijing's newly opened Nobu restaurant), check out the Guomao area.

Stop by the Pearl Market near the Temple of Heaven for a chance to buy coral, amber, turquoise and, of course, pearls. This multi-story market has several high-end jewelers on the top floors, and lower floors have the usual array of trinkets and handicrafts.

Panjiayuan, also called the "dirt market" or "weekend market," is the largest (and maybe most entertaining) flea market in China. It's open every day and gets started early, at 7 a.m. (4 a.m. on weekends). Here you can shop for antiques (beware of fakes), porcelain, jade and wood carvings, as well as paintings and decorations and knickknacks and just about everything else you could imagine. Don't forget to bargain hard and shop around too, because many of the stalls will be selling the same merchandise.

And finally, after a long day on your feet, a traditional Chinese massage may be in order to get some much needed relaxation. Reflexology and pressure point-based massage are particular specialties of the Chinese. Massage parlors are practically ubiquitous throughout Beijing. Ignore touts offering massage. Just walk in to a place that seems suitable to your tastes and check it out on your own. Prices are reasonable and often negotiable.
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