Great Wall Hawkers


China is the land of the hard sell. It was pretty common to have hawkers trailing around behind you, relentlessly trying to sell things.

On day #1 we went to see a section of the Great Wall called Simatai. It’s a truly spectacular hike. The wall runs atop the crest of Yanshan mountain, with the highest watchtowers at the kilometre-high peak. We didn’t get that far, the highest four watchtowers are closed because the wall there is in unrestored condition (only 40cm wide in places), leading to a spate of tourist deaths.

At Simatai, the hawkers there were particularly memorable because it’s one thing to have a saleswoman follow you out of a shop, but it’s quite another to have one pursue you over two-hours worth of steep watchtower stairs just to sell postcards.

It works though. I overheard a conversation between a couple of Aussie tourists (not in our group), after one had bought a glossy panorama of the view.

#1: “It’s nice quality” (thumbing the shiny paper) #2: “Oh yeah, how much did’ja pay?” #1: “Uh, a hundred. The local bucks, umm, yuan.” “Reckon it’d look nice at the office, might have it framed.” #2: “Not bad. You could sell something like that for a lot more after that.” #1: “Yeah, yeah!”

The 100 yuan he was talking about is a striking red banknote worth about NZ$20. Whenever you use one, the eyes of the locals widen, and they start acting quite strangely around you. This is because 100 yuan represents around a day’s income in a city, or almost a week’s income in a poor rural area. I’m sure 100 yuan makes up for the many trips up the wall following tightwads like me.

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