“Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!”
Shopping, like anything here, can be a right baffling snafu. Visiting the technology supermarkets of Zhonguancun (China’s answer to silicone valley. A question that I’m not convinced was ever actually asked), usually unfolds with a Game of Death-style, level-by-level battle, only instead of enlightenment or character actor Dean Jagger awaiting you at the top, it’s just a phone charger that never bloody works.
Like everywhere else in the world, Beijing has erected the Xmas decorations. I’ve swapped black Americanos for white chocolate mochas, and I figured it was time to check out Tongzhou’s largest shopping mall. Those who know me well know that I avoid Xmas like clichés about the plague. Firstly, I’m an atheist. Secondly, I find it pretty disconcerting that people can be reduced to tears by an animated bear selling alarm clocks from John Lewis, but can’t muster a given fuck over child poverty. Thirdly, when the capitalism wall comes tumbling down I’m gonna be the first one rushing away with an armful of bricks in the hope of building something better (at least 25 miles from civilization). In short, I avoid it because I’m a bit of a miserable old bastard. So much so that if I’m ever visited by a trio of spirits who try to convince me to change my ways, I’ll be drawing the curtain and telling them to piss off out of it.
The Wanda Plaza in Tongzhou is shaped like a giant cruise ship, and (unlike some of the other Wanda plazas in the capital) is about the same size. It’s not West Edmonton big, there are no diesel submarines or water parks inside, but it’s pretty damned big.
The street outside the plaza is guarded by impressive twenty-foot tall sculptures of Chinese cyberpunk warriors, who issue you with your first challenge: figuring out, Lara Croft style, which one of the seven front doors actually opens. In the Jing, you get used to things like standing in a long queue at a single checkout while the other 29 stand empty.
Next up is: what do you actually want to do when you get inside? If you want food then you have to go straight up to the Big Boss level and then fight your way down arse backwards. If you want to visit the cleanest and brightest KFC in Beijing, it’s on level 2. If, for some reason you feel like suffering for your sins, there’s a Chuck E Cheeses style hell on earth on the same level. Korean design shops are a staple, as always, so if you want to buy colorful stationery, hot water bottles or other cutesy shite, then you will find it pretty much everywhere. Ditto multicolored clothes from the west. Anything a disgruntled hipster or cynical Gen X type could possibly want to give less of a shit about.
I also went shopping in the Qian’men shopping precinct, located near the very similarly named and much more famous Tian’an’men.
It filled me with exactly the same level of Christmas cheer.