On a sidenote, I actually noticed the same thing in other cities such as Shanghai - the lack of differentiation of products and services. Throughout the course of my MBA, there were several times where we had to create a new idea for a business. We were always asked, "what is the value added?" "How can your product differentiate?" "How can you fill a need?" I don't think most of these Chinese people have thought about these questions, or there is some other reason such a lack of ease in acquiring resources, restrictions put in place by the government, etc. because all the stores seem to be selling the same thing. EXCEPT DEODORANT! The people here don't smell bad for the most part, but it was nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find deodorant, and when I did it was a very small one, there was only one other in the store, and it was more than it would cost in the US. This is because this product is VERY unpopular here and must cost a pretty penny to import...interesting - maybe the Chinese use something else, I will have to inquire.. ] This gives the consumer the purchasing power. On a side note, my Cousin Aaron who is currently working here says it is a really interesting experience to work in a developing country because things are constantly changing. It's very true! I borrowed Aaron's Lonely Planet for China (a very popular guide book used for travel) and maybe ONE of the five or six hotels were still there, or under the same name. The book is only 4-5 years old...interesting stuff.
So back to the village story- we finally settled down and had a cup of LongJing Tea - rather bitter, but good for 6 yuan each ($1)..bargaining it down from 10 yuan. After that we found a small house/restaurant to eat, and had some egg noodles (I really need to learn how to say something else besides egg noodles, rice and dumplings...can you tell I've been on a limited diet??) and during the process I was able to bargain down a 20 yuan container of the tea down to 8 for my friend :) We had some laughs as I used some strange phrases during the conversation (thank you lonely planet - it also allows me to point). Before heading back down into the city, we explored a small path and I took some great photos! I think we saw where the Longjing Tea was being grown, and saw a ferret-type creature scurry past me into the fields..
After that day, I headed off to Huangshan, spending a night in Tungxi - which is the natural springboard to climb this mountain, about one hour away from the mountain and offering superbly better rates for hotels, hostels and such. I met a cool Chinese guy who taught me a bunch of Chinese and we climbed Huangshan the next day...it was the most intense workout I have had since leaving the gym early July for this adventure. I am definitely feeling sore today! We climbed up and up, and up...passing the clouds - reaching Lotus Peak at 1864.8 meters 6118.11 feet in the sky, not an easy hike I assure you - especially to do it in one day. Many made it into a two day adventure, but Zhou Lu (my Chinese friend) and I did it in one. On the way down we saw some wild monkeys in the wooded area a bit to the left of the trail, and some came towards some of the tourists because they felt like they were being jipped! haha- the food thrown at first was bread, but then some garbage came into the mix and this Monkey was NOT having any of that..was pretty entertaining. The day proved to be quite exhausting, so I spent the night in that area before heading home to Shanghai the following day.
Random Observations: Most roads (at least in big cities) have lanes for bikes/walking. There are motorcycles (many people on one at the same time is a common sight), regular bicycles, and perhaps most commonly riskshaws. These are the "bad" taxis which most hotels advise you not to take. They consist of a driver in the front and a paddywagon type seat in the back, holding anywhere from 1-3 people. I have heard stories of people being asked enormous sums of money after their ride, certainly not a good idea.
Tea scams are common here (like the one in that village). I also got asked to take a picture of a couple, which I did who then said they studied in Beijing, and asked if I wanted to go to a Tea Exhibition with them. After I said no and they kept trying to convince me, I was sure I had made the right decision. Looks like scammers will go as far as to even give you their camera to provide trust before attempting to get ya! (Could I be wrong and these were just nice people? Sure, but taking risks like that is not worth it). Watch out because next time you give me a camera, I will take it and run! NOW who got scammed? hahaha- I'm only kidding, but that would certainly be hilarious!
I have spent extensive time in situations (like now with Aaron's cleaning person here) who speak no English, so gestures are a must- quite the challenge trying to communicate here- my Mandarin is actually improving a bit, not a whole lot but I am actually becoming slightly understandable to the Chinese :)
Asian mannerisms are unique. It is not uncommon for a girl to stomp her face when frustrated, or make a "pufferfish" face when she is slightly confused, looking for something, or minorly agitated/upset. I find this quite charming, unlike all the hocking up "loogies" and spitting that the men do (some women do it too - not too high on the attractive scale). I do actually feel less self-conscious here however, which is quite nice. I attribute that to the Chinese caring less about the appearance (I think) - this is how it seems to me. I feel more comfortable walking around in glasses here than in the US!
One other interesting thing is the generosity I have noticed here. Offering, or rather insisting to pay is quite common and it is polite to let the person do so. MANY Chinese I have met insist on it, and not just food- taxi rides, etc. I have even had people accompany me to places to assure that I got where I needed to go.
Right now is a planning phase: off to the South towards Hong Kong or to the West to hit Chengdu?