Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mr. Su's Wild Ride

We continued through the gorge, mostly on the bus and sometimes by walking.  (At one point, we walked about 2 km with a soft uphill grade.  I think I got me some good exercise here.)  At another point, we were standing in a cave and he pointed out all the swallow nests in the holes above us.  And, at first, I thought, "Aw, cute little swallows," and then I thought, "Oh no!  Bird poop!  Run for the hills!"

We got out of the gorge around noon -- I thought the trip was scheduled to be 11 hours long, and -- given the 25 minute flight -- I really couldn't imagine how we were going to kill five or so hours. 

Lunch was included in the trip.  I had thought perhaps we would stop at, oh, a restaurant.  No.  We stop at a marble and jade shop.  We are taken to a room in the back where four round tables have been set up.  We're eating in the store.  The woman who runs the place brings out big plates of vegetables (and a fish) and we eat family-style.  (There was also a plate of what looked -- and tasted -- like Chicken nuggets.  Wow.  I ate a McNugget with chopsticks.) 

Afterward, we are brought back into the shop.  Mr. Su has us gather around.  He wants to show us how to tell real marble from fake marble.  He does this.  (Real is cold to the touch, and has no air bubbles in it.)  This takes some time.  (Remember, he's still doing everything in three languages.)  I get bored and start wandering around the shop.

I am not allowed to wander around the shop.  We are then taken into the back room and seated around a table where we are given a demonstration of how to tell fake jade from real.  (It involves fire.  Like we're going to carry around lighters whenever we go shopping.)  Also cat's-eye, which is a very attractive type of jade (kinda like Tiger's Eye, but green) and coral.  When the demonstration is done, we're told that, as we're good friends of Mr. Su, we will all receive a 50% discount on anything in the store.  Mr. Su then says we will reboard the bus in 15 minutes.

Try 50.  At one point, I joked that they wouldn't take us back to the airport until we'd all purchased something -- but it started to feel like there was some truth to it.  Mrs. Su had reappeared and was telling us all how lovely we'd look wearing this or that piece of jade.  "Sale" prices bore no relation to the numbers on the tags.  (They certainly weren't half the price.)   Much of the jewelry in the store was tagged at about $300, but if you expressed interest, they'd give you a "sale price" of anywhere from $75 to $175.

I actually bought a small cat's-eye necklace for about $60.  I was irked no end when another lady -- not realizing I'd already bought it -- tried to sell me the same necklace for about $9 less.  All things considered, I probably could've gotten it for $45, but I guess I just wasn't in the haggling mood.  (All I kept thinking of was how nice it would be to get back to those pretty marble bathrooms at the airport -- and then laughing to myself that I was at a place in my life where I'd actually look forward to an airport lavatory.)  Eh, whatever.  In the long run, it's pretty; it wasn't a whole ton of money; and now I have a souvenir with which to remember not only Taiwan, but also Mr. Su himself and the rest of the Taroko Gorge experience.

1 comment:

mom23nca said...

Aww yes, I remember those factory meals and shops well.  We did jade, ivory, cloisonne, pearl . . . .