From Marx to Marks

On a recent tour of China I noted that for a communist country, they do capitalism really well!!!! We were taken to a number of places to help our understanding of the country; Traditional Chinese Medicine, Silk production, Jade, the Great Wall. At each, we had plenty of opportunity to be thoroughly fleeced. Who says China is cheap??

TCM – traditional Chinese medicine. At the Academy of Chinese Medicine in Beijing the guide handed us over to an earnest young Chinese medicine man who promised a 20 minute foot massage after a soak in the special herbs.China

The clinic is touted as the pre-eminent research centre for TCM. Only the best herbs are used, and the most concentrated. The spiel continues: the Academy only treats the elite of the government, if we are very lucky, one of the doctors may have time to do a consult. Hey presto – six doctors appeared and the first doctor just happened to be the personal physician to the premier minister. Out of the 30,000 government honchos, none of them have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s or cancer. What makes them so mean then? Just joking.

So, the head Dr came and sat with us with a lovely young nurse interpreter. Doc gets it pretty right, and then prescribes four herbal remedies, and suggests that my very painful knuckle, sleeping, circulation and memory will be improved within a six month treatment consisting of two of each remedy twice a day. Rather cheekily I asked the nurse to translate to Doc that if I’m not fully cured, I’ll want a refund in six months… Not sure he saw the humour…..

Silk.China In Suzhou we were taken to a silk factory. We were given the spiel by Lili, our local guide: this factory is duty free. It is set up by the government, and all the silk is made by hand. As a special deal we can get the duty free silk duvet, and silk mattress protector cheaper than the Chinese can buy for themselves in the supermarket. So, first we see how it’s made, then we see the showrooms, and finally a fashion show to finish up. Needless to say, there is AMPLE opportunity to enrich the Chinese coffers. And after hearing all the factoids about the health benefits of silk – the Japanese even use it for face filler to remove wrinkles – of COURSE I buy. Mind you, two duvets (use one on its own in summer, and clip two together for winter) plus a mattress cover are cheaper than a full set of Sheridan sheets in Australia so I do feel better about that… Not much, but husband is looking pale around the gills.

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Jade.. China is the home of jade, and we were treated to a local factory that educates us on the value of jade.. One of our companions bought a solid jade bangle which broke as soon as she tried it on outside the showroom. Fortunately she got her money back – that one got away!! I managed a modest ring and necklace.

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Pearls – Yet another factory, and another shopping opportunity. Even for someone who knows little about pearls, the price seemed cheap-ish. But the bracelet I chose is not…. Sigh, why is it I always like the dearest thing in a shop – taste? Nah, I reckon its more money than sense – but it is beautiful….

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Tea – full of phytophenols which can clean mucky black stuff out of water and rice, so think what it can do for your insides! The best tea of course is the first pick of the season, and it’s organic because the snows kill all the bugs so there aren’t any when the season starts again.

We now have a new suitcase….

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