Finally getting a chance to catch up on writing. I've been feeling borderline sick since right before we left, and the air quality here isn't helping matters any. My throat has been kind of flipping between "not really that sore" and "very sore".
We woke up early; couldn't really get back to sleep, but still stayed in bed kind of late. We went out hoping to get some savory Do Jiang or Dofu Hua, but we found out it's hard to find breakfast food after early morning (early meaning 5-7 AM). We went by a market, which was incredible - amazing variety of food, and lots of fish that were still alive / animals that were still recognizable (like chickens with their heads still on). I'll try to take some pictures next time. Picked up a couple of cheapie teapots after Louise bargained the price down a little.
Went back to that vegetarian place for breakfast; we couldn't read the Chinese menu, and the menu with English, Chinese and photos (of course) had much higher priced stuff on it. Had some vegetarian Lion Head which I haven't seen in the US and have wanted to try; however this wasn't that interesting - just processed soy meat... the sauce was decent, though, and the bai tsai (bok choy) here is fantastic - tender and yet still crispy. All the produce has been really tasty.
Then it was time to go shopping with Louise's aunt; we first went to a fabric mall that caters mostly to foreigners and tourists, and ordered some tailor made clothes - a wool suit for me, and a pea coat for Louise. Then we went shopping in some other malls / department stores, trying to find a qipao for Louise and a blouse for her mother.
On the way, we stopped by this mall that had a whole floor devoted to cermaics. There was a store selling Yixing pots, some of which were fairly nice; however the prices were high, mostly around 800-1000 RMB (>$100 US). While good pots can, of course, well exceed this price range, I didn't feel that the pots here were necessarily worth the price they were charging. The guy there was very nice, though, and offered to brew us tea. It seemed more because he was lonely than as a sales pitch; he brewed us some nice red (black) tea in a cute duan ni pot. I believe he said it was a Yixing red tea, presumably the sort favored by most of the potters. It was very nice - a delicate flavor and not at all smoky or harsh. He brewed with a good amount of skill and finesse. Embarassingly enough, I managed to drop the last cup all over my lap... fortunately, I didn't break the cup. The tea seemed to have a very strong qi, because after 4-5 1 oz cups, I was sweating profusely, and he said it was already on the 5th or 6th infusion. Didn't take any pictures here, unfortunately. It's weird how some of the times you most wish you had taken pictures, you also really don't want to interrupt by breaking out the camera.
We went on to do some more shopping, and got some roasted chestnuts. At this point, we were pretty wiped out, so we went back to the hotel. We went out looking for a bathhouse or sauna, but couldn't find one, so we got foot massages instead. The atmosphere of the place was far from relaxing, but the foot massage was great after we kind of settled into it. Total cost: 40 RMB, or about $5.30 US, with no tip, for both of us. And they were giving us a foot massage for probably at least 20-30 minutes. Anything involving labor is pretty cheap here.
We had a hard time finding anything for dinner, and we were both cranky, so we finally settled on a "tea house" / restaurant that we walked by, which seemed to have a couple of vegetarian options. They make the noodles with egg, so I got a gluten and mushroom dish served with rice. The portions were small, but the cost was cheap (14 RMB). Our drinks (a watermelon juice and a pot of chrysanthemum tea) ended up costing way more than the food.
We were relieved to find out that Karaoke with Louise's cousins had been postponed, so we watched a little more "Weeds" and went to sleep early.