The first thing I did in Beijing was throw my bags into my hotel room and head off to the Forbidden City. Within minutes of the taxi dropping me off, I had a Chinese girl come up to me and ask if she could practice her English. "Sure" I said, but I'm going in there (Pointing at the Forbidden City). It soon turned out that she was an "Art Student" and wanted me to look at her paintings (which as they weren't in the Forbidden City I never got to see ;-) ). I was accosted numerous times by "Art Students" - one even got me INSIDE the forbidden city (her boss had a display inside).
The conversations soon went like this: "Hi, can I practice my English with you" "OK" "What do you do..." "Let me guess what you are, are you an Art Student?". This normally worked out as a very polite way of getting rid of them!
as you may have read in other posts, when goin to beijing you will no doubt at some point encounter some children beggars,
if you give them some money more will arrive very quickly, if these beggars happen to be somewhere where you walk daily it can become quite costly and/or annoying,
i found the best way to deal with it was by buying a big bag of sweets in the super market keeping some loose in my bag or pockets and handing them out when approached the kids are far more happy it seemed than giving them money because they could actually keep this for thereselves,
they never after this pestered or insisted for money, just ran off with beaming smiles stuffing sweets down there neck. i bought three of the kids a cornetto each once, they nearly lost there minds! :)
It was not uncommon (especially at night if I was wandering around alone), for guys to approach me with lines like "Nice girl, pretty girl, massage yes?"
I'm not sure on the legalities of this in China, but can imagine that there may well be lots of opportunities to get fleeced if you were to go along with any of these propositions.
In and around Tiananmen Square you will be approached by young people claiming to be students. They tell you they are learning English and like the practice. After some talking they try and pursuade you to come and look at their art display. They want you to buy their work.
If you like artwork done by students it is worth looking at one but remember the prices they are asking are high for what it is. There are many people trying to sell the same type of art all over the town.
I found the easiest thing to do when approached is to point out that I am happy to chat with the locals but I will not look at any art displays. If you don't tell them where they stand you will spend your whole day chatting with people who only want you to see their art.
As I walked down the streets, I saw many beggers and decided to spare a coin or two. When I gave to a little girl, a gang came up to me and begged for money. I was very frightened and went into my hotel asap. From the receptionist, she told me that they operated as a gang and would pester any easy target.
What can i say about street (not market, they were quite fun) vendors. Well the only good thing I suppose you could say is that they were persistant. The street vendors in beijing were rude annoying and won't take no for an answer they followed one poor lady in or group four blocks try to sell her post cards. The best way I found to get rid of them was don't make eye contact and don't show the slightest bit of interest in what they are selling. And be firm say in a loud strong voice. "NO", I usually on;y had to repeat no 3-4 time before they moved onto someone else.
The most difficulty I had in Beijing was walking the street. Women would walk with thier childeren of but mayby five or six and follow you for miles chanting in mandarin. Locals warned me to avoid giving as you may be targeted again by more and more beggers as they often netowork and will harass westerners known for giving. Watch your watches and wallets as they will hurd and literally start climbing on you untill you figure out how to remove them. The hardest part is some of them actually need the money, but you will never know who.
Similar to the "art" students are students or other people that approach you with a request to practise their English. They then suggest you do it while drinking some tea and then lead you to a convenient tea house to chat over tea. It really all appears very innocent.
Be warned, the students get a commision of what you spend at the tea house and very quickly you will spend in excess of €100, with room charges, snack charges, and the tea charges adding up quickly.
I had three attempted "pick-ups" in this way happen around the Forbidden city, Tianamen area. Unfortunately I got fooled on the second one.
I ran into many beggars. DO NOT give them money. A tourmate did and, after a few seconds, many, but many beggars were following her trying to get a coin in an angy mood. She had to be "rescued" by our tour guide.
Others, like the lady in the picture, just wanted to get plastic bottles. I gave the ones that the trash basket of the bus had. She smiled at me and I felt happy to help her.
After 9:00pm, you will see some ragged-dressed kids touring around the main streets. They won't let you go if you don't give them money. Yes, you may take pity on them. Yet remember that all the monies you give them will not be theirs. They are orphans and picked up by gangs for a begging business. The guys give the kids place to sleep and eat while these kids work as beggars for them. If you give money to one of the kids, you will find that 3 seconds after he/she leaves you, more will come up to you to ask for money. My advice is that, walk straight forward and just let the kids follow you until you go back to your hotel. They can't go into the hotel with you.
Just a heads up that when you come out of the back end of Forbidden City you may be surrounded by a large group of beggars. There were thirty or so that surrounded my husband, my eight year old son and me, and it was a pretty frightening experience. Most of these people had no hands, and our local guide told us that they were thiefs that had their hands removed for stealing. Needless to say this was pretty scary for us. Keep your billfolds in your front pocket guys and women hang on to your bag in front of you and just keep trudging ahead.
There are alot of beggars that crowd around the entrances of tourist attractions. Just be aware that pick pockets will watching out for supposedly rich tourists in famous attractions such as the; Forbidden City, Beijing Zoo, Summer Palace and Lama Temple.
Beggars are prevalent from Xi Dan all the way up to the third ring but, the worst are around Silk Alley. If you want to avoid the worst of it, at the Friendship Store take the side road and then the next right. You pass the American Consulate and will eventually end up at the back end of Silk Alley but, without having gone through all the beggars
I found the best way to deal with vendors was to wave my hand and ignore them. Speaking English to them and trying to reason with them in English is pointless, since they only know a few phrases. They are very good at these phrases, but don't mistake this for an english speaking vendor. If they find out you can speak English and not Chinese, this is a sign to them that you are a tourist, and this is a target for the vendors. If you buy something from a vendor, you can get the price down very low, but try not to get ripped off. For example: Many vendors sell small kites at a low price. A common trick is that they often don't give you the string. You must ask for it. If you buy something from a vendor, you may get many follow you. Like feeding seagulls really. Most vendors are very persistant and do it for a job, and this is how they make a living. Therefore, most will treat you with respect and aren't really bad people. However there are some that will grab and shout at you. This is especially true in popular areas. If this happens, just hold on to your valuables and run. Don't try to reason.
I bought a fairly nice painting inside the Forbidden city from someone who actually knew something about the art he was selling. I was with my wife and her father, who are both Beijing natives, and we bargained down to 80 RMB, which seemed reasonable. You have to know something about Chinese painting to be able to spot the few good pieces.