Thursday, February 7, 2013

Shopping for shoes in Suzhou!

We're gearing up for Chinese New Year here in Suzhou! The Year of the Dragon is drawing to an end, and the Year of the Snake will begin on the 10th. Already, the fireworks are deafening - and the city has taken on a very festive air! Too bad we'll start the weekend with snow and rain - but what's a little bad weather when you're celebrating with family and friends!!

Ready to go!
Last week, we attended a Chinese New Year dinner party organized by Ajey's office. A really huge affair - about 800 people, all employees at the Cat Wuxi facility. ISE spouses were invited too - and what better reason to go shopping than a formal dinner?! To be honest, I was panicking a little - my idea of formal wear has always been a saree, and believe it or not, I do not own a single Western outfit! But wait a minute - this is China - and sure enough, Wedding street in Suzhou has hundreds and hundreds of dresses to choose from! Seriously, I have never ever seen so many wedding dresses in one place before - from the simple to the hugely elaborate - a feast for the eyes! Luckily, I found just what I needed - a 'qipao' which is a traditional Chinese full length dress - and double luckily, they actually had it in my size! That was almost too easy!

Now, Ajey had his heart set upon wearing a Chinese jacket. I had thought this would be the easy part - especially after how quickly I found my dress! It was not to be - we trudged from one menswear shop to another asking for 'zhong guo de yi fu' - Chinese clothes - but in vain! We were definitely not expecting this - in India, traditional clothes for men are so easily available, and we thought it would be the same here in China! There was this one jacket that Ajey liked, (actually, it was the only jacket that we found) - only it was priced at 2000RMB, about $350 - a tad more than what we were hoping to pay!

On the verge of giving up, Ajey was resigning himself to the idea of wearing a regular suit when our driver took us to Tailor street! And there they were, all manners and types of Chinese jackets, custom-made at a very reasonable price. This was 2 days before the dinner, and we realistically didn't expect to get a jacket tailor made on such short notice - but again, this is China where anything is possible! So for a small surcharge, we got rush delivery on Ajey's jacket! Next year, we're definitely going to be better prepared!!

As for me, I had the dress - but no shoes or jewellery to go with it! Usually, I don't care too much about these things, but this time, I felt I owed it to my pretty, pretty dress to accessorize! I was still on a high from getting the dress so promptly when I set off for a day of shoe shopping with my friend NK. There are so many shoe shops here - I was quite excited! What I didn't realize - it's still winter here - so most of the shops are stocked with boots and other winter footwear. Not a single pair of pumps or strappy sandals to be seen!!

Worse, the ones we did find, were all too small - now, I wear a 38 and NK 39 - so by no stretch of imagination do we have giant clown feet!! And the heels!! What is it with Chinese and torturing feet?? True, foot binding has been banned for over a century - but I'm sure these ridiculously high heels do just as much damage! I thought I had a found a perfect pair - when I tried them on, my big toe was perfectly aligned with my heel and my knee. No kidding - toe, heel, knee, all in a straight line! If I trip (like I often do when wearing high heels!), no ordinary sprain - I was sure I would snap my ankle!! After few hours of being made to feel like Cinderella's step sisters, trying in vain to stuff our feet into dainty, petite shoes we called it quits!!

The next day, we did what we should have done in the first place - headed to the Suzhou flea market. This is a veritable treasure trove, and surely deserves a whole post to itself! Needless to say, within minutes I found not one, but two pairs of shoes which not only matched perfectly, but also were available in my size! Earrings and a beautiful clutch were just as easy to find - and finally, I had everything I needed! A quick trip to get my hair and nails done, a little help from Manasi, and I was ready to leave! Last time I spent so much time getting dressed was probably at my wedding! Thanks, BH, for coming over to take pictures - made me feel super special!!

The dinner was held at the Wuxi Intercontinental - dinner along with a show performed by some of the employees! We had been seated at the vegetarian table as requested - and were we in for a surprise of our lives! The appetizers included foie gras and grilled fish - but also a cucumber salad and fava beans! The main course started with a dish of shrimp - with their eyes and tentacles intact!! The next to appear was an entire fish - what is it with the eyes, people?!! Then came a soup and finally, some boiled leafy vegetables - couldn't eat these either - they had been boiled with pork stock! The piece de resistance was the chicken - artfully arranged with its wings, feet and wait for it - the entire head, beak and all in the center! Completely took away any appetite I had left!

The food fiasco notwithstanding, Ajey and I really enjoyed the evening. Ajey's Chinese colleagues really appreciated both of us dressed in Chinese traditional clothes - so, it was well worth the effort!! After numerous toasts, we came home to wrap up our evening with what else, daal-rice and yogurt!! And next year, I'm going to take dinner with me, and then have them serve it to us - at the main table!!!

Until next time, xinnian kuaile - happy new year!! Signing off...


  1. Pretty in Pink - looking lovely!!


  2. Was waiting for this post....:)....happy Chinese New Year to u all.....n have a safe trip