Tonight Jason and I went on a hot date to dinner and to the Taipei Jade Market. Taipei has a huge jade market located near the AIT (aka the U.S. embassy) where Jason works. I told Jason that I wanted to get some jade bracelets before I return to the States next month. The Taipei Jade Market is located under a raised highway, along with a flower market and art market. During the week the location is a parking lot, but on the weekends it turns into a bustling market full of all sorts of plants, art and of course, jade.
Truth be told, I have never bought jade before and I have no idea what makes a good jade bracelet. The one thing I can tell you is that most jade is green. However, the color ranges from a dark emerald-green to a green so light that it is almost white. There were even some vendors selling red, orange and purple jade. But I wanted traditional green jade. So I walked up to one vendor, picked up a bracelet and asked, “Duoshao qian?” With my tone-deaf Chinese, it’s possible that instead of asking “how much?” I may have actually said “cow dung?” He seemed to get what I was asking though and he grabbed his calculator and showed me that the bracelet was $450,000 NT. If that amount seems exorbitant, it is. That comes to almost $15,000 U.S. Jason and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes and I said, “Are you sure you don’t mean this?” Then I grabbed the calculator and punched in $4500 NT (about $150 U.S.) He took the calculator from me and said, “No!” And then he punched in 450,000 again. I looked at him and said, “Your jade is more expensive than diamonds!” And with that, Jason and I walked away, shaking our heads. I’m pretty sure that vendor was smoking something; possibly cow dung.
We perused a few more tables until we came to one with a sweet looking little lady. I picked up a bracelet and asked “Duoshao qian?” She picked up her calculator and punched in $3000 NT. (Just a little less than the $450,000 NT the last guy was asking.) I then tried to put it on my wrist.
I need to pause here and say that the bracelets I was looking at were made from one round solid piece of jade. There were no clasps on the bracelets. I had to be able to fit my hand through the circle to put them on. And therein lies a bit of a dilemma. See, in the U.S. I’m actually small to medium boned; but in Asia, I’m mammoth boned. As a result, my hand was way to big to fit through the vast majority of the bracelets which were rightly made for teeny-tiny Asian women.
So the woman handed me a bracelet and told me that it should fit me. I tried it on, but could quickly see that my hand was not going to fit through the hole. She then grabbed a plastic bag and told me to put my hand in it. Now a quick word of advice: if you ever find yourself in any sort of market under a raised highway and a tiny Chinese woman tells you to put your hand into a bag, DON’T DO IT!!! Not having ever received this advice, I ignorantly stuck my hand into the bag, at which time, the woman shoved my hand, bag and all, through the bracelet. It was the most excruciating 20 seconds of my life! I was writhing in agony the entire time. Unable to speak because of the pain, I looked over at Jason and with my eyes, begged him to stop this madness. Mercilessly, he just laughed at me. When the torture was finally over and the bracelet was safely on my wrist, I looked down at my hand, afraid to remove the bag for fear that my hand was completely mangled. Luckily, my hand wasn’t mangled, but it was bright red and pulsing.
I turned to Jason and cried, “Now I’ve got to get this thing off!”
He replied with a snickering, “Uh huh! Did you bring the camera?”
“Really?! You want to film this?!”
That man is seriously warped.
Regardless, I still had to get the thing off and the mere thought made me want to cry. And all the while, the woman continued to try to convince me that this bracelet was the right size for my huge hand! I spent a minute or so gearing up for what was to come, then stuck my hand back in the bag and told the woman to take the bracelet off me. She then started the painstaking process of removal. Again, I writhed in pain and opened my mouth in a wide, silent scream. And all the while my husband stood next to me laughing. This time, I honestly thought she had broken a couple of bones in my hand.
Luckily, I have no broken bones. But now, four hours later, I have three big bruises on my hand, lingering pain and three lovely jade bracelets.