By Donnell Gavin

BEIJING, China, 7:18 p.m. —

Things you can barter for in China:

Designer jeans (good price ~$15 American)

Pearls (good price under $10 American)

Beer (good price typically ~$2 American, though I’m told it’s higher with all the white-people-who-don’t-know-better in town)

Things you can’t barter for in China:

McDonalds (though one of our more China-savvy companions told some Canadian tourists that you could)

Last night, after dinner at a delicious place serving food from a region of China that is close to the Middle East and as such involves things like meat on a stick and fried Naan, we went to Hou Hai, which is basically a bunch of bars and restaurants around a lake. Much like the Silk Market and the Pearl Market, the main drag in Hou Hai is populated largely by women who yell “Hey Lady” at you (a fellow traveler and I discussed the increase in business they might get if they added some phrases like “Happy Hour” and “Dollar Drafts” to their repertoire).

At the entrance to several bars, picked seemingly at random, our host would stop, banter briefly with the host or hostess at the door, then motion for us to move on. Eventually, after settling into a pair of couches on the roof of a bar that overlooked one of Hou Hai’s manmade lakes, we learned that he had been bartering for cheaper beer (the menu said 35 CKY, the employees told him 20 CKY, pronounced “kwy”) and also for free matches the play a drinking game. He got a good price on the beer, but no matches, so after we ordered he leaped from the roof of our bar onto the roof of a neighboring bar, told one of the waitresses we’d come to their bar if they gave us matches, they did, then he came back and proceeded to use the matches deal to get a good deal on shots at the bar we were already at.