Spending $5 on a Million-Dollar Picture

Things to Do — By Lauren Johnson on October 3, 2010 at 6:00 am

How Cheap is Cheap? $5 in China can get you a lot of food, and not sub-par food, either. But spending $5 on a cultural experience that you’ll remember the rest of your life and be able to bring up at every ‘have you ever’ party is a bit more difficult.

The Best $5 You’ll Ever Spend. A visit to Wangfujing’s street food market is one way to spend $5 that will leave you with vivid memories, amazing pictures and a strange and lasting taste in your mouth. You can try anything from beetles to starfish, to squid legs or whole squid, even baby bird. There are even fun options for vegetarians, like potatoes, fresh veggies cooked like a meat skewer and corn on the cob in Chinese spices.

The Low-Down. I’ve visited Wangfujing’s street food market several times. Last time was, perhaps, the most memorable. I took my sister to try the food, and she was not hesitant at all to order a whole star fish. Her first bite proved a bit tough. Next, she tried sea horse. The first bite took off the head and revealed that the exoskeleton holds in the entire animal’s meat and organs which were boiled to a black liquid inside the shell. Black goo ran down her chin and she described the taste as ‘burnt bread and tuna’ which, when I tasted it, was pretty accurate. We were a bit hesitant to try the beetles, but the squid and snake were actually pretty decent. Through all of this we took pictures that have since been some of our favorites of each other.

Now, You Do it. To get the most out of your $5 you’ll want to start with the expensive items, like your whole snake or star fish, and move backwards towards cheaper items, like beetles, scorpions and sea horse. If you want to get a full meal out of street food, you can skip the oddities and gorge yourself on lamb, beef and pork skewers, which are delicious in this area and extremely filling.

What to Do with Leftover Change. If you’ve tried the things you want and still have some of your $5 left, Wangfujing offers lots of options to spend your cash. You’ll find loads of touristy souvenirs in the area, from trinkets to clothing, to Chinese masks. There is even live entertainment in the form of opera singers and bands in small cafes or bars along the street. If you want to grab a drink to help digest your scorpion or snake meat, you’ll have no problem spending a bit more.

If You’d Like to Splurge. Wangfujing is a massive area known for its large shopping mall, fancy shops and clothing. If you want to do some serious shopping, this area will support your needs. From real Rolex, to Gucci and Dior, you’ll find hundreds of ways to spend your hard-earned cash.

Tags: $5, budget, cheap, Food, wangfujing

    1 Comment

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