Golf, fishponds and dreams of suburban villas

By Yao Ezi ( China Daily ) Updated: 2008-07-10 09:48:03

My friend Xuxu and I were looking at new villa homes at a suburban construction site on the outskirts of Beijing.

Xuxu was chatting merrily with the sales lady. Like so many of her colleagues, the sales lady came from Northeast China, where everyone addresses a stranger as "dear brother/sister". The lady spent half an hour talking about the bad luck her own family had experienced in buying apartments and her sales tactic worked.

Xuxu eagerly asked if an apartment in the suburbs was a worthy investment.

Of course it is!

Almost all the available downtown lots have been developed.

The skyscrapers guarantee astronomical prices and small private space. But outside Beijing's ring roads, the space is huge.

"We are offering customers a golf course if you are interested in our villas," the lady said.

I glanced at the brochure, in which several stout men are depicted in a tiny courtyard with uneven ground and two golf holes.

The lady gave a chilly forecast of the stock market, then patted Xuxu's arm and declared: "I believe buying two estates shall be enough - one inside the city and its value won't diminish; the other in the suburbs, at an hour's drive away for the weekends."

I stole a glance at Xuxu, she was nodding seriously. But she is stuck in the stock market and pays some 5,000 yuan ($700) a month for her new apartment.

Her choice to buy an apartment when the housing price peaked last summer was catastrophic. She even wants to pick up any discarded plastic bottle on the road, for it can be sold for 0.1 yuan at the recycling station. But the saleslady didn't know she was talking to a pair of white-collar workers whose bank loans threaten to engulf them.

She was envisioning a pastoral life that also included a fish pond.

"Do I need to pay for fishing?" I shot.

"No way. You've bought the villa. The pond is yours."

As I mused over the profits of raising and selling carp, Xuxu was obviously wondering if the pond was deep enough to drown herself in case she failed to pay the bank.

"Can I turn the golf course into a vegetable garden?" I asked again. Sorry, it is scenery for all residents.

Are my windows in danger if an annoying neighbor miscues his shot? The lady startled me out of this reverie.

"Get it," she said, "our developer has just launched a promotion. You don't need to pay for the management for 20 years, the maintenance fee would be deducted and a whole set of lamps would be yours."

Lamps? The lady pointed at a picture on the wall of an old, Western-style table lamp.

"Did you see Ang Lee's Lust, Caution? This is the lamp Mr Yi used. It's more than 1,000 yuan."

When we finally left, I urged Xuxu: "Get it. You can wear cheongsam and play golf. If the man you win fails you, you can hold the lamp and jump into the pond."

"Have you ever seen such money?" Xuxu asked me. No, I haven't seen so much money. And I certainly wouldn't dream of buying a villa.

(China Daily 07/10/2008 page20)

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