9 weirdly wonderful things you can buy in vending machines in Beijing

Pick up groceries, cocktails, fresh flowers, ice cream and more

From wine to sex toys, as we found out, there’s a vending machine for that. The sheer range of stuff given automated access 24/7 is nothing short of amazing. Below we list some random, creative and wacky vending machines we’ve spotted that will come to your last-minute rescue, or indulge your guilty pleasures. Some you’ll be surprised to know exist, while others you may have seen crop up in your neck of woods.

Groceries

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On the top of our very list is this handy vending machine dedicated to basic groceries. Dreading the long walk to the supermarket under the oppressive heat? No fear. Just pop downstairs and buy from this smart unit at your doorstep. It dispenses fresh produce such as meat and vegetables as well as ready-cook-meal kits with just a scan of your smartphone. These kiosks are already at a number of Beijing residential blocks and could be a lifesaver for when you are lazy.

Coconut

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You’ve most likely seen the freshly squeezed orange juice vending machines in most malls, but upping the fresh fruit juice game is a coconut vending machine. We appreciate this as nothing keeps one cool like a cold coconut. The coconuts are kept chilled in the machine so that they stay, as advertised, ‘100 percent fresh’. To make it easy to drink, the machine drills a hole on the fruit which you use a straw to drink out from. If you really want to dig into its flesh, you might need to take it home and have a go at it with a hammer. Good luck! While these fruit machines used to be in the Beijing metro stations for thirsty commuters, most of them had been removed and relocated, after train cars banned food and beverage consumption.


Mahjong tile lollipops

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Photos: Annabelle Lim

Spotted in front of a mahjong-themed toilet in the 798 Art District, this quirky vending machine sells lollipops shaped like mahjong tiles and dice. At just 5RMB a pop, these treats look just as wonderfully addictive as playing the classic Chinese tile game.

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Fresh flower

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Forgot your loved one's anniversary or birthday once again and the florists are closed? You’re in luck. This flower vending machine spotted in Chaoyangmen, stocks fresh hand-tied flowers in a range of bouquets. Going from just 9-78RMB, they’re dirt cheap compared to the price you’ll pay for showing up empty-handed.

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Surprise

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You’ve probably seen this vending machine in the mall filled with boxes. What do you get if you part ways with 35RMB? Well, nobody knows. Each box has a slip of paper, which tells you what you won and that the prize will be delivered to you. It could be an iPhone or a laptop. Or perhaps (and more likely) a keychain or a selfie stick. Who knows? What it does guarantee, and we can’t help but agree, is that it’s going to be a surprise.

Lipsticks

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Fitted with a dazzling selection of high-valued lipsticks, this machine appears like a normal cosmetic vending machine at first glance. However, instead of selling it outright, it allows customers, who are mostly female, to try their luck in a reflex-oriented game to win the lipstick. Granted it’s not easy to win, players need to pass three levels to get what they want. What does it take to win that lipstick? Lightning speed super-woman reflexes, we assume.

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Sugar-free ice cream

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Talking about some deliciously guilt-free ice cream, this vending machine is all on top of that. Located inside the U-Town Mall in Changyangmen, sugar-free ice cream comes in a range of flavours from 12-18RMB. Bored of the normal flavours of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate? Well, there’s durian-flavoured sugar ice cream always up for grabs.

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Cocktails

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The future of Friday night is here. These portable chilled cocktails are sold in a vending machine spotted at a residential area in Gongti. All drinks are hand-crafted cocktails by mixologists and come in flask-shaped bottles – apparently a concept of the Sanlitun cocktail bar 24|7By Secoo.

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Wines

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Behold. A wine vending machine. This big red box sports all the components found in a modern-day vending machine: trapdoor, a touchscreen so you can avoid human contact and thus hide your shame at buying tacky, overpriced bubbles in a shopping mall (in this case, Chaoyangmen's U-Town). Its name? Loosely translates to '100 alcohol treasures’.

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Sex toys

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Imagine the misguided embarrassment that you might feel when confronted with the smiling face of a sex shop employee, well this vending machine offers judgment-free access to sex toy, making getting off a lot more convenient for everyone. More than that, it also offers a safe space for folks who have been discriminated against for expressing themselves sexually, or anyone who might need anonymity to buy sex toys.

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