Join me in my four month journey as I travel across the globe to the overpopulated, communist, and air-polluted country of China. Whether it's haggling with street vendors, eating whatever comes my way, or putting my ping pong skills to the test, you can bet I won't leave any bit of my antics back home in the States. I'm ready to give China everything I've got, and in return I'm hoping it will show me the time of my life.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
The Magical Market
There’s no place in Shanghai more beautiful, more magical than the South Bund Fabric Market. The Fabric Market is by no means immaculate or breathtaking, but it’s the sheer quantity of options that makes me giddy inside. It’s a three story building of seemingly endless jackets, pants, belts, coats, ties, shoes, dresses, scarves, shirts, hats, and cloths, from which you can walk away adorned in any garment of your imagination. And in a city where people seem to just assume all Westerners are trendy and fashionable, I’ve gotten the idea that I can just about get away with wearing anything.
I’m also obsessed with listening to the shopkeepers’ robotic English as foreigners walk by. Pants, suits, you want, you come lookingnow. Their faces are motionless as words spill from their mouths. Hello, I give you best price, anything you want.
I’ve been to the Fabric Market about six times now, making it my most frequented tourist destination. The Fabric Market is everything I love about China: vendors who would kiss your derrière to get you to buy from their shop, the thrill of intense and passionate bargaining*, and the too-good-to-be-true prices that make me think I’m spending Monopoly money.
So far, I’ve bought three custom-fit jackets, three ties, three pairs of sunglasses, a custom-fit suit, a hat, a belt, and two custom-fit shirts (my grand total is probably like $270), and I can’t be sure that my work is finished. Getting a good deal on good-looking clothing feels great, and one of the things I’m looking forward to most about my return home to the U.S. is being able to dress to impress a lot more.
The Fabric Market will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve never been much of a fan of shopping for clothes, but I think I’ve left the Market every time with a huge smile on my face. There’s just something about walking in somewhere, and being able to get exactly what you want for an incredible price that just brings out the inner deal-seeking consumer in me. It’s almost as if every time I leave the Fabric Market, I feel like I beat the system, that someone else ended up with the short end of the stick, that I found some loophole. But this is China for you. And the only loopholes are the ones on my brand-new belt.
*China is a cash economy, and subsequently almost everything here is negotiable. Learning to bargain isn’t particularly difficult, but it does take some confidence to do it right. Here are my bargaining tips: 1. In your head, choose a reasonable price you’re willing to pay for the item; 2. Ask the vendor to name a price and immediately complain that it’s too expensive (I especially like “Huāngmiù!” [That’s absurd!]); 3. Name a price that’s well below what you plan on paying and then wait for the vendor to get upset and offer a lower but still unsatisfactory price; 4. Shout “Tài guì le!" [Too expensive!] and storm off, knowing that the vendor will call for you to come back by offering a price that you’re willing to pay; 5. Pretend to be hesitant at first just to further upset the vendor and then accept the now reasonable price.
Me, and my fabric market girl. She's sold me all my jackets.