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Saturday, 01 May 2021

Hangzhou & Shanghai, China - Page 3

Written by Eric D. Goodman
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Bazar Shanghai Bazaar

Twilight greeted us as we approached the dense city, but Shanghai was already lit up before us. We didn’t waste time checking into our hotel yet—we went right into the sights and sounds and smells of the city.


The sheer density of Shanghai sort of hits you in the face as you drive into it. Some say the city is literally sinking under the weight of it’s own development—physically and financially. It is also said that half of the cranes working in the world are in China—and most of them are right here in Shanghai. At night, when the sky is dark and the spectacular buildings are lit, you don’t notice the cranes. You see the one of the greatest and most diverse living architectural museums in the world. Sure, it may get old on the daily grind, but getting caught in a traffic jam here can be a joy, and can give you time to examine just how many different and unique skyscrapers and buildings exist in one city.



Our first stop in Shanghai: the Yu Gardens and Bazaar. The hustle and bustle of this old-style street market can be overwhelming, where stores and vendors peddle everything from medicine to jewelry. Street performers did acrobatics and played music on traditional instruments. The City God Temple within the labyrinth of commerce dates back to the Ming dynasty and featured large statues, incense burning before them.


At the center of the Yu area is the charming Huxinting Teahouse, dating back to 1784. We crossed the bridge of nine zigzags over the water to get to the iconic palace of tea. After enjoying a cup of tea in the tea room, we decided to purchase a canister as a gift. We perused the selection, and what did we decide on?


Look! They have Longjing Dragon Well Tea!”


Inspired by the earlier visit to the plantation, we bought another canister here from Huxingting Teahouse before zigzagging across the opposite bridge back to the market streets.



The gardens that make up a good portion of the Yu area were beautiful, but paled in comparison to the gardens we’d enjoyed in Hangzhou and Suzhou. Aside from the huge rockery (one of the largest) it felt a little like we were perusing a flea market after shopping at a Macy’s.


Shopkeepers yelled out into the streets about their sales and best prices. More street performers were spinning plates and doing acrobatics. Store agents, looking suspiciously like beggars, shadowed us and other foreigners, offering us whatever our hearts desired: “Do you want pearls? Jade? Shoes? Clothes? Diamonds? I take you. Best deal.”


We enjoyed a tea ceremony at one of the state-run pearl shops at Yu Market. There we found many displays of freshwater pearls much like the ones we viewed in Beijing. We found a pair of the “mutant” pearls, a unique necklace that featured pearls that had mutated together into larger, irregular clumps.


I’ll bet Mom would love this.”


I’ll bet she would.”


It looked very much like the one in the museum display case at the state show we’d visited in Beijing. That one, priced in the thousands, was fifty percent off. This one was a fraction of the price—being a place that sells to locals as well as tourists. Still a state-run shop, the prices were lower here, but the quality appeared to be just as high. After some negotiation, we walked out with the unique necklace—and some matching earrings and a bracelet to boot.


Perhaps more chaotic than touristy, the most interesting part of the bazaar itself was the “underground” one. Our guide gave the password at a big, black, iron gate, and it screeched open to admit us into Shanghai’s “black market.” There, you could find everything from Gucci and Louis Vuitton and Polo to Ray Ban and Rolex and Mont Blanc.


It was explained to us more than once on the trip, by guides and hosts, that it is not recommended to buy knock offs on the street, but that when you go to the right place, Chinese experts can make copies that surpass the originals in quality. Knock offs that are better than what they’re knocking off. It was an interesting concept, and a tempting one to buy into, if somewhat self-serving since our guides were showing us the best places to buy. When it came time for some members of our party to pay for their goods, our group was escorted to another shop to pay and then back to the black market to take the goods. Money did transfer directly from the seller to the buyer. A donation in one store, a gift in another. A profitable coincidence.


When we finished exploring the infamous black market, we went back through the sea of street venders to the bus and headed through the night’s lit-up architecture.

(Page 3 of 5)
Last modified on Saturday, 01 May 2021
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