Category Archives: Markets

One Day Left on Dragon Fair

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“The goal of Dragon Fair,” one of the organizers told me, “is to give Changzhou an internationally themed market event. Over the years, the city has become much more cosmopolitan, and I think that is something that really should be celebrated.”

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This outlook can be directly seen in not only in the goods being sold here, but the food as well. Vietnamese, German, Thai, Russian baked goods, and so much more food can be had here. Xinbei’s Istanbul Restaurant was in attendance with some of their Turkish desserts and their belly dancer, for example. This also includes long-time Changzhou veterans like Summer, to newer bars like OK Koala serving imported drinks. A shopper looking for high-end and organic dried fruit and honeycomb can even peruse a booth here.

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While international in design, the fair seemed to be pulling in interested people from the foreign community as well as a lot of curious Chinese locals.

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The draw, one has to say, though, is definitely the food. Changzhou’s culinary landscape has been steadily growing, and the fair certainly did well to showcase diversity. Wujin’s Chocolate’s Bar was on hand with warm mulled wine, German sausage, and very, very good sauerkraut. Changzhou has also had newer and lesser known attractions like the Vietnamese restaurant downtown, and a new Thai hot pot restaurant in Xinbei. These are places that really deserve a visit and your money. In retrospect, I am kind of frustrated with myself for not taking more food pictures at the stalls.

Chocolate's German sausage and sauerkraut for 20 RMB.
Chocolate’s German sausage and sauerkraut for 20 RMB.

 

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Saigon Maison’s beef noodles and Chicken dish. Both were 10 RMB each. Yum.

 

Sunday, December 4 is the last day of Dragon Fair. If you go, you might see a nameless, and rather hapless, city blogger dressed up like Santa Claus. How he let himself be persuaded for the job is a tale for another time. Even on the threat of torture, he would not divulge the times he would be masquerading as Father Christmas. So, you might see him, you might not. Think of it as a gamble. And, that’s irrelevant and beside the point, anyway. There is great food to be had, here. Plus, in the run-up to Christmas, unique gifts for loved ones and friends can also be found.  Dragon Fair is currently located on the basement level of the absurdly large Global Harbour Mall in Xinbei. It is easily accessible by taking a B1 bus north. The mall has it’s own BRT station. The event ends at 8pm.

These Were Not Autons

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1744737
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1744737

If you were to say, “Store window mannequins were running amok and shooting people in the street,” people might think you were a bit loony. For the most part, they would be right. But, it did happen a few times — on a TV show.  The Autons have been a part of Doctor Who going back 1970 when Jon Pertwee (the third doctor) faced off against them in the serial “Spearhead from Space.” Essentially, a disembodied consciousness is able to control plastic. As a result, shop window mannequins come to life and chaos ensues. These nasty Autons have returned to the show from time to time, but the good doctor always saved the day in the end.

I was daydreaming about this once, while wandering around a huge market in downtown Changzhou. Culture City 文化城 stands between the downtown train station and Hongmei Park. It consists of intersecting streets and large warehouses. One section is nothing but books, but other parts offer the type of display refrigerators you can find in bars and convenience shops.

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Most importantly, Culture City has a massive amount of furniture than can be found for a bargain. This is what had brought me here. A friend had recently moved, I went there to see if I could price a desk chair for them. Most of the furniture is indoors, and on the second floor of a warehouse. It almost seems endless. There are stacks of desks, chairs, book cases, empty retail modular shelving, and more. Oh, and yes, mannequins. There are lots and lots of faceless mannequins.

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Once I left the main corridors, I found myself roaming through narrow paths of between wood and particle board. Sometimes, it seems every time I rounded a tight corner, I came face to face with those smooth, naked, and genderless pieces of plastic. Sometimes there were crowds of them huddled together, other times, one would just be sitting cross-legged on shelving.  One “child” was armless while still wearing a bicycle helmet and a necklace. In a stranger juxtaposition, a bunch were lurking not that far from an antique Taoist shrine.

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Given that I have an extremely overactive imagination, I started laughing and trying to think of all the short story plot lines I could come up that included haunted mannequins. That’s when I remembered the Autons and Doctor Who. It just goes to show: no matter how silly the premise in science fiction and horror, somebody else has likely thought of it first.

So, with that in mind, I pushed the Autons and the good doctor from Gallifrey out of my mind. I resumed looking for a chair for my friend. Even with my extremely limited Chinese, I was able to get one seller to offer something wooden for as low as 50 RMB. Of course, that day I was just there to look and not buy.

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Discount Eyewear in Xinbei

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Summer in Changzhou can not only be depressing hot and sweaty, sometimes the glare from the sun can be too much. Of course, it depends on the health of somebody’s eyes. Some need sunglasses more than others, and some are always in the market for glasses in general. Regionally speaking, it helps that Danyang is a neighboring city. It’s one of Zhenjiang’s satellite cities, and it’s well renowned for manufacturing glass lenses. While Danyang is only 15 minutes away by high speed train, you actually don’t have to go there for bargain hunting.

Changzhou has eyewear markets featuring Danyang lenses. Xinbei has a particularly large one. It’s on the third floor of the Lippo Plaza shopping center. This is the mall on the other side of the street from Wanda Plaza. If one were to go in there, they would find a lot of empty shops. The place looks like its better days have passed. The escalators are all turned off. Still, there is plenty of commerce going on here. The eyeglass market is merely the biggest thing there.

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Shopping Locally in Jintan

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When shopping in Jintan, a trip to Dongmendajie is essential. After all, there’s a supermarket beneath the city square, and three floors of shops can be found in two separate commercial centers. Lots of the stores here tend to be higher end chains that you can find across China. As has been said elsewhere, this area is practically the district’s version of Nandajie in Changzhou’s city center.

This isn’t the only shopping to be had. Down the street — and closer to the intercity coach station — stands Wenhua Dasha 文化大厦. This loosely translates into “Culture Mansion” or “Culture Big Building.” And yes, it’s massive. It is one seemingly unending corridor of shops. It’s almost as if you can buy anything here from clothing to gas burners for stoves. The chief difference, however, between this place and Dongmendajie is how “local” it is.

When you shop at a chain store or franchise, money eventually leaves the area. If you shop at a place locally owned, you are giving your money directly to your neighbors. The cash tends to stay in the neighborhood. Things are also much cheaper at local markets, but there are other things to beware of. You have to look at everything a little more carefully when shopping in a place like Wenhua Dasha. The quality of goods may be lesser. For example, you could by a backpack and then have it fall apart after a week. That’s happened to me, but not specifically at this market in Jintan. IMG_20160515_115201

Zouqu’s City of Lights

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Certain parts of Changzhou cater to different industries. Trina and solar power, for instance, plays a big role in parts of Xinbei. Over in Qishuyan, which became part of Wujin last year, the train industry is central to local economics. Zouqu, oddly enough, is big on all types of lights. Want to buy a chandelier? You can find a deal in Zouqu. The same can be said for most types of fixtures for home and commercial business like bars and restaurants. You can even purchase street lamps there. Yes, street lamps.

I didn’t know how big a deal this was until recently. I had been to this part of Changzhou before while looking for a Buddhist temple. I saw street lamps crowding the side of the road, but I didn’t stop. Eventually, I heard about “light market” in that part of town, I wondered if I had passed it or not. Turns out, I did. And the place is massive. Think of something that spans several city blocks, and you can drive a car through it — even park. But the market itself is not the end of it. A huge shopping mall stands across the street, and specialty carries on into there and several other large retail locations in the area.

Zouqu itself is located in the western part of the city. It’s in Wujin, but it’s in the western arm of that district. For instance, the huge light market like five to eight kilometers from Qingfeng Park in Zhonglou.

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Antique Shopping Near Culture Square

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Once, a guy chased me while wildly swinging a bust of Chairman Mao. He didn’t want to beat me over the head with it; he simply wanted to sell it to me for 800 RMB. No matter how much I said “不要 bu yao,” he kept in hot pursuit, yelling about he’d drop the price. That went in 20 RMB increments. I really didn’t want it; I mean, I was downtown, and how would I get that thing home or just lug it around with me as I did other errands? It didn’t matter how much I didn’t want it; he was damned insistent. It wasn’t the first time this guy chased me, either. Other times, he waved posters of Zhou Enlai at me, as well as a wall tapestry of 10 prominent Red Army generals.

He wasn’t the first person to do this. In this part of downtown, I have been grabbed and pulled into shops with all sorts of junk paraded in front of my face. All of them had absurdly inflated prices. A comic book went for 200 RMB, and red and gold embossed Mao buttons went for 100 RMB. Some of those shopkeepers saw me as a clueless, rich foreigner that they could make easy cash off of. They were tripling their prices just at the mere sight of me.

And what can I say? I have a thing for junk and antique stores. However, as my Chinese abilities slowly improved from non existent to barely minimal, I actually learned how to haggle with these people. I also got it to a point where I don’t even have to say anything anymore. All I need to do is twist my face into a overacted grimace or scowl and wave my hand dismissively. Once these vendors realized I was no longer the goldmine they thought I was, I stopped getting chased or grabbed. Eventually, I settled on one antique merchant I trusted, and now I usually just go to him first.

So, where is this part of Changzhou? If you go to where the downtown central subway station is being built, you will find an antique market behind the Christian church. This would be Wenhuagong 文化宫. You can find everything from old communist propaganda to weathered books of nude photography, framed calligraphy, carved wood, and much more. This is an ideal place for stamp and currency collectors, too. There are two indoor markets with kiosks, but the main part is a small pedestrian street with shopfronts. Only, if you are going to go there for the first time, take a Chinese friend you are actually going to buy something. Otherwise, they will think you are a goldmine, too.

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