Category Archives: Shopping Malls

Grand Metropolis Mall Vastly Expanded

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This is certainly not breaking news to people who live in Wujin, but sweeping changes have come to the Grand Metropolis Mall. This is the shopping center that contains RT Mart and is near an on ramp to the elevated road. Grand Metropolis used to share the building with Golden Eagle, but that high-end store shut down in Wujin around this time last year. In the period between then and now, Grand Metropolis renovated the unused parts Golden Eagle left behind. This means more shopping and dining options. One which appears to be a new-but-forthcoming location of Summer — one of downtown’s oldest surviving western restaurants. This would be the third Summer location in Changzhou that I know of. This new restaurant is set to open after Spring Festival.  It also appears that the Grand Metropolis’ Starbucks has been shut down, but the “coming soon” poster plastered over the windows makes it unclear if its permanently gone or just undergoing renovation.

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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.

Urinating Mystery Man

From time to time, you will find the strangest things on public display in Changzhou. The Jiu Zhou New World shopping mall has one such oddity. Technically, it’s not in the mall, at all, but in the sunken fashion plaza beneath Lanling Road . You can, however, walk from the mall’s basement level to the fashion plaza easily. It’s a wall mural the features the Incredible Hulk standing at a urinal. His hand is on the wall, and he is straining. The wall is crumbling under the might of his grip.  And his pants are falling down, revealing the crack of his buttocks.

Spiderman is standing next to him, and he is looking down. You can easily assume what Spiderman is looking at. Lighting bolts of surprise emphasize his shock. Now, I am not going to speculate what Spiderman is thinking or contemplating. You can look at the picture and figure that out for yourself. The empty space next to Hulk is what I am curious about. There are also concern lightning bolts, but there is nobody standing at that urinal.

So, this leaves me to wonder. What Marvel characters have the power of invisibility? I didn’t know, so I Googled it. As it turns out, the ability to vanish is not a common ability i the Marvel universe. Most of the characters I found were minor and mostly apocryphal. The biggest of all the names seems to be Dr. Stephen Strange — who is currently being played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Or, as Chinese women love to call him, Horse Face. So, my guess is that it’s him, and he’s mystified.

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Random Weirdness at Global Harbour

The Global Harbour shopping mall is a new, few-months-old addition to Xinbei and Changzhou as a whole. This place is freakishly massive, and it’s a relative gold mine for a city blogger. There is one part where I just can’t figure out what the story, rhyme or reason is. It’s closer to where the Yuexing International Furniture mall is — and that has been incorporated into the Global Harbour complex. It’s a little park area at the intersection of Tongjiang 通江路 and Huanghe 黄河路 roads.

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Chen Yaqiang at Global Harbour

Some of Changzhou’s malls have culture exhibits mixed into the shops and restaurants. This is especially true at Global Harbour in Xinbei. The massive shopping center has several. One of them is a photography exhibit. The work on display comes from Chen Yaqiang. He comes from Yixing, which is one of Wuxi’s satellite cities directly south of Changzhou.  As for the photographs, they are black and white shots that show an eye for lighting and texture. This gives many of the shots on display an abstract feel.

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My Apology to the Nobel Laureates

IMG_20151225_173156Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.

Pardon me, deserts, that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful of water.

— Wislawa Szymborska

This is, by far, my most favorite lines from the late 1996 Nobel Prize winning Polish poet. It’s also from my favorite Szymborska poem, “Under One Small Star.”I first encountered it roughly like 14 years ago, when I was studying for my masters of fine arts in creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I had this phase where I read nothing but Slavic verse translated into English. The poem itself is a lengthy list of apologies; some of them sounded a bit silly, and others were quite profound. I didn’t know at the time that these set of lines would follow me through life.

This poem served me well the first time I angrily walked away American higher education and piecing together part-time teaching jobs. It was for a retail job at Walmart; the pay was about the same – only you could get health care insurance at Walmart. You couldn’t while part timing for American colleges. (This was before the age of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.) Of course, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I spent years at a superstore in Freehold, New Jersey filled with petty scheming and constant moaning. Practically everybody else’s negativity was around me, and Szymborska’s poem hung in the back of my mind. I had a distinct pattern to my sarcastic retorts to people’s more sillier complaints. It went like this, “On behalf of the Walton Family, I do apologize for your hundreds of price changes and faulty telxon printer.” Some of my coworkers found this quite irritating.

heaneyOf course over the years, I angrily walked away from Walmart, twice. In the end, I went back to teaching freshman college writing. I got extremely frustrated with that, again, and I left for China and Changzhou. Since then, I must say my life has gone to a much happier place. I’m extremely grateful for that. Over the two years I lived here, Szymborska’s list of apologies receded a little in my memory and almost disappeared altogether. Something kept it from vanishing, however.

It’s funny how circumstances can change your appreciation of something, no matter if it’s a movie, a poem, or a memory. I found Szymborska again in Changzhou, as I did poets like Seamus Heaney, Pablo Neruda, and T.S Eliot. Not mention gloriously awesome novelists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. No, it wasn’t through an expat book club. It wasn’t through witty banter with fellow foreigners. Let’s face it: I have been quite antisocial for a long time. It was through a specific place, and passing it always made me smile.

The downtown Injoy Mall used to have a whole wall dedicated to Nobel winning writers. It was a timeline depicting the history of the award. Some of the entries had black and white headshots, and others didn’t. Except for the writer’s names, all of it was in Chinese. A few times, I used to get coffee at the nearby Starbucks and visit this display on Injoy’s second floor. Only, I didn’t do it enough.

It’s gone now, and now I know I took this small intellectual comfort for granted. The wallpaper with the Nobel Laureates has been peeled off. It’s been replaced with a bookstore. That should sound appropriate, but the books are in Chinese. While I am trying to learn the language, I am still functionally illiterate. Those books bring no comfort to me, and they essentially mean nothing so long as I can’t read them.

A truth: you don’t fully appreciate something until it’s unavailable and gone. I now sorely miss this one celebration of international culture. So, in that regard, let me summon and channel the ghost of Wislawa Szymborska and her great, great poem. Let me apologize:

Pardon me, Nobel Laureates; I should have spent more time absorbing your words.

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Xinbei Wanda Plaza

China can easily be divided between what is “developed” and what is “developing.” Let me put it this way. Changzhou is “developed, but still developing” and a plase like Yancheng is “developing.” Sometimes, that economic growth can be measured in what is being built: super malls. These places can be gargantuan — three to five floors. Quite often, you can find towers dedicated to office space or residential apartments.  The highest-end mall tends to be Wanda. Some Chinese people I know gauge the growth of their cities by counting Starbucks. Some simply count how many Wanda Plazas there are in their city. After all, the Wanda Group is one the biggest real estate companies in China.

Changzhou has two.  One is in Wujin, and the other is in Xinbei. The Xinbei one is the older one.  Both have IMAX theaters on the top most floors. (Case in point: I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Wujin Wanda’s big goddamned screen.) Wanda, even as a corporate group, has bought into American entertainment companies like AMC Theaters.  The stores inside a Wanda are usually the same sort of chains. Think about it. Most American malls have JC Penny and  Sears.

Xinbei Wanda has a Starbucks, a McDonalds, a KFC, and much more. There are the regular mall floors, but there is also a pedestrian walking street with plenty of boutiques and eateries. The Wanda in Xinbei also functions as the defacto dowtown for that district. It’s the commercial / retail hub for northern Changzhou.  If the swanky restaurants are not located here, they are in relative walking distance.