Tag Archives: shopping

The eBike Market of Old

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More than three years ago, I went shopping for a new eBike. This was before this blog even existed. My desire was simple; I wanted something heavy duty that could go long distances. I wanted to be able to go places most other foreigners couldn’t as an effort to learn all I could about Changzhou. Part of my comparative shopping process brought me to a massive eBike market on Zhongwu Dadao. The above grainy cell phone pic was from that time.

Eventually, I did buy the powerful bike I wanted. Only, I didn’t get it there. I got three solid years out of that vehicle. In the end, it started falling apart. Besides, the city government was also about to change regulations and enforcement. Larger bikes were basically going to become illegal. This shift has likely had a profound impact on businesses that sell what was essentially electric motorcycles. I can only guess, because recently, I returned to that massive market. It’s a ghost of what it once was.

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What used to be a thriving place that sold electric bikes of all shapes and sizes is now desolate and empty. Three years ago, all of these store fronts were open.

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One could argue that regulations and policies could have had a shaping influence, but it’s quite possible that this sort of death of a place didn’t happen overnight. It seems other markets have been shrinking in size. The digital plaza near Jiuzhou New World Mall seems to have gone out of business the last time I went there. The cellphone markets on Youdian Road downtown are half empty. Even Computer City isn’t quite what it was a few years ago. Given the city’s continuing growth at a breakneck speed, one can’t argue that this is a sign of a bad economy. Still, it is an indication of a change in consumer buying habits.

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As for eBikes, the current shift in regulations and enforcement does mean one thing. The demand for super bikes clearly isn’t what it was a few years ago, and this old market is now — as I mentioned earlier — a ghost from the past.

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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Way To Delicious in Hutang

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There are a number of small little grocery stores that specialize in imported goods throughout Changzhou. Way To Delicious is a chain of them, and Xinbei has two of locations not all that far from each other. One is on the same street as the media tower, and the other is down the road from Dinosaur Park.

Wujin used to have one across the street from Tesco on Heping / Changwu Road. Burger King is in the same complex. The 2 and 302 buses used to pass by. And then, it disappeared. I thought it went out of business, but as it turned out, it didn’t. It just simply relocated to another part of Hutang — specifically, the South Town neighborhood. This is a pair of streets that runs between large housing communities that has everything from small restaurants to a tiny museum dedicated to Hutang’s history. These streets connect Huayuan and to Wuyi Road and is not that far from the shopping complex Jagerwirt calls home. The B11 passes it on Huayuan and the B1 passes it on Wuyi.

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Way To Delicious, as a chain, can be unpredicable at times. For example, one of the Xinbei stores carried Polish plum juice when the others didn’t. It seems that the Hutang location is similar. There, I saw Russian wheat bread that I haven’t seen elsewhere. There was also Ben and Jerry’s ice cream — which I have only seen in Xinbei’s Metro — and a range of gluten-free snacks. These stores are only worth the trip if you live near them. Plus, there also doesn’t seem to be a guarantee that specialty items will be restocked once they sell out.

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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.

Three Things at Emall Worldwide

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Emall Worldwide is an imported goods shop near the old Parksons complex on Beidajie Road. Honestly, it carries a lot of the same goods other import shops carry, but here are three products that make the place unique.

It carries cans of chickpeas and jars of beet root. Chickpeas are not always on the foreign goods shelves in many of the large, international supermarkets in Changzhou. If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, it can be a staple food. I know it was for me during the many years I didn’t eat meat. Carrefour used to carry them, but all three of their locations shut down over the last year. I do see them at Auchan at times. The jarred beets are more of a unique find. The only other place in Changzhou — that I know of — is Metro.

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As for the third thing, I’m not sure having it in Changzhou is a good thing. Four Loko is one of the nastiest alcoholic drinks America has ever produced. It’s an alcopop — well, sort of. For those who have never heard this word before, it’s a recent coinage for a soft drink or soda that has alcohol in it. For example, Jack Daniel’s makes a premixed whiskey and cola. As for Four Loko, it’s like somebody noticed how many people like to mix Red Bull or Monster with vodka. So? They created a highly caffeinated energy drink that punches you in the face with 12% alcohol. It tastes absolutely disgusting. Even worse, it has actually killed a few people, and it became highly controversial in America. There were even lawmakers and protesters trying to get Four Loko banned. It faced a few lawsuits as well. Eventually, Phusion, the company producing the drink, agreed to stop making it. So, I don’t know what is sitting on Emall’s shelves. Is it leftovers from 2014? Is it being produced only for export to countries that don’t know any better? Is it a new beverage concocted under a different, less dangerous recipe? Honestly, I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m never going to buy it. I’m writing this more as a buyer beware.

America produces so many good beers and hard drinks. It’s a shame that Samuel Adams and other craft beers are not widely imported here. It reminds me of when I moved to Changzhou and went grocery shopping for the first time. I saw retail endcaps celebrating cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and started laughing hysterically. Many Americans hate that cheap, bargain-basement swill, but in China its exotic. Go figure.

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Shoes at Decathelon

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When you are an Westerner / North American who takes a big and tall size, shopping for clothing in Changzhou is nearly impossible. I have a size 46 foot, and my usual 2XLT (T stands for “tall”) size back in the USA translate into a XXXXXXXXL. My access to Taobao is really messed up and nonexistent. Besides, even when I have been able to order, it turns out not all 8XL jackets are the same size. So, I prefer to shop in person. This is why Decathlon has always been a go-to place for me. It’s a sporting good store — one where I bought my elliptical machine. It’s also the one of the very few places in Changzhou where I can find shoes that fit. That’s not saying much, because even there the pickings can be slim. There is an expression, though: Beggars can’t be choosers.  Changzhou only has one of these stores, and it is Wujin / Hutang on the B1 BRT line. The Yancheng historical area and amusement park are also nearby.

Fear the Red Sox

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If you ever want a black eye and a broken nose, go to Boston, walk into any pub, and begin lecturing people on how and why you think the New York Yankees are the greatest baseball team of all time. Some Americans care that much about baseball, and some Bostonians loathe New York City that badly. They would argue how they think that team is run by a bunch of wealthy spoiled brats that suck up all the talent by simply throwing their money around. Yankee fans would likely respond with “Don’t hate us because we are winners!” And that’s how saloon style bar brawls start.

A store in the Xinbei Wanda shopping mall reminded me of this lately. It’s titled MLB, which is short for “Major League Baseball.” At first, I laughed at the sight of it, because Chinese people — at least the ones I know — either do not know baseball or think its a colossally boring American sport. But, then again, I realized it might be doing business more as a fashion boutique than as a sports apparel shop. So, out of curiosity, I peeked inside and realized that 90 to 95% of the products were all Yankee related. There were a few Los Angeles hats, but that was it. And then I remembered how hated the Yankees are outside New York and New Jersey, smiled even further, and walked away.

eBikes on Boai Road

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The salesman pounded the chassis with a steel bar. For all his fury, I was surprised that the long, distended ash didn’t drop off his cigarette. He then rattled off a few excited words in Chinese before dropping bar and letting it clang against the floor for dramatic effect. My Chinese friend gave me a broad smile and translated, “He wants you to know the body is very strong. Very resilient.” I took a closer look, and she was right, the body showed no signs of scratching or cracking. This was the very first shop and the first sales pitch while hunting for an eBike. To use a word I hate, I knew the afternoon was about to get interesting. (I hate the word, by the way, because my university students abuse it and use it like a crutch when speaking English.)

This was also two years ago, and it was my first ride I was searching for. I am currently on my second. My Chinese friend had come along for two reasons: argue the price down and ask a very specific question. I wanted an electric scooter that had enough battery life to be able to go from Wujin’s College Town to Metro in the north of Changzhou. I got exactly that. Only, the resulting CenBird had to be charged after each time I made the trip like that. Sure, I outgrew the vehicle, but it served its purpose nicely for awhile.

I mention because, well, there are many places to buy eBikes in Changzhou. Finding the right place requires a little research and a little help. But, there are some places where you can window shopping. 博爱路, downtown, is one such place. There are many shops next to each other from CenBird to NKNY and more. However, these are mostly just show rooms. Many of the brands in the area might not be equipped for maintenance. For example, when I returned to the CenBird shop to get a tire replaced, I was told to follow somebody down the road to a separate location near Hongmei Park. Apparently, that was where all the replacement parts were sold.

The point, however, is this. If you live downtown, and you are thinking of buying your first eBike. The shops on Boai are a good place to look. As for me, I bought my first one there. I had never ridden one before, and I had to ride my new purchase all the way back to Wujin and the College Town. Talk about trial by fire in Changzhou traffic.

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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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Jintan’s Shopping Hub

IMG_20160506_113605There are many places to go shopping in Changzhou. The city has two Injoy Malls and two Wanda Plazas. Downtown, Nandajie awaits with many shops, cafes, and restaurants. Plus there are many other markets and retail locations along Yanling, Jinling, and other roads. If you keep your back turned long enough, new malls seem to spring up out of nowhere. This doesn’t seem as true for Jintan, however.

Shoppers crowd Dongmendajie 东门大街. If you had to compare this to Changzhou proper, this would be the district’s downtown and center. The best analogy would to say this is “Jintan’s Nandajie.” Typically on a Sunday afternoon, this place is busy. There is a huge open square with a supermarket beneath it. Also, this is flanked by two shopping centers with three floors apiece. This is basically if you are looking to do a more fashionable sort of shopping. Jintan also has a huge market, but those tend to be for cheaper items.  If you are looking for western food, here, you are mostly out of luck. The area has a large KFC and that’s it.