The Second Huan Ying Meet.

24 May

Yesterday was my last meet with the Huan Ying group. It was raining and it was freaking miserable outside but we managed a good walk-about again. First we went to the Yipi Wanli Fabric Market: two floors of fabric, buttons, beads, lace, lining and seamstresses to go with it. Brouse the 101 stalls, pick a fabric and the stalls’ seamstress will whip up anything you like; better yet, give her an item she can copy. We’re in China afterall – land of professional piraters.

Ningbo fabric market

So this is good to know for when I’m sick of shopping at H&M and Zara, basically the only stores that carry Western sizes. Though I don’t think I could ever get sick of shopping at H&M and Zara!!

The fabric market is in 5-story building that also houses floors for shoes (though not custom-made), Chinese New Year gifts and decorations, custom-made blinds and curtains, and children’s clothes. Come to think of it, a housewife’s idea of heaven. (Just kidding! My Women’s Studies professors would have me shot!)

After that we walked through two more local shopping centres/places that focus on young women’s fashion. The first one in particular was pretty interesting: corridors with little fashion shops squished next to nail and hair extension “salons” (basically a table and two stools in the middle of the corridor). The stench of acetone, cheap nail varnish, extension glue, the smell of fake leather handbags and basically no air circulation made my head spin. But hey, want a watch for £2, this is where to go. And all of you big spenders out there that turn up your nose at £2 watches, don’t worry, they have more exclusive ones too. Those ones are kept in glass displays and will set you back a whopping £7!

(Sorry about the bad quality of the photos. My camera is on its last run and only works on Auto and the flash has given up the ghost, too. Hence, fuzziness!)

Susan in a shoe store/stall.

I know I’ve been talking about shops, malls and markets a lot but seriously, there’s shopping outlets EVERYWHERE!! It’s ridiculous. I mean, even without acetone it makes your head spin. Chinese people (ok, the younger generations) are not entirely capitalist in their mind-set just yet but they’ve definitely embraced consumerism with vigour!!

Actually, Jennifer (remember her, Chinese-woman-that-came-to-our-meet-last-week-to-act-as-translator?) explained to me that all these fashion stores are kept afloat predominantly by “KTV girls” who need new outfits almost every single day. Now, Jennifer made it sound like KTV girls are young fashionistas that wouldn’t be caught dead in the same outfit twice at the nightly karaoke sessions with their pop song-loving friends. However, I’ve also heard that certain KTVs (Karaoke TV) are something like non-sexual brothels frequented often by businessmen who’ll get drunk and sing to their hearts content. In between singing, KTV girls will keep Mr. Businessman happy with interesting stories and anecdotes. As I said, apparently it’s nothing sexual but I DUNNO!!! I bet there’s backrooms and whatnot. Why else would some KTVs have “that kind of reputation.” If ya know whadda mean.

Anyhoo, back to Housewives’s Day Out.

Whilst in one of those local shopping centres we decided to go with one of the “Plada! Rolex!” guys. You know the ones I mean, you get them everywhere in Asia. Here in China, these guys carry a laminated sheet of all the different bags and watches you can buy and I usually ignore them or give them a firm “biyao” – No want! No need! Because I usually can’t be bothered with their spiel and the hassle.

But hey, strength in numbers. And Christi did say, you can get some really nice bags from them. So off we went, deeper down into the myriad of shops until we came to a part of the shopping centre that seemed shut… all outlets had their shutters down and the only people about where big-bellied men playing cards. But if a customer is near, those men signal the younger ones to raise the shutters and turn on the lights aaaaaaaaaaand hey ho…. Prada and Louis Vuitton in all their beautiful glory. And this stuff if good quality… beautiful leather, good stitching… A+, comrades! So you can find some good fakes around here… or maybe they’re not even fake, maybe they just fell off the back of a lorry, who knows. I didn’t dare ask about prices because I really wasn’t interested in buying anything at that moment and you know, once you ask, that’s you showing interest and then there’s no turning back. You’ll have the punters follow you until you buy.

But I would have really liked to know the black market price for a decent fake.

Yunnan Lunch - Yumm!

All that walking and shopping brings on an appetite so we had lunch at a lovely Yunnan restaurant in town. I love Yunnan food!! It’s nice and spicy like Szechuan food but less greasy. And they use a bit of the Indian spices like cumin and curry in their cuisine which is a nice change. And you can’t say no to a £2.50 a head bill at the end either.

After lunch we walked eastwards towards Moon Lake (a really lovely park with – yup, you guessed it – a lake) where we wanted to visit …uhm, I forget its name… a museum that showcases a traditional Chinese house with all the different living atriums. But once there an old man shuffling past us informed us that, “They decided to shut today.” Ah, ok.

Jennifer and moi

We walked through Moon Lake and then went to Heyi Mall, Ningbo’s most exclusive shopping mall. I’m talking Prada, Gucci and Dior. The real sh*t. No fakes here, no sir! The coat hangers in there probably cost more than my whole wardrobe combined. By this time all the other newbies had had to go home but Jennifer and I tagged along while Christi did her dinner shop at Olé, a sort-of delicatessen supermarket that carries almost entirely imported products. It was my first time there and the rumours are true: it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overpriced. Imported foods are generally pricey (actually they cost about the same as in the UK but they seem pricy because Chinese-made products are soooo cheap) but Olé seems to slap on another hearty percentage. So I doubt I’ll shopping much there. And I love Chinese supermarkets, it’s always an adventure! I’ll have to do a proper post about that one of these days!

Over and out.

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