This afternoon was free of meetings so I decided to do some site-seeing and a little shopping. No sooner had I set off for Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai’s top tourist shopping district, than it started raining. As this afternoon was the only free time I’m going to have in Shanghai, I decided I could withstand a little rain.
That’s when it started hailing.
China is suffering through unseasonably cold and wet weather this week. Severe snow-storms in the north and rain and sleet in Shanghai. Lucky me.
Yuyuan Gardens offers tourists a cornucopia of Chinese collectibles, from paintings, to jade jewelry, to t-shirts, to dragon carvings. You name it, they probably have it. And everything’s negotiable. If you pay even half of the first price quoted rest assured you lost that round.
Wandering the streets of Yuyuan Gardens someone will occasionally sidle up to you and whisper “You want watch? Purse?” If you react appropriately and are willing to follow them down dark alleys to their storeroom, you can buy a Rolex or Prada purse, too.
This is like something out of a movie. You follow this person down dank, dreary alleys, through a couple of filthy buildings, and arrive at a closed, locked door. They knock, someone inside peeks our through a slit in the door, and, upon passing inspection, you’re ushered into a room full of purses and watches. It’s very cool.
When you find yourself haggling over whether the watch you’re trying to purchase is stolen or just a copy, and you discover you very much want it to be stolen, you learn something about yourself. Apparently I checked my morals at the border.
With help from Bao, a Shanghai resident in whom I have more than a passing interest, we negotiated the price down from around $400 US to about $40. I was so pleased with the price I bought three. I have no idea if the Rolexes I bought are copies or stolen, as the lady professed, and I don’t really care. The whole experience was fun, though we apparently paid far less than she wanted as she was clearly angry when we left. Bao tells me that if the merchant isn’t pissed off when the negotiations are over you’ve paid too much. Duly noted.
Yuyuan Gardens really is a gorgeous area, made more so now that it’s sporting all the World Expo decorations. In addition to great shopping you can get a terrific meal from a street vendor or sidewalk café, usually for around $2. I have no clue exactly what I’m eating from the street vendors – none of them speak English – and judging by the tail on one piece of meat I don’t want to. But I’m a big fan of meat on a stick, and whatever this was hit a spot, so I ignored the tail.
Now if I can only get my watches through customs.